The Peace Park is an area in Hiroshima that was flattened by the Atomic Bomb. Signs like this one around the epicenter tell you horror stories about the bombs effects.
Across the bridge is the Children’s Monument. There’s a touching story about a young girl named Sadako Sasaki who was only 2 when the bomb was dropped. Like many children in the area, over the years the radiation began affecting her and she started to develop strange swellings. Later she was diagnosed with leukemia and given a year to live. While in the hospital a high school club sent her small origami cranes to cheer her up. Her father told her the legend of the cranes and Sadako decided she would fold 1000 paper cranes. She died when she was 12. Her friends helped her finish folding the cranes and buried them with her.
Sadako’s death prompted children around Japan to start asking for there to be a monument to all of the children that died from the atom bomb. Donations poured in. Now it stands as a respectful reminder of the true cost of war.
Sadako and the crane. Donated prayer flags and origami cranes fill the display cases.
“This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.”
It takes a second to recover from this. While the monument itself was very positive, just the thought of so much loss all at once, then the deformities, cancers and other after affects that lasted generations. I can’t fathom the depression that ensued.
We run into the Brits again from last night. They also have similar worried, affected expressions on their faces. It’s a heavy place. They just came from the museum. We’re heading there next. “It’s hard..” was basically the description. But the smiles come as we check in on each other. They’re on the same schedule as us. Doing the Peace Park this morning, taking a bus to all the sites and going to Miyajima tomorrow. “Cool, we’ll catch you later at Wonderful Joke” hahahaha omgfroflmfao.
We walk passed a long concrete and water feature in the center of the park. On this end is the Peace Flame:
“The flame has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964, and will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation”
And on the other end is the Memorial Cenotaph which holds the names of all the A-bomb victims. The arch shape represents a shelter for the souls of the victims and is aligned perfectly with the Peace Flame and the Atomic Bomb Dome.
“Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil.”
(‘We’ implying humanity in general, not specifically Japanese or American)
We head into the museum. There are before and after pictures of Hiroshima.
A panorama covering the whole wall shows the A-Bomb devastation at a large enough scale to make it haunting and awkward to walk passed. 140K..
We sit in a small room with a few other people and there is a tv showing survivor testimonies. People who were nearby and could remember the event. The feeling and the sense of loss is really hard to bear. Some examples, “A vision of hell. Hiroshima had inky three colors: red, black, and brown. Paintings of hell at least had some green in them.” And this older lady talking about putting her kids to bed and coming back to find them melted really.. I don’t know.. it’s insane. To hear her choking on the words as she says them, “My son and daughter died where I’d laid them in bed. Buttons stuck to him. Husband died shortly after. Messed up my whole life. We were a happy family before.”
The next girl lost 13 members of her family.. we sit for a while listening to a series of horrific tragedies. It’s numbing. There are private booths too. Feeling far too affected to be comfortable in the crowd anymore, I sit in one of those for a while just flipping through a few more stories, eyes welling up (like they are now, as I write this). It reminds me of visiting the Dachau concentration camp and The Killing Fields in Cambodia. That harrowing darkness humanity is capable of. Watching the news is one thing. Actually watching the news is bullshit. You’ll never get this feeling without being face to face with it. In the air of it. Really listening to it. Feeling like it’s too much to even absorb it.
Another video starts and I just can’t do anymore. I go get Queenie from her booth. She’s crying too. “I know. You wanna go see the next room?”
The main area of the museum is really nicely laid out. We take a second to meander around, I’m still a bit too affected to focus on much. There is a detailed account of the history leading up to the bombing along the wall. Then the aftermath. A touch table let’s you browse those same exhibits and also dive a little deeper, at your own pace. It’s highly informative.
I also like the tone of the museum, I will say. It’s never accusatory or atoning, just a factual recounting of events. Explanation of how the bombs work. Excerpts from papers about bomb development, military analysis and signing of the operation after 3rd of August. What happened with radiation sickness and after effects. There isn’t any sense of blame, on the Japanese or Americans. It seems like they’ve thought passed that and transcended. Now Hiroshima can act as a symbol of peace. We can’t allow it to happen again.
I thought this summed up the vibe of the museum nicely.
The last exhibit is a sentimental one filled with children’s belongings, pictures of charred bodies, and the last logs in people’s diaries. It’s tough. Emotional, but so important.
The burned and deformed bodies are hard to look at and hard to look away from. It’s terrible. Reminds me of the War Remnants Museum in Vietnam.
And this tattered kids clothing reminds me of a story from the Halifax Explosion (for another time).
A watch stopped at the time of the explosion.
A little girl stares at this melted tricycle, amazed.
Does she understand what she’s looking at?
There are works of art hanging that depict scenes in their own way.
“A kid clinging to a gate seemed to be crying. When I came to him and touched him I found that he was dead”
Wow. Intense place. I sit silently for a while outside the exhibit, giving Queenie time to finish up at her own pace. It’s hard to process it all. Overwhelming negativity. “I just can’t believe it”, “Yeah”.
We exit back to the Peace Park. I think we’ll wrap things up over at the Atomic Bomb Dome. I’m definitely starting to think a light-hearted beer break is in order though.
We walk passed the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound and the Bell of Peace along the way.
The Atomic Bomb Dome used to be the Prefactural Industrial Promotion Hall.
The clouds open up right above the dome.
Another monument to the victims
We get back over to the Dome side of the river.
A guy with a blog dedicated to A-bomb facts has a number of guides left out in various languages beside the Dome. It’s nice and succinct. Answers a bunch of questions people may have. It has a more biased approach than the museum, but it’s good to hear it. The resentment is a natural reaction. Queenie and I sit under the Atomic Bomb Dome and read the entire thing. I snap pics of a lot of it, this is an information drip from the source. I find it fascinating.
Apparently tourists were complaining that these mannequins with their skin melting off were too grotesque to look at. While disturbing, I think they should have been left in the museum. I suppose seeing these might leave a kid traumatized though. That being said, should they allow children to go in in the first place? A lot of the survivor’s stories we heard, and those I read as the last journal entries in the children’s exhibit at the end, mentioned people walking around with skin melting from their bodies. I think they should have left these in the museum even if they’re hard to look at. That’s the point.
Excellent service this guy is providing. His full website http://blog.livedoor.jp/mitokosei/
At the time there was a lot of resentment towards the idea of leaving this daily reminder of their sorrow and devastation standing in the city. That probably lasted for generations and maybe even with some people today. It does offer a strong reminder though. An important one that will stand and last for generations. While it carries an imposing weight of history and negativity with it, there is also something beautiful here and a sense of hope.
We walk around the whole structure.
Ok, I think that’ll do it. We’ve spent the morning under an emotional storm cloud. Feeling that weight is important but it’s time to move on. Don’t think we’ll hop the bus tour thing like the Brits. I don’t feel the need to see any more temples, shrines, museums and parks at the moment. I’d rather get into the city center and catch a litmus test of Hiroshima as it is today. But mostly what I’m feeling is a deep desire to just relax with beer.