Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Hiroshima (part 2): A moving and very dignified remembrance

Hiroshima Cenotaph
I split this post into two parts, because it's not a subject that I feel can or should be constrained by the size of a blog posting. The first part was posted yesterday.
Just a short distance away from the hypocentre of the bomb, the city has created a permanent reminder of its past. The old centre was devastated by the blast and fire, and they decided not to rebuild there, but to use that area as the focus for remembrance.

A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima
The Peace Memorial Park is a large and very pleasant area. Close by is the A-Bomb Dome, the skeletal remains of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, which is the only building that remained standing close to the hypocentre. It is a striking image of the power of the blast, and acts as a permanent link to the past, and to the events of that terrible day.

National Peace Memorial Hall, Hiroshima
The park itself contains the Peace Memorial Museum, the National Peace Memorial Hall and the Cenotaph to the A-bomb victims. All three are important.

The Cenotaph is a beautiful memorial, and contains a chest with a register of the names of all those who died as a result of the bomb; there are over 220,000 names.

National Peace Memorial Hall, Hiroshima
The National Peace Memorial Hall, which was opened in August 2002, is an interesting way to honour those who died. Inside there is a slope taking you down to the Hall of Remembrance, where the walls show a depiction of the city after the bombing, as seen from Shima Hospital, the hypocentre of the blast. The panels are made up of 140,000 tiles, which is the number if people who had died by the end of 1945. The monument in the centre represents the time of the bomb, 8:15am.

Above ground, another memorial depicts the same time, and is surrounded by fountains, which commemorate the way that so many victims died crying out for water.
Miyoko's sandal, Hiroshima
But the really impressive place to visit is the Peace Memorial Museum. I was genuinely moved by it, and could see that most other visitors were too. It tells the story of what happened without any hype or blame. A city that could be incredibly bitter and resentful about what happened, is in fact dignified and conciliatory. The only criticism is of their own government for its part in the war; they level no accusation at the USA or its Allies.

There are some very graphic displays, including models of victims who literally had fat dripping from them where it was melting out of their bodies due to the intensity if the heat they were exposed to. But there is nothing sensationalist or gory about any of the exhibits; they are disturbing of course, but shown in a way that is informative and respectful.

Shigeru's lunchbox, Hiroshima
There is a wooden sandal, or geta, that belonged to 13 year old Miyoko, who was 550m from the hypocentre. Her body was never found, but her mother recognised the kimono fabric that she had used to make the sandal. You can sit just make out the imprint of where her foot was.

Schoolboy Shigeru Orimen never got to eat his lunch on that day, and it charred remains were found in his battered lunch box underneath his remains, about 600m away from the hypocentre.

The tricycle and helmet belonged to Shinichi Tetsutani, almost four, who was playing on them outside his home almost a mile away from the hypocentre. He died that night.

Shinichi's tricycle, Hiroshima
A less graphic, but no less emotional exhibit, was the origami cranes. These were folded by Sadako Sasaki, who was two years old when the bomb went off, and by the age of twelve, she was in hospital with terminal leukaemia caused by radiation. She believed that if she could fold a thousand paper cranes, her wish to recover would be granted. She never made it, and died eight months later.

Sadako Sasaki's Origami Cranes. Hiroshima
Probably the most symbolic pieces for me though, was the stone step, which I posted a photo of yesterday, which has a dark mark on it. That is believed to be where someone was sitting at the time of the blast, The mark is all that remained. That is the power and devastation of an atomic weapon.

Origami Cranes. Hiroshima
And what is important to remember is that only a tiny 2% of the payload of this bomb actually went off. And nuclear weapons these days are far more efficient, powerful and destructive. The museum ends with a request to sign a petition for nuclear disarmament.

Origami Cranes. Hiroshima
Now I am not personally convinced about the feasibility of that, so I feel a little conflicted on this issue. I honestly don't know if believe that a full, worldwide disarmament can ever be achieved.

Regardless of my or your views on that, Hiroshima stands as a plea for peace. And I can't, and don't, argue with that; I certainly would never want to see a weapon like this used again.

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