OCTOBER 3RD 2019 : We decided to spend a night in Hiroshima on our way to Oita for another rugby game. It was a good decision. Hiroshima is far from depressing – it has new buildings and wide, leafy boulevards. The public bus system is easy to navigate and our first destination to visit was obviously the Peace Park. On 6th August 1945 Hiroshima became the target of the world’s first atomic bomb attack. The Peace Park is a reminder of that day and has many moving messages of Peace. I personally found the museum a bit confronting and could only take in so much sadness, however the Park itself is wonderful with lots of statues, memorials and the central feature, which is a long tree lined Pond of Peace leading to the cenotaph. This is a curved concrete monument holding the names of all the known victims of the bomb. The Flame of Peace at the pond is set to burn until all the world’s nuclear weapons are destroyed.
Just beyond the cenotaph is the Atomic Bomb Dome which is a very sobering sight.
This building was built in 1915 by a Czech architect and was the Industrial Promotion Hall until the bomb exploded almost directly above it. Everyone was killed but the building was left standing and a decision was made after the war to leave the shell standing as a permanent memorial.
I loved the Children’s Peace Monument which was inspired by a little girl who was 2 years old at the time. When she developed leukaemia at the age of 11 she decided to fold 1000 paper cranes. In Japan the crane is a symbol of longevity and happiness and she believed that if she achieved her target she would recover. Sadly she died before she reached her goal but her classmates folded the rest. The monument was built in 1958 and her story inspired a nationwide spate of paper cranes which continues to this day – we were given some on arrival in Sapporo for example. Surrounding this monument are strings of literally thousands of colourful paper cranes sent by children all over the world as well as Japan.
We walked all over the park and enjoyed the serenity of it all as well as the monuments which are artistic in their own way and very meaningful.
Later we walked to Hiroshima Castle which was originally constructed in 1589 but was totally destroyed by the bomb. It was rebuilt in 1958 and is now a museum. The Castle is surrounded by a moat which is full of carp – and weeds – and is impressive. We climbed up to the 5th floor – looking at the historical artefacts on each floor which didn’t have much explanation in English, so again imagination came to play – and we had a wonderful view of the city and surrounding park.
Strolling through the Park we came across a Shinto Temple and a wedding party had just arrived. It was a thrill to see the traditional dress. The bride in a Shinto gown and the groom in a dark coloured costume which involved a skirt. This prompted a google search on Shinto weddings!
We enjoyed this cosmopolitan city and the covered shopping malls but most of all we came away with a deeper understanding of the dreadful nuclear event of 1945 and the ramifications it has had for generations afterwards.