Of all the places we travelled to, Hiroshima was by far the hardest to describe to others upon our return, and definitely the most difficult to adequately express in writing .The rush of feelings that immediately and unexpectedly wash over you as you step off the train, are quite indescribable. In our case, this was heightened by the fact we got to Hiroshima very early, and were off the fast Shinkansen train at 8am, greeted by the city’s commuters, and a mist beginning to clear above the roads. We paid the 160Y flat fare for inner city travel and boarded the tram to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
The tram drops you off directly in front of the A-bomb Dome; the site of the world’s first atomic bombing. The bomb was dropped at 8.15am on the 6th August 1945, and I realised that it was almost exactly 8.15am as we arrived at the park on the day of our visit. Partly due to the time, and partly due to the fact it was a cold, weekday in January, we were the only visitors. It was an emotional and eerie feeling as we wandered around to the noise of gentle sweeping from the path cleaners, and the crows low overhead, whist we observed the many monuments that adorn the park. The ‘mother and child’ statue particularly struck me; Hiroshima is a city whose daily life is still very much touched by what occurred.
The memorial monument and flame in the centre of the park was built in perfect alignment with the A-bomb Dome ruins, so that as you look through the centre of the monument, the A-bomb Dome stands ominously in the distance behind the flame of peace. An inscription reads,
‘This monument embodies the hope that Hiroshima, devastated on 6 August 1945 by the world’s first atomic bombing, will stand forever as a city of peace.’
It was upon reading this that I realised a strange and unexpected part of the mixture of emotions induced by our visit, was that of calm tranquility. Hiroshima truly has re-built itself as a city of peace, with the Memorial Park at its heart.
After walking the length of the park, we entered the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Hanging on the wall amongst many artifacts, were rows of children’s school uniforms, donated by parents of the atomic bomb child victims. In varying states of damage, and shielded by radiation protective glass casings, these almost unrecognizable garments were accompanied by stories about each of the children. Some recalling how and where they were found, and others describing more trivial details, such as the fact one little girl had ‘sewn her own dress with her grandmother’; each plaque was just as tormenting as the last.
In sharp contrast, the final room in the museum returns to the theme of peace, and is adorned with paper cranes of all shapes and sizes. Sadako, a young girl who contracted leukemia due to radiation poisoning from the bomb, believed the old Japanese adage that folding a thousand paper cranes would make a wish come true. Hoping to recover from her illness, Sadako spent her days folding paper cranes, and by the time of her death, had folded far more than the thousand she first set out to achieve, eventually folding cranes that were so small, she had to use a tiny sewing needle to complete them. After her death, the Children’s monument was built in the park, to console the souls of Sadako and all the other children who perished due to the A-bomb, and the paper crane is now used as a symbol of hope for peace across Japan, and many other parts of the world.
Although harrowing, I would 100% recommend a visit to the intensely powerful Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan. We exited the museum and walked to the Bell of Peace monument, where we both struck the bell twice, before continuing on our travels to Meyajima Island.