I want to write about this, but it will be difficult. It has to stand by itself and not be sandwiched between accounts of experiences on what was otherwise a wonderfully uplifting day.
I have heard about this place since I was a boy. I had always known that the first atomic bomb had a terrible effect on the people of Hiroshima.
Knowing with the head is not knowing at all.
I was expecting to take a few photos and wander around the Peace Park. Nothing new here. A long history of images of this place had made Hiroshima something of a cliché, or so I thought. My experience was quite different.
It wasn't the skeletal domed roof of a ruined building. Everybody has seen that image. Neither was it the tiny monument marking the hypocentre of the explosion, tucked away on a side street, dwarfed by bigger monuments to Japan's post war economic recovery, although both are sobering.
It was the monument to children killed by the blast and, a while later, the remains of a child's tricycle in the museum that worked to unravel me.

The children's monument was inspired by Sadako, the girl who died from Leukemia in 1955, having been in the city at the time of the explosion as a two year old. Sadako's class mates took up the challenge of making the tiny paper cranes duplicated in their hundreds of thousands around the world since then.

On the side of the monument are a boy and a girl, mouths open as if in a silent scream, reaching for the sky. At the top is Sadako, I guess, holding her paper crane.

Other people in my group had made their own paper cranes and left them at the memorial. I am an uncoordinated slow learner when it comes to paper folding and stood to the side, watching.

Underneath the monument is a Peace Bell. I don't normally go for empty gestures, but I needed to walk over to it. I bowed formally and rang it.

Just as unwanted tears began to flow I was surrounded by a group of Japanese school children who wanted to ask me some questions for their school assignment. I was embarassed about my tears and tried hard to smile. It was as if they appeared beside me to make that day in 1945 all the more present to me. Full of life, they underlined what the bomb had torn out of this city.

The remains of the child's tricycle in the nearby Peace Museum completed what the children's monument had begun. I am unable, or maybe just unwilling, to express the emotions I experienced standing in front of it. I saw a long gone child laughing and scooting around, and a mother and father whose dreams were never to be.

I think I ought to finish now as I will likely embarass myself yet again as I sit writing this on the Shinkansen (bullet train).
I realise this was just one stain among many, many in the sorry history of human beings. I do not mean to make an ethical call on the use of an atomic weapon on Hiroshima. I can understand why it was done. I know far worse things have happened. But I stood there in the presence of something that reached to the depths of me.
One final observation for what it is worth. A couple of years ago Sue and I visited Yad Veshem, the holocaust museum in Jerusalem. It was similarly powerful and emotionally confronting. The atmosphere was one of anger and rage at evil, and it was absolutely justified. However, sadly, a sense of resolution was not prominent. Grief had triumphed. I didn't see hope.
Here in Hiroshima the atmosphere could not have been more different. There was no rage. People were not looking back in anger. The atmosphere was one of gentleness and a wish for a better future, and was all the more confronting because of that.

6 thoughts on “Hiroshima

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  1. Hi Robbie
    Finally catching up on reading your Japan blogs. Once again, you take the reader along for the journey, with your deep and personal thoughts on all that you are seeing and experiencing. Thanks for your poetic insight to this historical site. Always moving to read. A few years ago my friend Marie Louise and I visited the Jewish Holocaust Museum in Melbourne. It was there we met an old Jewish man, who showed us his number tattooed on his arm. He was gentle and did not seem bitter, but just had a quiet sadness to him. He told us he came to the museum for a few hours every day, as it was good therapy for him to come and talk to the visitors. I thought he was inspirational and will never forget meeting him. It is good to hear that the Japanese people have adopted an attitude of looking forward to a better future. It is the only way to move on, I believe.

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