Our main reason for visiting Hiroshima was its infamous past. During the Second World War the USA dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, on 6 August 1945. We were interested to see the memorials and museums, and also to see the city today, 60-odd years since the bomb.
Amazingly, the building directly under where the bomb was dropped, the epicentre if you will, survived. It is obviously not perfectly intact, but it is still standing and has been left as a monument to the event. The rest of the city around that one building was flattened, and has since been rebuilt.
We visited the peace museum and learnt about what happened; the context of the bombing and the aftermath. There were artifacts of objects recovered, and stories of people killed that day in the most unimaginably horrific ways, or through cancers afterwards. It moved me to tears.
The rest of the museum is dedicated to the message of anti-nuclear-weapons. It spelled out all the incidents where accidents have happened, and what happens when it goes wrong. I will directly quote from the message of Hiroshima: “The Government of Japan, the world’s only A-bombed nation, is duty-bound to humbly learn … the facts of the atomic bombings and to spread this knowledge through the world… Let us pledge here and now to take all actions required to bequeath to future generations a nuclear-weapon-free world”.
We wandered around the peace park, which is a beautiful park and a memorial to those who died.
We also saw a peace bell, and there were also colourful birds made from origami – made by children who hope for world peace…
The whole experience was very sobering, and I was really glad we had visited Hiroshima. We had been traveling for a long time and it was a reminder that life isn’t always about beaches and doing impressions of Sumo wrestlers in shops.
Having said that, although we immersed ourselves in the history of Hiroshima, it should not be forgotten that it is also a modern town like any other. And we enjoyed that aspect of Hiroshima too – we looked around the shops, we went out for pizza at an underground restaurant (with an excellent system of pressing a buzzer if you need waitress service!), visited the Haagen Daaz cafe, ate a Japanese Bento meal and had probably our favourite meal in Japan – okonomiyaki. Not that we knew it was okonomiyaki at the time – we just thought “ooh yum, that looks nice!”. I will do a Food blog later to go into more detail about that!
We also got laughed at a lot… and I can’t explain why. We don’t look particularly amusing. We manage to go about our daily lives in England without being laughed at. We have visited several other countries without being laughed at. Yet I remember being in a cafe in Hiroshima and my boyfriend got up and walked through the cafe to go to the toilets. Everyone in the cafe looked up and started laughing and whispering to their friends. I looked unimpressed, but I think my silent disapproval went unnoticed. This also sometimes happened in the street. I was indignant – if someone who looked a bit different (either by race or clothing or anything else) walked into a cafe in England no-one would laugh at them – that would be highly offensive! We later got talking to a Japanese student who suggested it may be because Japanese people in some parts of Japan may not have seen a white person before, and are excited and nervous to see one so they react by giggling. So maybe that’s it… 🙂
Anyway, I would thoroughly recommend a trip to Hiroshima if you go to Japan. Although the museum was harrowing at times, it is definitely worth a visit.
Next blog: Kagoshima, Japan
Previous blog: Kyoto, Japan