Hiroshima from Horror to Hope (Day 207)
An afternoon so far in Hiroshima, how the people here have turned Hiroshima from Horror to Hope is exemplary. And let's hope the flame is put out for good soon.
We arrived in Hiroshima and were allowed to drop our bags off early at the Airbnb. What to do next? We had no plan for today, allowing the day to unfold. The Peace Memorial Park was only a 10 minutes’ walk. Perhaps we'll just look at that.
We walked towards Aioi-bashi Bridge and could see the skeletal remains of an Exhibitions Hall on the other side of the river, now known as Genbaku or A-bomb dome. An eerie reminder of the horror that took place here at 8:15 am on the 6th August 1945. The first atomic bomb exploded 600m above Shima Hospital, very near to this building. Because it was almost directly overhead, the building was able to retain its shape. It is incredible that this building remained standing. There was a lot of controversy about whether to have this building preserved or torn down afterwards, but finally, in 1996, it was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage site, being maintained in the same state as immediately after the bombing. A stark and powerful symbol of the most destructive force ever created by humankind, it also expresses the hope for world peace and the ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons.
As we walked down to the park, we could hear a deep dong from the Bell of Peace. “Let all nuclear arms and wars be gone, and the nations live in true peace!” A few young Chinese went to ring the bell, laughing and having their photo taken. Their behaviour jarred with the solemnity of the place.
We bumped into an Italian couple and their two years old who we met on the bus earlier. The little boy was chasing pigeons having fun, which lifted the mood, life does go on.
What an amazing place the Peace Memorial Park is, there are several memorials here all praying for peace. The Flame of Peace which will continue to burn until there are no more atomic bombs in the world. According to a report from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), there are nine countries around the world that have access to nuclear weapons. Sadly this includes the UK. The other countries are USA and Russia (who share 93% of all nuclear warheads), China, India, Pakistan, Israel and of course North Korea. Come on Trump – if you want to win the Nobel Peace Prize, look at your own backyard.
One of the most poignant memorials was the Children’s Peace Monument, 9m high with a bronze statue of a young girl lifting a crane bird, a symbol of happiness and eternal youth, good fortune and longevity, and the words “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.”
We visited the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims where they encourage visitors to remember the victims, reflect on peace and share this around the world. A gentle slope took us down to a circular Hall of Remembrance decorated with 140,000 tiles each one representing an atomic bomb victim and showing the bombed cityscape, burnt trunks of trees, just a few stone buildings still standing and the remainder flattened, massive areas of burnt debris which include countless bodies of the dead or dying.
We moved to the Information Area with photos of the victims and their names displayed on a large wall. Not just thousands of Japanese men, women and children killed, but also American Prisoners of War were exterminated. There were computers on one side where we could look up people’s names. These not only included those killed on that fateful day, but also those who somehow survived and died later, sometimes decades on. However many of them suffered from cancer, deformities and PTSD.
The library has many personal accounts and short videos of people’s experience of that time. We watched one of a man in his 70s, who recollected being a soldier aged 17 and having to go into Hiroshima, arriving in the afternoon after the bombing. I won’t write his description, it is too harrowing and I appreciate that you may not want to read it here. I felt a deep sadness that fellow human beings, politicians, make these decisions. Thinking of politicians around the world, do they realise the consequence? Do they feel the pain and anguish? Or is it about power and one big game to them? And we vote them in! They represent us. We are all one.
We exited the building to a smattering of rain which somehow seemed appropriate, and walked northeast, through a park towards the Art Museum Auditorium. We’d heard that there was a performance of Kagura, a traditional performing art, this evening – a light relief from this afternoon.
And it certainly was. 5 actors and 4 musicians from #hiroshimakagura the Kinshou Kagura Troupe entertained us telling the story of Tsuchigumo, the Earth Spider, who tried to murder a Shogun. The musicians were great, a young lady Ami beautifully played the flute against the drums and gong whilst the actors, in their incredibly colourful, heavy embroidered costumes whirled round in unison, chanting songs. There were smoke effects, costumes transforming before our very eyes and the “spider” threw out paper streamers representing the spider’s web which went all over us (we were in the front row). When the spider was finally injured, red streamers were flung signified blood!
The troupe were all amateurs however you wouldn’t have known this. It really was a first class and enjoyable event. Afterwards, they had a Question and Answer session where we both asked a question. We both regret not sharing with them our thanks and delight for such a great evening.
It was dinner time; we had read about the traditional Okonomiyaki, a bit like bubble and squeak with noodles, and found a small restaurant with a few locals there. Our food was delicious, with a kind of barbeque sauce on the top. Mine did have a couple of pieces of bacon in it, but it was easy to pull out for Tim to eat. All washed down with hot “blow your head off” Sake.
The day definitely unfolded to one of hope and peace for the world plus enjoyment for us.