I did not plan to visit Hiroshima during my one week trip to Japan, since it was far from Tokyo and Kyoto. Originally I planned to stay in Osaka for the entire day. However, my interest in history prevailed so I undertook a half-day trip to Hiroshima and made the decision almost spontaneously (in Chinese: 说走就走) before I went to Osaka. Since Osaka is on the way from Kyoto to Hiroshima, I left my luggage in Osaka at the hotel and came back for the night after visiting Hiroshima.
If there is one thing people associate with Hiroshima, it is probably the atomic bomb. The first atomic bomb to be ever used in war was dropped on Hiroshima during the final days of World War II, killing many innocent people as well as combatants alike. Today, Hiroshima has many monuments dedicated to promoting world peace.
I arrived in a gloomy Hiroshima on a cloudy and relatively cool afternoon on the Shinkansen, in contrast with the sunny and hot weather for the past several days, perhaps setting the tone for what I am about to see.
My first destination was the Atomic Bomb Dome, located right beside the river. I got there on a street car from the Hiroshima Shinkansen station. The dome is what is left of the former Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall, originally designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel. The atomic bomb “Little Boy” was exploded approximately 600 meters in the air, 160 meters southeast of the hall. Since the blast came from almost directly above, some of the walls around the dome are still standing.
According to a board near the A-Bomb Dome, the citizens of Hiroshima debated whether to keep this structure. “Some felt it should be preserved as a memorial to the bombing, while others thought it should be destroyed as a dangerously dilapidated structure evoking painful memories.” Ultimately, it was preserved and the goal is to keep it looking like the original site after the bombing.
I circled around the enclosure around the dome and walked one street to the east, to a ordinary-looking hospital. On the west side of the hospital was a stone monument, marking the hypocenter of the blast. Unlike the A-Bomb Dome, this place was much obscure and hard to find, and there weren’t any tourists when I was there.
The stone monument reads:
Carried to the Hiroshima from Tinian Island by the Enora Gay, a U.S. Army B-29 bomber, the first atomic bomb used in the history of humankind exploded approximately 600 meters above this spot. The city below was hit by heat rays of approximately 3,000 to 4,000 °C along with a blast wind and radiation. Most people in the area lost their lives instantly. The time was 8:15 am., August 6, 1945.
Next I crossed the bridge, which was the intended target of the bomb. On the other side of the river is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Children’s Peace Monument. There is a memorial for Sadako Sasaki from Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, who developed leukemia after radiation exposure due to the bombings and began folding paper cranes while in hospital, as legend says that anyone who can fold 1000 origami paper cranes can be granted a wish by the gods.
I wrapped up my day by walking back towards the train station on foot, passing by the Hiroshima Castle. The entire city has a sullen feel to it. As I was finding my way through the city, I was reminded of not just the suffering of innocent people in Hiroshima, but also the many more in China, Korea, and all parts of Asia harmed by Japanese invasion during World World II, as well as innocent civilians in other Japanese cities that were bombed. Unfortunately, militarism started by a small group of people overtook the country in the early 20th century and ultimately resulted in the suffering of Japan’s own people.
We should all be grateful we live in a relatively peaceful era, don’t take that for granted and live our lives meaningfully.