The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Hiroshima, the city of peace

On Thursday, the Shinkansen whizzed us to Hiroshima. It got us to our destination in half the time it would have taken a Thunderbird Express for the same distance. Yep, it was pretty fast. Once in Hiroshima, we grabbed a late lunch and then headed to Heiwa-koen (Peace Memorial Park). Hiroshima is pretty well another big city, with shopping arcades filled with the young, hip and fashionable (school vacation period).

Inside the main shopping arcade:

Message of peace

We all know what happened to Hiroshima during the World War II, but you don't actually begin to understand the horror and sadness of the tragedy until you set foot in the Park. However, it was more than just horror and sadness - we left with a feeling of admiration for the people of the city, for their tenacity and perseverence towards recovery from the incident, and for changing the tragic experience into a positive one to advocate peace and voice an anti-war message to the world.

Pictures speak a thousand words, and I shall let them speak (with a little anecdote about the meaning behind each memorial article). These are photos of just some of the many memorial articles around in Hiroshima - I didn't want to bore readers with too many, and I hope you will take the time to read and look at the photos I have put up.

A-bomb dome - This building was only a few meters away from the hypocenter (aka ground zero, where the bomb exploded). This building was the subject of controversy as many wanted it to remain to serve as a reminder to the world of the tragedy, but others felt that the building was an unwanted reminder of the tragedy. It is now a Unesco World Heritage site.

The A-bomb dome; and the view from Aioi Bridge, which was the apparent target of the atomic bombing:

Children's Peace Monument - in memory of the children who died as a result of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. This is a 9m monument with a bell and golden crane inside, and a bronze statue of a girl lifting a crane on top of the monument. This monument was inspired by Sadako Sasaki, a girl exposed to radiation at 2 years old. When she developed leukemia 10 years later, she decided to start folding 1000 paper cranes (it's an ancient Japanese belief that your wish will come true if you fold 1000 cranes). She passed away before reaching her goal, but her classmates folded the rest. This story is well-known around the world now, and this site displays paper cranes contributed by students all around the world.

Rob checking out the monument; golden crane and the bell inside the monument; me sitting with the paper cranes:

Cenotaph and the Flame of Peace - The cenotaph contains the names of all known victims of the bomb. The Flame of Peace will only be extinguished when the last nuclear weapon on the earth has been destroyed. The cenotaph frames the Flame and the A-bomb Dome when you look through it.

The cenotaph, the Flame and the Dome:

National Peace Memorial Hall - this is a contemplative hall of rememberence and a register where the names and photographs of the bomb victims are kept. There are several memoirs and testimonies you can read here to get a perspective of the event through the eyes of victims and survivors - it really is quite sad.

Monument outside the Memorial Hall depicting the hands of the clock at 8:15; inside, the Hall of Remembrance - the wall is a panorama recreating the view of the bombed city, and is made of 140,000 tiles which is the number of people estimated to have died by the end of 1945 (there is another '8:15' monument at the centre of this hall):

The Museum - here you find out more about the history of events before and after the atomic bomb event. Both sides of the story is shown here, and you can also get first-hand accounts of the aftereffects of the bomb.

Replica of the A-bomb Dome inside the Museum:

And a couple of other peace memorial pieces

A row of lighted pillars with the word 'Peace' written in many languages on them:

Peace clock tower - chimes at 8:15am every morning in "prayer for perpetual peace":

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