During our time in Kyoto we took advantage of our JR Rail Pass to hop onto a Bullet Train to Hiroshima. My Lonely Planet Guide listed numerous things to do in Hiroshima, but like most visitors we only had one destination, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park. I’d studied the War in Secondary School, including the brutal affects of the atomic bomb the allies dropped, but I’d always wondered, how could a city come back from something so utterly horrific and devastating?
The tram from the train station drops you at the ghostly Atomic Bomb Dome, the only remaining structure from the A- bomb’s hypocenter. Previously known as Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, the Dome has been preserved in it’s skeletal structure, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a symbol of Peace and a reminder to the World of the cruel and annihilating affects of nuclear weapons.
One of the most touching sculptures in the park is The Children’s Peace Monument. Realized in the memory of young school girl Sadako Sasaki who died from lukiemia due to radiation poisoning from the bomb. Upon learning of her illness Sadako, inspired by Japanese tradition began folding origami paper cranes. Legend has it that if you can fold a thousand cranes you will be granted a wish from the Gods. Sadako wished for a world without nuclear weapons. School children from around Japan bring thousands of colourful paper cranes, which are encased in glass cabinets behind the monument as a sign of peace and commitment to Sadako’s wish. As I wandered round the park I was approached by two young girls who asked me to write a message of peace, and they gave me my very own little crane of peace, which I will treasure forever.
The museum itself is very good, the facts of history are laid plain with scientific focus but intertwined with personal stories and artifacts. The horrendous effects of the bomb can be seen in everyday, humble items such as clothing and lunch boxes. Unfortunately far too many of the victims of the A-bomb were children, as full schools had been mobilized by the Japanese Government to help with the war effort and happened to be working in key effected areas on that day. The museum ends positively by looking to the future with messages of peace. As I signed my name as a commitment to peace, guilt crept up. I am from a country who still deems it acceptable to hold nuclear weapons. Politicians will argue that they are needed for protection, a “nuclear deterrent” they call them. In my opinion these are woefully weak excuses when the world know first hand the cruelty that such weapons can inflict on humanity. So from my day in Hiroshima, did I learn how a city could rebuild and reform from an act of war so devastating? I believe they did it by focusing on Peace.