I’m in Hiroshima now, the last of the major cities in the western part of Japan’s largest island, Honshu. Like any other big city here, it has its share of blazing-neon cityscapes and a large variety of shopping malls, restaurants, bars, and the like. Sadly, most of the world knows of Hiroshima for its tragic past – the first city to be hit by an atomic bomb.
On August 6th, 1945, the USA, in an effort to bring about an end to the Pacific War through a Japanese unconditional surrender, dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Around 200,000 people were killed by the bomb, whether by the explosion or later by wounds, fires, radiation poisoning, and so forth. I don’t want to go on and on about the horrific details of the bomb because I think the important part is the way Hiroshima rebuilt itself from literally the ashes and how it pushes strongly for peace and an end to nuclear proliferation.
The area around the hypocenter of the explosion is now the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Very respectfully and simply made, the memorial contains various monuments and remembrances to the victims of the bomb. An arched cenotaph in the middle has a registry inside that contains the names of all 200,000 people who were killed. I saw several Japanese people go up to it and bow to show their respect and condolences.
The museum was really an eye-opening experience. It was quite large, 3 floors, and depicted every aspect of the bombing. From background on the war and Hiroshima, to detailed pictures and explanations of the bomb’s mechanics, and to letters and articles left behind by those who were killed. It was very somber and in some cases graphic and depressing, but I thought the museum was very well done because its main message was to promote peace by using the tragedy of Hiroshima as a catalyst.
There was a very interesting exhibit with hundreds of professional letters sent by the mayors of Hiroshima since 1945. Any time a nuclear device was tested, by any country, the mayor of Hiroshima at the time would send a letter to the leader of that country, pleading with them to stop testing nuclear weapons and to remember what they did to Hiroshima. I think there were around 600 plus letters posted, with the most recent ones sent this year to President Obama. Amusing yet profound.
Still, Hiroshima has completely rebuilt itself and is now just as hectic and glamorous as any other city. Tomorrow, I will be making a short day-trip to nearby Miyajima.