After spending a couple of days in Kyoto, our small group decided it was time to move on to another prefecture in Japan. Originally we had planned our trip to head north after our stay in Kyoto, then make our way back south over the course of the last few weeks. It dawned on us that a time conflict would arise as the F-1 races that were taking place in Suzuka would be happening before we return to the Kansai region. We decided the best utilization of our time we would be to first travel south then north, but to accomplish this we would have to sacrifice 3 days of our planned time in southern Japan. Ultimately we agreed on the decision and had our first experience with an impromptu travel adaptation.
Despite the compressed travel time we started our trip with a 24 hour visit in Hiroshima. As a Canadian I think it’s perfectly clear to say that we are aware of what happened to Hiroshima back in WW2, but we aren’t taught the extent or magnitude of the damage that was done to the city and it’s people. I am not implying that Canadians do not have the capacity to research the subject on our own but rather we are educated with a more “Allied Forces” perspective. I didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived in Hiroshima. I imagined a town that would have a plethora of memorial buildings that were all preserved and gated off to capture the devastation that occurred, but the reality is there was nothing left to preserve.
The memorial park consists of many historical monuments and a dedicated museum. Our park visit was unexpectedly interrupted by an older man who was kind enough to show us around the park. Our ‘tour guide’ turned out to be a survivor of the atom bombing back in 1945. Mr. Yamamoto was only a boy when the bomb was dropped, but he explained that he lived in the surrounding mountains and he was protected from the shockwave and immediate radiation. He recalls the day because he said the sky went black and the ashes started falling from the stormy skies. Meeting this man was an amazing opportunity to hear a different perspective of the horrifying events, but it also gave me a chance to effectively express my thoughts on how I see the effects of the bombing. Regardless of whether or not the bombing ended the war, it’s impossible to stand in front of this man (even if he was just a boy when it happened) and even think that 80,000 people died that day because it was the only option. Civilian populations should never be an ‘endgame’.
Not to mention the additional 60,000 souls that would lose their lives due to injury and radiation later on.
It is truly amazing to see how the city had been rebuilt. Hiroshima itself is reconstructed to match the rest of Japan but there is a sense of longing here. The A-Bomb memorial is a constant reminder of the thousands of people who had been obliterated that day and those who died over the years. What is amazing though is how Hiroshima’s government has promised to operate as a leader in nuclear disarmament. Currently the municipal government represents itself as being an advocate for peace, and they are constantly pressuring others for a world free of nuclear weapons.
If you ever get a chance to visit Hiroshima please explore it with an open mind and a reflective heart.