I began today with a breakfast on the 23rd floor of the hotel. They had Japanese-style and Western-style. I went ahead and took the latter option today.
After breakfast I took a public bus to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. I have thought all day about how to describe this experience and come to the conclusion that I simply do not have words to convey my thoughts while visiting this place. Almost exactly 70 years ago nearly every single place I saw today was decimated, left in rubble, burned to the ground and those who survived the initial blast were burned beyond recognition. It’s almost too much to comprehend.
I am not inclined to take time and space here to debate whether or not the bombing was necessary or justified. There are many levels to the situation and it is not the purpose of this blog or this post to carry out that conversation. What I do know is that we as human beings should do everything in our power to ensure something like this is never replicated.
A narrative of my day at this place seems so trite but I will do my best and will let the many photos narrate as much as possible.
The small area, maybe .5 miles long and not quite that wide, that makes up the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park includes a number of important sights. All are within walking distance and I saw each of them today. The park is located at what was ground zero. The bomb was detonated approximately 1900 meters directly above the area that is now the park. This was done in order to maximize the damage. If it had detonated on the ground, the earth would have absorbed much of the power of the explosion.
The first place I visited was the museum. Here are some photos with explanations of each:
At the time of the blast, 8:15 am on August 6, many of the students from nearby schools were in the area working to demolish certain buildings in order to create a firebreak in anticipation of air raids.
This model of Hiroshima shows the bomb (red ball) and where it detonated. Everything in the picture had included homes and other buildings. The model includes the only things left standing after the bomb fell.
When I was in the third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Kelling, read us a book called “Sadako and the thousand paper cranes.” I don’t know why I remember that. Maybe some of my classmates who are reading this blog remember that also?
Today I got to see actual paper cranes folded by this young girl. She was not initially affected by the bombing but a decade later suffered from Leukemia because of her exposure to radiation. As she lay in her hospital bed she recalled the story that if you make a wish and then fold 1000 paper cranes the wish will come true. So she set out to fold 1000 paper cranes. She accomplished the feat but still succumbed to her disease. Her story has been an inspiration to many who still deliver thousands upon thousands of paper cranes each year to the Children’s Peace Memorial in the park.
When I was in the third grade I remember that when she finished reading us the book, Mrs. Kelling started crying. I remember thinking that was strange. I didn’t understand why someone would cry for a character in a book like that. Years and experience change one’s perspective.
At the end of the exhibit there was a book that showed pictures and personal messages from various world leaders. My favorite was from one of my personal heroes, President Jimmy Carter. It is interesting that there were a number of entries from world leaders from Sweden, England, Germany, Africa, and all over the world. There was only one entry from an American President.
Upon leaving the museum I walked through the park. First I visited the cenotaph, then children’s memorial and so on. It was so difficult to comprehend that the people here did not dwell on the negative. They would be understandably justified to carry hate and anger in their hearts for centuries. Instead they chose to dedicate this entire space to peace. That point was made even more clearly when I was greeted by some young kids on a field trip. They love to have the opportunity to practice their english so all of them rushed up to me to say, “hello.” I asked them how old they were and, after a lot of discussion amongst themselves about what I had asked, they said they were 11 years old. I think that is around the same age as Marcia Patrick Mueller’s students in Halstead. It is also about the same age as Sadako when she died. You may remember from previous posts that I have been taking “Ted the Traveler” along with me on this trip. Ted is a stuffed bear from Marcia’s 5th grade class that has traveled the world. Then, Marcia uses the places Ted has traveled in her teaching. So, this is for Marcia’s class:
The Children’s Peace Memorial was next.
The picture above is of the Bell of Peace. And the video below is of a child ringing the bell.
This bridge was the exact spot at which the bomb was aimed.
My final stop on this somber journey was the Atomic Bomb Dome, the building very near ground zero that remained standing. I wish I could remember the exact reason why it remained standing but it escapes me right now.
At this point I ask the reader to shift gears a bit. The rest of this post is about the remainder of my sightseeing time in Hiroshima that, in large part, has nothing to do with the bombing.
I walked downtown to find something for lunch and ran across one of the MANY video game parlors. I hope my boys read this blog because I want them to see this. We share a love of “claw games” and spend entirely too much money at home trying to win meaningless prizes.
I decided to try my luck at the Star Wars figurine claw game. So I got plenty of coins and gave it a try:
Yes boys, it’s true. The claw games in Japan are “fixed” just like in America. A guy who works there noticed me getting frustrated so he came over and opened the case and placed the figurine in a way such that I should have easily been able to get it. So, I tried again. Again I failed. So he opened the case again and repositioned the figurine. This went on for at least ten minutes while I spent way more money that the thing was worth. After a while I started wondering why, when he opened the case to reposition it, he didn’t just give it to me. In the end I DID “win” it.
Then I found some lunch:
It was delicious.
My final two stops for the day were Hiroshima Castle and Shukkeien Garden. Both places were beautiful and the entire trip was made much easier when I rented a bicycle. However, you can imagine a guy my size riding a Japanese bicycle. I didn’t even care. It was awesome.
The fish here are carp. In fact, the local professional baseball team is called the Hiroshima Carp. I found one I wished I could bring back to Bethany to serve as our mascot because of its colors:
I also saw this sign and thought it was funny:
Finally, I winded up my day of sightseeing with a refreshing bottle of Hiroshima Cola and took the public bus back to the hotel where I have been working on my presentation for the International Symposium on Performance Science I will be attending the next few days.