Saturday, October 22, 2005

make LOVE, not war

I can't believe I've been here for one year already and I haven't been to Hiroshima yet.

Well, this weekend was time to make amends. Plus this year holds more significance marking 60 years after the first nuclear bomb was dropped.

After school on Friday I raced home to finish packing and set out for Hiroshima. From Himeji, it was about a 2 hour shinkansen ride. That night I stayed at the World Friendship Centre (found in the Lonely Planet and recommended by Cheryl) which is a non-profit, anti-nuclear organisation. Basically it's like a cosy bed and breakfast run by some Japanese staff and full time volunteer residents from the US. They were a lovely, older couple who decided to come to Japan for adventure on the 2 year contract. They really look after you, are very accommodating and the homecooked breakfast included was delicious. It really was a 'home away from home'.

Hiroshima is a beautiful and interesting city, and easy to get around. They have trains, buses and a tram system (reminded me of Melbourne) which are all pretty tourist friendly. Getting the tram 2 day pass was really handy as it gave me unlimited tram rides, the ferry ride to Miyajima Island and a ride on the Miyajima Ropeway.

On Saturday I headed out to the Peace Memorial Park (Heiwa-koen) and saw the Cenotaph, containing the names of all the known victums of the bomb, the Flame of Peace (which continues to burn and will only be extinguished once the last nuclear weapon on earth has been destroyed), the Children's Peace Memorial (inspired by leukaemia victim Sadako and her 1000 paper cranes - there were heaps of them all sent in from around Japan and around the world), Korean A-bomb Memorial, Monument of Prayer, A-bomb Memorial Mound (where the ashes of the victims are buried), Fountain of Prayer and ofcourse, the A-bomb Dome (speechless).

The Peace Memorial Museum is definately a must. It took me a while to get through everything because there was just so much to take in. I could hardly believe the photographs taken of the city after the bomb was dropped was the very same city I was in that day. It was utterly destroyed and literally death and hell on earth. Only the skeleton of the A-bomb Dome was visible among the rubble and it's amazing to see Hiroshima what it is today. Amazing.

Seeing actual items from 60 years ago; the charred lunch box, the burnt rags left of a school uniform, melted glass bottles fused together, black rain on a white wall, stopped watches, human shadows set into stone - was really moving. I already knew this would be a very educational and emotional trip and you can't help but feel so sad and numb from what you see. Back then, many junior high school boys and girls were sent out to help clear away rubble and demolish buildings to make way for firelanes. It was many of those junior high school boys and girls that never came home. In an instant they were turned to ash.

It was the survivors' stories that really got to me. Parents losing children, children losing parents, desperate searches for surviving family members, not finding them in time and the regret of knowing that person died alone, desperate pleas for their mothers from young children, desperate pleas for water from burn victims...the list and suffering goes on. The National Peace Memorial Hall is also a must. It has a database library of the victims that you can a search on and also video interviews with survivors and their stories, all in different languages too.

I don't know what to say except that you just have to experience it for yourself. Even in the visitors book when I filled in the date, my name and nationality, when it came to Comments, I couldn't think of anything to write. I was just speechless and numb. Nothing could sum up how I felt. Yes, I was moved. Yes, it was very educational. Yes, I would definately go back again. Yes, I agree war has no winners and something like this should never ever happen again. Yes, it moved me. Yes, I believe in and hope for world peace.

But my page remained blank.

Everyone who I spoke to said it's best to do something fun and light after visiting the Peace Park and Museum because what you experience there is quite heavy. Also since it was starting to drizzle, I headed into the city for some retail therapy and to look around. I also went to Okonomi-mura to try the city's famous hiroshima-yaki (Hiroshima's version of okonomiyaki - it has noodles in it). I had the 'deluxe' and was very full. dee~licious!

I also stumbled across a display of paper cranes. Apparently the Children's Memorial receives so many paper cranes that they have to store them away until they can be used to hang up around the memorial statues and around the park. Also, after they are used they are recycled and made into notebooks sold to raise money for children's charities.

That night I stayed at the Aster Plaza International Youth House (also found in the Lonely Planet and recommend by Cheryl). This place was very nice! I reckon like a typical Japanese 'business hotel' (exactly like the one in Nagoya we stayed in for the World Expo) or 3-star hotel. Very swish and affordable too. A bit of luxury and a proper comfy bed was just what I needed. The restaurant was good too. But the place had a midnight curfew as it mainly caters for students and conferences, although I was in bed way before then because I was so tired from all the walking I had done.


At 2:53 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't been to Hiroshima yet... When I get around to it I'll buzz you for more info! (Bron)

At 10:57 pm, Blogger Loreen said...

Felt the same way when we went to Anne Frank's House in Amsterdam...its so sad. You walk around with that lump in your throat that doesn't go away.


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