My Weekend Part III: Hiroshima Peace Museum
After an abrupt awakening Sunday morning, and a quick departure from our ryoken, James, Katie, Catherine, and I were off in search of breakfast. Hiroshima main station was close to where we were staying, and upstairs were a ton of restaurants, so we stumbled up there to grab some food. Although we were all craving giant mounds of pancakes, French toast, and greasy bacon, we had to settle for eggs and toast – which was the most Westernized breakfast we could find. After licking our plates clean and still not being satisfied, we went to a kombini (corner store) for some more food before hopping on the tram headed for the Peace Museum and the Peace Memorial Park.
Crane in the Window of the Bomb Dome
We passed the only building to remain standing on our way to the museum, and were fortunate enough to observe three cranes resting on the building. A beautifully symbolic moment, we stopped to photograph before continuing on to the museum. We intended to go through the museum first, as we were informed by other visitors that we will want the time to digest what we have seen and learned in the museum, and walking through the park afterward provides you that time. The museum was only 50￥ to get in (about 75 cents) and well worth more than that. In the entrance to the museum stands a large clock, “The Peace Watch Tower”, which counts the days since the bombing on August 6, 1945. Below is another clock counting the days since the last nuclear testing was done (this clock was reset to 0 on March 11, 2011 due to testing in the United States). The Peace Museum sought not only to recount the stories and lives of those affected by the bombing but also to bring a message of peace and declare a quest for a world without nuclear weapons. The first part of the museum was devoted to the history of the war and the events that led up to the bombing of Hiroshima. This was interesting because Hiroshima was specifically chosen as a target by the United States due to its location – the hills and the water would assist in creating maximum damage. It was also a city large enough that it would create the most amount of human damage. American documents on display at the museum show that the goal of the bombing on a city such as this was to create the greatest psychological damage on all of Japan. Another alarming fact from the bombing was the measuring devices dropped before the bombing. America sent down several devices with the intention of measuring the impact of the bomb before it was dropped. Because these devices floated down on little balloons many came outside to watch them drift to the ground, and therefore were outside when the bomb fell. The information presented in the museum was all-inclusive. It gave detailed accounts of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and did not give the impression that Hiroshima was a victim, nor was anyone to blame, rather portraying every country in this time as a victim of circumstance. The second part of the museum sought to explain the dangers of nuclear testing as it occurs today. It showed pictures of recent times, where, in America, spectators are asked to come watch nuclear testing unaware of the dangers of cancer and afterwards are subject to testing of the effects. It lists countries and the amount of nuclear weapons they possess (Canada has none; America and Russia have the most). It paints a picture of what would happen to the world if nuclear warfare were to occur. A scary idea, but a possibility as long as nuclear weapons exist. On display at the museum is a wall on which a man’s shadow at the time of the bombing is imprinted. Images of victim’s back are displayed where the pattern of their clothes is burned onto their skin. The museum showed personal objects of those who died, most were children’s clothing worn at the time of bombing. It was difficult to see many were listed as ‘Junior High School’ uniforms, and we couldn’t help but imagine our own school kids. Many of the young ones survived long enough to make it home, were they were given aid by family members before dying that night; or, if they survived the night, developed cancer later. Such is the case for Sadako Sasaki, a girl of two when the bombing occurred. She died at 12 after being diagnosed with cancer. Believing she would be cured if she could fold 1,000 paper cranes, Sadako spent her hospital surrounded by origami cranes. Today, thousands of cranes are displayed at her statue, sent from all over the world. On the way out of the museum you can pause to watch video testimony of survivors. There is also a map showing where survivors now live, in Japan. A large population lives in my prefecture of Ehime.
The Bomb Dome
After the museum we walked through the park, taking it all in. We stopped to observe the dome, the only building that remains standing from the bombing. The experience was heartbreaking and its effects cannot really be put into words.
Although we were saddened by our experience at the museum and the park, we reminded ourselves that we are in what is now a beautiful city, still full of life. There was one more thing we wished to experience during our short time here, and that is ‘okinomyiaki’. The Japanese compare okinomyiakito to pizza, but really the two are only alike in shape. This delicious Japanese dish is famous in Hiroshima so before we caught the ferry home we stopped to try some. I had eaten okinomyiaki once before, in Matsuyama, and really disliked it, but in Hiroshima it was delicious! It was a cheesy, noodley, eggy, delicious feast. It’s difficult to explain what it is (to be honest I am not really sure), but I imagine it is made with love and magic.
After our feast we were running a bit late for the ferry, so we hurried to the tram. The tram was taking way too long to get to the port, and we feared missing our ferry, so we got off and caught a taxi. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side and we missed our ferry. We had to upgrade our tickets (which meant shelling out another 40 bucks) to take the fast ferry which was leaving a half hour later. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however, as the fast ferry took half the time of the slow ferry we missed, so we actually returned to Shikoku faster than we had planned originally (if you can call our last minute decisions a ‘plan’). As it was evening, we all continued home, with my friends promising to come visit me tomorrow, a holiday here in Japan (and at home!) for a makeshift Canadian Thanksgiving and to see the Autumn Festival in my local town.