Hiroshima

 

When I was in the fifth grade, our teacher gave us a huge list of random, unrelated topics, and told us each to pick one and create a poster board about it to present to the class. I had no idea what several of them were, and wanted to research one I’d never heard before - so my criterion for deciding which one to pick was to choose the one with the coolest-sounding name. That ended up being The Holocaust (seriously, it was a toss-up between that and mollusks). I still remember getting my dad to drive me to Office Max where I picked out a neon-yellow poster board and a new set of markers, completely unaware of what the Holocaust was or how my outlook on human nature could change after learning about it. After doing that project in the fifth grade, it spurned a lifelong fascination with that era in history - I think I consumed just about every young adult historical fiction novel on the subject, and later, adult non-fiction. This, of course, included several books about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which taught me a lot about what humanity is capable of, the perseverance of mankind, and what drives us to do the things we do.

Anyway, I’m sure Hiroshima is just the first of many historically significant cities we will visit, but after having read so much about it, I was left with a very strange sense of nostalgia for a place I had never been.

We spent a lot of time at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, in the center of the city. It was once the town's busiest commercial and residential district, but after the bombing, was rendered an open field on which the park was built - memorializing the bombing's direct and indirect victims, and serving as a continuing prayer for world peace. We didn't take too many pictures, as it is a memorial, so I instead wanted to note some of the interesting things we learned at the museum.

  • Hiroshima’s official city flower is the Oleander, because it was the first flower to bloom again after the atomic bomb was dropped.

  • The Hiroshima tram service was up and running just three days after the bombing - two of the trams survived the bomb and are still in service today.

  • The Enola Gay was named after the pilot (Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr.)’s mother, and it was the first aircraft ever to drop an atomic bomb.

  • A girl named Sadako Sasaski was only two years old when the bomb was dropped, but suffered no apparent injuries until she fell sick nearly a decade later due to leukemia and other complications referred to as the “atomic bomb disease”. Her story is remembered through the one thousand paper cranes she folded before her death, and the ancient Japanese legend that says whoever does this will be granted a wish.

  • The intensity of the bomb was so strong that it permanently burned shadows of people and objects into the ground, as well as dark patterns of clothing burned into victims skin.

  • There is a Japanese word for those who survived the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - hibakusha (被爆者), literally meaning “bomb-affected person”.

  • On August 1st, 1964, a peace flame was lit in Hiroshima, and will continue to burn until nuclear weapons are abolished and the earth is free from nuclear threat.

 
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We took a day trip to Itsukushima, a small island in the northwest of Hiroshima Bay. It's also known as Miyajima, or, "Shrine Island", due to the large torii gate that greets travelers as they come in on the ferry. We felt extremely lucky to explore Hiroshima, a city grown anew after such a catastrophic event, yet so vibrant and rich with life.

 
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