Hiroshima

Yesterday started earlier for B as he had to go to the train station before us. Why you might ask? Because he decided to launder his rail passes which was in his pocket when we did the washing the previous evening. Big signs up at the train station saying “We won’t replace your pass if you lose it, have it stolen or you wash it”. Given the cost, B reckoned it was important to try. Fortunately he was behind a New Zealander who had done the same thing and he spent 5 minutes arguing (and won) and so when B got to the counter they didn’t even argue – they just replaced it.

M & I walked to the train station (about 20 minute walk – 1.8km) and got there with enough time to go to Starbucks to get a coffee for me and sandwich and hot chocolate for M. We then had to take a train to Shinosaka (25 minutes local railway that traveled at 130km/h) and then at Shinosaka we changed onto the shinkansen to Hiroshima (which took 1.5 hours). About halfway in they apologised that the train was running slower than usual due to some work on the line and so we would arrive 3 minutes late into Hiroshima. We actually arrived only 1 minute late – some bloke probably got fired.

At Hiroshima we only wanted to see where the atomic bomb had been dropped. There is a series of monuments at Hiroshima in Peace Park. We could fortunately take a bus there (there is a sightseeing round trip bus from the train station which was included in our rail passes). We got off at the Atomic Bomb Dome. This is the exact place that the bomb exploded at 8:15am on 6 August 1945 above 600 meters above the ground. The ground temperatures below rose to 3000-4000 C and instantly killed everyone in the near vicinity. There are descriptions in the museum of people’s hair instantly on fire, people’s eyes popping out and very other gruesome results. Most of the buildings were instantly destroyed as well but because the bomb explored directly above this building, you can see that some of the structure remained and it has been preserved as a reminder of the bomb exploding.

What really struck me about all the monuments is how they talk about it being a monument to poor leadership and the results thereof. I doubt many other countries in the world would be prepared to so openly admit that it was their own fault. On one plaque they basically said this should stand as a lesson to future leaders and a reminder to all the people of Japan that if you elect and support poor leaders then this can be the result.

Whole park area was full of tourists and a number of school tours. There is a monument to all the children that were killed in the blast (many of them were working in factories at the time to support the war effort). The one school was singing a song at the monument when we walked past. We noticed that many of the school kids were talking to foreigners and then shortly after that a whole group approached us and asked (in English) whether we could answer some questions. They each had a line to ask in English (read off their books) after they introduced themselves. They asked where we were from (and we had to mark it off on the map – they were quite excited when we said SA) and why we came to Hiroshima. They asked us to write down our names and then gave us a gift from their home town and encouraged us to visit. It was very sweet. We regretted to not having taken a photo with them though.

The museum has all the names of the 320000 people killed through the bomb over time – about 120000 of those were immediate. It has photographs of all the ones they could find and brief accounts of their lives and how they were killed. There is also a round room with what Hiroshima looked like in October 1945 which they have compiled from photographs taken by US soldiers. I reckon those soldiers probably died later from cancer of some sort as they didn’t know the effects of the radiation. It is quite staggering to see the damage and destruction. There is also a movie relating the tale of the day from a few different people’s perspectives and an especially moving one from a school kid who eventually died 3 days after the bomb went off. Having seen the destruction I am staggered that it took two bombs to force a surrender from Japan. There is a cenotaph in the park which also has a flame burning in it. They will burn the flame until all nuclear weapons are destroyed.

We headed back to the train station on the bus and saw a little more of Hiroshima on the way back. There was only one remaining bridge after the war and we drove over it on the way back. They said most of the bridges had been bombed out prior to the A-bomb attack but whatever few were left were then destroyed on that day except this one. It was 2pm already at this point and we needed lunch so we had a traditional Japanese lunch from Lion Burger! All three of us really felt like a burger and chips and so that is exactly what we had. They were very nice burgers as well (and probably the most expensive ones I have ever eaten).

There was a shinkansen train on the platform when we arrived but it wasn’t the train we were booked on. We could see that in the non-reserved carriage there were plenty of seats so we thought we would take it instead and get back earlier. Big mistake. It stopped at numerous places on route and eventually arrived an hour later than our original train which left 20 minutes afterwards. In addition, it was slowed down by a ‘Human accident’ on the line so that didn’t help either. We got back into Kyoto at 6:30pm and then walked back to our AirBnB – just stopping on route to buy some stuff for another stir-fry dinner (we did pork this time but still cooked by Michael).

Until tomorrow …

P, B & M

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