Dec 9, 2016

Travelogue - Hiroshima

"Till she was about 10 years old, she grew up like just another girl. She was strong & was a  member of athletic team in her school. In 1954, she developed swellings in her neck , ears and upon being admitted to hospital, was diagnosed with Leukemia and was given maximum of one year to live..  It was in hospital that she learned about the legend of folding a thousand origami cranes to have a wish fulfilled.. She completed 1000, but her wish to live further was not fulfilled. She died in 1955, when she was 12"  --  Remarked our guide Nobu (a native of Hiroshima) in an emotional, yet composed tone,  as she detailed the poignant story of Sadako Sasaki, a survivor of Atom bomb who went on to die later due to the effects of radiation she suffered when she was barely two years old

Sadako's Origami Cranes

Hiroshima Atom bomb dome seen through
the peace memorial & flame

Immortalized by a monument dedicated to her next to the Hiroshima memorial peace park and decorated with Origami cranes, this is a place that can tell you in the most impactful way, the effects of nuclear weapons on humanity.   Her story is detailed in a famous book as well

An illustration depicting the immediate state of survivors 

The infamous 'human shadow'. A person standing near a building during bombing apparently melted away leaving a shadow of his body on the building which was otherwise whitened due to bombing

The most famous landmark is the Atomic bomb dome, a building that miraculously survived the bombings.

The peace museum is perhaps at the heart of the pacifist doctrine that has been a part of Japanese Politics after the war.  It details various tales of survivors, people who perished and the tale of destruction & radiation effects that has impacted the city ever since.

I asked Nobu, 'Whats taught in Japanese schools about Japan's role in war' . She told it is taught not in a straightforward way. Japanese attacks are portrayed as attacks on military installations, while the US bombings were taught as attack on civilians.. She also told that in this age of internet, it has become easy for people to access information. But there is no right or wrong answer about these events in Japan. Indeed Obama also stopped short of apologizing for this act on civilians.

Hiroshima , city of seven rivers has come a long way from that fateful day in 1945.  City has hosted Asian games in 1994, hosted a number of world leaders, the latest being Barrack Obama this year.  Hiroshima is the headquarters of Mazda motor corporation as well. Unlike the other major Japanese cities, Hiroshima does not have a subway system. Nobu attributed that to the fact that city is in a river delta & it is not suitable to build subways because of the watery nature of soil.  A few tram coaches which survived the bombing is still being run today as a memorial

After Obama's visit this year, Shenzo Abe, the Japanese PM is set to visit Pearl Harbour later this year. It is indeed a remarkable gesture aimed at reconciling differences over a troubled past.

Hiroshima is a place which can remove even traces of extremism or war mongering from a human soul.. Indeed 6th Aug 1945 was a day when humanity stood still.
Hiroshima trip was my first experience with 'Shinkansen' (Bullet Train ) as well. 330 KM from Osaka to Hiroshima was done in about 80 minutes. Have to say that, it is indeed an engineering marvel.

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