Hiroshima 広島 (Day 1)

February 10, 2011

Despite not packing the night before, I made it to Nagoya by 9:05 (and ran into two of my new students in the Hisaya-Odori subway station!), but had to wait until 10:25 for the next reserved seat to Hiroshima, which cost a whopping 13,800 (then again, the Green Car seat was 18,000-ish). There were light snow showers in Nagoya, which tapered off quickly. The trip to Hiroshima was smooth sailing (and my seatmate left at Kyoto, leaving me with two seats to myself in the back row, so I could recline as far as I wanted).


Once in Hiroshima, I hopped the Number 1 streetcar and made it to my hotel without too much backtracking. It's close to the Peace Park and Museum...this is good, since I didn't bring my journal with me this afternoon and I want to get stamps at the Tourist Information Office and the Peace Memorial Museum (which only costs 50 yen to enter). And there's a Starbucks right across the street in the NHK building, also good since my room rate doesn't include breakfast.


I started out by walking along the river, and the overcast day suited the mood perfectly for the sad A-Bomb Dome, the only surviving building near the hypocentre. There are numerous memorials and signs about various buildings and their deceased inhabitants (the workers at one nearby plant were crushed to death as all the floors pancaked). The Peace Memorial Park is home to Sadako's memorial (she died from leukemia before folding her goal of 1,000 origami cranes, thought to grant any wish), the Flame of Peace, and numerous monuments in addition to the Peace Memorial Museum. If you're weak of stomach, you might want to skip the west building of the Peace Memorial Museum altogether.













The east building shows Japan's lead up to WWII, with its military expansion (Hiroshima was an important town) and wartime efforts (very little mention of Pearl Harbor). There are several cases full of wartime necessities like emergency rations and blackout bulbs, uniforms, and handbooks. There’s a huge wall about "Why the US Bombed Japan," including facts about the Manhattan Project, test runs (the dummy A-Bombs still killed over 1500 civilians), and finally, the moment at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945. As you walk between the two wings, a large recreation of the A-Bomb Dome bridges the two.


And there's where it gets very, very gruesome; I felt that it was almost sensationalized. I'll spare the most graphic reenactments, but there are mannequins with reproduced injuries, actual human remains, charred, bloodstained clothing, and graphic video depictions of radiation poisoning in addition to numerous blown-up photographs of actual injuries. And this continues throughout several rooms. I just walked past and looked at structural damage (warped bridge girders, melted roof tiles, concrete walls sliced and embedded with glass) instead. It’s all a bit overwhelming, and if you read all the descriptions and take the optional audio tour, you could easily spend the day here. There were the usual chattering, joking teens, but they sobered right up after the injuries rooms. The people coming out on the other side looked shellshocked.



As I was sitting on a bench checking my map, a very pretty young Japanese woman came over to me and asked if I was a tourist. Call me a sucker. She told me that she’s from Hiroshima. So far, so good. I figured that she just wanted to practice her English. She did, all right, but of the Biblical sort; turns out that she’s a Jehovah’s Witness. Hey, she looked so happy that someone actually listened to her. And I got some useful info about ferry connections, so we both got something out of the encounter.


I ended the evening by checking out the shopping arcade, PARCO (yay Tower Records!), and a couple of department stores where I foraged for food in the basement (scored a mini-bottle of Italian chianti for 890 yen, a steal for a department store food hall). Tried a green tea-bean-sweet potato roll from Pompadour (tasted way better than that just sounded!). Got very, very lost on the way back to my hotel.


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