I’m not sure if I have time for a polished blog post before going off on adventures (today is a free day and my friends have planned to visit Osaka, Nara and a fantastic store in Kyoto, it’s gonna be pretty busy!) but I figured while I have a moment I’ll jot down/ copy out of my paper journals some reactions to our visit to Hiroshima yesterday. You’d have to be blind or shockingly uneducated to not be aware that Hiroshima is the city where the United States dropped the first Atomic bomb back in 1945, and that the destruction was complete, brutal, and terrifying. It was a pretty emotionally traumatic day, and here are the notes I jotted down while visiting:
After seeing the A-Bomb Dome:
I’ve seen ruins before. I’ve seen Pompeii, which was destroyed by a volcano, and the Coliseum which was destroyed by time. I’ve seen the effects of flood and hurricanes. I’ve seen buildings left to crumble because their repairs couldn’t be afforded. But I had never seen the direct results of war until today. Even the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC is just a replica, not real like this. The A-bomb dome, a building hollowed out close to the epicenter of the explosion, (#), is a real building where real people worked and died, incinerated by the blast less than 500 feet away. It’s one of a handful of buildings that was still standing in downtown Hiroshima. According to Wikipedia, the radius of total destruction was one mile, with fires spreading 4 more miles, decimating about 70% of the city’s structures in one fells swoop. This is a reminder of an atrocity that my country committed against this one, of how evil humans are with no thought for the humanity of others. I am ashamed to be the same species and nationality as the people that did something like this.
Between the A-Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum there were two or three monuments to children who were killed in the blast or from resulting radiation sicknesses. They featured millions of paper cranes (#). Inspired by a belief that folding 1,000 of these cranes would make a wish come true, Sadako Sasaki (main character of the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes) and other leukemia patients began to fold thousands of them, their only wish being to live. To this day (# these were dated the day of our visit) students fold thousands of cranes and hang them in these memorials, as a way of honoring those innocent lives. There is also an eternal flame that will burn until all nuclear weapons are disarmed, which my friends and I could only shake our heads at, hoping and praying that it would be extinguished in our lifetime, but knowing that is unlikely.
Written just outside of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum:
I knew it wouldn’t be fun. I wasn’t expecting a particularly happy scene. I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, but that is thousands of miles from the tragedy it represents. This museum is less than a mile from the epicenter of the bombing. Seeing the charred school uniforms of children killed by the bomb, the pieces of buildings burnt and melted, while standing where these things were found was unbelievably difficult. Reading testimonies of people, many of them my age or younger, who saw their whole families suffer and die from the explosion and radiation, made me break down in tears. A whole exhibition of these stories and the items that accompanied them was the most painful thing I’ve seen in a very long time, if not my whole life. I can’t begin to fathom a piece of a burnt school uniform or a lock of charred hair (or the bicycle a young boy was riding when he was incinerated, #) being the only token I have to remember my whole family by. The suffering, the agony these people went through…. One of the predominant thoughts in my mind was “I hate being American, I feel like a monster.” However, this museum thankfully wasn’t aimed at vilifying Americans, it was aimed at exposing the horrors of nuclear war and encouraging visitors to fight for disarmament.
Written the day after the visit:
Although seeing Hiroshima and especially the artifacts from the victims was incredibly, unbelievably painful, I understand why this visit was necessary. I find it difficult to believe that anyone with a soul, after seeing these kind of things, could ever make or support the decision to drop another nuclear bomb. Over 53 million people have seen the museum since its’ founding in 1955, and while I wouldn’t exactly hop on the train to go see it again today, I am glad I went.
Here’s a thought…. can we just send the presidents/ rulers of the US, India, Pakistan, Russia, France, the UK, China, and North Korea (I think that’s all the countries with nuclear weapons) to this museum together? And then at the end, have a treaty for disarmament ready for them to sign…. If it weren’t for how complicated and messy politics are, if it was only based on the humanity of the leaders, I’d be certain it would work.