Saturday, 12 November 2016

Hiroshima - surviving the A-Bomb - and the stunning Miyajima

Upon arrival at Hiroshima we took the sightseeing bus as it was free with our train pass and dropped our bags at the hostel in order to spend the rest of the day sightseeing.

A little background on Hiroshima. Many will know it's history, it's a sad, horrifying history, when at 8.15am on August 6th 1945, the city fell victim to the world's first Atomic bombing (along with Nagasaki later on). The entire city was levelled and hundreds of thousands of people instantly lost their lives. Those who miracously survived the bombing, suffered irreparable physical and psychological damage for the rest of their lives and even the next generation (unborn babies, children) are still suffering from indirect affects today.

With a blinding flash, the bomb was detonated 600 metres above the city centre. It generated energy so fierce, it produced an enormous fireball reaching over a million degrees Celsius, a high pressure of several hundred atmospheres causing an extremely strong blast thrusting outwards crushing buildings, blowing people through the air and reducing everything within a 2km radius to ashes in the intense heat.

Walking around Hiroshima today, you couldn't imagine how a city could ever recover from such an atrocity, flattened completely and now a thriving bustling city, both in tourism; educating the world in an atrocity which should never happen again, and in business and youth. Most people only spend a day or afternoon here but we spent the night as we wanted to know the city a little better. And it's a huge contrast by day and night!

We spent the afternoon walking through the city centre, through the various monuments erected in memorial in the peace park which flanks both sides of the river around the Memorial Museum, past the A-Bomb Dome - a building in the epi-centre which miraculously survived the bomb and is preserved forever as a reminder of how resilient Hiroshima's people were in that time and how they can build up again and keep living. Frozen in time it is a symbol of peace for its people.

We also visited Hiroshima Castle which was mostly reduced to rubble in the bomb (the foundations survived) and so it has been rebuilt to show a little of what it was before the war and during the Edo period.

We then walked back in the early evening, sun setting, via the Peace Park, a very fitting end to the 11th November - Armistice Day, a symbol of remembrance of the war and the people who's lives were lost. Well, it wasn't just Europe who saw significant loss of life during the war, the effects were global, and they still are today. Hiroshima was as much a tragedy of the war, as D-Day was or the Battle of the Somme - yet we are somehow detached from it. The most disturbing thing about it, was how planned it was by the USA. Why did they choose to drop the bomb on Japan? Well, Japan was in an extremely weak position by this point, so the US had 3 choices on how to end the war; invade the Japanese mainland, ask the Soviet union to join the war against Japan, or use the Atomic Bomb. Of course, the Atomic Bomb had never been used on humans before, it's affects had never really been studied. So why not end the war, plus do a little experiment. It's disgusting really.

Why Hiroshima you ask? To ensure the affects of the Atomic Bomb could be accurately observed, potential targets were selected from cities with an urban area at least 3 miles in diameter, and air raids in those cities were prohibited in preparation. The 4 chosen cities were Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata or Nagasaki. Hiroshima was thought to have been the first choice because it was the only one of the 4 cities that didn't have an Allied prisoner of war camp. Therefore, the US went ahead, and released a piece of hell that should never have been allowed to happen.

The Peace Park and the Memorial Museum were made as a reminder of what evils war can bring and a reminder that these bombs, or now nuclear weapons should not be allowed to exist. The damage by the a-bomb was so catastrophic that the people of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Japan, are fighting to show the world that they should be eliminated from the face of the earth. Promoting world peace, they built the monuments in the Peace Park to create and install peace in the minds of people. The path to peace begins with even the smallest steps. And we learnt all of this and so much more just walking through the Peace Park, tolling the Peace bell, and watching the school children of Japan, singing and honoring the victims at the Memorial Mound, where thousands of bodies were cremated in the days after the bomb and placed there. It was a sombre afternoon but a very prominent one, and travel comes not only with new sights and culture, but also with strong messages and history of its people, and lessons to never repeat history. Unfortunately the human race never really learns it's lesson.

In a more happier note, Hiroshima was a beautiful place, and it left a mark on us. Especially for its food that night! We decided what else should you try than the local speciality Okinomiyaki. A dish of a pancake, topped with cabbage, noodles, meat and egg with a most delicious sauce on top. We checked out some of the top places to try it and the one we found was a winner as soon as we entered. The staff were the friendliest people in the world, and even though they only spoke broken English they tried so hard to communicate with us and wanted to get to know us. The awesomeness of this restaurant was also that they cooked the food in front of you on a hotplate, Teppenyaki style! Pierrick instantly bonded with them over Dragon Ball - a very popular manga comic/TV show. Pierrick went for the house special which included Tempura squid in the deal, and I went with the classic pork and egg, with an extra topping of Oysters - which are world-class here in Hiroshima, and super cheap and huge! We also had pork and kimchi Teppanyaki, plus liver Teppanyaki. Everything was delicious and it was even better watching it being made right in front of you. The oysters were amazing, grilled to perfection, melt in your mouth, so fresh!

We loved it so much we kept ordering more things just to stay longer. However there came a point after two hours of eating and drinking that we had to leave - though the place was open til 3am!

We then took a walk through the nightlife district of Hiroshima, which is completely different to the daytime Hiroshima, not a tourist in sight, bright lights, buzzing. It was great to see a city that had lived through so much, carry on as though nothing had happened.

The next morning it was time to visit the Peace memorial museum. This further educated us on the bombing. Not only did it take you step by step of what happened but it showed the horrifying effects and stories. Children's burnt, bloody clothing, a bike reduced to molten metal, stone steps with a black shadow of where a person had been sitting before reduced to nothing, shadows on bricks showing the direction of the light/heat blast, watches stopped at 8.15am - the only thing left of its victim. A lunch box; its contents charred black, found under the charred body of a little school boy. Then it also goes on to show the after effects of radiation; cancerous body organs, scars of clothing burnt into the skin, pictures of victims burned so badly they died of their injuries days or hours after. The black rain that came after the blast, the city burning for 3 days, of children that years later developed lukaemia and cancer from radiation. Of unborn babies that were born with disabilities. One bomb had destroyed generations. It also educated you on how many of the victims were Korean, working in Hiroshima under forced labour, and also most of the victims were school children, forced out of school and into labour, helping to pull down buildings to decrease fire outbreaks during air raids.

At the end it takes you via books where each president, prime minister, foreign minister has written their prayers for world peace while visiting Hiroshima, and yet every one of those has continued acts of war, and developed and owns nuclear weapons far worse than the A-Bomb.

We then made our move to MiyaJima, an island located just south of Hiroshima. We were spending the night in a hostel in Hatsukaichi as Hiroshima was fully booked (Saturday nights are very popular in Japan and get booked out way in advance we are beginning to realise!) So we used our JR pass to get to Hatsukaichi, before the station guard told us we were no-where near our hostel, and needed to take a tram for 3 stops and then walk. By this time we were fed up as it was super hot (we have been so lucky with the weather so far!) and we were in a tiny local town with no idea where to go. However we were lucky enough to literally stumble upon the tram tracks and follow them up to the station, where we then jumped on the tram and later managed to find our hostel.

By this time it was 3pm, it didn't leave us much time to visit MiyaJima but we could at least see the main bits before sunset. So we hopped on the tram and then the ferry over to this cute little island.

Upon arrival we were starving as we hadn't had lunch yet, so we grabbed some local fried fare on the cobbled street and marvelled at the tame deer walking around! They were everywhere! I was acosted by one (be careful when eating as they will try to steal your food!) And head-butted by it as I wouldn't give up my fried chicken! Luckily it didn't have antlers. We then walked down to the famous floating Torii gate and walked around the beautiful old Edo-style township and the Japanese gardens with the fiery red Autumn colours of the trees. We decided not to pay the entrance fee into the temple as it was super crowded and we preferred to enjoy it from afar.

 We then watched the sun fire purple colours across the sky over the Torii gate as the tide rose to show its full glory and walked the streets sampling grilled oysters and maple leaf cakes - very local delicacies before taking the late ferry back to the mainland. It had been a short visit and we would have loved to have stayed longer, maybe to hike the mountain - in hind sight we maybe should have spent an extra day there instead of Osaka but hey - leave something to return to right? Tomorrow it was on to Himeji to view one of the most symbolic castles of Japan.

No comments:

Post a Comment