Head first into the atomic era.

Trip Start Sep 21, 2006
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Flag of Japan  ,
Friday, January 25, 2008

It was so strange to be standing underneath the point where the first Atomic Bomb went off (it actually exploded 600m above ground level to maximize the damage...). It was one of the most bizarre feeling I ever had. 

Never before in history of warfare were so many lives destroyed simultaneously and indiscriminately. Looking up the sky I couldn't help but imagine what it must have been like when this huge fire ball suddenly illuminated the sky and rose the temperature to 5000 degrees Celsius. A split second later the most powerful shock wave ever created by man (at the time...) wiped out nearly all the buildings within a 2 km radius. Tens of thousand people were instantaneously vaporised. Some of them leaving a permanent shadow on the sidewalk where they stood.

Those that died instantly were the lucky ones. Many more died the following days and weeks from radiation burns so severe that their skin melted and came off their flesh. Their sufferance was unimaginable. Some of the children were burned so badly that their own parents couldn't recognize them.
 
Near the epicenter, a memorial and a couple museums were built where pictures and very explicit stuff are exhibited. At the center of all this is the famous dome shaped building that resisted the blast. It was kept exactly the way it was after the explosion.  
 
It happened 63 years ago so many of the survivors have died since. But many others are still alive, especially those that were kids at the time. Even those that were just a fetus were deeply hurt by it. Within 4 months, 140 000 people had died either from the original blast or from the following radiation. People who seemed untouched suddenly fell ill months after the explosion. They watched their hair fall off with anguish and died within only a few days. Many of the long term effects are unknown. The cancer rate of people living in the Hiroshima vicinity at the time of the explosion is abnormally high. Children die from Leukemia and adults from all kinds of cancer. The fact is that we know very little about radiation. For anyone exposed to the radiations, there can never be any peace of mind. 
 
One thing that I appreciated about the museums is that the story they tell is fair and balanced. It would have been easy for them to say "Look at what the Americans did to us." But no, they present it as an act of war that took place in a war that they had started themselves. And they admit that at the same time their army was massacring hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in China and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The message I felt they're trying to convey to visitors is: "It doesn't matter so much who did what, what really matters is that we all unite and make sure there will never be another war."

As unspeakable the devastation caused by the Atomic Bomb might have been, it pales in comparison to what the Hydrogen Bomb would do if it was ever launched. Developed a few years later, it's about 1000 times more powerful than a regular Atomic bomb. An actual Atomic explosion is required in order to trigger the chain reaction inside a Hydrogen Bomb. It gives you an idea of how powerful it is. For the first time in history mankind has the capability of destroying the world. Let's hope Hiroshima's message will forever be heard.

Andre.
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