"Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park - Day 1"
Trip Start Sep 09, 2009
15Trip End Oct 21, 2009
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Where I stayed
J-Hoppers Backpacker Hostel
"Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park - Day 1"
As an American I felt compelled to go. As a human I simply felt.
Confronted with history!
Conflicting thoughts and feelings wrestled in my mind... still have to sort it all out, I guess.
A short walk from my hostel and the A-Bomb Dome came into view in the distance across the Motoyasu River.
[CLICK] I started snapping photos.
HISTORY IS MADE:
8:15 am, August 6, 1945, Hiroshima, Japan... The awesome destructive force of the "ATOM BOMB" was without warning unleashed by one group of humans on another for the first time... Tens of thousands of men, women, and children perished instantly!
"The Dome" is (perhaps) the sole remaining structure preserved from that event. It stands as a testament to history, and as a reminder: "Never again!"
Detonated over one-third of a mile above ground, the "hypocenter" was nearly directly over the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall and its impressive green dome. With the explosive force directed mostly straight downward, some of the walls withstood the blast and remain standing... to this day!
[CLICK] I continued snapping photos as I crossed the bridge.
Along the walk leading to the mangled building stood a pair of statues.
The first depicted a young boy and young girl casually seated on a ledge. The boy cupped a small bird between his "praying" hands.
The other memorial depicted an old man, also gently handling a bird. A second bird lay against his chest, and a third was perched on his shoulder.
Numerous photos later, I worked my way closer to the "monument"... taking even more photos.
"Why so many photos?" you might ask.
Well, I intended to create a photosynth of the encounter. This is a navigable 3D environment constructed from a LARGE number of photos taken from MANY angles. It must be seen to be fully appreciated. And HERE it is! Be sure to read the Description before embarking on your virtual journey.
Fire destroyed what the bomb did not. The gutted building is propped from inside to preserve some level of structural integrity. As I walked by I tried to picture what that day, that moment, must have been like. I was unable. It was just too unfathomable.
REACHING OUT FOR PEACE:
[CLICK] While taking even more photos I noticed a young Japanese man looking at me several times. As he approached I said, "Konnichiwa."
He responded in English. He took me a bit by surprise when he said he was a Jehovah's Witness. He and his two Japanese female companions wanted to talk about peace. So, I told them about the Rainbow Family, and specifically about the Meditation for World Peace and Healing on the 4th of July. They listened attentively and thanked my for sharing it with them.
They offered me a small pamphlet entitled, "Life in a Peaceful New World." One woman directed my attention to a particular quotation: "Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore." - Psalms 46:9; Isaiah 2:4. This it the promise of Jehovah, and they firmly believe it.
We talked a little more about the possibility of peace then thanked each other with a positive expression that one day it would be so.
I must say that was the softest sell I've ever gotten from Jehovahs. In fact, *I* did most of the talking!
In hindsight, I wished I'd asked them what the A-Bomb Dome meant to them as Japanese. I think I will return and find an appropriate approach to pose this question. I REALLY want to get viewpoints from "the other side."
CHILDREN'S PEACE MONUMENT:
Clouds gathered over head and threatened to rain, so I made my way in search of shelter in case of the actuality.
Sure enough, it started to rain as I crossed a bridge into the main Peace Memorial Park area. I found myself standing before the Children's Peace Monument. This was a special destination of mine in all of Japan. And here's why...
She was only two years old when the ATOM BOMB rained destruction down on her town. Though she survived, the radioactive fallout took its toll. Sadako Sasaki contracted leukemia at the age of twelve.
She got very sick and very much wanted to get better, as anybody in her position would; especially a child. One story goes that she started folding the famous origami "peace crane." In fact, her goal was to fold one thousand of them and realize her wish for good health as Japanese legend tells. But alas, little Sadako would not see that day; she died before completing her quest.
In a show of sorrow and love, her classmates completed the task for her and called for creation of a monument to ALL children who died as a result of the ATOM BOMB.
ONE THOUSAND CRANES:
I didn't know what to expect. I'd seen photos of the monument, but had only read about the cranes. School children fold cranes and string them together for offering in memory of those "classmates" that died.
Well, a fairly steady procession of groups of school kids paid tribute at the monument. In culmination, they marched their strung cranes to any one of a number of clear plexiglass enclosures and amidst much excitement and photo snapping (moi included) they hung their offering with the multitude of others left by countless other children.
ORIGAMI CRANE "PAINTINGS":
From a distance I saw colorful "paintings" depicting cranes, doves, rainbows, hearts, earth globes, and more, and incorporating "PEACE" and Japanese characters expressing the same sentiment, no doubt.
But when I got closer...
The works of art were made of cranes! Lots of them! They were even more beautiful upon this realization. They were like Seurat pointillist masterpieces realized from skillfully folded little squares of colorful paper. My admiration was only matched by my surprise:)
ATOM BOMB QUESTIONNAIRE:
Two young school girls in uniform overcame their Japanese shyness and approached me with pen and notebook in hand.
One said, "Hello."
In a timid voice she mustered up the energy to ask if I would take a questionnaire.
I said, "Yes, I would be happy to."
It was quite short and to the point. After some general questions about name, address, and country, the "real" questions came... "Do you think the atomic bomb was the right decision?"
I looked at them and thought about it... I really didn't have a solid answer. All I could think was, "I don't know." I wrote that down and tried to explain it to them. "Muzukashi" was the best I could do. "Difficult." I will have to meditate on this question some more. How would you have answered?
Finally, they asked for a picture. I stood next to one girl while the other snapped a shot on a disposable camera. Then I asked if I could get a photo on my camera. Their chaperon manned the camera and clicked off a shot of the three of us. We all flashed the peace sign. If fact, in more pictures than not the Japanese are flashing the peace sign. Perhaps the ATOM BOMB had a bigger impact than just in Hiroshima.
Throughout the day I heard an occasional soft-toned bell, almost a low gong. At first I thought it was tolling on the hour, but this didn't hold true. Eventually, while wondering along the river, I came to the Peace Bell. The inscription invites visitors to ring the bell for peace. The striker was a long wooden cylinder suspended by chains. It had a rope to swing the striker which impacts an atomic symbol on the bell.
[GONG] The mellow vibrations reverberated through the park. My statement made, I moved on...
NATIONAL PLACE OF SCENIC BEAUTY: FLAME OF PEACE / POND OF PEACE / CENOTAPH:
With the sun readying to set, I made my way to the National Place of Scenic Beauty directly across the road from the Children's Peace Monument.
I was first attracted to a row of tall, manicured trees - actually two rows - leading toward the Peace Memorial Museum. This wide corridor is in direct line-of-sight with the A-Bomb Dome.
[CLICK] I took some long shots of the Dome.
The first thing I came to was the Flame of Peace. This monument memorializes the victims of the ATOM BOMB while holding out hope for a world without nuclear weapons. The flame has been burning continuously since 1964 and will continue to do so until the world is free of such weapons.
Next in line was the Pond of Peace. It's a reflecting pool that leads to the Cenotaph and nearly surrounds it.
A cenotaph is a monument built to honor an individual or group of individuals who died in a war. The Cenotaph in the Peace Memorial Park contains the names of all the people killed by the ATOM BOMB. There's a saddle shaped concrete arch, and to the side, an inscribed stone that reads, "Rest in Peace, for the error shall not be repeated."
I took a few last photos, then made my way back to my hostel, a full days worth of intense experiences still in my head...
I want to give this proper thought and attention, so this section will have to wait. In the meantime, I wanted to get the bulk of the blog up while it was fresh.
I've written a follow-up blog entitled, "A-BOMB DOME REVISITED." It turned out to be a stand-alone blog in its own right. The experience was very emotional and intense. Check it out HERE.