This is going to suck.
Despite our best efforts to out-run a super typhoon on a bullet train, we still caught the tail end of typhoon Lan. We spent the night in a bar watching people battle the wind and rain while we drank beer and sake. This would be umbrella #2 that B-ri sacrificed on this trip. (Warning, from here on in, the story is going to be pretty sad. Fun time is over.)
Hiroshima was a city of approximately 350,000 people prior to World War II. The city was a key port for shipping and had large deposits of military supplies. It was also home to a number of key Japanese military personnel.
Even though Hiroshima would then appear to be an important military strategic target, it was never bombed during the war by the US. This made the people of Hiroshima very nervous. Why would the US bomb Tokyo and other important military installations but leave Hiroshima untouched?
The people of Hiroshima were right to be nervous. The US military was purposely leaving the city of Hiroshima in-tact as they had plans for the city. Given the opportunity to test out their new A-bomb, they wanted to properly gauge its effectiveness and needed a clean slate rather than already bombed out buildings and bridges etc…
On Monday, August 6, 1945 at 8:15 in the morning, an American B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay (named after the pilot’s mom) dropped the first ever A-bomb named Little Boy over the city of Hiroshima. The bomb was slowed by a parachute and then exploded about 1900 feet above the city. The intended target was where the two bridges in this photo meet.
The moment the explosion occurred, 80% of the city of Hiroshima was destroyed.
At the same time, over 80,000 people were killed by the initial blast. The majority of which died from burns caused by the heat of the explosion. Over 70,000 people were injured.
In the months that followed, 10’s of thousands more people died painfully from radiation poisoning, malnutrition and other aliments related to the bombing. Altogether, the death toll is estimated around 90,000 – 146,000 people.
Given the timing of the bomb (around 8am), many people were on their way to work. Worse yet, many children were on their way to school but would never arrive. Those that survived the initial blast but were injured had slim chances of survival. 90% of the doctors and nurses in Hiroshima were killed in the initial blast so there was almost no medical help for survivors.
One of the only structures that survived the blast was the Production Exhibition Hall and it still stands today. There has been great debate in Hiroshima as some citizens want it removed as it is a painful reminder of the past whereas others want to keep it as an important memorial.
Picture of the same building before the A-bomb was dropped.
In 1996 the site became a protected UNESCO world heritage site. There is also now a fund that is used to maintain and preserve the building. The name of the building was changed from the Production Exhibition hall to Genbaku dome which in English means A-bomb dome.
Nearby is the Peace Memorial Museum. It contains a great deal of information about the A-bomb and artifacts from the bombing (as an example, a melted glass coke bottle). It has a number of videos where survivors tell their story. Toward the end of the museum it displays artifacts from people that died in the bombing. One particular section had the clothing from children that were killed by the bomb. There wasn’t a dry eye in that room (except for me of course, I’m all manly and tough).
The museum contains this peace watch clock. The top counts the number of days since the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The bottom counts the number of days since the last nuclear test was performed with North Korea being the most recent to reset this counter.
B-ri in front of the Peace Memorial Museum. It was a very moving experience.
This statue is dedicated to the children lost during the bombing. In the background are paper cranes.
The paper cranes are in memory of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who was only 2 years old when the A-bomb was dropped. Although Sadako was blown out the window of her house, her mom found her with almost no injuries. Some years later Sadako would be diagnosed with Leukemia which was likely caused by her exposure to radiation (her mom called it the atom bomb disease). Sadako learned of a Japanese legend that if you fold 1000 paper cranes you will be granted one wish. By the end of August 1955 Sadako reached her goal of making 1000 cranes but did not have her wish granted as she passed away in October that year at age 12.
Also nearby is the peace memorial park which is built on a large field that was flattened by the A-bomb. It contains an arch that is supposed to shelter the souls of the victims of the attack and the peace flame which has been lit since 1964 and will remain lit until the world is free of nuclear weapons.
If you stand in just the right spot, all the elements mentioned previously line up in a straight line with the A-bomb dome in the far distance ending the line. The inscription on the stone reads “please rest in peace, for [we/they] shall not repeat the error”.
There are 3 peace bells in the park that you are asked to ring if you believe in world peace. Throughout the day you could hear the bells ringing. All three of us gave the bell a ring.
B-ri and his new found friend take a moment to reflect. You might wonder, what is Hiroshima like today?
Pretty Awesome Actually! The city is now home to about 1.2 million people making it similar in size to my hometown, Calgary Canada.
They even have a cool water fountain that looks like… . ummmmm a very large pair of chrome half circles.
People have asked me about the radiation in the city when we visited. Because the bomb detonated 1900 feet above the city, the majority of the radiation blew away in the wind. Today, the level of radiation is just slightly more than your average city.
Nightlife in Hiroshima is also excellent with many pubs, bars and drunken Japanese business men.
Getting around is super easy with street cars, subways and bullet trains.
As I mentioned about Tokyo, Hiroshima is also incredibly safe and has very little crime. Here you can see people just leave their bikes in the street, not locked up while they head to the restaurants and bars after work.
And of course, it wouldn’t be complete without some helpful warning signs. I have no idea what this says but it seems important.
Or this emergency sign in our hotel that instructs you that in an emergency to go to the Blue exits as shown on the map (which you will notice there is no blue on the map).
And if all else fails, you can fill this bag with air and put it over your head.