As a history nerd, I jumped at the chance to visit Hiroshima during my recent trip to Japan. Today, Hiroshima is a modern, vibrant city. But the past is being brought to vivid reality by the Peace Memorial Park, which is on an island between the Honkawa and Motoyasu-gawa Rivers, and the Atomic Bomb Dome (left), which is just across from the northern tip of the island.
Before the bombing, the Dome was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the symbol of Hiroshima. The interior walls are actually being braced so it will remain as a permanent reminder.
On the island is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It’s a huge structure, stretching almost from one side of the island to another. And of course there is also an eternal Flame of Peace and a number of monuments and memorials, both on the island and along the river by the Dome.
I was only in Hiroshima for a few hours, but I did meet two memorable people. First was Michiko Yamaoka (pictured), a “Memory Keeper” and second-generation survivor, who gave 30-minute presentations in the Museum. The slide behind her, the final image in her presentation, summed up the message very well. “Everybody should come here, learn what happened in Hiroshima and what will happen if another atomic bomb is used. I hope you will tell others what you have seen and heard today when you go back home. I wish for a peaceful world without war and without nuclear weapons. We must not fear each other. Fear leads to hate. PEACE NEVER FLOWS FROM HATE. HATE LEADS TO SUFFERING. THE WORLD NEEDS EMPATHY.”
She gave everyone a paper crane, the symbol of the peace movement in Hiroshima.
The second was Mito Kosei, (his sign is pictured) who had a spot just south of Atomic Bomb Dome. He is an “in-utero survivor”, being born just after the bombing. He was on-site that day, and had a stack of loose-leaf notebooks entitled “That Day”, each in a different language, that told the Japanese side. I skimmed through the English translation. While I didn’t always agree with what I read, it was interesting to see another viewpoint. Miko maintains a blog (http://blog.livedoor.jp/mitokosei/) and his story is in a film entitled That Day than can be viewed at http://www.thatdayfilm.com/SupportPeace/Watch_That_Day.html.
And I agree that everyone should visit Hiroshima at least once. The message I came away with is that this must never happen again.
I also have a photo album of Hiroshima on my Facebook page.
March 22 UPDATE – I emailed Michiko to thank her for the presentation. Nine days later, I received the following reply:
“Thank you for your mail. Please convey what happened in Hiroshima and my mother’s story.
There is no guarantee that nuclear weapons willnot be used again.
We have to learn about this history and maintain a conversation about what happened in Hiroshima so we can make a peaceful world without war and without nuclear weapons in the future.