Hiroshima. A name that I have known pretty much all of my life. My mother taught me about the significance of this place and the other one, Nagasaki. Later in my life, I loved the song ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ by the original Ultravox led by John Foxx. The lyrics always stayed with me and today they were going to be particularly poignant.
‘Meet beneath the autumn lake
Where only echoes penetrate
Walk through Polaroids of the past
Futures fused like shattered glass, the suns so low
Turns our silhouettes to gold
Hiroshima mon amour’
And today we are are on our way to this (in)famous city. Now renamed the ‘city of peace’. Once again our friend Shinkansen delivered us safe and sound and on time from Kyoto. I’ve discovered Calpis out here, which is the same kind of thing Yakult as it’s a fermented milk drink with lactic acid and cultures which helps both digestion and helps me to build back the capability of my digestive tract post all the antibiotics I was given earlier in the year. The downside of it is that every time I say Calpis, it sounds like cow piss!
This is the real deal – Calpis
Always follow instructions on Japan
We arrived in Hiroshima which is in the south of Japan and two and a half hours from Kyoto. Our hotel was right next to the main station. As always we were too early to get into our room, so we dropped our bags and headed out to get some food.
Wonderful art in our hotel
We were keen to try the local speciality, Okonomiyaki, which is a savoury pancake containing cabbage, egg, batter and a load of other stuff, all made on a very big hot counter by some very talented chefs. It’s delicious and very filling indeed.
After we finished lunch, we decided to walk to the Peace Memorial Park which was 45 minutes away. It was another hot and still day and the park is the site on which the US Army Air Force drooped the first Atomic bomb ever used, codenamed Little Boy, from a B-29 Superfortress named Enola Gay on Hiroshima at 8.15am on the morning of 6th August 1945. The destruction was quite simply unprecedented. I knew this was going to be a tough afternoon.
As always I like to try and see things from a balanced perspective, so for once I am going to avoid any political probing around the use of the Atom Bomb (A Bomb) on Hiroshima. There’s plenty of great historians from both sides of the divide who have written millions of words criticising and justifying the use of this weapon of mass destruction but 140,000 people died from that bomb alone.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park will live in my memory forever. It’s a pretty big piece of land, the original Ground Zero. Reading the stories and seeing the photographs of so many of those killed, injured and who survived was a gut wrenching experience. Clothes, artefacts, documents, fused glass, transcripts and other ephemera reinforced the shock and the sorrow I felt. I was also confused by what I thought were clumsy translations from Japanese to English. Frequent referrals to ‘school children being killed by their bomb renovation stations’ were confusing. It was only when I read up on my phone as I walked around that these were people of all ages who were rebuilding bombed buildings from previous raids and sometimes demolishing existing structures to introduce fire breaks to minimise damage from future incendiary bombing raids, that it all began to fall into place.
Japanese cities had been subjected to fire bomb raids, the same as London, Coventry and Dresden had suffered. The US planners had wanted to test the true destructive effect of the A-Bomb and wanted a city with a 3km diameter. A number of cities had been identified as potential recipients of the A-Bomb and all bombing raids on those cities were halted in order to ‘preserve’ the 3km area. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the two cities tragically selected for the detonation of the Atomic bombs. War is made my man, and those who make it use every single sinew of their twisted ingenuity to wreak maximum destruction.
As as I sat outside the main Peace Memorial Museum every single person filing out wore sullen and drawn looks. Today had been a very, very thought provoking day and I know I will carry that experience with me until the day I die.