We had a late start this morning. I think this is the first day we have ever slept in here in Japan…sleeping in being waking up at 8:30 a.m. (as opposed to 6:00 a.m.). We started by trying to find a place to have breakfast by walking around the area around our hostel, but alas, the best we could find was McDonald’s. We have been trying to avoid Western food because, c’mon, we’re in Japan! But it is rather interesting to see another country’s take on a familiar brand.
For the record, it wasn’t bad. My breakfast burger felt less greasy but was saucier. The fries were good but had a sliiiightly different taste to them than the ones back home. I can’t really put it into words.
Afterwards, we set out to explore Hiroshima’s tragic past at the Hiroshima Peace Park. At the same time, we were treated to cherry blossoms, which are nearing their peak blooming period here in Hiroshima.
We took a streetcar to the park, and luckily, there are two lines that stop pretty much right in front of the A-Bomb Dome. This building is a hollow shell of its former self and the atomic bomb was dropped almost right above it. It was one of the very few buildings to survive the explosion. Most of the buildings within a 2 km radius were totally destroyed, burned by the intense heat.
We crossed one of the bridges over the river and came across the Children’s Peace Monument. You may have heard the story “Sadako and the Thousand Cranes.” This was the monument created dedicated to Sadako and all the children who died as a result of the atomic bomb. Surrounding it were clear plexiglass boxes containing thousands of paper cranes that were donated from all over the world as a hope for peace.
We walked around the park for a while longer, enjoying the cherry blossoms. The somber monuments contrasted with the bright cherry blossoms and the picnics that people hold to view the cherry blossoms and have fun with friends and family. Still, the cherry blossoms really were quite stunning.
We moved on to the Peace Memorial Museum, a large building with various exhibits relating to the war, the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, and nuclear weapons in general. The museum aims to not only memorialize the dead but to also educate people about the horrors of nuclear weapons in the hopes that they will never be created again.
Suffice it to say, it was a sobering experience. In some ways, it was a punch in the gut. One of the halls had various items that belonged to victims of the bomb, many of them children.
One story in particular stuck out to me. It was a memoir of a mother who lost her son to the atomic bomb. Her son had been on Ground Zero when the bomb was dropped. When his parents heard what had happened, they rushed into the city to search for him. They nearly gave up when someone told them they had seen their son a couple of days before, asking for some cold water. His parents continued to search but never found him. It was noted that, until her death, his mother would bring a glass of cold water to his grave every day so that his spirit would never be in want of cold water again.
There were a number of other chilling reminders of the victims – tattered children’s clothing, a sandal with a young girl’s footprint burned into its sole, and even the damaged tricycle of a 3-year-old boy who was riding it at the time the bomb was dropped. There were also pictures of horribly burned bodies from the heat of the blast. As a nurse, I have seen people screaming in agony and it is an awful experience to witness it. I can’t even comprehend the level of mass suffering that occurred after the atomic bomb, and with a severe lack of medical supplies to boot.
I could not bring myself to read all the stories there because I was tearing up. Looking around, I saw a couple of other visitors also with teary eyes. It makes one wonder why anyone would still want to produce nuclear weapons, knowing the horrific effects of them. If you ever find yourself in Hiroshima, definitely check out the museum.
When we left the museum, it was raining. We stopped at a nearby restaurant to try Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. It was definitely delicious and very satisfying! I washed down mine with some iced plum wine, while Katherine had hot sake and Jr had Asahi beer.
We decided to return to our hostel to take it easy. Besides, we’re running low on clean clothes so we have to do some laundry. Tomorrow, I’m hoping the rain slows down for our planned trip it Miyajima.