A Sobering Day in Hiroshima

Today we made use of our Japan Rail passes and took a 2 hour train to Hiroshima for a day trip. To kill time before boarding our train we watched what we think was a cheer leading camp. We were confused because there were a number of boys and girls doing lifts and throws on the 8th floor of the mall attached to the train station. We also discovered that there was a Cafe du Monde in the station, but were sad to learn that there were no beignets.

We arrived in Hiroshima around noon and decided the first order of business was to find lunch. We had read on the train that the city had fresh oysters so we made it our mission to find them. We ended up at a lovely cafe along one of the rivers which featured an oyster lunch consisting of a set menu of sauteed oysters, oyster soup, oyster gratin, and a number of other oyster items. Well, it turns out that neither of us really like Hiroshima oysters. We found them to be strangely dense. Cape Cod may have spoiled us.

After lunch and our ice cream we ate to get the oyster taste out of our mouths we started the walk to the A-Bomb Dome, the sole remaining structure from August 6th, 1945. This building was once the Hiroshima Prefectural Industry Promotion Hall but was mostly gutted when the bomb detonated 600 m above. After much debate, the city chose to keep this structure as a constant reminder of the effects of a world without peace. We walked around the facade, not being able to fully grasp the horrors that this city had to endure.

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A-Bomb Dome

 

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A-Bomb Dome with a picture of the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industry Promotion Hall

On our walk through nearby Peace Park, we learned something else about this city. Since the bomb was dropped, it has had a mission to eradicate all nuclear weapons from the planet. Every mayor has sent a letter to the U.N. asking for their support. In the city’s own words:

“… the spirit of Hiroshima – enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.”

The park contained a number of memorials to the victims of the bombing. The Children’s Peace Monument was particularly beautiful with its inspiration from Sadako Sasaki and her paper cranes. Daily, cranes are brought from visitors around the world and hung here as a sign of hope. While we were there we had a group of Japanese children approach us and introduce themselves. We were asked if we like dogs (Yes!) and if we play soccer (Yes!). Then they offered us two paper cranes, items we will treasure.

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Children’s Peace Monument

 

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A small sampling of the many paper cranes nearby the Children’s Peace Monument

 

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Paper crane gifts from Japanese students

Also in the park was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, an exhibit constructed to educate the world about the dangers of nuclear weapons as well as the devastating impact on the city.  Many artifacts of the 140,000 people who died from this event were featured. We were surprised to learn that so many were middle school children who had been in the area tasked with war duties and a number of the items were personal items of these children. A very surreal but necessary reminder of this day in history.

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A model of the impact of the bomb to the city of Hiroshima

We left Peace Park with the next stop being the Hiroshima Castle, a castle for the region in the era of shogunates which was completed in 1589. All that remains of the original castle is its foundations. The structures along with everything else in the 2 km around the blast site were leveled. The city has spent some time rebuilding replicas of the castle’s tower and main gate. We were able to visit both and walk the grounds.

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Doug admiring the castle’s tower

The remainder of our time before catching our 2 hour train back to Kyoto was spent walking a loop around the city’s central core, including Peace Boulevard then splitting a Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki.

 

Daily Walking Mileage: 15

Fun Facts:

  • There are two styles of okonomiyaki. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is layered whereas Osaka-style is mixed together.
  • High speed trains are super convenient. It would have been a 5 hour drive from Kyoto to Hiroshima but we did it in 2 hours with rail.

 

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