Visiting a place like Hiroshima always comes with a certain dread. Especially when you visit with a child who is by now old enough to understand and grab the full extent of what happened to the people living there in Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945. Chris and I had always wanted to visit Hiroshima on one of our many visits to Japan previously, however we always felt we should wait until Jerome was old enough to understand as well. We had planned to visit the Miyajima fireworks the day before so it made sense to stay in town for a few more nights and immerse ourselves in history for a day. History and documents of bygone eras can be seen all over Japan but no other place has had such a far-reaching influence into world politics, even to this day and age.
We took the Hiroden tram, which stopped almost right next to our Airbnb apartment all the way to the Hiroshima Gembaku-Dome-Mae Station right next to the Atomic Bomb Dome.
The original stone building was completed as a trade centre in 1915 and featured a dome on the highest part of the building. It served as a product exhibition hall at the time. Today it is the only structure that is still standing in its destroyed form to remind us of the destruction the atomic bomb caused in Hiroshima in 1945. The other few buildings that survived having been either demolished or renovated.
No words can describe what you feel when you see the dome’s shell. For me personally it was foremost sadness and anger. Anger that something this destructing was ever allowed and planned to happen. The worst thing is it did not only happen once it happened twice, 3 days later the Americans threw another atomic bomb onto Nagasaki. I do not want to go too much into history but the Americans argued that after the war had ended in Europe, it was up to Japan to end the still raging Pacific War. The Japanese not showing any signs of surrender were basically forced to surrender with the 2 atomic bombs. In Hiroshima alone 170,000 innocent people were killed, directly by the bomb on the 6th of August or because of the injuries and/or after effects of the heavy metals and radiation on their bodies.
In front of the Atomic bomb dome a group of people have set up chairs and provided folders in many languages “THAT DAY” by Mito Kosei. Jerome went to take one of them and sat down on a stool. We started reading over his shoulder. Mito Kosei’s mother was four months into the pregnancy with him when the terror struck and she told us her story in about “That Day” as she remembers it.
It is a very sad story, her father died from the radiation as he was very close to the epicentre “that day” in less than a month. Her husband, Mito’s father kept silent about “that day” all of his life, it must have been too much of a trauma of what he had seen in Hiroshima.
Tears welled up in my eyes when I read the story. I could see it was hard for Jerome to read too, but we were glad he did. Jerome is not an avid reader but he sat and read the entire story end to end, it is very compelling. Eventually I am sure he would learn about it in school, but that would not be the same. The folder also contained plenty of other informative material about the day, including photos and maps. Jerome kept asking questions, which we tried to answer as best as possible. After many minutes of digesting what we had read we decided to move on towards the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
Across the bridge we spotted the Children’s Peace Monument. The monument consists of an egg shaped concrete structure, which is hollow. Underneath we found a bell with a golden origami crane. We joined the short queue to ring the bell to remember all the children that died and suffered from the atomic bomb. The monument was built from money school children from all over the country had collected to remember one girl, Sadako Sasaki, and all the other children. Sadako Sasaki was immortalised as a statue, which can be seen on top of the sculpture holding a wire crane over her head. Sadako died of leukaemia, aged 12, caused by the radiation of the atomic bomb. Before she died she believed that if she folded 1000 paper origami cranes she would be granted her biggest wish, which was to recover from her illness and live a normal healthy life again.
Until this day people from all over the world fold paper cranes and bring them to the Children’s Peace Monument. Some thousands of origami paper cranes can be seen next to the monument in glass cases all donated by children. You can even register yours into a database and will then be sent a letter of thank you. Jerome had wished that he would have known this before we came so we could have folded some origami cranes and brought them along with us.
We strolled on through the Peace Park, past the Flame Of Peace, which will only be extinguished once all atomic bombs have been destroyed and joined the end of the queue to get into the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Once we were in the museum we literally went through it in a long line of people, as it was very crowded due to the holiday weekend. Despite this it was well organised and we did get to see every exhibit and could spend enough time looking at them.
First there was a model of the town centre showing which buildings were actually still standing after the blast of the bomb. There were not many, everything had almost instantly burned to dust, as most houses then were made of wood. Pictures and real objects from the era showed the effect the heat and the blast had on everyday objects, like roof tiles and dishes. Some of them we were able to touch. The most harrowing for me was the metal tricycle owned by Shinichi Tetsutani (then 3 years and 11 months). He and the tricycle were severely burned by the heat wave of the atomic bomb. He died that evening. His father buried him and the tricycle in their backyard as he felt he could not separate his son from his favourite toy. In 1985 he unearthed Shinichi’s remains and transferred them to the family grave. He then donated the tricycle the museum. We could have also seen pictures of the injuries and burns people took from the atomic bomb but did not want to get nightmares so we chose not to. At the end of the walk through the museum we went through the gallery where all the politicians that had visited Hiroshima in the past were exhibited. Barak Obama was the last one.
The visit is not for the faint hearted and especially older children will surely be asking plenty of questions. My suggestion is to wait until your children are old enough to appreciate the learning. It is a must for everyone who visits Hiroshima to see the force and destruction of an atomic bomb for real. We all hope this will never happen again!
After hours of history lessons we needed a change of scenery and something to cheer us up.
Shukkeien, Hiroshima’s famous Japanese garden seemed like the perfect place to do so. The centrepiece of the garden was designed after a lake in China. And was built in 1620 for a feudal lord on his villa’s ground but it was completely destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945. Some trees and plants survived and since then the garden has grown back and been rebuilt to its former splendour.
At the entrance Jerome received a packet of fish food when we paid for the entry fee for free from the lady selling the tickets. The centrepiece of the garden is the lake. A winding path over little bridges, up small hills and over streams leads around the lake, and in fact the design of the garden is a strolling garden where the damaiyo would walk while doing business or his ladies would enjoy the cool air. The aim is to stop every now and then and to enjoy the changing view and scenery.
Jerome kept stopping to feed the fish and the many terrapins that swam through the pond. It is a great past time for children to feed the fish and terrapins, something you may find in many gardens there. Some of the kois were quite colourful, gaping mouths after some of the food. We all loved the fact that the garden was mainly a large lake, which is quite unusual for a Japanese garden.
Now we were hungry and we strolled south along the river and found a South East Asian restaurant, which served very authentic and delicious food. We sat overlooking the river outside on the terrace and enjoyed the last of the evening sun. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the restaurant and are unable to locate it online, but it is right on Aioi Dori opposite Hiroshima Intelligent Hotel.
Contrasting the brutal history of the city with the gentle feelings of the garden made for an enriching but thoughtful day.
We had also planned to visit the Madzda Museum to see the car assembly line but because of Golden Week the factory and museum were closed. You should consider a visit, where else do you get the chance to see how a car is put together by robots. It surely would be very interesting to see for children and adults alike – but Reservations are essential if you want to do this.