Waking up in the morning in a new city is always an exciting feeling. I awoke in Hiroshima well-rested.
After eating breakfast, we left for the Peace Park and Peace Memorial Musuem, just a few blocks away from our hotel. As we passed over the bridge, I couldn't help but reflect back to the bomb, and how the river had been choked with bodies. But the river showed no hint of this past, blue and bubbling, and it was as though nothing had ever happened. In fact, were it not for the images in the museum and my history lessons, I could see how easy it was to believe that this city was leveled less than a hundred years ago.
For me, the entire museum experience was very emotional. I wandered through the halls, looking at remnants of children and human beings, lives so suddenly shattered by something so unknown. How do you escape a blast that pulverizes human flash, that melts eyeballs and skin? How do you escape thick keloid scars that disfigure your body and mark you as different? How do you escape the radiation sickness in your skin, in your body, changing your very dna in your molecules and cells and causing cancer? What would I do in this situation? After all, yes, Japan was in a time of war with evacuation drills, but no one is ever prepared for something like this. These thoughts chilled me to the bone.
All around me were exhibits of daily life interrupted. Clocks and watches that survived the blast, all stopped at the exact time the bomb detonated. Clothes with holes and dirt and imprints of human bodies, a tricycle that a small boy played on as he was obliterated by the blast.
These were the images that stayed burnt into my mind. I broke down and sobbed like a child, and went out to the Peace Park to recuperate.
The still beauty of the park allowed me to calm down partially. We were then treated to two very important lectures. The first presentation was with Keiko Ogura, an amazing woman who found the courage to speak out about her experience as a survivor of Hiroshima.
She told us, voice wobbling, about giving water to burned victims at a temple. She didn't realize that the water was contaminated with radiation. It killed them. She then encouraged us to pass on these stories of her as well as other survivors, so that the legacy isn't forgotten. Not many survivors speak English, and many are dying. She is one of the youngest of the victims, since she was eight when the bomb happened.
After enjoying lunch with Keiko, we then had a presentation by Dr. Robert Jacobs.
This gave us the history of the Manhatten project, as well as how nuclear weapons developed. I was somewhat horrified to learn of the impact of the Hydrogen bomb, and how vulnerable the USA could potentially be if nuclear war broke out. A hydrogen bomb could wipe out the entire East Coast. Not just the detonation, but the cloud of radioactive particles following would rain down and travel as far as Massachusetts potentially, killing and injuring many people.
It was a grim reminder of how dangerous nuclear power was.
After both presentations, we went back to the hotel for a small bit to rest and relax. We were given a couple of options: explore Peace Park or visit Hiroshima Castle. I chose to visit the castle, since I had already seen the majority of Peace Park.
On the way to the castle, we saw the last standing building in the A Bomb blast. The Genbaku Dome. It was an eerie ghost of a frame, nothing but the skeleton standing, stones crumbling to the ground.
Once we arrived at the castle, we were informed that it had been destroyed in the blast, and rebuilt as a museum. The exterior structure had been restored beautifully. On the grounds, kids parkoured for a youtube video and a couple took wedding photos.
Also included in the castle grounds was a shinto shrine. The nobility often had their own shrines to pray at. But instead of nobility, small children in kimono ran about, offering prayers.
On the inside there were swords and relics belonging to the family of the period. There was also clothing and armor that people could try on.
Also, on the fifth floor was an amazing balcony view of the city.
The day ended with a sampling of Hiroshima's famous food: Okonomiyaki. Hiroshima Okonimaki is different because it has noodles in it, unlike the Osaka variety. For those who don't know about Okonomiyaki, well it's sometimes described as a Japanese pancake, or a Japanese pizza. But it is neither of these in reality. Okonomiyaki is a small circle of batter with cabbage and ham, egg, sauce, and other topping in a delicious mix. I chose to get Kaki, or oyster topping, since that is what the Hiroshima area is famous for.
It was a delicious end to a very long day.