Hiroshima

It is a beautiful morning to arrive in Hiroshima and we have a free morning so decide to use the shuttle provided by Viking to go into the City for a quick walk before our tour this afternoon. The map has little symbols of cherry blossoms where you are meant to be able to find the trees. The trees are there, of course, but the cherry blossoms are now blooming one month early because of global warming. Seems that in a few years the cherry blossoms may bloom in Alaska! In fact they start in parts of Japan in January now and many areas are done and dusted by the end of March. However, the dogwood trees are in bloom and they are a sight to see. We do a quick walk to the Hiroshima Castle built in the 16th century and admire the lovely grounds.

Our afternoon excursion is to the island of Itsukushima to visit its “floating” Shinto shrine and we are taken by ferry to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built on pillars, the shrine complex consists of multiple buildings connected by boardwalks and appears to be floating when the tide is in. Its dramatic 50 foot tall, red-orange torii gate is distinctive because it is built over water. We are very fortunate to witness a wedding taking place within the shrine and a formal tea ceremony for the bride and groom. This is followed by a photo of the group and there is a ritual to this photo shoot (the boss would never put up with it!) Two attendants wearing white gloves are positioning everyone with precision. The beautiful kimonos of the bride and groom’s mothers seem to be being taped so they sit correctly for the photo and one guest’s hair is being sprayed to keep it in place. After this excitement we take a quiet stroll (actually not so quiet because it is Sunday and there are many people taking the “quiet” stroll with us) through the shopping and residential area of the island which is only 30 square kilometers in size with a population of 1400. Three million tourists visit this little island every year. The ship is in Hiroshima for two days – by the way “shima” is pronounced “sheema” and means island.

We start day 2 in Hiroshima very early because we are going to the Hiroshima Peace Park. This is one of the most emotional places we have experienced as our lovely guide takes us on a quiet and contemplative stroll through this most beautiful of places which has so many very sad elements to it. We are here at around 7.45 am on a Monday morning – it is early but it is a huge advantage because it is very quiet. Our guide tells us that in August 1945 Tokyo and other cities had been attacked and no one expected a bomb to be dropped in Hiroshima – people seemed relaxed in a way. The bomb dropped at precisely 8.15 am on 9 August 1945 – the hypocentre was 160 meters from where we are standing. The ground temperature rose to between 3000 and 4000 degrees Celsius and 220,000 people lost their lives. The Peace Park has a beautiful concrete arch where the names of every one of those victims is inscribed. Just beyond this is a flame of peace which will burn until our world has no atomic bombs at all. Standing there watching this flame flickering you hope so much that one day it will be extinguished and that it is not an eternal flame – but you wonder.

We move on past the long pond where the water trickles serenely and come to an area which is a monument to a young girl called Sadako Sasaki and the story of the paper cranes – a little bird made out of paper that, after the death of Sadako in 1955 her story and the paper cranes became a symbol for world peace. It is a beautiful story of a brave young girl which you can Google and read. After her death her many many friends raised money for a memorial to her and for peace.

We come to a paved area where the ashes of around 70,000 unidentified victims are buried and as we stand there with leaking eyes a bell rings out in the distance – it is precisely 8.15 am and the bell rings every day at this time. We are told that there are still around 130,000 bomb survivors alive today.

We walk on further beside the river and see the remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The hall’s hollowed dome, appropriately called the Atomic Bomb Dome, was intentionally left in ruins as a stark visual reminder of the bomb’s destruction and was the only building that was left standing close to the hypocenter of the blast.

This city has risen from the ashes of that terrible day and it seems a miraculous recovery which has taken decades. The restoration has seen well-designed buildings, bridges and parks built which have helped to heal a broken city but the human scars still remain. Our last visit is to the Museum in the park where we see accounts of that day written by young survivors who lost parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins. It is difficult to take it in and it literally makes your heart ache to be here and yet we must never forget these events even though it is so sad to recount them. Tomorrow is Anzac Day where we all remember and pay tribute to the Anzacs so, although this has been sad to write, we are so very grateful to have visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima and to be able to pay our own tribute to the people who suffered terribly and lost so much.

On a brighter note, we went to dinner last night with a couple from Wisconsin and their names were Ron and Jerry. They wanted to know about our travels, where we have been, our family etc. I kept going to call him “Tom” actually! We chatted and laughed our way through the three courses before going to a great concert before we fell into bed!

We have just left Hiroshima and are sailing on to Osaka and it is very similar to the Marlborough Sounds with islands surrounding us everywhere. Hiroshima is a city of islands, rivers and by the sea. The main crop grown here is rice. Oyster farms are are everywhere around the islands here and the oysters are huge. They tell us that rugby is very popular and there is a big stadium built especially for their famous baseball team called the Toyo Carps (I thought the lady said “Cops” to be honest). She also taught us to count on the bus and I got the hang of it quite quickly. Apparently I am nanajuugo and the one in charge of the B’s is nanajuuroku. It would be much easier if we were juu which is 20 – in fact everything including climbing stairs, walking 10 km a day, having a body that would fit neatly into lycra and being able to dance the night away would be easier if we were 20!

Sayonara

Itsukushima Island and the torii gate built in the water
Walking the boardwalk in the Shinto shrine over the water
The wedding ceremony – here the bride and groom are being given the tea – the parents sit at a table opposite and the other guests are at a table behind the bride and groom
The wedding party – almost ready for the final shoot…. But not quite!
Lighting a candle as an offering at the shrine
And passing the burning incense
The 50 foot high torii gate built in the water
We walk the backstreets of the island and find quaint little places selling food
There are hundreds of deer here on this little island with a population of 1400 people and today they are strolling with the throng – although, like us, this one has had enough strolling for one day!
Young women wear the lighter colored kimonos and they are all carrying these little gold handbags
A little garden at the end of a small arcade
A young child playing in the park – actually chasing bubbles
Entrance to Peace Park and Museum in Hiroshima
Looking down part of the Peace Park
The Peace Flame burning until the world is rid of atomic bombs
The beautiful monument to Sadako Sasaki
Behind the monument to Sadako are cubicles where people leave a garland consisting of 1000 paper planes – some are made into art work like the one above. You can see a lady sweeping in the image of the monument – these people are survivors of the bomb that are employed by the city to clean the area every day
This is where the ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims are buried – right beneath these paving stones and it is so moving to stand there and contemplate that
The remains of the Hiroshima Industrial Promotional Hall left just as it was when the bomb struck. The dome was originally made of copper but it melted in the heat – below is what the building looked like

One thought on “Hiroshima

  1. Christine Jack

    Shannon who would have thought global warming would have had such an effect on the glorious Japanese cherry blossom display, traditionally always seen in the Spring 🌸 Uplifting though to see the beautiful Dogwood trees in bloom, their flower likened to the sign of the cross with Christ’s blood as it’s centre.
    A fitting tribute to those who died so horrifically in the Atomic Bomb explosion in Hiroshima.
    A very poignant time spent there with so much to reflect on Shannon.
    Thank you for sharing these photos and your journey in this city of memories.
    Chris 💗 xo

    Like

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