Japan Day 9: Hiroshima

I started off my day with a typical Japanese breakfast. Aside from the rice wrapped in seaweed, some miso soup, and some fruit yogurt, I have no idea what the rest of it was. I think there was some cooked tofu with ginger, some sort of egg omelette thing and a little pancake of sorts. There may have been some fruit as well.  There always seem to be at least a half dozen little dishes on the tray of every Japanese meal I’m served and I never know what anything is.

Reluctantly I checked out of my little ryokan this morning. It was so lovely and I would have liked to spend more than one night there. But I have to keep going – there’s more to see!

Before taking a ferry to Hiroshima, I decided to walk around town for another half an hour to buy a few last souvenirs and take a few more photos of the tori.

And I’m so glad I did. The tide got even lower since last night and you could walk right up to the Shrine gate and touch it. It was so cool.

I walked right up to the Miyajima tori and said hello.

Next up I went to the ferry station. I had planned to take a ferry boat that would go directly to Hiroshima port but it wasn’t leaving for another 20 minutes. However, there was another boat, much smaller, leaving at that moment that was heading to a little dock right by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, where my hotel is located, so I figured that would be more convenient.

I took a few nice photos from the boat and was even able to identify some of the islands that I saw from the top of Mount Misen yesterday.

Once I checked into my hotel I went strait out to explore the park. I visited the Peace Memorial Museum, which tells the history of the bombing. It is quite a disturbing experience actually – they include an exhibition of torn clothing and melted items of victims, mostly children. It really struck a cord and put me in a bit of a reflective if not somber mood for the rest of the day.

After the museum I wandered through the park to see all the different memorial monuments (there are many). One of the most notable is the Memorial Cenotaph for A-bomb victims. When looking directly through the center of the cenotaph, you can see the enteral flame and the Atomic Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Peace Memorial) in one strait line.

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Cenotaph with the eternal flame and a-bomb dome

The cenotaph is a curved structure that holds the names of all the victims of the bomb. The eternal flame symbolizes the flame of world peace and has also become an icon of the anti-nuclear movement.

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Eternal flame monument with the Memorial Peace Museum in the background

The Atomic Bomb building was built by a Czech architect in 1915, and served as the Industrial Promotion Hall until the bomb exploded almost directly above it. Everyone inside was killed, but the building was one of very few left standing near the epicentre. A decision was taken after the war to preserve the shell as a memorial, and it is one of the most powerful visual icons in Hiroshima.

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Atomic Bomb Dome

There are dozens of monuments throughout the park (as well as the city). One of the most famous and powerful is the Children’s Peace Monument. This monument was inspired by Sadako Sasaki, who was just two years old at the time of the atomic bomb. At age 11 she developed leukaemia, and decided to fold 1000 paper cranes. In Japan, the crane is a symbol of longevity and happiness, and she believed if she folded 1000 she would recover from her illness. Sadly she died before reaching her goal, but her classmates folded the rest. After Sasaki Sadako’s death (12 years old), a campaign started, commemorating the spirits of children victims of the A-bomb and raising funds to build a memorial for Sadako and all of the children who died from the effects of the atomic bomb. News spread all over the world, and visitors come to  “Children’s Peace Monument” to lay down folded-paper crane around the monument. I read somewhere that over 10 million paper cranes are laid down at the monument annually. The monument features a girl cast in bronze holding a gold crane and standing on the top of the tripodal domed statue.  Flanking her, there are the statues of boys and girls symbolizing a bright future and hope. The casings around the monument are filled to the brim with thousands upon thousands of little origami cranes.

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Children’s Peace Monument

I left the park, and in something of a meditative daze I found myself in a very busy shopping arcade. After a little while I needed to get away from the noise of tourists and people and go somewhere quiet to spend the afternoon reflecting. And so I did what I always do when I need room to think: I went to a museum that doesn’t typically attract a lot of tourists. I’m this case, I went to the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum.

The museum has some western art works, including Dali’s Dream of Venus and others by Calder, Moore, Picabia, etc. However it’s really more focused on Japanese artists. And all the labels are in Japanese so you know there aren’t that many western tourists visiting this place. The exhibits were awesome. There was a mix of photography, calligraphy, other graphic arts, ceramics and sculpture. And there was almost no one there–exactly what I needed: peace and quiet.

Next door to the museum is a garden called Shukkei-en. I read that it was quite lovely so I decided to drop by.

Shukkei-en was built in 1620 for daimyō (domain lord) Asano Nagaakira. The garden’s name means ‘contracted view’, and it attempts to recreate intricate scenery in miniature form. There are pathways that lead through a series of ‘landscapes’ and views around a pond punctuated with little islands featuring rocks and small trees. Shukkei-en was completely destroyed by the atom bomb, but like all of the city, this park and its buildings have been fully restored.

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Views at Shukkei-en

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Japanese bridge and the steep stone bridge at Shukkei-en

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The impressive stone bridge at Shukkei-en

I did some more roaming around as I made my way back to my hotel where I’ve spent the majority of the evening relaxing.

Tomorrow I head back to Tokyo so I’ll spend most of the day relaxing on a train. I can’t believe I’m well over half way done with my trip!

 

 

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