2008/11/10

Dai Hiroshima Ondo Part II

We had checked in to our ryokan at 2:30, so even after a rest, there was some time for sight seeing.

Lots of pics ahead. Once again, click on them to see a larger image.

A good starting point for a walk through the Hiroshima Peace Park is the A-bomb Dome. We walked up to the "main drag" of Hiroshima, and caught a steet car down to the A-bomb Dome. Built in 1915, the building was designed by Jan Letzel, a Czech architect who lived in Japan for ten years and designed many residences and public buildings. Originally it served as the Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall. With it's European design, brick and reinforced concrete construction and copper dome, it stood out in contrast to Hiroshima's predominantly wooden buildings.
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The target point for the atomic bombing was an intersection on the neighboring bridge - 100 meters to the northwest. It detonated about 160 meters to the southeast, at an altitude of about 580 meters.

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The hypocenter was where this hospital stands today. A plaque marks the spot and carries a US Army photograph taken from there.
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The A-bomb Dome's distance of 160 meters from the hypocenter scarcely mattered as the fireball of the 15 kiloton blast was about 1.25 kilometers in diameter with a temperature of 3,900 degrees Celsius (7,000 degrees Fahrenheit) and winds of 1005 km/h (624 mph). What survived of the building did so because the blast came from above rather than from the side. Everyone inside was killed instantly of course.

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It was not until 1966 that it was decided to save the A-bomb Dome as a reminder to the world of what atomic weapons do. (Keep in mind that the weapons now installed on US missiles have a blast equivalent to 475 kilotons and rely on fusion reactions which happen at temperatures as hot as the interior of the sun - 100,000,000° Celsius - and would instantly destroy anything within about 7 km of the hypocenter.) Each one of the 24 missiles on an Ohio Class SSBN submarine can carry as many as 12 such warheads, though they usually "only" have six and are limited to 8 under current treaties. (As if that is reassuring.) The USA has 14 such submarines.

The A-bomb Dome has been reinforced here and there with steel, to keep it from posing a danger to visitors, but it does not detract from the effect of seeing the remains and getting the message.
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A window frames a shattered concrete pillar held up by its steel reinforcing bar as if suspended in time and space, and the spiral steel stairs in the center of the building.

I'll have more to say about the atomic bombing of Japan in part IV. The museum would wait for another day as we wanted to spend more time there than our first day would allow. For now, I just want to take you, through pictures, along with us on the walk we took around the dome and through the Peace Park.

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The bombardier's aiming point - the intersection of two bridges - is visible in the left of this picture.


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The Children's Peace Monument is dedicated to the memory of the children who died as a result of the bombing, and is based on the story of Sadako Sasaki, a girl who died in 1955 of leukemia due to her exposure to the radiation from the bomb when she was just 2 1/2 years old. She folded 1000 origami cranes in the belief that it would save her. A bell is inside the monument and has a clapper in the shape of a paper crane. Nearby are several booths full of cranes, sent by school children throughout Japan and the world. They reminded me of the flower lei stands at Hawaii's airports. The juxtaposition of the love and joy that Hawaiian leis represent and the melancholy tragedy of these long "leis" of cranes brings tears to my eyes.

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A closeup of some paper cranes.

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In the foreground is the Peace Flame which has been burning since 1964. It will remain lit until all nuclear weapons are eliminated. The arch behind it is the Cenotaph and beyond it, one of the buildings that house the Peace Memorial Museum.

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The Cenotaph, Peace Flame, and A-bomb Dome. The Cenotaph, built in 1952, holds the names of all those killed by the bomb. The monument is done in a Shinto style and the arch represents a shelter over the souls of the dead. The death toll is still rising as victims continue to die due to the long term effects of the bombing even to this day.

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This is the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound. It contains the ashes of about 70,000 unidentified victims.

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Japan occupied Korea for some 35 years and brought many of then to Japan as cheap labor. At the time of the bombing there were at least 45,000 Koreans working in Hiroshima, 20,000 of whom were killed. Ironically, perhaps, the current Japanese Prime Minister Aso's family ran coal mines during the war which used Korean labor and had such wretched living conditions that record numbers of them attempted escape. The Japanese government was reluctant about a monument to the Korean victims of Hiroshima and initially placed it on the other side of the river, but it was finally moved into the park proper in 1999.

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Donated by the Greek Embassy, the Peace Bell - officially, “the Bell of Earnest Desire” - has a map of the world without national boundaries cast on its surface and the Greek words of Socrates, "γνῶθι σεαυτόν" or "know thyself". The dedication plaque reads, "We dedicate this bell, as a symbol of Hiroshima Aspiration: Let all nuclear arms and wars be gone, and the nations live in true peace! May it ring to all corners of the earth to meet the ear of every man, for in it throb and palpitate the hearts of its peace-loving donors. So may you, too, friends, step forward, and toll this bell for peace!"

K and I rang it together in earnest. Did you hear it?

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A lotus blossom beside the Peace Bell. One of the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism, the roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies pristinely above, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment. (Well, we hope, anyway.)

~~~~~


We walked back to Sera Bekkan and got ready for dinner. It was a bit later than anticipated and we had no reservation, so elected to take a taxi. The driver was very nice and tried to time the traffic lights for us, but when he failed, took a back street and knocked a bit off the fare by restarting the meter!

The restaurant was one I had found on the internet - Kanawa oyster boat on the river just downstream from the Peace Park, famous for fresh seafood and traditional Japanese cuisine.
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Should we go there again I will be sure to make a reservation as we had a bit of a wait. The food and service was memorable. I don't do raw oysters - ever - so we had some fried, along with flounder, rice, miso soup, assorted other goodies, and a half bottle of Remy Pannier Muscadet Sevre et Maine (a not too expensive white wine that is perfect with seafood).
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The Kanawa Website is HERE - two thumbs up from P and K


The staff of Kanawa, dressed in kimono, escorts their guests to the street and offers their thanks. Perhaps it is to be sure that any who have been drinking don't trip on the "gang plank" leading to shore, but it was a nice ending for a long day in any case. We walked "home" along Heiwa Odori (Peace Avenue), a divided boulevard lined with trees on each side. At the time it was constructed, Japan was still struggling to rebuild and many locals thought it was an extravagance. Now the wisdom of having trees and meandering pedestrian paths beneath them seems obvious.

Our futons awaited and we fell fast asleep. The following day we would be off to Miyajima... Next post.

つづく - to be continued here: Dai Hiroshima Ondo Part III

11 comments:

The Moody Minstrel said...

I've been to the Peace Park at least eight times now, and it never fails to move me. The last three times I was there we had guides who were real, live, honest-to-goodness hibakusha (victims of the bomb). Hearing their stories first hand was like a sledgehammer blow to the soul because it made an already horrible event much, much, much more personal.

During our first-ever hibakusha-led tour, when we were listening to our guide's story next to the burial mound, one of our students fainted. I could easily sympathize. It was that jarring.

The oyster boat restaurant is new to me, though, and I'll definitely keep it in mind for my next visit! (And I LOVE raw oysters!!!)

nzm said...

I love raw oysters too!

Rather sobering stuff PB, but thank you for sharing it with us. Memorials of any kind never fail to move me to tears.

BTW - who looks after your 4 legged peach while you travel? Do we get a followup report on what she got up to in your absence? ;-)

Happysurfer said...

Very moving. Again, thank you for the tour, PandaB. Very nice pictures. The boat restaurant looks great at night.

Me three, for raw oysters!

Pandabonium said...

Moody - although I've wanted to visit Hiroshima for some time, your posts about your trips there encouraged me to do so sooner rather than later.

I'm sure you'll enjoy Kanawa's oysters, but you need to check the season.

NZM - I am moved as well. K and I visited the Arizona Memorial some years ago and I have also been to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Always sobering. Yet it also brings anger to me. Such a god damned waste that only benefits a privileged few. Will we ever learn?

The "peach", Momo, had lonely days, but K's mom fed her twice a day and K's sister took her for walks. No doubt she had other visitors as children, dog owners, and older folk often stop to talk to her.

Happy - thanks for visiting. The restaurant was a nice experience after such a long day. The gentle movement of the boat was soothing.

All you raw oyster lovers - watch the season for them and be wary of the origins. They can be deadly feasts due to Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. Not as big a concern in Japan perhaps, but oysters from the Gulf coast of the USA are another matter.

jam said...

Hiroshima will always remain in the history book to remind everybody of how ugly is a war.

Olivia said...

Reading this and your previous post I think I would be haunted every minute if I were to visit Hiroshima with the sheer enormity of what happened weighing on my mind. In addition, since I was a child, thanks to Chernobyl I have been morbidly fascinated and scared by the effects of nuclear incidents and radiation sickness.

Also giivng me a strange feeling would be the charecteristic 1960s design of the other monuments in addition to what they represent.

It is very interesting that the Greek government donated a peace bell...

So what today are the statistics in the region regarding the health of the population?

Pandabonium said...

Jam - I hope it serves that purpose by keeping the knowledge of what happened alive.

Olivia - I have an interest too, but for a different reason. When I was a kid we had "drop drills" in school - practicing hiding under our desks in the event of nuclear attack. I was only 12 at the time of the Cuban missile crisis and some people in the neighborhood were building shelters in their back yard. Weird times.

As for Hiroshima, the health of those exposed to the radiation and that of their children is monitored to this day as they have higher rates of many diseases, especially cancers. Residual radiation level dropped very quickly to safe levels. There is no lingering danger and today Hiroshima is just as healthy a place to live as anywhere in Japan with background radiation levels the same as any other city.

Anonymous said...

Loved the pictures, very interesting read.

Pandabonium said...

Thank you anon. More pics to follow soon.

Don Snabulus said...

I read this way back when you posted it, but for some reason I couldn't come up with the words for how I felt about it.

I still can't, so I will just say Thanks for writing about it.

Pandabonium said...

Don - I also find it difficult to express in words, which is partly why I put off saying much until part IV. Too often such things get politicized which I think is a way of averting one's focus from it.

Anyway, thanks. I'll post Miyajima soon and then more about the Peace Park and bombing.