In the continuation of my family’s journey in Asia, Crash Aunt and I took the kids to Osaka (which was very cool) and then today to Hiroshima (which was cool for very different reasons).
Whenever we go places I really try and teach my kids about how important the places we visit are in the history of the world, and in this case there are not many places more influential in the history of the world than Hiroshima.
They have a very nice little museum with a lot of good information as well as numerous displays that really drill home the effect that the bomb had on the city. It was fascinating to see the “shadows” that were created on all different structures as well as some of the before and after pictures and how completely decimated the city was.
Outside of the museum there were a number of little memorials and shrines for various groups of people including the Children’s Peace Memorial that was erected after the death of a young girl named Sadako who died from leukemia but was made famous for her paper crane making and the book that told her story.
As I walked with my family to the northern end of the park we saw a building now known as the A-bomb dome. This building sits only a few hundred meters from the site where the bomb detonated but somehow lived through the blast and has been preserved as a reminder of the devastation that took place.
Looking above that building and imagining B-29s flying overhead and dropping the bomb that detonated about 600 meters above ground left me speechless. It was unreal to look into that sky and realize just how historic that air was.
This experience reminded me of my visit to Ft. Sumter in South Carolina and being in awe at the historic air resting above that bay where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Who would have thought that air could be so awe inspiring?
While both of these events led to the loss of countless lives and altered the course of history forever, there was something surreal about both of these locations. There was an incredible feeling of peace in both places. This has been even more pronounced here in Hiroshima. Despite the typical congestion and bustle of Japan, this whole city, and in particular the Peace Park by where the bomb was dropped, have a tremendous peace that is unmistakable. My wife felt it and even some other Japanese people we talked to that were visiting the area said the same thing.
If ever there was a city to have a feeling of hate or anger or frustration this would certainly be it, but the exact opposite has been true. The city that they said would not have a living thing for 75 years is now flourishing with industry and beautiful trees and happy people.
As we were walking away from the Peace Park we stumbled across a couple of men that were sitting there making paper cranes, and as usually happens with my cute little white kids in Asia, they were immediately drawn in and offered free cranes. As we talked to them we discovered that they were both survivors of the attack but rather than bitterness or anger they were some of the happiest, kindest, most friendly Japanese people I have met during my time here. They have lived full lives and have beautiful families that they were happy to show us pictures of.
I don’t know how many of our experiences here that my kids will remember, but I hope that at least some of the thoughts and feelings will stick with them and help them to better understand the world we live in. And also the reality that we can find peace in some of the most destructive places in history.