Today, August the 6th, is – as you all will know – the 65th anniversary of the day when the A-bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. It’s not up to me to judge on whether it was justified to drop the A-bomb or not. I can only express how I experienced my visit to the city and especially the memorial site at Ground Zero in October last year. I had visited Nagasaki two days before, so I had been prepared a little bit. I had decided to not go to the memorial site the first day, because I have learned that I need time to prepare and to recover. That may sound rather exaggerated, but believe me: it isn’t.
Hiroshima now is a lively and very open city. Of course the people living in Hiroshima have had to get used to millions and millions of people visiting the city, but they are still very, very friendly. I admit that, while walking in the city and seeing an elderly man or woman, I was thinking “Was he here? Did she survive here? Did they experience it all?” and was on the verge of saying something really stupid like “I’m sorry”.
The city has been rebuilt completely in the past 65 years of course, with some nice areas and some less nice areas. I don’t know what I had expected to see or experience in Hiroshima, but I was pleasantly surprised it was so lively. They have spend extra thoughts, time and money to create the Peace Memorial Park. It was a strange thing to ride the tram into the city, through the citycentre with it’s commercial area, get off at a stop, turn around and suddenly find yourself in front of the “Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall” (now named “Hiroshima Peace Memorial”):
The Peace Memorial is located at the river, across the river is the memorial park itself; the hypocentre (the point, above which the A-bomb exploded) is just a hunderd meters to the east (here is the map). In the park are a lot of statues and monuments, donated by other cities and countries from around the world. And of course the Peace Bell. Everybody is allowed and invited to sound the bell, so I did that too. Sounds impressive…
But the most impressive monument is the Sadako Sasaki Memorial.
When you read her life’s story on the stone, you can forget all about leaving without crying. Sadako Sasaki was a girl of 2 years when the bomb was dropped, and she lived about 2 km away from the hypocentre. She survived, but developed leukemia in 1955. A friend of her visited her in the hospital and folded a paper crane for her. Sadako decided to fold a thousend paper cranes, so she would survive. But she died after she had folded 644 paper cranes.
Ever since the memorial was built (in 1958) children from around the world have been folding paper cranes and put them in the boxes, next to the statue. Some 10 years ago, a Japanese student had destroyed these boxes (partially) to draw attention to the situation of Japanese students (it was about their housings, if I remember well). But the children keep on folding the paper cranes: when I had just arrived in Japan I met an Australian guy, who told me he was a teacher and had just visited Hiroshima to hang up a few hundred cranes his pupils had folded. I haven’t found them in the boxes (they’re labeled to indicate where they came from), but that’s no wonder between the thousands and thousands.
But – do not despair: when you have the chance to visit Hiroshima, you must try the Hiroshima-version of the Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き): it’s delicious!!! I still have to learn how to make them, it’s so easy and delicious!