Tuesday, 30 August 2016

日本の日18および19 - Japan days 18 and 19

Travelling to and exploring Hiroshima

We left Osaka feeling happy that we'd covered pretty much everything. It's very much a small town with a great nightlife, but not a lot of other things to do. We'll definitely go back for a day or two in the future though, and spent more time in Kyoto.

We were roughly 2 hours from Hiroshima, so we got to our hostel/hotel by 3pm. It was waaaaaaay hot!  So very hot.  We got to the room, whipped on the air con and sat around in our undies for a while, cooling down. You're welcome for the imagery ;)

Hiroshima is mostly made up of 1950s style buildings... the reasons of which don't need elaborating on, really, cause it's obvious.  It's small, contained and home to some really lovely gardens and parks. Pretty much all the transport was conducted using buses or trams.

We got a tram to the town center - a woman saw us looking at the timetables and asked if we wanted help. She then told us which tram to take and even said she was going towards where we were going and would show us the way. So very friendly and nice! Her name was Miyo, if I remember correctly.

There we found an official Shonan Jump store, which was easy to spot, what with the giant Goku statue outside.

Yeah. We like Dragonball in this house. I still think he should have been Kame-hame-ha-ing back at Goku, but never mind.

We found somewhere to eat and then had an early-ish night, ready for the next day ahead!

August 20th - The Peace Park, Memorials and Museum

As I said, there isn't a whole lot to do in Hiroshima, which is really sad, considering that in the 30s it was a center of culture and upcoming commerce. However, things happened to change all that.

We went to the peace park - It was a beautiful day, easily climbing into the high 30s but not too humid. He says it was humid, I say that were just sweating enough to feel as though it was. I really think it was too hot to be humid. Doesn't really matter, I guess.

The "A-bomb Dome" is a landmark in Hiroshima, and the area around it has been turned into a park. The building had been a culture and commerce building, with the dome being specially designed by a Dutch architect, made from blue and green glass. It sounded beautiful. The only pictures of it were in black and white, and everything after is just a shell, so I am just imagining it.

I wasn't too keen on taking photos, really. I have strong feelings about war, WMDs and everything, but there were lots of Japanese tourists there too, taking photos, so I felt a bit less awkward about it. I was a lot quicker about it though - no artsy shots (though the building is very obliging in that respect) for me!

There is the building, left as a reminder. There's a memorial to the Koreans that died (we didn't see that one), one to the residents of Hiroshima and the Children's Peace Memorial. This one was particularly touching - you can read about it in the photos - it was made after the death of a girl suffering from leukemia caused by the radiation and over a thousand schools chipped in to have it made. An amazing feat when you consider there was no social media or JustGive pages and whatnot.

After, we went to the museum that is in the park. It was cheap to get into and emotionally gruelling. They reconstructed part of a street as it looked from inside a building, with the city in flames through the brick window frames. They had horribly realistic wax figures of a mother and two children walking through rubble, arms out in pain and agony as their clothes had melted into their skin, blood and plastic dripping from their fingers. The mother looked shell shocked, the daughter stoic and the little boy, about 10, had his face scrunched up in pain.

There were many artifacts, donated by grieving relatives - the shoe of a girl who'd died and whose body wasn't recovered. The uniforms of the many teens who were only there because they'd been sent in to help demolish some buildings to create a fire path (which was why the casualties were higher that particular day). The step outside the bank, with the shadow of the person who'd been sitting there waiting for it to open.

There was a scale model of the town and the surrounding area, with a red ball hovering over the impact site - the red ball was representative of the bomb 1 second after detonation.  A man was telling his grandchildren about it and how he had lived just beyond the hills the other side of the model. Those houses, beyond the hills, were protected by the blast, pretty much. (Him indoors managed to translate enough of what he was saying to grasp the gist of it.)

I lost my cool/emotional control a bit when reading about the bomb itself. They had all the information about its construction donated by the organisation behind it. They had a life size reconstruction. What got to me was that they were aiming for the hospital.  Absolutely disgusting. There was no tactical advantage - it was purely a aim-for-the-citizens-and-helpless-to-prove-a-point. I know it ended the war. I know that. But I don't think the ends justified the means in this case.

I know that the Japanese were far from clean fighters in warfare and less than civilised towards their captives. But you know what? The West doesn't really have much to stand on, either. Just look at the atrocities they have committed and are still committing in various countries all over the world. Look at Iraq. Look at Syria. Look at what the anti-communist meddlings of the Americans did in Afghanistan. They created their own monster, just because they weren't comfortable with the idea of communism (great in theory, lousy in practice) or the influence of the Soviets. Look at how the way the Americans behaved in Vietnam - the most disgusting war to date. I just feel, quite honestly, that the entire A-bomb saga was a war crime in itself - particularly Nagasaki's. I'm sure that is an unpopular opinion in both America and probably over here, in the UK. Sure, the one aimed at Nagasaki caused less damage and loss of life, but that was pure accident. That was unintended - they misjudged when to drop it and thank goodness it was before the mountain and not after. They knew for sure by then what the bomb was capable of and they still went ahead and ordered a second one. There was absolutely no need for that - I agree 100% with my history teacher there.

I skipped through the photos of people suffering burns and post-radiation effects. I'd seen enough of those on my GCSE course. I knew very well what happened to those poor people and I was feeling emotional as it was. We watched a video of a man reciting a recount of a boy who'd survived the blast and was trying to get home, how he had to help his friend get home - his friend had had the soles of his feet burned/blasted off.  There were artist impressions of it, to help with the imagery.

We signed one of the petitions that the Japanese government is pushing, promoting a complete nuclear disarming of nations by 2020. It's not going to happen, but I signed it anyway. They had a small section around Obama's visit to Hiroshima, too.

Afterwards, we left and headed back in towards town. We went to a famous feudal garden, which was relaxing and beautiful. The feudal lords had this thing about "miniature landscapes" - so in their gardens they'd have lakes or ponds to represent particular areas of the sea or country. They had a mini rice field to pray for bumper crops. They had a large mound in their gardens to represent Fuji. It was extensive and quiet, an odd contrast to the built up area around it. So that is what most of the photos are in the album.  Some really lovely bridges and areas.

We went back to our room to rest a bit, as the heat swelled up my feet a LOT and it made them too big for my shoes (which caused a major in-grown-toe-nail issue later... I'm booking a doctor's appointment for it.) then we bought some food from a local supermarket and ate in our hostel. We were getting ready for our 5-hour journey back to Tokyo the next day!
It was nice, sitting in the communal area, reading my trashy novel (blog post about it here) whilst eating some bento. Just chillin'.

Here are the photos from Hiroshima. A beautiful town, with a lot more to offer. We'll probably go back, to visit the islands just off the coast from it - there are some ryokans we didn't know about, for example.

Hiroshima - 20/8/16

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