It’s staggering to imagine that 71 years ago the world’s first atomic bomb detonated 160 meters above the exact spot where I lay my feet.
I am struck by how a formal, high-context culture such as that of Japan is able to openly recount the horrors it has witnessed. In a country where meaning is inferred by gestures, facial expressions, and implied suggestions, the language of this tragedy is surprisingly forward and expressive. On the morning of August 6, hundreds of schoolchildren were mobilized to work sites in Hiroshima to tear down decrepit buildings, to create firebreaks, or gaps in flammable materials to minimize destruction in anticipation of intensified air raids. It was for this reason that children who would have otherwise been safe at home miles away from the hypocenter of the detonation, accounted for a high percentage of victims, either instantly killed, or suffering from injuries that resulted in their death hours or days later. The reality of seeing tattered school uniforms, blackened preserved fingers, and photographs of amputated limbs was overpowering. School textbooks cannot convey the truth of such a horrific event.
True to culture, the exhibits were neither verbose nor histrionic, simply candidly relating the ages of each child, the conditions of his or her death, and the medical reverberations to affect generations of people after the bomb was dropped. Not to downplay the atrocities committed by Japan in the Pacific theater during WWII, but after visiting Hiroshima, I can never imagine any position to take besides a stand against the use of nuclear weapons.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park & Museum
Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the a-bomb dropped on her hometown. While she had no apparent injuries, nine years later she was diagnosed with radiation exposure-induced leukemia. Her hospital roommate told her about the Japanese legend promising anyone who folds one thousand origami cranes one wish. Her simple desire was to live. As she grew more skilled in folding cranes, she began to use tiny scraps of paper and tweezers to challenge herself during her personal quest and terminal illness. She died a year later and her casket was filled with paper cranes she folded.
The blast occurred just 160 meters above this structure, now re-named the A-Bomb Dome as a reminder of Hiroshima’s historical significance in World War II.
signed, President Barack Obama from his May 2016 visit to Hiroshima6 am visit to Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima, a sacred island of Shintoism on the Seto Inland Sea, just 20 mins by train and then another 10 mins on ferry from Hiroshima station.
xo your friend alice
Location: Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima Prefecture // Miyajima, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan