A Hiroshima pilgrimage

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April 13th 2016
Published: April 13th 2016
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Danny felt we could not visit Japan without paying our respects at Hiroshima, the city whose name has become a metonym for the devastation of atomic warfare. The memory of the A-bomb is a constant shadow in this city, not just at the Peace Park and Peace Museum. Random trees, for example, are marked as having survived the bomb, which flattened most of the city. The most visible memorial is the well known Atomic Dome, originally a trade building with a domed roof near the hypocentre of the attack, which unlike all other buildings in the vicinity was still standing albeit in shreds. Today it has been reinforced to ensure it remains in the state it was on 6 August 1945, as a witness.

The Peace Park has a great many memorials to different groups of victims. The most affecting was the Children's Memorial, which is based around the story of Sadako Sasaki, a 10 year old girl who died of leukaemia as a result of radiation. She folded 644 paper cranes before she died in an attempt to fulfil a proverb that said one who folded 1000 cranes would be granted a wish. The crane has become a symbol of peace and hundreds of thousands of paper cranes are enclosed around the memorial. Children send them from all over the world. I remember folding them in primary school though I don't know if ours were ever sent to Japan- mine probably wasn't given my lack of competence in origami. A lovely man taught us to fold cranes and we placed them at the memorial. He told us that he was born in September 1945 so he is a hibakusha (bomb-affected person) because of exposure in utero. He has had a few health problems in his life but doesn't know if that was the cause. We both felt pretty wrung out after the memorials and peace museum so planned a calm walk this afternoon in some lovely gardens. But it started to rain so instead, after a brief stop to look at Hiroshima Castle (we are spoilt after Himeji) we went to a museum which was showing treasures of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the last unifier of Japan, to mark the 400th anniversary of his death. There were some wonderful Yamato-e scrolls and screens and three amazing kimono. Unfortunately there was no English commentary but our Japanese history and art knowledge is now good enough to still get plenty out of the exhibition.

Hiroshima's local delicacy is okonomiyaki, a kind of cabbahe pancake we have eaten and enjoyed in Melbourne. We had some last night and, as is so often the case, it is rather different here though still very tasty.

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