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  • Candace Ahlfinger

Hiroshima: A City of Hope and Resilience and a Visit to Miyajima Island

Miyajima Island and Hiroshima

We boarded the Bullet train from Kyoto Station bound for Hiroshima. The 1 1/2 hour ride provided time to rest for a busy and sobering day. (A note: the fronts of Bullet trains are now designed after the platypus nose to streamline air efficiency.)

Unlike our expectations, Hiroshima was not a quiet, somber grave. Instead, it has 1.2 million people and is a bustling city. Indeed, there is much more to the area than simply the bomb site. We drove for about 40 minutes to the ferry to get to Miyajima Island and Shinto holy site. We arrived on the island to be greeted by friendly deer and relative silence since few cars are allowed on the island. We made our way along the ocean walkway to the cinnabar, green, and white colored Itsukushima Shrine. The views of the famous Torii Gate guided us onward. This gate appears to be floating in the water at high tide and is the perfect background for photos. The path is lined with stone lanterns. The island is so peaceful that we even saw a bird flying over the water with an eel in its mouth.

Oysters in Almost Every Form and Fashion

After exploring the shrine, we headed back toward the pier with a stop for lunch to sample what the Hiroshima area is famous for—oysters. We had a meal that featured oysters in almost every form— grilled, boiled, fried, in Miso, BBQed, everything but raw.

The street to the pier was lined with shops but perhaps none as fascinating as the Toto Toilet store that also provided toilet breaks for travelers as a fantastic marketing tool. The toilets in tourist locations in Japan were the most intriguing of anywhere I have traveled. (Note: I wish I had started taking pictures and videos of toilets when I started traveling. The differences in places are amazing.) For example, the toilet in one of our hotel rooms opened automatically when you walked in. Next, a light came on in the bowl and water was sprayed to clean it. In addition to bidet features, you could also choose a heated seat. After use, the toilet flushed automatically and slowly closed. It was amazing! A remote control was even included—maybe to heat the seat before the user arrived?

And then, after this necessary break and the ferry ride back to the mainland, we headed to the Peace Memorial Museum. The sobering walk through the exhibits highlights the loss of life as a result of the A-bomb’s drop. In addition, we were able to see the Emperor’s commitment to continuing the war at all costs to the Japanese people. In fact, many of the children killed immediately were demolishing buildings because all able-bodied boys 15 and up and girls 17 and older had been conscripted.

Atomic Bomb Dome

The bombing of Hiroshima was an agathokakological event that thankfully ended a horrific war but, in doing so, introduced the atomic bomb to the world and killed thousands of people. (No, the word, “agathokakological” is not in my normal vocabulary, but I was challenged to use this word in discussing Hiroshima.) The museum was a sobering reminder of both the short -and long-term damage that nuclear weapons leave. The graphic pictures were hard to view. Some people were killed immediately and became mere shadows on the sidewalk. Some died agonizing deaths after a few days. Others survived years before succumbing to painful deaths from leukemia or other radiation-related illnesses. The pain and suffering are strong reminders that this must not happen again.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

We walked out into the park that surrounds the museum to see the A-Dome and the other building that survived the bomb. We also examined the Children’s Peace Monument that was begun by the sixth-grade friends of Sadako Sasaki who died of leukemia that developed because of the radiation. The book, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, tells her story. Cranes are still made and put in the memorial to honor her.

Visiting Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum is not easy, but they serve as reminders of what must never happen again.

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