We made it to Hiroshima rather easily - just two cabs and a train. We checked into our hotel, opened the window and saw...
City! But, Hiroshima isn't anywhere near the size of Tokyo - we were easily able to walk to all of the stuff we wanted to see. And maybe not surprisingly, it's a pretty modern city with wide streets and lots of parks. I didn't look up the population, but it feels
more like a Raleigh than a NYC - smaller, less chatoic, and just a handful of really tall buildings (we were in one of them).
The hotel was the first one with in-room internet access, so I was very excited. But because 3-prong outlets are rare in Japan, I couldn't plug my laptop in anywhere. Luckily, the hotel was next to a series of gigantic multi-story malls and so I set off in search of a 3-prong adapter. 24 floors and a proportional number of escalator rides later, I found something that would work, and suddenly, we were internet-capable again. Ahh... soothe the addiction.
Our first tourist activity was an old castle. Happily, it was just a block from the hotel.
Like most everything else in Hiroshima, it was mostly destroyed by the Bomb, and rebuilt in the years after. Some things survived, though. There are a handful of special trees scattered around the property, each with a little sign in front of it:
There's also what we assumed was a shrine on the grounds of the castle:
Like most places, it was busy getting ready for some big festival (cherry blossom season?) - construction crews were busy doing repairs and additions. The rest of the grounds are basically a wooded park. It looks like a nice place to spend a lunch break.
And then, two blocks on the other side of our hotel...
The famous "A-Bomb Dome" - the only building still around that survived the bombing. It was pretty much ground zero, directly underneath the bomb, and the walls were able to stand up to the vertical pressure. Not much around it was as lucky (lucky for the building
, since nobody inside survived, of course).
Here's a picture of the original building, across the river from the current one:
That tall building in the background is the hotel we stayed in - maybe 500m from ground zero. Humbling.
The dome is at one end of a large park. A short distance from that is the Bell of Peace:
Then there's the Peace Clock:
This little guy was playing around the Bell of Peace:
A bit farther down the park, there's the children's memorial:
And in front of that, a few kiosks filled with tiny origami cranes, strung together to form and colorful strings and murals.
Then there's this structure, which holds, in the small chest in the middle, the remains of some of those killed. In the distance, you can see the dome. The children's memorial is in that line of sight, too, though it's hard to make out in this picture.
Finally, there's the Peace Memorial Museum. It goes through the history of WWII and before, including Japan's war with China and its enslavement of Korean workers (many of whom died in the blast as well). It talks about the attack on Pearl Harbor, the fight with the US in the Pacific, gets into the science and development of the bomb. It has a number of US military communications discussing target and date choice,
letters from US generals protesting the use of the bomb on civilian targets, letters from scientists (including Einstein) protesting the use of the bomb. There are large dioramas showing before and after models of the city, lots of photographs and film footage from the actual bombing, etc..
Then there's a big section devoted to the aftermath: stories of people who survived, people who survived only a short time, people who didn't come home that day, the effects of the heat and radiation on buildings and homes; there's the famous human shadow on concrete, bits of flesh that fell off of people, clothes, shoes, etc.. This section is gruesome.
But, the museum doesn't make Japan, the country, come off as an innocent victim. It doesn't try to say that Japan was sitting around minding its own business when the US dropped The Bomb out of the blue. Instead, the exhibits show that Japan was an active participant in the war, and not a kind one, either: the A-bomb was just an especially horrible part of an already horrible war. It does, however, make it clear that most of the people killed by the Bomb were civillians. And, because of that, the museum tries to show how horrible war is for ordinary people - especially nuclear war. It's a sobering place.
The bridge on the right of that picture was the official target of the Bomb. It survived the blast, and was replaced many years later.
But, the rest of the city, from what we saw, doesn't dwell on the bombing; all that is confined to the memorials. We ate lunch across the street from the museum, in a very good Italian restaraunt, and you'd never know we were a quarter mile from ground zero - no mention of the bomb, or the war. The city as a whole isn't devoted to that one event. Happily.
On a lighter note, the giant outdoor mall we visited the night before was the location of some of the best Engrish we'd come across:
And here's a Japanese toilet:
Later that night, another Irish pub (they're everywhere), then a delicious Japanese single malt in the top-floor bar in our hotel (my wife had some Japanese sweet potato vodka - called "shochu" . yummy). They wanted a $10 per person charge to sit at one of the tables with a view, so we sat at the bar (for free) and looked at the expensive bottles of booze they had laid out in front of us: for example, the bottle of Hennessy in front of me cost 120,000 Yen, when we saw it at the duty-free shop in the airport; that's roughly $1,000 (you can buy it here
for $1499). There was a pianist singing jazz standards - she didn't mess up the words, unlike the girl in Kyoto.
Though the A-Bomb stuff was moving/sobering/depressing/enlightening, and the bombing was obviously the reason we went (things don't get much more historic than that), what we saw of it makes me think that Hiroshima was a pretty nice place. Definitely worth the train ride.
To come: our last few days, in Tokyo.
Also, I should give credit here - many of the pictures in this series were taken by my wife. Usually I can tell (but not always) which are her's and which are mine - generally the D100 pics are mine, though we shared the P7. I think the majority are mine, because I always
had one camera or the other on me. But, she took quite a lot, too. So, ya know - this wasn't all me. Plus, she did all the hotel and plane booking! Whatta gal.