. . . Hiroshima was in ruins. On Aug. 6, 1945 at 8:15 AM, the city bore the brunt of the first atomic bomb to be dropped, paying a horrendous price for an ugly war that already cost so many lives. Hiroshima today is so alive yet with obvious scars to show from that fateful day. One doesn't have to look further than the A-Bomb Dome, now a skeleton of its former self. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in December 1996, this crumbling structure which used to be the Industrial Promotion Hall now sits amid Hiroshima's high-rise buildings. 66 years after that tragic morning in 1945, the people of Hiroshima has moved on but certainly has not forgotten.
|"someday my son, Peace will prevail all over the world"|
"Let All The Souls Here Rest In Peace
For We Shall Not Repeat The Evil"
- cenotaph inscription
As I stood silently in front of the cenotaph containing the names of all known victims of the bomb, I can't help but feel depressed and angry at the same time. There are a few war museums I've visited - in Vietnam, Cambodia, Lithuania, Latvia, Washington, DC - and each one has made an impact on me, as if getting hit by some kind of a ghostly shrapnel. Here I was at the Peace Memorial Park (of which the A-Bomb Dome is part of) and the idea of a mass killing in the hands of human beings really get to you. About 80,000 lives were lost immediately during the bombing and about 120,000 more died in the aftermath. Many visitors to the park leave with no dry eyes.
Earlier in the day, from the restaurant of perfectly situated Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima, the commanding view of the whole park made up for a rather lousy buffet breakfast. The day was hot and humid but I decided to take the short walk to the park. Like most first-timers to Hiroshima, my first agenda was to visit the Peace Memorial Museum (commonly known as the A-Bomb Museum). Entrance fee is only 50 yen. The displays are all so poignant: from clothing worn by people who died that day to melted glass containers to a charred lunch box to a child's rusty toy tricycle to a wrist watch that stopped at the exact moment of the bombing.
Even years after the bomb was dropped, people still died from radioactive exposure. One among the many "aftermath" victims, Sadako Sasaki was only 2 years old during the bombing. Ten years later, she fell ill and was diagnosed with leukemia. Believing in an ancient Japanese legend that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane, Sadako - even while in pain - folded paper cranes as many as she could. She was unable to succeed as she died after only an eight-month struggle. Her classmates and friends finished what she started, burying them all with her.
Sadako's story and those of other child victims literally moved the entire country and a world watching that the Children's Peace Monument was built. Still located within the park, halfway between the museum and the A-Bomb Dome, this monument stands as a touching memorial to all the children who died during and after the bombing. On top of the monument is a statue of Sadako holding a crane while surrounding it on the ground are stalls holding thousands of folded cranes offered by school kids from different parts of the world.
|On a stone block at the base of the monument is an inscription|
written in Japanese, which in English reads:
"This is our cry, this is our prayer:
for building peace in the world"
for building peace in the world"
Indeed, Hiroshima after the war became a City of Peace in a 1949 declaration by the Japanese Parliament. Since then, every sitting mayor in Hiroshima has been sending letters to leaders of countries with nuclear arms, vowing and praying that it will eventually be abolished for the sake of humanity. 66 years since that catastrophic day, the wounds may have been healed but the scars are there forever . . . to remind Japan and the rest of the world how cruel wars can be.