Monday 31 October
As we left the hotel in Kyoto we found a sign pointing to the subway. This lead down to a 5m wide passage that ran the two blocks under the shops to the station. Kyoto surprised me with its transport infrastructure. With only 1.5 million people they seem to have city trains running every few minutes in all directions.
As we headed south at 280kph on the bullet train we pretty much, when not in tunnels through the many hills, were running through towns. In fact over the 350 odd kms it was, apart from a few cultivated fields, almost a non stop city.
We rolled into Hiroshima late morning. Leaving our bags in the easy-to-operate station lockers we took a stroll to Peace Park. For a city that has been completely rebuilt over the last seventy years we were quite disappointed in the lack of architecture. It looks like a bunch of different people threw up a pile of buildings. The nice stone-lined riverbanks were at least a saving grace.
Arriving at Peace Park the first building we struck was the Atomic Dome. Designed in the 1920’s, by a Czech guy, by the 1940’s it had become quite a renown building around town because of its green copper dome.
The Atomic Bomb had exploded very close to this building. Everyone inside died but the structure partially survived as did many other concrete buildings in the town. This one has been preserved as a memorial.
In front of the building were a bunch of plastic sleeve folders in a number of languages. Set up by Mito Kosei. “an A-Bomb In-utero survivor” – in other words his mother was pregnant with him in Hiroshima when the bomb went off. He came and had a chat to us whilst we were reading his stuff. He informed us how President Obama has been here here last year and signed the book in the museum supporting a ban on all nuclear weapons. But in typical hypocritical style only a couple of years before had his boys carry out some nuclear tests. Mito has spent much of his life collating information about the nuclear bombings in Japan and has a very informative website: http://blog.lovedoor.jp/mitokosei/
This park is in a really nice area with trees, statues, green grass and steps running down to the river.
There is a big bell in the park that anyone can ring so after my crack at a temple on Saturday I had to give it a ding.
As we wandered over to the museum we passed the memorial arch which contains under it the books with the names of those that perished here.
We bought our tickets, picked up a couple of audo guides and headed upstairs to the museum. With just over 30 talking points this place really gets the message across. To keep it simple the Atomic bomb went off a few hundred meters from here. Detonated 200 feet above the ground it stated with a fireball 250 m in diameter. The shock wave went out flattening most things out to a 2km plus radius; a heat wave set every wooden building (which was most of the city) on fire out several kms. After the blast went out and up it then sucked in winds of over 900kph as the tremendous heat and blast went up.
Then came the black rain. All the particles, soot and vapour from the rivers had been sucked up into the stratosphere forming a massive cloud that then rained black radioactive rain on part of the city and surrounding areas. Of the approximately 380 thousand people in town 140 thousand were dead by Christmas 1945. Some close to the point of impact in the open simply evaporated. On the steps displayed from a bank building 200 odd meters away one can see the outline of a where a person was sitting as the surface of the stone had melted around the shadow.
Roof tiles, statues and ceramics melted and changed shape. Roof tiles further out had the surface melted and reset as a rough surface.
As we progressed through the gallery we listened to stories of the state people had found their loved ones, some with flesh hanging from their bones, others cooked to a crisp and some still alive their bodies black with burns. People had kept clothing and items that the loved ones were wearing or carrying on the day. All this is on display.
It then goes into the stories of those that survived the blast but then suffering tremendous thirst drank the black rain. Many died within days after developing a purple rash and then vomiting blood as the radiation ate and destroyed their organs. There is a hand on display belonging to a guy who when the blast struck was in a building with one hand resting on the window sill. His hand was cooked and parts of the fingers burnt off. He survived but grew these long round black nails from where his fingers had been. When the nails broke off they bled black blood until they healed and grew again.
Many samples were taken by scientists – some are now on display.
It must have been hard for the powers that were responsible for unleashing Fat Boy on this city not really having an idea of just what the devastation would be.
It is interesting to note that the railway station about 2kms away was up and running the next day, the bank with the human shape on its step was operating in four days, and power was restored to what was left standing in two weeks. In spite of that little medical aid flowed in. The population was not told that Atomic Bombs had been used for several years.
After the museum we hopped on a ferry and went to Miyajima Island about 15 kms away. With deer roaming the streets, kids with their square school bags skipping down the street, a multi-storey pagoda and walking tracks through nice bush it was a very nice contrast.