Friday, October 30, 2015

Hiroshima, Japan

We continued west on the train to the city of Hiroshima. Most well-known as the site of the world's first deployment of a nuclear bomb that leveled the city in 1945, Hiroshima is now a large metropolis. Aside from the memorial, there is little evidence of the horrific events that took place just 70 years earlier.  

Our primary purpose for visiting the city was to see the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It's a moving experience that offers a glimpse into the tragedy and utter destruction that is caused by nuclear warfare. The explosion from the bombing wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people. Thousands more would die in the following weeks and years due to the lasting effects of radiation exposure. The museum did an effective job of telling personal stories of those affected, explaining the science behind why the bomb was so destructive, and describing the consequences of radiation on the body. We were also interested in learning more about the Japanese depiction of the politics and events in World War II leading up to the bombing; however, we found this side of the story to be lacking. Half of the museum was under construction while we were there so I assume these topics must be further detailed in the renovation area.

Scaled depiction of the atom bomb being dropped over Hiroshima.

Folded paper cranes representing peace prayers for Sadako Sasaki. She was a two year old girl located a mile away from the bomb site, but was still unknowingly exposed to the terrible effects of nuclear radiation. At 9 years old, she was diagnosed with leukemia, a common disease associated with radiation exposure at the time. While in the hospital, Sadako sought to fold 1000 paper cranes, following an old Japanese legend that completion of the task would grant the folder a wish. Sadly, she died at the age of 12, but thousands of paper cranes are still made by school children and visitors from around the world and shipped to her memorial. It was truly stunning to see the global impact of this young girl's story.

More paper cranes visitors left at the memorial site.

The famous atomic bomb dome, which is one of the only buildings left standing after the attack. The bomb exploded almost directly overhead of the structure. The building's columns were able to withstand the vertical downward force of the blast, allowing the structure to remain intact. The photo in the foreground shows the building prior to the bombing.

Another view of the dome at sunset.

Old meets new as the memorial site of the Atomic Bomb Dome sits in the foreground of the city center.

Hiroshima is also famous for its okonomiyaki dish. Diners are typically served at an open grill where the food is prepared in front of them. It all starts with a thin sheet of batter. This is layered with udon, a teriyaki-like sauce, a fried egg, bacon, scallions, cabbage, and mayonnaise. Although the ingredient list doesn't sound that appetizing, take my word for it, this dish is not something to pass up! It was one of my favorite meals we had in Japan.

As we were taking advantage of credit card points for the hotel in Hiroshima, we were also treated as guests to the lounge area. Similar to my thoughts on the business-class flight, I thought it was nice, but not something I would personally splurge on. The food was so-so and I ended up eating cheese and crackers for most of the night. They also offered bottomless, pour-it-yourself drinks, which might make up for the cost for some people. 

Craig and me looking out at Hiroshima from the hotel lounge. We couldn't get over how different the area would have been just 70 years ago during the war. 

We stayed in some of the best hotels in Japan that I've ever experienced. Characterized by being very modern and swanky, they were also complete with a yukata (Japanese bed clothes) and high-end guest services.

  Relaxing in our yukatas while watching Japanese theater on tv.

Only spending one night, our time in Hiroshima was brief, but powerful. The city has overcome unimaginable conditions and has evolved into a modern metropolis advocating for world peace. This is a beautiful transformation that I don't imagine is easily achieved post-war. The landscape surrounding the city was also gorgeous with lots of hills enclosing the city. I regretted not having enough time in our schedule to do more exploring in this distant part of Japan.