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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Peace Park, Hiroshima

Peace Park, Hiroshima

A number of years ago now, a friend of mine moved to Japan to live and work there for a year. As I tend to live by the mantra "friend in exotic location, will visit" I organised to go and visit, and be a tourist for a week. I had never been to Japan, and knew very little about it, but placed Peace Park at the top of my list of places I wanted to see in Japan.

My knowledge of Japan was pretty pitiful, but I had been given a book by my cousin when I was younger about a girl who developed leukaemia as a result of the radiation she was exposed to as a 2 year old. So I was very familiar with the bombing and the aftermath of Hiroshima, that was the one place I wanted to see. The book I had been given was in Italian called Il gran sole di Hiroshima, I later found the English version of the same story called Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coer. These books were the starting point for my Japanese exploration.



The following pictures were taken on a different trip to Hiroshima, not my first one. I recommend going in April as not only is it cherry blossom season, but around the same time it's also when the azaleas all bloom and they're used extensively in hedges and in streetscapes.

On my first trip I spoke no Japanese at all (and certainly couldn't read anything in Japanese script!) but managed to get to Hiroshima on my own (my friend was working that day) and found Peace Park with relative ease. There was a sign, in English outside the train station as to which streetcar to catch, and the streetcar stations had English script so it was easy enough to get off at the right stop. Walking away from the stop towards Peace Park, you pass the Hypocentre, which is where the bomb actually detonated and then into the park itself.

The first thing you come across is what is now known as the A-bomb dome.



It is the building closest to the Hypocentre to have survived. At the time it was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, the dome shaped roof is credited with keeping the building together. The dome shape is apparently particular strong, so the building didn't collapse. It's now a World Heritage Site.

Just across from the dome is the T-Shaped bridge, which was the original target for the bombers.


The bridge has been rebuilt, and it's hard to tell from this photo, but one span of the bridge goes across the river, then a different span comes out from the bridge to another part of the land as the river separates. From the air, you can see the bridge makes a 'T' and this was the target for the bombers, it was easily recognised from high up in the air. It's amazing to see how close the Hypocentre where the bomb actually exploded, is to this bridge.



Here's what brought me to Peace Park, the Children's Memorial. It's a memorial for all children who died due to the bomb, but originally it came about as Sadako Sasaki's school friends and family published her story. Money was raised in Japan for this memorial. Sadako was 2 years old when the bomb was dropped, she survived but 10 years later developed leukaemia due to the radiation poisoning she received. She was told of the legend that whoever folds a 1000 paper cranes would get their wish granted. Hers was to be well again. She died but the cranes have become a symbol and children all around the world fold them and have them sent to the Children' Memorial, they then get displayed around the memorial.


This is the memorial in the park, to the Koreans who were also killed. Many of them were forced labourers taken from Korea, which Japan had claimed as a colony.


The burial mound that contains the ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims of the bomb.



The Cenotaph, this holds the names of those who were killed by the bomb.



The Peace Flame, between the 2 hands with the palms open upwards. The flame is to be extinguished when the last nuclear weapon is destroyed. The Peace Museum is behind it.

The fact that the park exists in itself is a testimony to the recovery ability of nature. The area up until 1945 had been a very urban part of the city with lots of narrow road, no open spaces. After the bomb had left the area devastated, people thought that nothing would grow there for decades and yet within a few months the first blades of grass appeared. The park was then created and it's green and lush and a lovely environment to walk around in.


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