Hiroshima

You read blogs so I know that, like me, you know how moving the written word can be. Often the skill of the writer transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. Today I have been reading words that, without artifice of any kind, wrung my heart.

I sat in an archive in Hiroshima and read the translated accounts of the day of the bombing. One witness wrote of how he had been caught in the blast with a group of school friends. They were trapped beneath a collapsed building. Injured himself, he dug two friends free. But others called to him from beneath the rubble, begging to be rescued. Fire was spreading quickly and, unable to save those crying his name, he ran and ran until he was in the suburbs. He ran past people whose clothes had beeen burned away and whose skin hung from their fingernails. They called to him, desperately asking him to take them with him. He ran on without stopping.

When he has finished telling his story, he turns himself to entreaty; begging those he left behind to forgive him. There on the page, in a few words, is expressed an unimaginable pain – an unearned shame that he has never been able to come to terms with – desperate for a forgiveness that can never be granted.

Hiroshima Paper Cranes

Hiroshima is full of folded paper cranes. Here is the story behind them: A girl who was 2 when the bomb was exploded, developed Leukaemia at 10. She was told that anyone who folded a thousand paper cranes would have a wish come true. She died before she could complete the task. Her school friends then campaigned successfully to have a memorial erected to the child victims of the bomb. Schoolchildren send cranes that they have folded to be left at the memorial.

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This picture is of paper cranes left at the feet of the angel that is at the centre of the Children’s Memorial.

 Hiroshima Grave

These cranes are at the mound where the ashes of 70,000 casualties are interred.

 Hiroshima Atom Dome

This last picture is of the hypocentre. The bomb exploded 600 m above this spot. I expected to see the sky broken in some way.

Hiroshima Hyopcentre 

16 thoughts on “Hiroshima”

  1. During the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college, I went to Japan as part of a month long exchange with one of the colleges there. There were six of us from my university, and we had another 6 Brazilian students and their advisers join us.

    For the most part, we were all your typical 19 and early 20s idiots. We didn’t revere the culture the way we should, and we had way too much fun at the thrice weekly parties that were thrown in our honor. (Well, we were actually more like the exhibits at the insanely expensive party our benefactor was throwing, but who’s going to quibble with delicious fresh sushi and as much saki as you can force down?)

    (man I’m rambling on, sorry!)

    That held true until we got to Hiroshima. The town itself back then (20 years ago) had a very empty or soulless feeling to it. It was almost harshly modern, but the people there seemed almost downtrodden. But the site (your pictures take me right back there) and the museum almost destroyed me. I’m no writer, so I just can’t express how deeply affected I was.

    There was a security guard there in the museum who was a small boy during the bombing. I still remember what he told me, “We only wish to make sure that this never happens again.”

  2. It breaks my heart…
    Moobs, thank you so much for sharing someof your travels…
    It is a perfect time to read of it and take pause….
    When you return home may I suggest that you rent Grave of the Fireflies…
    But best be wraned, just as your post has done to me…It will tear your heart…

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095327/

  3. And to think Pres. Bush, et al, still claim 9/11 as the worst attack on civilians in world history. Guess that’s what happens when one’s world ends at the tip of one’s nose.
    Thanks for sharing this. I hope the museum works and this never happens again.

  4. We recently watched the documentary on HBO about Hiroshima & Nagasaki (White Light, Black Rain)….so, so frightening and gut-wrenching. Thank you for the post, Moobs.

  5. When I was in year 7, our class folded 1000 paper cranes and sent them to the memorial in memory of the people lost. I can still fold the cranes and I am proud of that.

  6. Beautiful description of a place that obviously defies description. I recall similar feelings when I visited Dachau. It was over 15 years ago and I still remember the photographs and personal accounts and the way the landscape seemed far too peaceful.

  7. Drawn out of lurkdom to say that this was a marvelous post. Your comment about expecting the sky to be broken was very powerful, as were your photos of the cranes.

  8. Wow. Having been to the trinity site (where the bomb was first tested), I feel a kind of “full circle” seeing your pictures and reading your words. I can also feel the chasm that disconnected the scientists and soldiers who would release this into the world.

    I can only pray that we are becoming a smaller world.

    I met once the guy who took the photos from the planes after they dropped the bomb. He told me that in very real ways, they had absolutely no idea what they were doing. None. That’s pretty sad too.

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