Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hiroshima ~ Peace Park, Peace Museum, A-Bomb Dome

In mid-November Kris and I hatched a little plan...while Morgan was on Winter Break from school we would sneak that young lady into Japan without her brother and sister knowing.  We tried really hard to keep the secret, and there were several times when we did mention her being here in front of the littles.  But, we quickly recovered and threw them off the track.  Fast forward one month and all our hard, secretive work paid off...




Our next surprise was a little trip to Hiroshima!  Our first family trip in two years...YAY!!!

So, two days after she arrived we all piled into our little van and made the 10 hour trip down to Southern Japan.

10 hours!  10 hours!  867 km (~540 miles).  It was such a long trip!  And, oh my, the tolls!  We accidentally paid a little more on the way down than we did on the way home because we took a wrong turn.  

Google and I were NOT friends on this trip.  

Since we don't drive much here I don't have to use Google maps to figure out which way to drive.  And, since I don't use it much I may have accidentally agreed with some of the "this route is shorter" suggestions.  One of them had us get off the interstate just to go a few miles down another toll road and then get back onto the toll road we were just on.  Urg.  So, that was like an extra 2,000 Yen, I think.  

So, 0820 we were making our way off the base.  Traffic was pretty awesome on the way down.  We didn't even see traffic backed up on the road we almost always run into it.  

Okay, here's where you get to have a little heart palpitation like Kris and I did..."Am I converting those Yen to Dollars right?"  NOOOWAY!

The toll wasn't as shocking on our way down, because it was broken up into smaller amounts since we took an unintentional detour.  :(  

The total damage on the way down:  22,620 Yen, which amounts to around $200.00.  Yes, I typed that right... $200.00!!  

Pick your jaws up now.

So, we made it to MCAS Iwakuni around 1800.  Once we figured out which of the three housing offices to check into, we found dinner at Burger King and went back to the room to relax.

Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum

Monday morning we were up and at 'em by 0900.  We decided we didn't want to drive the cheap way, i.e. the painfully slow way, into Hiroshima.  So, we cut across town and hopped on the Sanyo Expressway...20 minutes later we were in the city of Hiroshima.

The night before we had a little planning sesh to decide how we would spend the few days we had here.  There was a lot of "whatever you want, Dear", "whichever you think is best", and "that's fine with me."  I'm glad we chose the way we did because the weather worked out perfectly for us.  Starting with...

A gloomy, cloudy, rainy morning as we somberly walked the paths of Hiroshima Peace Park.  We started our trek at the visitor's center where we picked up a map of the park.  This information building was known as the Fuel Hall.  It is 170 meters from the epicenter of the bomb.  The roof was destroyed and the insides were almost completely burned out.



Once we agreed on which direction we would take from here, we moved on toward Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims.  Since we had two little ones with us, we were a little picky with which exhibits we explored and which exhibits we walked past.  This was one of the ones we moved past.  I was afraid the videos of the immediate aftermath would be too hard for the littles to deal with.  So, we walked around the outside and talked about the time frozen on the clock in the park.

The art piece in the middle of the "window" below shows 08:15, the minute the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.  It is surrounded by pieces of rubble from buildings destroyed in this area.

"Mourning the lives lost in the atomic bombing we pledge to convey the truth of this tragedy throughout Japan and the world, pass it on to the future, learn the lessons of history, and build a peaceful world free from nuclear weapons."
There are many benches throughout the park with little placards on them, I'm assuming with the names of donors on each one.  We also found a Crinum Lily.  The booklet says that it was in Hiroshima before the bomb and people assumed it had been destroyed, but the following year it began to sprout new leaves.

We were a bit lucky in that the rain really backed off as we entered the park.  So, we walked through a mist here and there, but no real downpours as we started exploring.  The park was so quiet.  We didn't see more than a handful of kids throughout the whole day.  Every few steps brought us to another placard explaining what that particular element looked like before the bomb, after the bomb, and then we could see with our eyes how it looked today.  It was a gentle build up to what we were walking into next.  

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Now, maybe we should have done a little more research on this museum.  I'm not sure what I was thinking.  Well, I was thinking that our kids were getting to see first hand the effects of war....what a way to learn about history...by taking steps through the city from their textbooks.  I didn't really think about how "real-life" the exhibits would be.  I had prepared the kids for a bit of the dark stuff...the bomb and the deaths and the destruction.  I didn't go into great detail, they are only 7 and 9.  But, I gave them an idea.  A few days before we arrived, Mackenzie said she didn't want to go because of the stories of devastation.  When I pulled up a current picture of Hiroshima she felt better about visiting.  She just needed to know that things were better.  That it wasn't just a hollowed out city.  

So, we started walking through the museum.  And, for the first few exhibits things were fine.  

You can see in the model below how almost the entire city was flattened.  

A model of the city and where the bomb exploded.  600 meters above ground.
Then, we walked through this hallway and the pictures started showing the devastation.  Around the corner the pictures then gave us a picture of the human toll.  From the fires, from the concussion, from the heat, from the radiation.  

Total. 
Devastation.

So, it was around this time that Kris walked the kids to the end of the exhibition room and sat them all down, away from the pictures and the artifacts.  Away from the bent girders and fused glass bottles.  Away from the life-like mannequins with their clothes burned to their bodies and their skin melting off their arms.  

So, quietly they sat in the lobby waiting for Kris and I to make our way through the museum.  We rented audio thingies to explain all the exhibits as we went around.  I made it to the part where she started talking about children being found dead by their parents and I couldn't even listen to her anymore.  Tears stung my eyes as she talked about the horrors that befell the citizens of this city.  This was such a hard-hitting experience.  It wasn't just a little visit to a museum.  It was a life experience...to think about the innocent civilians that happened to be in the city that was picked for that day.  Unbelievably horrific.  And, I get it, it was war.  It was a different time with different ideas about how to 'win'.  Horrible things were happening all over the world at that time.  It doesn't for one portion of a second negate the soul-crushing horror of that day, and the many days to follow.  

Our kids did not get to see the entire museum.  They looked at the models of the city before and after.  They saw a model of the actual bomb that was dropped, Little Boy.  They saw a little of the science behind how an atomic bomb works.  They probably saw more of the gruesome images than I would have wanted them to see, but even so, I'm glad for it.  They haven't had nightmares or pretended they never saw it.  They asked questions.  They took it in.  And, I hope that when they are older and they see this chapter in a history book that they remember back to this day, to these pictures, to these walls and halls.  



After we walked through the hallway upstairs we made our way down the steps and then back to the lobby where we retrieved our belongings from a pay locker and returned our audio contraptions.  After we were coated, scarved, and gloved back up, we made our way toward the Peace Dome.

A shot from the upstairs window of the Peace Museum



This is in the walkway that surrounds the Peace Park.






The garden in front of the Peace Museum

"Statue of Mother and Children in the Storm"

From here we made our way back around to the other side of the museum and headed back toward where we started.  

Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims

"This monument embodies the hope that Hiroshima...will stand forever as a city of peace."

In the center there is a register of all those who died because of the bomb.  It also includes a prayer, "Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil."  

Flame of Peace

This monument has a flame in the middle that was lit in 1964 and is supposed to remain lit until all nuclear weapons are gone from the earth.

you can see the little arch of the Cenotaph above the flame and then the Peace Museum behind that.


Several more steps down the path brought us to the Children's Peace Monument.  On top of the statue is a girl with a paper crane above her head.  It is based on the true-life story of Sadako Sasaki, a little girl who died of radiation exposure 10 years after the bombing.  She was 2 when it was dropped and 12 when she died.  She believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes she would be cured.  Some of her cranes are on display inside the museum.  Even today people send cranes to Hiroshima in remembrance of Sasaki.  

Behind Sasaki's statue are little storage containers FILLED with cranes.  Most of them are strung together into long chains.  But, some of them have been folded and then placed into patterns of peace.
The spirit of Hiroshima:
"Enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all,
and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace."
Motoyasu-bashi

We crossed Motoyasu Bridge and made our way to The Atomic Bomb Dome.

The clouds matched the feelings of the day.

This is the Zero Milestone of Hiroshima.  
This is the point that all distances in the city were measured by.
The hypocenter of the bomb was only a few meters from this spot.

Memorial Tower dedicated to the Mobilized Students
There were over 8,000 students over the age of 12 that were mobilized to work in factories, sew, and help with food production in Hiroshima.  Of those, almost 7,000 were killed by the bomb.  The goddess of peace is on the front of the statue and then there are several doves around the sides.  

Atomic Bomb Dome

Our last stop in the Peace Park was the Dome.  

What a haunting reminder.  

Before the bomb, this building was huge!  It was a three story building.  Google a before and after image of this building.   


There were a few notes of construction inside the structure and then behind it as well.  


The epicenter was roughly 500 feet from the building.  Because it exploded about 1900 feet in the air, almost directly above the building, it was not turned completely to rubble.  The inside was completely burned out.


In this picture you can see which direction the bomb exploded from...the dome of the roof's skeleton is pressed slightly to the right.

I'm glad we made this our first stop.  It was an emotional day and not quite the happy-skippy kind of exploring we usually do in this country.  

We finished our afternoon by eating lunch at Coco's and then took a quick tour of Hiroshima Castle.  Then, rounding out the evening, we walked Kintai Bridge.  More on those later...

Trip details:

540 miles

Yokosuka toll:  210 Yen

Yokosuka-Yokohama Toll road:  930 Yen

Tomei Expressway (changes to Isewangan Expy, then Higashi Meihan Expy, then Shin Meishin Expy, then Meishin Expy, then Chugoku Expy, then Sanyo Expy to Iwakuni):  this one is a bit hard to explain.  We made a wrong turn (or two) and ended up not following the route listed above.  We should have just paid a couple tolls after Yokohama, but we ended up paying a few.  I'm not sure if we paid more because we got off and on the expressway.  But, here's the breakdown that we did on the way down:  7,510 Yen outside Nagoya + 770 Yen to get back onto the expressway in Nagoya + 6280 on the Chugoku Expressway to Bantan Renraku Expressway + 6920 when we got off the Sanyo Expressway at Iwakuni.  

For a grand total of:  22,620 Yen (roughly $200.00)

It took 10 hours to get down there and we stopped at two rest stops on the way down.  We filled up when we left and then refilled the tank just past halfway down.  We didn't need to fill it up at that point, we just didn't want to have to worry about where to stop when it was too low.

The Peace Park was free to walk around.  Most of the museums we saw along the way seemed to be free.  The Peace Museum was 50 Yen per adult and the kids were free. (less than $1.00 for the four of us to get in).