Meeting Expectations in Hiroshima

Wednesday 9th – Saturday 12th October

I studied what is now a classic story at school “Brighter Than A Thousand Suns” – the story of the Manhatten Project which developed of the Atom Bomb.  It discusses the excitement of splitting the atom and what uses that can be put too, and then the realisation that it is the most powerful weapon man has produced.  I was frightened by the arguments put forth for/against the use of the bomb.

And so Hiroshima is a must see. The horrible story is known well enough, but it is the emotions that warrant discussion.

What grabbed me was the strings of Origami Cranes that are hung beside the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound where many unidentified bodies were cremated. The cranes are a reminder of Sadako Sasaki’s story of a thousand cranes. You see cranes everywhere, in swamps and rivers and even resting on the A-Dome, but also represented as origami on brochures, advertising sites and even the sewerage covers.

The crane has become a symbol of peace as a result of Sadako’s attempt to live longer by folding 1000 cranes. But it was her class mates that lobbied for the Children’s Memorial, to remember the many children who died in Hiroshima both directly from the blast or  indirectly from the effects of radiation, as was Sadaka’s case. She was two when the bomb was dropped, developed aggressive leukaemia at age 10 and died at age 12.

There were in fact many children in Hiroshima who succumbed to the effects of the A-Bomb.   Japan had fought many wars, leading up to World War II and everything was depleted – money, food, materials for ammunition.  Children had been seconded to demolish buildings as fire breaks in case of bombing attacks.  And so many school children were in Hiroshima on 6th August 1945 when the bomb was dropped.

The stories of the children’s pain and suffering and of their parents searching for them is heart wrenching.

Imagine getting news that a bomb had dropped.  Not knowing the massive significance of it being an Atomic Bomb.  Going into the city to find your 13 year old child.  Searching for days, amongst charred bodies and flattened buildings.  Finding a sandle or a bag or a cap and assuming it was your child’s.

For the parents that found their children and brought them home, the injuries were horrific, and in many cases they died within days.

There are 67 different memorials in the Peace Park, and Hiroshima is using every one of them to fight for peace and nuclear disarmament.  Every time a nuclear test is made, the mayor of Hiroshima writes a protest letter.

One of the exhibitions that struck me most at the museum, was Japan’s recognition that they dealt great damage in their aggressive behaviour in the many wars they fought.  School text books are being re-written to recognise this and Japanese school children make pilgrimages here to Hiroshima to learn about the past.

Hiroshima is now a modern city, but they will never let the world forget that one A-Bomb is one too many.