Hiroshima, the name conjures up only one image to just about everyone. It's a strange tourist destination in that sense. In the same ilk as Auschwitz or the Cambodian Killing Fields. How odd it is to think that these places, where some of the worst atrocities in history occurred, are now places where tourists flock to take pictures. I'm sure those involved could never have imagined it.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still the only cities against which a nuclear weapon has ever been used, and walking around the museum in the Peace Memorial Park, one can only hope this will continue to be the case. Hiroshima was apparently selected since it had not sustained other bombing damage during the raids and would therefore provide a suitable clean target for analysis of the devastation due solely to the A-bomb.
The bomb, known as “Little Boy”, was detonated mid-air, not far above the still standing Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (more snappily known as the A-bomb dome). As the picture below shows, the city was pretty much just wiped off the map, for a radius of around 2km, just about every building was razed except a few skeletal remains. The death toll was staggering, at up to 140,000 people (half instantly, half later). The bomb was equivalent to around 15,0000 tonnes of TNT. It's certainly worrying to think that today the nuclear bombs are even bigger. No wonder people were worried about nuclear apocalypse during the '60s given bombs like the Tsar Bomba, at 50,000,000 tons (3800 Little Boys!), were being tested then. If you want to examine the morbid consequences of these bombs have a go on the nukemap app to see just how much destruction these weapons could actually do. You can even select various bomb events from history, like Little Boy and Hiroshima.
For me the visit was particularly interesting since my background is in Physics, and the tale of the development of Little Boy during the “Manhatten Project” in Los Alomos, is one I've read about a number of times, most memorably in Richard Feynman's biography. To be honest, I find it totally amazing a few days away from the 70th anniversary of the bombings, that such a bomb has never been used against mankind since. Richard Feynman was apparently depressed after detonation, stating “What one fool can do, another can”, and after the New Mexico tests before the actual Hiroshima detonation, Oppenheimer famously quoted the Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. It is perhaps pessimistic, but with countries like North Korea becoming nuclear powers, it's hard to not consider when one of these devices will be used again. Prof Stephen Hawking recently was quoted as saying we must either colonise space or face nuclear Armageddon. Food for thought.
On a cheerier note, Hiroshima has completely bounced back, and now forms a vibrant, modern city. There are lots of rivers running through the city and the hills provide a very pleasant backdrop. We stayed with a Japanese guy called Yoshiharu in an airbnb in the suburbs of Hiroshima, up in the hills. He took us to the local summer festival that was under way at the time, where we were the only westerners and, I think, an even bigger spectacle than the entertainment; we were invited on to the stage and asked to help read out the raffle prize winners (phonetically repeating the Japanese into the mic and blushing a vibrant shade of red). Next we were asked to take part in the dancing. I sinced looked up the name of the song we danced to, and it is called “Tanko Bushi”. It is a coal miners song, and it involved a shovelling coal action, followed by throwing the coal sack over the shoulder, shielding one's eyes from the moon, and a couple of twirls followed by a push action. It was interesting seeing the tranquil suburbs set in the mountains outside the city, and it really gave us a real picture of Japanese life. The bedroom was sparse with tatami mats and futons, and Yoshiharu gave us some interesting food and drink including a distilled drink called Shochu, which I'd never heard of before. Yoshiharu also played us some traditional Japanese instruments, but unfortunately the name now escapes me. It was a kind of triangular, wind instrument.
After Hiroshima, we caught the tram to Miyajima (around an hour and Y260). We didn't stay on the island, opting instead for a cheaper place at the mainland port, since the ferries are every 10mins anyway and the trip is really short.
We caught the ferry over to Miyajima in time for the high tide over the submerged Torri gate (although the pic is from low-tide after our hike, which personally I found more beautiful with the setting sun). We went to acquarium in the morning, which is dedicated to marine life of the Seto Inland Sea, such as the finless porpoise, which seemed to swim around as if it was always smiling. The island's town was very pretty, with lots of food treats to try such as the Momiji Manji maple leaf shaped sponge sweets (I believe "Momiji" means maple leaf, and "Manji" means sweet or pleasant, which indeed it was) , oysters, fried burdock and conger eel. We dragged ourselves, despite the heat of the sun, up Mt Misen, which was well worth the climb (maybe 1.5hrs to walk up, or you can just lazy and take the ropeway car) with very nice views over the bay and nearby islands. The only thing that detracted from the summit was the noise coming from the ropeway station annoucements (I felt like I was in Grand Central Station with the various train annoucements coming over the tanoy. How could these all be necessary for a simple ropeway!?).