An Afternoon In Hiroshima During Cherry Blossom Season

At the end of my trip to Iwakuni in early April, I was able to make a very brief stop by Hiroshima, as my path back home necessarily took me through Hiroshima Station.

As you probably know, Hiroshima is where the first nuclear bomb was used on actual human beings. It has been estimated that the immediate death toll of the bomb in Hiroshima was over 70,000, though tens of thousands more would die over the coming months and years from the effects of the bomb. I’ve been able to visit the city a number of times over the years, and in fact visited several times as a middle schooler in the 90s. It is always a somber experience, though the blossoming sakura made for an interesting juxtaposition this time around.

Before visiting ground zero, I took a brief stop by Hiroshima Castle. Unfortunately the weather was cloudy that day (as it was most of the trip), but the castle and blossoms still made for a lovely sight.

I was also able to grab an always enjoyable shot of the koi swimming in the moat. It’s a relatively easy shot – lower your shutter speed enough, and you can capture the sometimes frantic motion of the fish. The trouble is finding a shot with the right balance. I took probably 30-40 shots of these fish, but only this one really had the right look to me. It definitely requires patience, and a relatively steady hand.

After the castle, I made my way to the Atomic Bomb Memorial Dome and Peace Park area. The dome was one of the few structures still standing in the city after the bombing, which was particularly remarkable since it was almost directly beneath the blast. That said, as you can see, there wasn’t much left of it and of course anyone anywhere near this location was literally evaporated in an instant by the intense heat released by the bomb. Although I was unable to visit the museum during this visit, there is a display there which contains steps from a nearby bank where a person was sitting; all that remains of the person is a charred mark which looks like a permanent shadow. The dome stands as a reminder of the terrible power of nuclear weapons, and should be all the more sobering when you realize the bomb dropped on Hiroshima pales in comparison to the destructive capacity of modern nuclear weapons.

In honor of those who died in Hiroshima, it has long been a tradition to make a thousand paper cranes and hang them in the Peace Memorial Park just across the river from the dome. There is a special section with many transparent boxes where people can hang up their cranes. Sometimes individual make these, but it is also common for grade school classes and other groups to make them together and hang them up. This tradition began because of a young girl who was dying from radiation-induced leukemia 10 years after the bombing, and sought to make a thousand paper cranes in order to make a wish that she would live on. Unfortunately the young girl (her name was Sadako Sasaki) did not survive, but the tradition lives on to this day.

Spending time in Hiroshima is always a sobering experience. It is hard not to feel emotional realizing how many people – even school children – were horrifically killed that day in the name of military victory. But there is a flip side to the coin. Hiroshima can also be an encouraging reminder of the human ability to overcome hardships and thrive into the future.

Despite the horrific event that took place in this city in 1945, today the city is a major hub and home to millions of people. It even has its own professional baseball team (the Hiroshima Carp, which happen to be my favorite Japan team). Just like everywhere else across the country, the cherry blossoms bloom beautifully here today and the whole city comes out to enjoy them together. I’m grateful for the commitment of the people of Hiroshima to remembering the lives lost and reminding the world of the horrors of war, while also providing a testament to human resilience in the aftermath of such horrors.

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