2008 Autumn Roadtrip – Part VIII

Dear God. Is the Great 2008 Autumn Road Trip series ever going to end? I mean, it’s very nearly time for the Great 2009 Autumn Road Trip (scheduled for the end of – gulp – next month) and I still have at least three more posts before I can finish up last years. I’d better get a move on.

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So when I last left off (last month…), our fearless duo had just finished stuffing themselves full of momiji manju and grilled eel bentos and decided to head into Hiroshima city proper to do a little bit of sightseeing. Now, besides Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the other two cities in Japan that probably most people in America have heard of are Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for obvious reasons. And of course, if you find yourself in Hiroshima as a tourist, the first stop one usually makes is the Genbaku Dome (“Atomic Dome”) and the Peace Memorial Park with its Peace Memorial Museum.

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I am in no way qualified to talk about World War II, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima or modern day controversies related to nuclear weapons as I know very little beyond what I was taught in school, saw on the History Channel or learned in the museums. So rather than try to write about it from any position of authority, I think I’ll just post a few pictures and leave it at that. If you want to know more, you can of course check out the links above, or else head down to your local library for some educational reading.

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All in all, we saw some interesting things that made us think during our time in Hiroshima. In many ways, the effect of the atomic dome and the peace museum were nullified by the excesses of modern warfare – as horrifying at the atomic bombings were, they are outdone in every way by the cruelties of modern (non-atomic) conflicts which may lack their own dedicated memorials or infamy, but result in hundreds of thousands of more deaths than these bombs ever caused. In a way, I felt desensitised by the staggering images of violence we see every day on the television, and the immaculately maintained and pristine surroundings of the Peace Park (with children running around couples on dates, musicians playing for cash) only furthering the difficulty of focusing on what the dome and museum represented. The overwhelming feeling I came away with was that yes, nuclear weapons are terrible, but they have nothing on regular people, armed with nothing more than guns, machetes, or sometimes even just sticks and stones, and all the evil they do on each other in the modern day.

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But still, it was a thought-provoking window into another time that seems alien to me now, traipsing merrily across the Japanese countryside where my biggest worry is whether I should stop at 7-11 or Lawsons to pick up a riceball for lunch, because everyone knows that 7-11 has better riceballs, but on the other hand, Lawsons sometimes has cute toys on the shelves next to the instant ramen and who doesn’t want to buy a toy with their lunch?

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So if you ever find yourself in Hiroshima, then I think you should stop by and see it for yourself.

More pictures after the jump below.

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And that was Hiroshima. We also stopped by a restaurant for some traditional Hiroshiyama Okonomiyaki, but that was the second-biggest culinary disappointment (the charred corpse of a baby bird impaled on a stick obviously being the first) of the entire journey and so it doesn’t merit going into further detail in this post (I couldn’t even be bothered to take a picture, that’s how much it sucked). As the sun began to set, we found ourselves both physically and mentally tired from a day that started with us racing to beat the sunrise from Shikoku, continued with us traipsing all over sacred island shrines whilst dodging killer deer, and concluded with us spending hours watching taped interviews with survivors of atomic bombings. Bidding Hiroshima a fond farewell (minus the crappy okonomiyaki), we jumped in the car and started heading out West into the rapidly falling night to our next destinations – one of Japan’s “three most beautiful sights” and a town sharing a name with a U.S. President you all have probably heard of :)

Stay tuned!

Now listening to: “Jay-Z feat. Rihanna & Kanye West – Run this Town”

6 Reactions

  1. lonewolfsinger

    Great blog. some really great pics. it does look a bit awe inspiring. and one of the Greater tragedies of recent memory.

  2. kori

    Almost everyone I know who visits Hiroshima walks away with a very different impression. As a former scientist, the role of the scientists as pacifists: brilliant in their research, hopelessly naive in the applications/consequences, struck me the most.
    Your version is very right. We only pick and chose the genocides we cry over.

  3. andrew

    It is truly amazing to go there. Though I am saddened that the museum does not include context for these events. It just starts with the bomb being dropped.
    I majored in Japanese history in college, and had to write a major paper on this.
    If you are interested in such things, this is a BBC (so not american propaganda) documentary on events leading up to the bombing
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIOqL86jfg4
    I cant say if this was the best solution, however ultimately it saved many more lives.

  4. michaelpanda

    @Andrew: Thank you for the link. I’ve seen a few documentaries on the subject, and all I can say is that I’m glad I wasn’t alive during those times.
    @kori: It’s so true. I’m reminded of that quote by Oppenheimer when he witnessed the first atomic test in 1945:
    “…now I am become Shiva, the destroyer of worlds…”
    @lonewolfsinger: thank you for your kind comment. Hiroshima has some very sobering places and if you ever have the chance you should definitely visit.

  5. animemiz

    Wonderful images, and it is just so aptly since I am reading Barefoot Gen at the moment.. to actually see pictures of Hiroshima. Good luck with posting of more images. They’re quite inspirational.

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