Saturday, January 19, 2008

Day 13, Hiroshima, Miyajima: The Sea of Fertility

We get up early and head straight to Hiroshima's Peace Park. It is remarkably... well, peaceful.

If you've never been there, it's impossibly hard to get your head around the fact that there exists a place, with trees and benches, where an Atomic bomb once exploded, killing 70,000 people instantly and subsequently another 70,000. When you're there, it's even harder to understand.

The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall was the nearest structure not to be completely wiped away by the blast – props to whoever built it – and it has been deliberately preserved as a reminder of what happened. It's now known as the A-bomb Dome - you can see it in the background of the picture above.

The Peace Memorial Museum is thorough, balanced and, of course, impossibly sad. It begins with a thorough history of the events leading up to the destruction. Once all the background's gone in, it's the odd details that work on you: the black, tubular fingernail of a man affected by the radiation; the fact that the city got some of the trams back up and running just three days after the blast; a wall stained with radioactive "black rain", caused by the mixture of dust, dirt and soot thrown skywards by the scorching hot air; the section that tells you another nuclear bomb, 3,100 times more powerful than Little Boy, was tested by the Soviets just 16 years after Hiroshima; the tattered clothes of dead children; the wall of letters, a culmination of the dispatches written and sent by the Mayor of Hiroshima to Prime Ministers and Presidents every time a nuclear test has been conducted; a small black shadow singed onto a wall, all that remains of whoever it was sitting on the steps outside the bank at 8.15am on 6 August 1945.

It all builds up until it gets hard to take and you find yourself rushing towards the end before you're overwhelmed.


In the afternoon, we get the ferry across the Inland Sea of Japan to the island of Miyajima, famous for Itsukushima, its water-shrine. Although it's the usual garish red, there's something fierce and iconic about this imposing structure rising out of the sea - you feel it looking at you when your back is turned.

This is the kind of thing Kerr is always banging on about - those bloody telegraph wires everywhere. Bury them, people!

After we'd had our fill, we got a cable car up Mount Misen to check out the view from the (nearly) top. Another two happy customers. Thanks Miyajima. Thiyajima.

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