Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Peace Memorial Park

I've been to a few truly Tragic places in my life.  One of them was the Imperial War Museum in London, where an entire floor is dedicated to the Holocaust.  The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam still haunts me.  I tear up every time I think about the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, where guests can actually look out on the balcony where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.

These places are sad and important.  They show us what can happen when humanity lets  greed and irrational fear take over.  They show us how precious human life is, and how easily it can be taken away.

So on December 28, Zack, Andy, and I took the shinkansen out farther than I've ever traveled in Japan.  We went past Kyoto and Osaka, down to the port city that became a center of military activity in the early 20th century.  A place where 180,000 people died over the course of a week in 1945.

The most famous monument in Hiroshima is the Atomic Bomb Dome.  It looms over the Peace Memorial Park.  The bomb exploded almost exactly above the building, leaving the walls and dome in tact.

This building was originally the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Hall.  It was left as a reminder  of the terrible power of atomic bombs.
The Peace Park was scattered with monuments to the different groups of people who died as a result of the bombing.  One of the monuments honored the junior high school students who were mobilized during WWII to help ready Japan for potential attacks.  These students worked on building demolition and the creation of firebreaks.
The goddess of peace stands for the students who lost their lives.
One of the saddest stories I heard was that of Sadako, a girl who was only 2 when the bomb was dropped.  She developed leukemia ten years later from radiation exposure.  She made a thousand paper cranes in an attempt to get well.  She didn't get better and died at the age of 12.  Today, people around the world make paper cranes and send them to Hiroshima to show their support of world peace and in memory of all the children who died because of the A-bomb.
A statue of Sadako holding a crane.

Paper cranes from around the world.

My favorite part of the park was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  The museum only cost 50 yen to enter--less than 50 cents--and was full of historical documents, heart-wrenching stories, and a disturbing look into the Nuclear Age.
Wax figures representing what some of the victims looked like.  The heat was so intense that people's skin hung in tatters.

This tricycle belonged to a 3-year-old boy who was burned to death.  His father didn't want him to be buried alone, so he buried the little boy with his tricycle.
A model showing Hiroshima before the bombing.

A model of Hiroshima immediately after the bombing.

I learned a lot about WWII history and Japan's military history in the museum.  The first atomic bomb was dropped mostly as an experiment to test the weapon's effects.  Hiroshima was carefully chosen as the site of the bombing because it didn't have any prisoner-of-war camps and it was just the right size.  The museum did not place all the blame for WWII's destruction on one country, though; all countries were held responsible for their own actions in this terrible war.

The goal of Hiroshima is to eliminate nuclear bombs from the Earth and create world peace.  As long as nuclear bombs and war exist, we are all at risk.

I am so grateful that I got to visit the City of Peace at least once in my life. 

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