Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial

We had an uneventful, quick flight from Okinawa to Hiroshima.  It was shockingly chilly when we arrived, and we were unprepared for how long it took to get from the airport to our hotel.  We ordered a taxi and the driver asked James if he’d rather take the slow route or the expressway.  We opted for the expressway which still took us well over an hour! It’s been our experience so far that the Japanese drive extremely cautiously, meaning it was a very slow drive! Our driver never broke 45mph on the highway!

As we checked into the Comfort Hotel, we noticed a couple of hilarious things.  One, is that they had three large machines for self-check-in as well as three people working behind the front desk.  I guess it was an attempt at efficiency, but the desk clerks then helped you sign in using the machines.  I’m not sure it saved any time but just seemed like a random use of technology.  Second, they had a stand full of pajamas that you were free to take with you to sleep in while at the hotel.  This was a new one for us and we all had a good chuckle! The kids were a bit disappointed that they were only adult size, but James had fun playing dress up!

James modeling the hotel pajamas

After a good night’s rest and a free mediocre breakfast at our hotel, we walked over to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  The whole reason for our stay in Hiroshima was to visit the memorial and museum for the victims of the nuclear bomb dropped on the city in 1945.  We spent the last few days reading Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes about a little girl, Sadako, who died of leukemia caused by the radiation emitted from the bomb.  During her hospital stay, she makes 1,000 origami paper cranes in hopes that her wish for good health will come true.  After listening to the story, the kids were eager to see the memorial for her.

Sadako children’s memorial

When we arrived at the museum, we spent the first hour walking through the exhibits that went through the timeline of events that occurred on that horrific day. We all felt sick to our stomachs as we witnessed the images and read the testimonies of some of the victims.  The magnitude of devastation to the city was unimaginable.  We were lucky to stumble upon a free English-speaking tour and the kindest lady took us around the park for over an hour, explaining the different memorials. 

Overlooking Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

The park itself is right in the middle of town and is beautiful, with a river flowing through the middle and surrounded by budding cherry blossoms.  Several monuments and evidence of the bomb are scattered throughout the park.  Our guide first took us to the Sadako memorial.  About 20 feet high, the statue of the little girl along with a bell is a sign of peace and a testament to Sadako’s classmates.  The most beautiful part of the exhibit was the origami cranes that surrounded it.  Our guide told us over 10 million paper cranes are mailed to the museum every year.  It was incredible so see the impact that one young girl’s story had on the memories of that day.  The kids were excited to recognize the statue and nodded in agreement when our guide told the story of Sadako. 

Thousands of paper cranes

As we progressed through the park, we saw the atomic bomb building. It is one of the few buildings that survived the blast and the steel structure atop is still very visible. We also walked to the hypocenter of the bomb.  Our guide shared how her father was in Tokyo when the bomb went off but went to Hiroshima three days later to look for his uncle.  She shared, “My father came here, and I once asked him what it was like.  He could not say anything and looked at the ground.  I asked if it was bad and he said, ‘yes,’ and I could not ask him anymore.” She started to cry, and James and I also walked away in tears as something so indescribable becomes so personal. 

James and Goose reading about the Atomic Bomb Dome

We finished the tour and spent another hour exploring the museum before heading to the nearby museum café.  We sat there for over two hours processing all that we had just seen.  Goose taught us all how to fold paper cranes while digesting the history of that day.

Our paper cranes

Needing some sunshine and fresh air, we then walked along the river to Hiroshima Castle. Reconstructed after the bombing, the castle is a beautiful replica of a feudal lord’s estate from the 1500s.  The best part was the walk through the rest of the park and the surrounding views. 

At Hiroshima Castle

It was a heavy day, to say the least, but an incredible learning experience for all of us.  It’s hard to believe that such a peaceful country received such a devastating blow eighty years ago.  I pray that something like this never happens again. 

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