Search This Blog

Monday, March 11, 2019

Exploring Japan Vol. 19 - Hiroshima

As I mentioned last week, our first trip to Japan as a family involved a four day excursion down to my old stomping grounds in Iwakuni.  Iwakuni itself is a small city and there’s not a lot there for tourists besides the Kikkou Park area. That’s one of the reasons we opted to stay in Hiroshima and branch out from there.

The other reason is that Hiroshima has, as you probably know, a remarkable and tragic history of its own.  If you are going to travel to this part of Japan, you owe it to yourself to visit even though it will be a sobering experience in some respects.  When I lived in Iwakuni, I would make the trip down to Hiroshima about twice a year. Once was always to attend a Hiroshima Carps game (especially when ex-Atlanta Brave Bob Horner would come to town with the Yakult Swallows) and again around Christmas time in order to shop at some of the stores in the local ginza.

The main draw for most visitors though is Peace Park.  This is ground zero for the first atomic bomb detonated in a wartime engagement. The park itself houses The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It’s an amazing journey that takes you through pre-war Hiroshima, the dropping of the bomb, the aftermath and the eventual recovery.  This is the kind of place that puts everything into a perspective that you may not have heard before, while at the same time goes to great pains to be fair in the telling. You’ll see artifacts that will haunt you for the rest of your life, but I still say it’s important that you go.  It’s the kind of thing that puts an abstract idea like “atomic explosion” into a very real and tangible thing that you can easily wrap your mind around.

I did not take any photos inside the museum as it just didn’t feel right.  
After the visit, we walked around the park on a fittingly gray and rainy day.  There are markers showing exactly where ground zero was. There is the eternal flame which (if you recall from an earlier post) was lit from the fire that’s been burning for 1,200 years on Mt. Misen. There are memorials to the children who lost their lives here. These have large chains of paper cranes on display.

One of the most fascinating, and again sobering, things in Peace Park is the A-Bomb Dome.

It's the remains of what used to be a government building and is the only structure still left standing from the time of the atomic blast. At the time, it was one of the few buildings in the area with a metal framework and it sat very close to the center of the blast.

It was kept intact as a memorial to the 70,000 people who lost their lives in the detonation as well as the tens of thousands who died from radiation related illnesses after.

After touring the museum and spending a couple of hours wandering the area, we were ready to lighten things up a bit. Here’s where I decided to try to find my way back to the ginza I used to frequent thirty years ago. To my wife and daughter’s surprise, I led us right to it.  

To be honest, I was kind of surprised myself. There wasn’t much to point out here, other than it’s a fine place to grab a quick meal.  There is also a department store on one end that has a Tower Records at the top if you’re into that sort of thing.  I am but I'm more inclined to hit up the second hand stores than a Tower.

The locals absolutely love their baseball team, and I used to love watching them also, so I was happy to see that Vans has struck a deal with the Hiroshima Carps to provide Carps branded shoes. Of course, even their largest size wouldn't fit my giant feet.  

I also passed on buying the Carps branded katsu mix.

I just grabbed a hat instead.

For the next two days, we found ourselves coming back to the ginza each night to eat after our day excursions.  We searched every nook and cranny of it for things to do, but to be honest, there wasn’t a lot except for people watching.  

If you’re into that sort of thing, then head to the McDonald’s, get something small (to justify your seat) and go upstairs to the window. There you’ll get a view of everyone wandering the ginza and your daughter can start obsessing over strange Japanese boys who seem to be cosplaying.

Next week, I’ll wrap up the southern jaunt by showing you a little more of Miyajima.  

See you then!

No comments: