Sadako Sasaki’s big, brown eyes were filled with light & curiosity, as she leaned in towards her grandma. Two wrinkled hands, peppered with brown spots were in an intricate choreography with paper: folding them, meticulously overlapping them and breathing life into them, to conjure birds.
“Paper cranes,” whispered grandma. “Anyone who folds one thousand cranes, will be granted a wish!”. Grandma handed the paper crane to Sadako. The two year old’s eyes grew wider, as she reached to grab it. In a flash, the house was emblazoned in white light and filled with the sound of explosion. Outside, past the shattered windows & the remnant of what was once a house, was the girl, enshrouded in ashes & debris, her tiny hand covering a charred paper crane.
It was August 6, 1945. The city was Hiroshima, and the world’s first atom bomb had just been deployed.
Few places in the world are as moving as Hiroshima. What is remarkable about this city, is not just its testament to the first-hand horror of a nuclear attack; it is in its spirit of resilience & hope. It’s the one place in the world where you can see both the extreme destructive & creative capacity of humanity.
Here are 9 reasons why going Hiroshima is life changing:
A-bomb dome site
The site where the atom bomb was dropped was a military intelligence center. Standing by the ruins is a somber reminder of how temporary our grandest constructions & most pressing concerns can be.
Peace Memorial Park
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The memorial park was built on the field created by the explosion and is a beautiful tribute. In the center of the arc, is a cenotaph, containing the names of all those killed by the bomb. The architect framed the arc to align with the A-dome, as a reminder of what happened; and a peace flame, representing a current commitment to future peace. (more on that below).
The peace flame was first lit in 1964 and is a symbol of commitment to world peace. It will remain lit till all nuclear weapons are destroyed & along with it, the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Peace Memorial Museum
The museum has several exhibits, films & memorophilia, including the history of world war 2, Hiroshima’s role in the war & harrowing accounts of survivors & families affected by the bombing.
Children’s Peace Memorial
This commemorates the children of Hiroshima, who survived the bombing and went on to suffer the after-effects of radiation, such as skin deformities & growth issues. It includes the story of Sadako Sasaki, who at age 2, survived the bombing and was caught in the “black rain”, resulting from the bomb. She exhibited no adverse symptoms till she was 8, when she was diagnosed with Leukemia. The story goes, that while in the hospital, Sadako made paper cranes, wanting to make one thousand, to get a wish: to be cured and live. Short on paper, she would use medicine wrappings, get well present wrappings from other patients. She died at the age of 12. Her story touched many, and she became a symbol of the impact of nuclear war. There is a statue of her holding a paper crane, and it is covered in paper crane garlands, with following message at its base: “This is our cry. This our prayer. Peace in the world.”
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake, made with rice flour. It’s very similar to the South-Indian Uttapam. What’s unique about the Hiroshima Okonomiyaki is the addition of soba noodles, along with all kinds of vegetables. Perfect vegetarian meal to wrap up the day!
Awe over how much the city has rebuilt itself
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85% of Hiroshima’s buildings were destroyed by the bomb. It’s staggering to believe this, because Hiroshima is such a hustling, bustling city center! I was stunned to learn this is where Mazda has its headquarters. The work to rebuild the city began 3 days after the bombing, and in looking at the city, one would find it hard to believe it was destroyed just 40-50 years ago.
Hondori Shopping Arcade street
For Anime & video arcade fans, this shopping district is paradise!
A center of hope & courage
You walk away with profound respect for the people of Hiroshima. This city makes you realize that in the face of the most atrocious horror, there is great power in hope & courage and the ability to rebuild & reinvent oneself. For this reason, Hiroshima is worth a visit, it will leave a searing mark in your memory.
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Also published on Medium.