Hiroshima has all the trappings of a modern city. A vibrant night life, water front views, coffee shops, restaurants, you name it. And that is what is remarkable about it. Looking around, one can barely imagine that this same city was the epicenter of destruction and suffering 70 years ago. The city stands as a true testament of our necessity to focus on the future as we learn from our past.
A Peace Memorial city
Four years after the bombing, a law was passed to begin reconstructing the city of Hiroshima. Article 1 of the law reads, “It shall be the object of the present law to provide for the construction of the city of Hiroshima as a peace memorial city to symbolize the human ideal of sincere pursuit of genuine and lasting peace.”
It was remarkable to see a city that was completely destroyed during World War II, spring back to life in the manner in which Hiroshima has. Walking around the city after a day at the Peace Memorial Museum, I often caught myself looking around and imagining the horrible events that transpired over 70 years ago. What I realized is that, where there is a tremendous appetite for destruction there is a greater resolve for forgiveness and advancement. Hiroshima perfectly exemplifies this dichotomy of human beings.
Hiroshima in 2 days
We were in Hiroshima for only two days and wanted to take in as much as we could. This is what we did during our stay here.
Learning about the tragedy
“The mission of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is to convey to people around the world the actual damage wrought by the atomic bombing, thereby pursuing Hiroshima’s cherished desires: the abolition of nuclear weapons and realization of lasting world peace.”
We started our journey in Hiroshima by visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The museum systematically portrays the events and politics that led up to the bombing. It also highlights the stories of the victims of the bombing. The most remarkable of which is the story of Sadako Sasaki. An innocent victim diagnosed with leukemia, she folded more than a thousand paper cranes wishing to live. The cranes she made are now a symbol of promoting peace around the world.
After the museum we walked around the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The Cenotaph, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims and the Children’s Peace Monument are just some of the places we visited in the park. I was curious to see the trees that survived the bombing (planted right behind the museum). I also made sure to ring the Peace Bell as a symbol of world peace.
A walk along side the water leads up to the Atomic Bomb Dome. The building is a perfectly preserved ruin and the only structure left standing close to the bombing. Although it was dreadful to think about why the building is now famous, I found it to be awe-inspiring.
Grim events aside, we thoroughly enjoyed the nightlife here. It was fun walking on Hon dori which was bustling late into the night. There were tons of shops which were perfect for some quality window shopping. The area is also peppered with bars and restaurants. Great places to ruminate and also forget about the ravages of war.
A block away from Hondori we chanced upon a local bar. It’s open facade was inviting and we decided to take two of the no more than 10 seats that the place had to offer. It’s diminutive interior was more cozy than crampy. Not sure if it was the drinks we ordered, or just the extreme “homeliness” of the place, but within minutes we were engaging with other patrons (some of whom were regulars). Through them we got to learn more about the travails of the expat life in Japan. For us, this is truly what travel is about … engaging with other people, especially locals or expats, and getting to know their stories. One gets such a different sense about the place through them. It’s moments and experiences like this that make our trip memorable.
Day trip to Miyajima Island
Miyajima Island is about an hour from Hiroshima and makes for a perfect day-trip from the city. The ferry ride to the island was refreshing and we were fortunate that it was a sunny day. Situated right by the water the Itsukushima Shrine and its O-torii gate, along with the five-storied pagoda made for great sight seeing. We thoroughly enjoyed walking on the Omotesando street, and loved trying the delectable desserts. Our favorite was the momoji cakes! We also got to try a 100% vegetarian Okonomiyaki here!
Hiroshima was as far west as we got in Japan. It was time to head back to Tokyo for the Mount Fuji and Shibazakura festival tour.