Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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What is there to say? Anything I write attempting to describe what it was like going to these cities sounds trite.
Perhaps I should just tell some of the things I saw.

There were displays of the remnants.
The tricycle that a 3 year old boy was riding.
Pieces of glass that, 30 years later were still working their way out of the bodies of the survivors.
A schoolgirl's metal lunchbox and the charred remains of her lunch inside.
A rooftile on which a mother had written a note to her missing son. "Father - dead. Mother - burned. Brother - missing."
The image of a man carrying a ladder, forever burned into a wall.
A man's helmet with fragments of his skull fused to the inside.
The wall of letters that the Mayor of Hiroshima had written to the leaders of nations who still test nuclear weapons. The letters pleaded with them to stop these tests, that they showed "utter contempt for the survivors."

And there were the photographs.
The woman trying to nurse her infant who was too weak to suckle.
The young boy who was carrying his badly burned little brother as they searched for their parents.
The young girls, faces blank with shock, standing among corpses.
The people with their skin falling of in strips.
The boy whose entire back was one open wound.

The A-Bomb Dome.
The A-bomb Dome is the ruins of the former Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall which was destroyed by the first atomic bomb ever to be used in the history of humankind on August 6, 1945. The atomic bomb was detonated in the air at an altitude of approximately 600 meters almost right over the hall. The explosion by a single bomb claimed the lives of over 200,000 people and the city area of about 2-km radius was turned to ashes. In order to have this tragic fact known to succeeding generations and to make it a lesson for humankind, the reinforcement work of the ruins has been done by the contributions of many people who desire peace within and out of the country. The ruins shall be preserved forever.
August 6, 1967 Hiroshima City

Children's Peace Monument
This monument stands in memory of all children who died as a result of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The monument was originally inspired by the death of Sadako Sasaki, who was exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb at the age of two. Ten years later Sadako developed leukemia that ultimately ended her life. Sadako's untimely death compelled her classmates to begin a call for the construction of a monument for all children who died due to the atomic bomb. Built with contributions from more than 3,200 schools in Japan and donors in nine countries, the Children's Peace Monument was unveiled on May 5, 1958. The inscription reads: "This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world." On the surface of the bell hung inside the monument, the phrases "A Thousand Paper Cranes" and "Peace on the Earth and in the Heavens" are carved in the handwriting of Dr. Hideki Yukawa, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics.

The Flame of Peace
The origin of the Flame of Peace dates to August 1983, when the Greek Government granted special permission for the Flame to be taken from Mt. Olympus and sent to Nagasaki. It is said that in ancient Greece, all warring parties stopped fighting while the Olympic Flame was lighted during the Olympic Games. Thus, the Olympian Flame is also a symbol of peace. The Flame will be kept burning until all the nuclear weapons in the world are abolished. As long as the Flame burns as a symbol of peace, we pledge that we will never allow a nuclear war to break out anywhere in the world. Within this Flame is borne the pledge that Nagasaki will be the last city to suffer an atomic bombing.

The One-Legged Gate in Nagasaki

Camphor Trees in Sanno Shinto Shrine
These two huge camphor trees stand out among the trees surrounding the Senno Shinto Shrine, sinking deep roots on both sides of the entrance and creating a thick canopy of greenery with their tangle of branches. The ferocious blast and heat generated by the explosion of the atomic bomb at 11:02 A.M. August 9, 1945 destroyed the buildings of the shrine, which were located only 800 meters southeast of the hypocenter, and slapped down one of the pillars of the second gate. These two trees were instantly stripped naked and split down the trunk by the blast and scorched black by the heat rays. Although considered dead at the time, they came back to life and are now natural monuments designated by Nagasaki City. August 1995

As we were standing at the entrance to this shrine, we noticed some young boys practicing kendo in the yard. We watched for a while, and I took this picture as two of them walked off together, arm in arm.

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