Honeymoon Blog/Picts - Day 8
- Last updated on March 13, 2009 at 1:22 pm
- 1 comment
Hiroshima- Peace Park and Castle: (As told by Andrew)
"Our last day in Hiroshima began with a purpose: laundry. We had funked up our clothes pretty good with strenuous hikes all across Tokyo and Mt. Misen. Since the hotel’s laundry service was atrociously expensive we had to search out a local coin-op. The hotel must have predicted that most people wouldn’t want to take part in their money-laundry scam because they had a nice, little map waiting for us at the front desk. It was a five minute walk through the chilly morning but we found what we were looking for in the neighborhood laundromat. There was a small machine full of boxes that we had hoped would be either detergent and dryer linens and we gambled right except the dryer linens were more like dryer sponges. After folding our clothes we headed back to the room to pack, check our bags at the bell captain’s desk and head out to Hiroshima city.
Our first stop was the Atom Bomb Dome (Industrial Promotion Hall) in the heart of the city which was accessible by streetcar. About $2 each got us there. As we approached the broken ruins of the Atom Dome (one of the few buildings that stood after the bomb flattened the entire city) we came across several memorials one being the Mobilized Students memorial which was a tribute to the 10,000 students ages 12 an older lost during the war.
As we traveled through the park we began to see more and more students making us think it was almost a field trip day for many schools. We still don’t know why exactly there were so many students visiting the Peace Memorial Park that day but we did happen upon a very special event surrounding one of the more prominent figures during the time after the war. Her name was Sakado and she was just a child when the atom bomb hit the city. She survived the blast and seemed to be one of the lucky ones. But as we came to realize, there were a certain number of initial casualties and there were many more subsequent casualties and she was one of the latter. Radiation from the blast lingered for months killing off the blast survivors with keltoid scars, leukemia and other fatal illnesses. Sakado became sicker and weaker as each day passed. As her blood count levels dropped, she began to rely upon faith to heal her and that faith was personified into 1000 paper cranes. She believed if she folded 1000 paper cranes she would get better. She never completed the task and became too weak to fold the cranes. Local students began folding them for her and soon the nation’s students were doing the same.
At around age 13, Sakado died from her illness but her legacy has lived on. Her memorial was flanked by lines of students all giving her outspoken respect and prayers. Each class waited their turn to give prayers and lay before the memorial their 1000 paper cranes. With a bow of their heads, one line would exit and another would take their place. In the background, contained in plexi-glass containers, tens of thousands of paper cranes from previous years are on display for all to see and remember the tragedy that took place that day and its physical and emotional impact. It was a powerful moment.
We continued on to view the eternal flame and the Peace Memorial Museum that housed the database of those killed that day and those that died years later from the after affects. Marla found listings matching her family’s namesake of Takeda, but there were several listings and she didn’t know quite who was who but that didn’t matter, the impact was still the same. She is with me today because her family wasn’t near what America, at the time, considered a military strike zone. Hiroshima was picked due to its large military port. One of the more striking parts of the museum was the Remembrance Hall that showed a 360 view of the destruction that day, plus a small water fountain that, from above, showed the time of 8:15 am - the time the bomb hit Hiroshima. Other areas depicted personal stories of that day. Children remembering what it was like to leave friends behind, trapped in rubble to be consumed by the fires that blazed the city not long after the bomb hit. If not the initial blast that killed you, it was the fires that the intense heat started that killed most. Needless to say, we were thoroughly depressed exiting the building.
Gluttons for punishment we moved on to another museum. This one showing actual artifacts from that day. Clothing, shoes, death logs, pictures of the burned and dead, a tricycle burned and tattered, before and after models of the city, a complete timeline of the events and reasoning of the attack, the actual stoop that showed someone’s shadow burned into the concrete as she sat there that morning, plus, many other trinkets and objects that reminds all who enter exactly what happened that day. The most important of them all was a stopwatch, the blast halting its mechanisms at 8:15, a permanent reminder.
So, now we need to lighten up things! On to Hiroshima Castle. Its existence was also destroyed on that day but it was successfully rebuilt in 1958 but many of its original foundations remain. Small walkways that used to climb great walls are all that remains. It was built purposefully within the center of the union of two rivers that divide Hiroshima. They used these rivers to develop the moat system around the castle. The moat system was unique at the time due to the fact that the outer moat system was to be destroyed in case of an attack, flooding the enemy out and confusing their forces. The buildings were also built with small murder holes which weren’t common to that day. We viewed ancient swords, katanas and spears. Ancient samurai uniforms and army armor were on display. All the while, students would stare at us, most out of curiosity and most wanting to practice their English. We got a lot of “Hello!” and when we said hello back, they would often duck their heads and give a shy grin. I’m going to go ahead and assume its because they though we were cool and huge stars in America. Which we are. But we enjoyed being popular for a few seconds.
It was an exhausting day but we had travel in front of us as we ventured out to Kyoto. Our packs became heavier and heavier as we transferred a few trains to get where we needed to be: Hotel Okura in central Kyoto. We entered through the train station, checked in and had no less than three people helping us at all times. The bellhops continue to amaze us with their jovial attitude and extreme pride they take in merely taking your bags for you up to your room. Once we got to room 2018, we were happy to see the nicest room we’ve gotten so far. A comfy bed, huge bathroom and fresh slippers. That’s all we really need, right?"