That Guilty Feeling in Hiroshima

A-Bomb Dome in Spring
A-Bomb Dome in Spring

We all have learned about Hiroshima and Nagasaki at some point in History class. But nothing prepares you for what we were about to experience in this city. As I got off the train in downtown Hiroshima I was a little overcome with sorrow. I had never felt a sense of national guilt before. It must be similar to how Germans recall World War II. And you only know what that’s like when you ’round the corner….. and see it – the Atomic Bomb Dome.

This singular structure, with rubble and bricks left in tact, is a visceral reminder of the devastation the Japanese people suffered at the end of World War II. It represents how hundreds of thousands of lives were changed in an instant. The museum, which was packed on a Tuesday, is raw and very emotional. Tattered clothes, melted skin, fused panes of glass, and stories from survivors made the experience all the more heartbreaking.

Outside the museum was a memorial which paid tribute to students who died in Hiroshima. For some reason the kids were on demolition teams after the city had been bombed a number of times. And although the exhibits mentioned that the atomic bomb killed Koreans held has slaves, American POWs, and others, there were many that focused on the 6,000+ students who died that day. Perhaps this brought a more innocent light to the subject? I wasn’t sure…

The rest of Hiroshima is much like a typical 3rd tier city. Shops, restaurants, bars, and historical sites. The floating Torri of Miyajima was actually our 2nd major stop of the day and we were able to enjoy it through the rainy, chilly weather. Pre-modern descriptions of the place tell us that commoners were never granted access to this holy island. But if you wanted to visit the island you would need to row your boat through the floating Torii. When the tide is high, the gate appears to be floating in the water and is one of the most photographed sites in Japan today.

We also had Hiroshimayaki that night and watched baseball at a bar. 🙂