Thursday, September 19, 2013

One Fine Weekend in Hiroshima

Usually, when you hear "Hiroshima", all you can think of is the big disgrace that stroke the city back in 1945, when the first-ever Atomic Bomb was used, ending with the life of over 200,000 people. And yes, it sure is something to remember, however, during my short stay there, I realized Hiroshima is so much more than a sad reminder of the A-Bomb, it's a wonderful city that has so many things to offer to its visitors.

I will, however, start by telling you a bit about the tragedy we all know about but a few get to witness up-close. As you can read on the picture below, the Atomic Bomb was dropped one summer morning in 1945, the blast not only killed a lot of people but it also turned everything within a 2Km radius into ashes, in a few words: the city was -pretty much- destroyed. 

A-Bomb Dome plate

Nowadays, the A-Bomb Dome exists to remind people how terrible can the humankind behavior be and how much damage they can do and the consequences of this; a lot of people was against the Dome being left there because not only was it a reminder of what I just said but because it was also a reminder of bad times and the sad situation the people of Hiroshima went through, it was much too painful for them. However, in the end it was decided to be kept there and now it is considered a huge reminder of the wrong done back then in the hopes of preventing something similar to ever happen again and also that, the countries that do, stop dealing with nuclear weapons.

A-Bomb Dome

The Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims was built in 1952 and it is shaped as a sort of house due to the desire to shelter the souls of the victims, inside are the names of the registered victims of the bomb and it has the phrase "Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil." written on it. As of 2001, the registry comprises 77 volumes that list a total of 221,893 names. 

Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims

Above: Hiroshima before the A-BombBelow: Hiroshima after the A-Bomb       

Besides the A-Bomb Dome and the Cenotaph, there's also the Peace Memorial Museum, the entrance fee is only 50¥ (around US $.50) which is really a symbolic price as the mere intention of the museum is the same as the A-Bomb Dome, to remind people how wrong can the mankind do and to avoid something similar from happening again by "fighting" against countries that have nuclear weapons.

1. Peace Memorial Museum
2. Simulation of the destroyed city post-bomb
3. A poster inviting people to donate their weapons as the government was out of them

Some of the things exhibited at the Museum are kind of hard to deal with, they are very strong images, stories, items completely burned out, human-size figures showing how the victims looked right after the bomb was dropped and a bunch of other things that need a strong gut to go through as  they're very intense and it is all quite sad and horrifying. It was really impressive to me seeing what mankind is capable of doing, and even today, I still have a hard time trying to understand how is it possible. I certainly hope the existence of those reminders serve their purpose well and the world doesn't have to witness another tragedy as such.

Photographs of Hiroshima at the Peace Memorial Museum

Recreation of the victims after the A-Bomb

On a brighter note, Hiroshima is a city full of kind people and fun things to do, such as going to a Baseball game at the Mazda Stadium. When we arrived at the hostel, they told us at the reception there would be a game that evening in case we wanted to go since the stadium was only 5 minutes away, we thought it'd be cool but didn't really plan on going, until we were heading back to the hostel after our "A-Bomb tour" and we saw a lot of people heading to the stadium, cheering and buying food and drinks and they all seem so cheerful and excited that it was contagious and we thought "ok, we have to go to the game!". So, we got ourselves some mouth-watering street food, some delicious Asahi (Japan's #1 Beer! and my fave lol) and headed off to the stadium, this, not even knowing if we would be able to still buy tickets -I guess you can say we got a bit carried away. 

Luckily for us, we did find tickets (at only 1600¥ -like US $16) and it is kind of a small stadium so we got pretty good places. Plus, it wasn't really about baseball itself but about the game part of it and the excitement and the being a part of something that seemed to make people really happy -they seem to be very supportive towards the Carp, which are the local team. I have to say I LOVED it completely, I don't think I'd ever been to a baseball game (not that I remember anyway) and it was as fun as I thought it would be, I had an amazing time and I'd definitely do it again -Go Carp!
1. Carp sewer on the streets of Hiroshima
2. Tickets to the game
3. Mazda Stadium

Carp Game @ Mazda Stadium
Next day, Federico (an Italian WorkCamp mate) who was in Osaka, decided to come visit us in Hiroshima and join us on our trip to Itsukushima, which is more popularly known as Miyayima, the Shrine Island or the Island with the Floating Torii Gate and it's supposed to be the "ultimate torii gate experience"; I am using quotes because I thought it was nice but I really wouldn't call it that, still, I think paying a visit to the island is well worth it. You will need to take a JR Ferri to get there after a 40-minute train ride from Hiroshima, but it's all included in the JR Pass, so if you have it, it's almost as if it was "free". So you really don't spend any money on that trip, unless you wanna buy food, beverages, souvenirs or whatever.

Miyayima, the Shrine Island
Floating Torii Gate
There are quite a few wild deer in the island and they're not really "wild", they just call them that because they're not caged or anything but out in the wild, they might be curious and come to you, particularly if you have any food; otherwise, they will most likely ignore you.

After Miyajima we went back to Hiroshima and grabbed lunch with Federico before he headed back to Osaka that same evening -oh, the wonders of the Shinkansen! By then, I was tired and we still needed to do some laundry before going back to Tokyo the next day, so we headed back to the hostel and did laundry in the rooftop while having a really amazing view of the Hiroshima skies -which I totally loved!

This is how the sky looked after 2 days of rain

In conclusion, Hiroshima was a bit of a surprise to me as it turned out to be so much more than just the city where the A-Bomb was dropped, and now I can tell you that even though it's a small city, it's totally worth visiting it and staying a couple of days to enjoy the many good and different things it has to offer.

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