Sites of Memory in Hiroshima

With work in full swing, I haven’t had a chance to catch up on blogging, but today I wanted to look back on my trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima back in July. Lynn, Marina, and I flew from Hokkaido to Osaka and spent the afternoon there exploring the city, trying some great iced coffee at Lilo’s, and finding an onsen and good pizza before hopping on the overnight bus to Hiroshima. We arrived early in the morning, before 6AM, when shops at the station were closed. Slightly delirious, we stopped at McDonald’s to charge electronics and try to wake up for a bit. And then we were off. We walked through the city to the Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Park. Honshu in July is steamy, and we had to do a lot to fight off the heat. Walking through, I was struck by how dated the city looks: most of the architecture is from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, another way that the city wears the marks of the atomic bomb.

Our first stop was to the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Dome, an icon of the destruction in Hiroshima. After the bomb, people wanted this once grand hall to be demolished, seeing it as a reminder of the trauma. As the city was rebuilt, conservationists gathered support to keep reminders of the trauma like this. The park was quiet and the visit harrowing. Throughout the park were various memorials to those who died in the bombing: a paper crane collection for the children who died, a secluded memorial to the Koreans who died “for various reasons.”

The collections at the Atomic Bomb Museum were extensive, and we spent a long time learning about the research behind these weapons, why the US dropped them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the trauma. The first floor housed collections of artifacts and stories of children who died on their way home from school during the bombings. Though the museum is noticeably silent when it comes to what Japan did during the war, the museum does a good job detailing the horrors of nuclear weapons and inviting people to pause and reflect.

 

After visiting these places, we stopped for coffee at Obscura and met Lynn’s friend, a JET in Hiroshima. Together we got Hiroshima style okonomiyaki at Hassho with crispy noodles inside this Japanese savory pancake. We ducked inside another cafe for matcha parfaits before taking the train to Miyajima for the evening.

Upon our return to the city from Miyajima, we met Lynn’s friend for dinner at Chano-ma, a restaurant where people lie down and eat. The food was good, and it was one of the nights when I’ve laughed the hardest.

If you visit, Hiroshima does require that you really reflect on what you see and learn. Throughout the city are markers of  the trauma. My students visited on their school trip the fall before I visited, and I learned a lot about a Japanese perspective of the war and atomic bombs through speaking with them.

One thought on “Sites of Memory in Hiroshima

  1. The museum sounds fascinating, though it is a shame that they didn’t acknowledge the evils done by all sides in the war, but then again, the Atomic Museum I visited in Vegas didn’t really mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki at all, so the omission of Japanese atrocities at the Hiroshima museum isn’t totally surprising.