Taiwan and Japan

2015 - 2016

Day 10


We had a really early start today because our destination was a little over 300km away! Luckily Japan has a bullet train for this though. We met downstairs at 6:45AM made our way to the station. From our local station, we had to go to Shin-Osaka station to catch a bullet train to Hiroshima. It was a long trip, but the bullet trains are very spacious and smooth and it was easy to get a bit of rest in before our big day of sightseeing.

When we arrived in Hiroshima, we caught a tour bus and made our way to the iconic “A-Bomb Dome” building. The building is surrounded by park lands known as “The Peace Park” and even though there were tourists around, there was a very calm, respectful silence in the crisp morning air. As we approached the building we were all a little taken back seeing the exposed structural beams standing out amongst the remains of what used to be a large exhibition hall. The explosion happened about 160m from the dome and because the building was almost directly under the blast the vertical columns were able to partially withstand some of the force but everyone inside died instantly. It’s hard to imagine that the city we were walking through had been completely leved by this attack. Our group barely spoke a word as we slowly made our way around the building and read the information on the signs. There were also a few small shrines around with people quietly praying.

We slowly continued through the park and came across the Children’s Peace Monument. This monument is dedicated to Sadako Sasaki and the thousands of other children that were victims of the atomic bomb. Sadako Sasaki was a young Japanese girl who was only two years old at the time of the bombing and was located over a kilometer and half away from the explosion. Although she had survived the initial blast, she sadly developed leukemia as a result of the radiation poisoning from the bomb and died at the age of eleven. Shortly before she passed, she had a vision to create a thousand paper cranes. Japanese tradition says that if one creates a thousand cranes, they are granted one wish. Sadako had acheived her goal of folding a thousand cranes and her wish was to have a world without nuclear weapons. The monument features Sadako Sasaki at the top of the statue, where she holds a wire crane above her head.

Continuing through the park, right in the center is the Hiroshima Memorial Cenotaph covered by a saddle-shaped concrete monument that is meant to represent a shelter for the souls of the victims. The monument is built to frame the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome behind it. It also holds the names of all the people killed by the bomb.

After spending a little bit of time here we continued through the park. There was a small shop nearby and we were all really hungry by this point so we stopped for a break before going into the museum. I bought some snacks and one of them was some Japanese candy. I couldn’t tell what it was but it had a picture of what looked like lemon so I bought it and shared it around. It was soft and kind of gooey in what looked like a thin film of plastic. We started trying to peel it but that wasn’t working too well and we thought maybe that “plastic” was edible. I went to ask the lady at the counter and she did say eat it all together. Apart from looking like fools at the start, it was quite a good snack and gave us a bit of a laugh amongst what was a very serious place.

The next stop was the Hiroshima Museum which was at the end of the park. There were quite a few people in the museum but barely any talking happening, you could just hear the hum of the air conditioning and the shuffling of feet as we all moved between the exhibits. The first thing we noticed as we walked in was a giant model of Hiroshima with a red sphere hovering above the center of the township. Being in a place like this, having already walked through the Peace Park does stir up some emotions.

What made this bomb so much more devastating than conventional bombs was the combination of damage from three different effects: the blast, fire and radiation. The blast alone was measured to have produced 15 kilotons of pressure that caused a lethal shockwave killing everyone within a 3.5km diameter, but in addition to this the bomb created what was like a small sun above Hiroshima that was about 370 meters in diameter with a surface temperature of about 6000°C. This created a powerful flash and extremely high amounts of radiant heat that was enough to ignite flammable material on the ground which started many fires simultaneously throughout the blast radius that all merged to create one huge firestorm about 3.2 km wide. On top of this, the fireball created an intense burst of neutron and gamma radiation that produced long lasting suffering. It was estimated that over 6000 people survived the initial blast and fire but later died of radiation poisoning.

One of the scariest thoughts for me was the fact that there was a room full of otherwise intelligent engineers, physicists, etc. all collaborating using science and math to calculate the precise measurements needed for the bomb to do maximum, long-term damage. Together they calculated the exact altitude that would cause the most widespread devastation and worked out how much raw materials were needed to execute this plan that had never been attempted before. As an engineer myself this is a sickening thought. I like to consider my technical skill as an asset that I can use to help others and to see the product of their engineering feat cause so much destruction is incredibly gut wrenching and evil. I consider myself very lucky to have never been exposed to war, the thought of what this period in time would have been like is absolutely terrifying!

As we walked around the museum, there were information panels and a model of what the bomb looked like. We spent some time reading all the panels and some of them were really shocking and emotion provoking.

There was a small piece of radioactive debris in a glass cabinet with a geiger meter that we could move closer and further away by turning a crank handle so we could see how much radiation still remained after all these years. These were obviously low, safe levels but it shows how long lasting the effects of radiation can be.

There were charred items collected from the blast that had been preserved for displays. Seeing deformed childrens bicycles, melted glass bottles and feeling the bubbly surface of roof tiles that were exposed to the heat rays made all the facts we had just read feel so much more real. As horrible and emotional as this was, I feel having a museum like this, that is able to show the magnitude of this event is very important. Today, Hiroshima is a symbol of peace and this museum serves as very important history lesson for future generations. Hopefully the education it provides can contribute to preventing such a terrible event from happening again in the future.

We all made our way through the museum at different paces so our group was waiting just outside the exhibition room. On the way out there was a lady teaching people how to fold paper cranes. There were still a few people making there way through the museum so a couple of us sat down and made a crane to take with us.

By the time we were all finished making our cranes, half the group had gone to scout out a place to get lunch so we got their location and navigated to them. Rob had heard that the Hiroshima style of okonomiyaki was really good, we were going to try to find that but by the time we had met up with the group they had already found a decent venue so we stayed together as a group and just ate there.

After lunch, we went for a walk to see what else was in the local area. There was a big open air shopping center so we had a stroll up and down for a little bit. Along the way there was an arcade with a tsum-tsum machine out the front, so Amy had a go and came away with a couple of new toys before we all made our way to the boat terminal to catch a ferry to Miyajima.

There was a little wait for the ferry and then it was about an hour across to Miyajima. With such an early start, I had a little rest on the boat and before I knew it we had arrived. We walked from the terminal towards the main shrine area and there were deer everywhere, even along the beach! It reminded me of our last trip when we visited Nara. The deer were friendly and just stared at us with puppy dog eyes hoping to get some food. There were signs not to feed and pet the deer, but it was hard not to. Most of them seem to have had their antlers removed and they were very friendly to tourists, although there were a couple of dominance displays and little fights among them.

As we were admiring the deer, a massive bird (a hawk or an eagle or something like that) dive bombed towards a couple of tourists in the distance. The dive bomb caught our eye and we saw the bird steal some food from them and fly off! It was a very strange site to see and the tourists were pretty stunned but luckily they weren’t hurt.

After taking some photos of the deer (and the hawk) and doing some shopping at the nearby markets we followed the path towards the shrine. The path is lined with small stone lanterns and there is a large gate marking the entrance to the shrine area, so we quickly got a group photo and continued along. Once we had passed the entrance gate we were greeted with a great view of the Torii (which is a traditional Japanese gate) out in the water. The gate and the shrine that faces it are colored a bright red/orange color and are dedicated to the “Three Daughters of Susano-o no Mikoto”, the Shinto god of the seas and storms.

We spent a bit of time to wonder around, take some photos and walk through the shrine. The area was actually quite big because of how the shoreline was shaped, the water led straight to the shrine. I was looking across the water and thought it would be nice to get over there before sunsets to get some nice photos so I went off ahead to try to find a good vantage point, but to get there I needed to go through the shrine and around the other side. Inside the shrine was quite nice and there was some sort of ceremony happening with bells going off and people praying.

Once I made it to the other side there was a similar path running up the shore with some steps leading down to the water. A little further up the path, I could see some people dressed in traditional kimonos. I thought maybe they were geisha or something, but after having a chat with them it turns out they were actually tourists visiting from Hong Kong and they were taking selfies of themselves in front of the shrine in their outfits. Not quite what I was expecting, but they were very friendly so I joined in for a photo and carried on.

I took my photos from the beach and headed back to meet up with the others. This place was pretty big so I thought I shouldn’t get too far away or it might be a bit difficult to re-group. I eventually found them and we started walking back, but along the way there was a big stair case that looked like it led to a lookout and the pagoda up on the hill. The others didn’t really seem interested, but Chris and I wanted to see it so we took a quick detour. At the top of the stairs was a massive temple that looked a bit older and very solid. There was a little path down the side that was just high enough for us not to hit our heads and at the end of that was the pagoda. These buildings were pretty big considering they were most likely hand built. I even had a hard time fitting them all in frame, but we got some photos and headed back to the others.

By the time we met up and started walking back the way we came, the sun had just about set and the lanterns along the shore all lit up along with massive spotlights to light up the Torii, so we stayed for a little longer to enjoy the nice view and got some more photos before heading back to the terminal.

We got back to the ferry terminal and waited for the next arrival. It looked like we had caught the last boat back to Hiroshima as the people were cleaning up and packing up the stores. This boat trip was much faster than the first one, only about 10 minutes and it was incredibly smooth. Because we were inside the cabin where there were lights on and it was quite dark outside, we couldn’t see anything out the windows and most of our group didn’t even know we had departed yet. By the time everyone realised that we were already enroute, our ferry was pulling in to dock.

From here, Drew navigated us all back to the train station, we got some bento boxes for the trip and boarded our bullet train back to Osaka. Once again, after I had finished my dinner, I got to get in a little more sleep!