Updated on 10 August 2017
72 years ago, on 6 August 1945, the first atomic bomb landed on Hiroshima killing 140,000 people, mostly civilians. With the anniversary marked throughout the world this past weekend, I’m reminded of my visit to that city in 2014, one of the most impacting trips of my travelling life.
Although I had such limited time in Japan, I knew I had to include Hiroshima on my itinerary and that I had to get there fast. From Kyoto, where I was staying, the journey via The Shinkansen bullet train is only 1hr45 (it takes 4 hours from Tokyo) – what a thrill ride, with an unexpected glimpse of the snow tipped Mount Fuji an added bonus.
When theatre motivates travel
One of the things that compelled me to go to Japan and Hiroshima in particular was a play I worked on as publicist at the Baxter Theatre in 2013, called Sadako. Created by Jaqueline Dommisse and the late Peter Hayes, it was a truly beautiful piece of theatre, exquisitely created using Japanese style bunraku puppetry (the puppets were made by another theatre client of mine Janni Younge) and telling the moving tale about little Sadako Sasaki and the legend of the 1000 paper cranes who died aged 12 from the leukaemia she contracted as a result of fallout from the A- bomb that obliterated a vast area that included her home next to the Misasa Bridge, 2 kilometres away from ground zero. Sadako – 佐々木 禎子 – was only 2 years old at the time.
Children’s Peace Park
A visit to Hiroshima is emotionally overwhelming. The day I went was grey and chilly which, all things considered, seemed appropriate, but the bright little paper cranes brighten the atmosphere with positivity and hope, softening the terrible memory of that time. Sadako’s death triggered a campaign to build a monument to pray for world peace and the peaceful repose of the many children killed by the atomic bomb. The Children’s Peace Monument that stands in Peace Park was built with funds donated from all over Japan. Later, this story spread to the world, and now, approximately 10 million cranes are offered each year before the Children’s Peace Monument.
The Peace Memorial
Although the Atomic Bomb Dome, originally the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, was located almost directly underneath the explosion, it somehow avoided complete destruction and the remains of the building still stand today. It was declared a World Heritage site in 1996. The residents of Hiroshima decided to keep this tragic reminder of war intact. Visit the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to gain a deeper understanding of the suffering caused by war and nuclear weapons and the true value of peace.
April in Japan is a magical time, when the sakura (cherry blossom trees) bloom for all of 7 days. The delicate white and pink blossoms transform harsh urban landscapes into a pastel paradise for one week. In Hiroshima they speak life over the reminder of the death and devastation that once ripped through peoples lives.
Directions: Once you get to Hiroshima Station (on the JR Line from Kyoto), take the South exit and head for the number 2 or 6 tram (costs 170Y) and get off at the A Bomb Dome stop, about a 1.5km ride. Any problems, ask anyone- the Japanese are kind and helpful, all the time.