Hello Kitty Cafe & Himeji Castle Grounds | Himeji, JapanDecember 26, 2018
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We got on our highway bus and arrived at our next destination: Hiroshima.
This large city is the capital of the Hiroshima Prefecture and is the biggest city in Chuguko. It was one of the first cities in Japan to turn from rural to urban industries, focusing on its role as a port city and its expansion of the San'yo railway in the 1890's. The city later became the center of military activity in producing and importing supplies and weapons.
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the world's first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, wiping out 90% of the city and instantly killing over 80,000 people. Hiroshima has since been rebuilt and is bustling with life but the people will never forget the horrors of war. Every year the city has a "Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony" on the anniversary of the bombing to remember all the victims. Thousands of people from all over the world gather for the event and pray for world peace.
As we got off the bus, we made our way to the Hiroshima Castle. The castle's main keep is 5 floors high and is surrounded by a large moat. The surrounding premises features some castle ruins and the "ninomaru", the castle's second line of defense. The castle was built in the late 1500's and served as the residence to one of Japan's Daimyōs (feudal rulers) during the Edo Period.
During the Meji Restoration (1868-1912), many castles and other historical structures were demolished but the Hiroshima Castle was spared. Unfortunately, in 1945 the castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb. The castle's main keep has since been rebuilt and converted into a museum Hiroshima's history.
The Castle is just a 10 minute walk from the Shukkeien-Mae Station. It is open to the public from 9am - 5pm and entrance to the museum in the main keep is 370 yen.
As I said earlier, most of Hiroshima has since been rebuilt after being destroyed over 70 years ago. One section of the city was set aside to serve as a reminder of the effects of war, known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
At the center of the park is the A-Bomb Dome, pictured above. Before the bombing, this building was known as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall. Although this building was close to the bomb's hypocenter, the building was surprisingingly not completely destroyed. The people of Hiroshima decided to keep the building as-is to serve as a memorial for those lost in the bombing as well as a symbol of peace.
Also in the park is the Children's Peace Monument, an area dedicated the children who died as a result from the bombing. In the center of the monument is a statue of girl named Sadako Sasaki with outstretched arms holding a paper crane.
Sasaki was two years old at the time of the bombing. The force of the bomb was so powerful that she was blown out of her bedroom window. While she and her mother escaped to safety, they were caught in a nuclear fallout. Remarkably, they survived with no serious injuries, atleast none that were visible to the human eye. She lived a normal happy life until she was in 7th grade. While participating in a school relay race, she became extremely exhausted and dizzy. These episodes of fatigue and dizziness began to worsen and she started to develop purura on her arms and legs. One day at school, she fell and didn't not have the energy to get back up.
Her parents immediately brought her to the hospital and Sasaki was diagnosed with leukemia. Her doctors believed the leukemia was caused from radiation exposure and gave her one year to live. Sasaki was admitted to the hospital for long-term treatment.
One day, her father visited her at the hospital and told her the legend of the crane, where if someone were to fold 1,000 cranes then they would be granted one wish. This inspired Sasaki and her best friend Chizuko to fold 1,000 cranes in hopes to wish her illness away. Everyday Chizuko would show up at the hospital with origami paper and although Sasaki was in great pain, she was determined to have her wish granted.
Sadly, on October 25, 1955, Sasaki passed away at the young age of 12. She folded a total of 644 paper cranes.
Sasaki's classmates started a fundraiser to build a monument in her honor. Many people all over the world were touched by her story and donated to the cause. In 1958, the Children's Peace Monument was built with a statue of Sasaki in the center. Engraved at the base of the statue it reads: "This is our cry, This is our prayer, Peace in the world“.
About 10 million cranes are offered each year to the Children's Monument. If you are unable to go to the monument yourself, you can find out how to send your paper cranes here.
It was unreal visiting Hiroshima. I've read about it in history books and watched documentaries but nothing is like seeing the actual place in person. It was haunting thinking that an entire city and it's people were wiped out in a blink of an eye. The history of Hiroshima is undeniably tragic and devastating but I believe it is important for people to see and learn about the consequences of nuclear war. It is a part of history that should not be forgotten so that we can make sure it never happens again.