Day 7: Hiroshima Japan
Living in the age of terror, holy wars and reality television, you would think that we would become immune to the capacity the human animal has to cause pain. Being of, albeit remote, British descent (a people who have made a fine art of concocting horrible ways to die), did nothing to decrease the sting my overactive imagination and a city like Hiroshima inflicted.
The day started out pretty much like any other tour day. Of course, the weather was not on our side for this one, as it rained most of the day.
Considering that Hiroshima is really only famous for one thing, the first stop on the tour was the obvious "Atomic Park," which, in addition to containing the remnants of a building that managed to withstand the blast, is the site of the Hiroshima Museum.
When you've grown up with the fact that an event like an atom bomb explosion took place, especially in America where it's considered a major victory, the History Channel specials and the "they started it" mentality have a way of making it just another story. Much like 9/11 will be 50 years or so, Hiroshima in many ways might as well be The Matrix.
Of course, I was only able to hang onto that idea for so long. Upon entering an otherwise architecturally interesting museum, one is greeted with a very Readers Digest version of the war, followed almost immediately by "before and after" model landscapes and, raw facts about temperatures and the blast radius, while television screens play out archive footage.
I heard a ton of comments that the museum conveniently left off anything about Pearl Harbor, though I think going on about who made the first move is a little pety when your skin is melting. The mental image I can't get out of my head was hearing that thousands of people jumped into the river, in I guess the same level of desperation that 9/11 victims jumped out of 80+ story windows. We are left only to imagine, not only the horrible pain, but the reduction of a human to the basest of animal instincts, his futile attempts for relief only to be found in death.
The imagery gets more intense, as you are then greeted with photographs of the mushroom cloud taken from varying distances, a diorama of people on fire, and photographs of charred bodies next to a "description of burns" scale. I have said for years that the Japanese can't just do something...it's got to be full blast or nothing. Usually this results in ATMs with talking bunnies or grocery stores that look like discotheques. So it would stand to reason that if you're going to go to a Hiroshima museum IN JAPAN, that overkill is to be expected.
Hundreds of very young Japanese school kids were visiting the museum at the same time. Our guide noted that it is important for people to be reminded about what happened. It's true that as the people who lived it pass on, and other events move in front of the old, that eventually the time comes when we forget the atrocities of the past. This seems to queue us up for a repeat performance. The last impression I had before finding my way outside was a young man, perhaps 20, fixated on one of the displays. Hopefully it won't just become some inaccessible part of the past to him. We all hope that humanity will be able to stop repeating the same horrendous mistakes over and over. It just seems like the people in charge of repeating these acts are the ones who are the most hard-headed about learning from the past.
We left the museum and were presented with some rainy, drive-by tourism consisting of a Japanese garden and Hiroshima Castle. It might as well have been a tour of a staple factory.
As I'm reviewing these photos, the songs "Red Sector A" and "The Manhattan Project" by Rush shuffled up on my iPod. Fitting.