In August 1945 Tsutomu Yamaguchi was sent on a business trip to Hiroshima with some work colleagues. Upon commencement of the contract they all decided to head home. Yamaguchi realised he had forgotten something so sped back to the office. It was at the moment the Enola Gay was flying high above and dropped ‘little boy’ on the city of Hiroshima. The atom bomb destroyed around 70% of the city and instantly wiped out 70,000 people. After taking into account radiation, the bomb named ‘little boy had killed up to 166,000 people.Miraculously Yamaguchi escaped the blast with burns, deafness and partial blindness and quickly fled the ruined city and headed home. Once back home in Nagasaki, Yamaguchi went to see his boss to explain what had happened, since the Japanese government had neglected to inform the Japanese people of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. As Yamaguchi was explaining how a city was wiped out, the second atomic bomb from the USA was dropped on Nagasaki. Amazingly Yamaguchi survived again and is believed to be the only person to survive being hit by two atomic bombs. Yamaguchi lived to the grand age of 93 and died in 2010 having gone down as histories unluckiest yet luckiest man.
Hiroshima today is a sprawling metropolis that save for the peace memorial park, bears no resemblance of that fateful summer day in 1945.
With a Japan Rail pass, Hiroshima is likely on the itinerary of most visitors and with good reason. Just 2 hours from Osaka/Kyoto it is easily a day trip via the Shinkansen. In actual fact it can be done in just a few hours. You can choose to walk from the train station to the peace park, which takes about 25 minutes. Or you can jump on the hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus from the train station. Prices are about 100 yen per trip, or free with the JR pass.
The peace memorial park is where most people head to and is dominated by the atomic bomb dome, a still standing-ruin that was at the epicenter of the explosion. Haunting to look at, it is perhaps the starkest indication of the cities devastating history. Tour guides hang around, willing and eager to take you around the park completely free of charge. Walking up the river towards the flame of peace young Japanese give free hugs and the flame of peace continues to burn, something it will do until all nuclear weapons have been destroyed. Various memorials are built around the park, all impeccably manicured with flowers, origami or pristineness.
At the far end of the park is the peace memorial museum. This collection of thousands of items found after the bomb dropped is heartbreaking. A cruel reminder of the real victims of war – The innocent.
Beyond the peace park is a nice walk to Hiroshima castle via the children’s science museum. This was the first city we explored in Japan and so when we first saw Hiroshima castle we was mesmerized, hidden in typical Japanese forest it is beautiful. The science museum was closed as we arrived late on a Sunday afternoon. From the castle it was a short walk back to the train station before hopping back on the bullet train to Kobe…