Thursday, April 05, 2012

Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum - Japan 3/2012 Day 6 and 7

For the last couple days of our trip, we planned kind of a whirlwind tour of Hiroshima. I had never been there and figured I should see it. I will say my feelings about the bombing itself are probably more conflicted than you'd think... and in the hopes of not offending anyone on either side, I'll just leave it at that.

If you have a Japan Rail Pass, traveling from Tokyo to Hiroshima by shinkansen requires a train change at Shin-Osaka station. It's not a big deal and it let me try out the new Sakura shinkansen service from Osaka to Hiroshima - very nice! We had green car tickets but even the "ordinary" cars on these trains are almost as nice as the green cars on the Tokaido line, with four across seating (vs. five across on the Tokaido), wood accents everywhere, etc. The green cars probably have a little more legroom, power ports at every seat, carpeting with "royal" accents and - I'm serious about this - darker wood.

The ordinary cars have kind of a walnut look; the green cars are kitted in "rich mahogany". (Of course, it's all just laminate paneling in both cases.)

We arrived by shinkansen at about 4pm and checked into the Sheraton Hiroshima, right next to Hiroshima Station.

This is a new hotel with big, beautiful rooms and great views of the city and surrounding hills, but really weird bathrooms!

The walls and doors are basically glass that's clear on top and supposedly opaque (but not really) on the bottom. There's also a big gap between the glass panes, so you can hear everything in the shower and toilet. No privacy! This alone would probably discourage me from staying there again, although otherwise it's a great hotel. I have a feeling they're going to have to fix this.

Since we didn't have much time on the first day, we just took a streetcar to the Peace Park and looked at the A-bomb Dome. It's a strange feeling to see it up close; really makes it feel like it didn't happen very long ago. Even all the individual bricks that had fallen off are still strewn around the building. The Peace Park itself is very quiet and somber, though it's really an odd juxtaposition to see the park - knowing that it used to be all city before being leveled in the bombing - and the new city surrounding it, which looks like it could be any city in Japan. One thing I found interesting is that ground zero of the A-bomb explosion is now a surgical clinic and apartment building. I had assumed it was somewhere in the park, but it's not - it's in the rebuilt part of the city, and people live there now.

The following day we finished the Peace Park area by visiting the Peace Museum, which goes into the history leading up to the bombing (there is a little Japanese perspective bias, as you might expect) and also has exhibits of artifacts post-bombing. The one part that really got me was the story of a girl who got radiation-related cancer after the bombing, and she made 1,000 paper cranes in the superstitious belief that this would make her better. They had some of the actual cranes she made there in a little case, and seeing those got me choked up. Of course, she died.

You can take pictures inside the museum, but nobody else was doing it and hearing the loud clap of a shutter release would have seemed out of place. It's completely silent inside, or at least it was when we were there.

The museum itself is not that big so it doesn't take a lot of time to go through it. Afterwards, we went out to eat, but the mood was kind of somber. My wife said she wouldn't want to live in Hiroshima because it's too depressing. I think the people there are probably used to it and don't think about it day to day, but it really is kind of a depressing place as a tourist. It's one of those things you feel obligated to see and do, not that you want to do it. The thing is, there aren't a lot of other things to do in Hiroshima (there are a couple things I'm doing another post on), so most people are probably going to leave just thinking about the city as "the place that got bombed". Today it's a regular city again and it's 60 years on, so it seems that it's a conscious choice the city leaders have made that they want people to think of it that way, in order to build support for ending nuclear proliferation. But just be aware that it does make it kind of a dark, sad place. I wish we'd done it when we first got here, rather than just before having to go back to work and stress.

We did get to try some Hiroshima-style ramen on the way back to the hotel on the first night:

Their ramen is characterized by super-thin noodles.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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