Saturday 21 January 2023
Today we are heading for Hiroshima. Having studied history at university, I am always fascinated to visit places where things happened which shape the world we live in. Even if those things were terrible like in Auschwitz or Chernobyl or indeed Hiroshima. If we don’t learn from the past, how will we prevent atrocities in the future?
Horinouchi Park Parkrun
But first, parkrun. Today we are doing Horinouchi Park parkrun which takes place in a nice, flat park at the base of Matsuyama Castle, just a 10 minute walk from our hotel. En route I ascertain that Matsuyama’s theme could well be oranges, as there’s a rather scary one at the entrance to the park.
Horinouchi Park toilet report; built to match the design of the castle. Privacy noise; deafening – can be heard half way across the park.
We’re a bit dubious about locating the parkrun start as there were only 6 runners last week. But the parkrun banner is easy to spot. Plus it’s somewhat busier this week with 27 finishers.
The website describes the route as 4 x 1.25 km laps of the park. As we don’t speak Japanese and the organisers don’t speak English, we are not aware there has been a course change due to another event in the park. Hence, I’m somewhat disgruntled to finish my first lap and see my Garmin says 1.5 km. Which would obviously add up to 6 km for 4 laps. However, as I plod grumpily along, I can see flags being moved to a different part of the course. It’s still a little over 5 km, but not as much as I’d feared. And it’s a glorious morning, so I don’t stay grumpy for long.
Train to Hiroshima
We rush back to the hotel to catch the end of breakfast, check out and head for the station, actually getting on the correct tram for the first time.
Hiroshima is around 50 miles north west of Matsuyama by ferry, 118 miles by road or 215 miles by train. As we have JR passes we are taking the train, which takes approximately 4 hours.
First, we must take a train to Okayama. This is complicated slightly by the fact that only half the train is heading for Okayama; the rest will continue round Shikoku. On the platform there is nothing in English to indicate which carriages are going where, but when the train arrives, each carriage has its destination in lights by the door. So, for once, we are confident we are headed in our intended direction. Which is just as well, because when the carriages are uncoupled, I am on the toilet.
At Okayama we transfer to the bullet train for the second leg of the journey.
Dormy Inn Hiroshima
We check in to our home for the next two nights; Dormy Inn Hiroshima. It’s our seventh hotel in Japan and by far the worst. It’s very dated and everything feels a bit sticky. The room is tiny and stuffed with useless gadgets but there isn’t anything useful like a USB charging point or towels.
Dormy Inn toilet report; elevated. You have to climb in and the toilet roll dispenser has been cunningly placed right in the entrance to make it more difficult. The flush sounds like a jet engine underwater.
To most people, Hiroshima means just one thing. The city’s name will forever evoke images of 8.15 am on 6 August 1945, when Hiroshima became the target of the world’s first atomic bomb attack. The bomb released by the US Enola Gay that day killed 80,000 people (primarily civilians) instantly and another 130,000 later in the ensuing fires and from radiation exposure. Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park is a poignant reminder of that awful day.
Peace Memorial Park
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a located close to where the atomic bomb was dropped. It contains a museum plus several memorials amongst tranquil spaces for reflection. A path through the middle runs from the museum via the Cenotaph and the Flame of Peace to the Atomic Bomb Dome across the river – the park was planned so that these elements form a straight line.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum tells the story of the the attack on Hiroshima and its aftermath. It starts with a model reconstruction of the blast. Then you enter a series of black, dimly lit rooms full of items damaged by the blast and a lot of graphic, truly grim pictures; a mixture of photos and drawings of the horror caused by the bomb.
The east building tells the story of the city of Hiroshima and the history of the development of nuclear weapons.
Entry costs Y200. While I think it’s important that we learn about these events, it is a truly harrowing experience. I’m not going to include anything too graphic, but believe me, there are plenty of images dead and dying people on display.
Along the path from the museum is a concrete arch which holds the names of all the known victims of the bomb. Look through it and you will see the the Atomic Bomb Dome in the background.
Flame of Peace
Next you come to the Flame of Peace which will burn until all the world’s nuclear weapons are destroyed.
Children’s Peace Monument
The Children’s Peace Monument remembers the thousands of children killed by the bomb. As if that wasn’t tragic enough, many children had been mobilised to help with tasks around the city, so died away from their families, with their parents not knowing if they were alive or dead.
The monument was inspired by Sadako Sasaki, who was only two in 1945. Aged 11 she developed leukaemia and decided to fold paper cranes, believing if she folded 1000 she would recover. Unfortunately, she died before reaching this goal but her classmates folded the rest. Surrounding the monument are thousands of paper cranes sent by children from all over the world.
Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound
This mound contains the ashes of thousands of unidentified victims of the bomb.
National Peace Memorial Hall
This circular hall which you enter round a spiralling slope is intended as a place of contemplation. On the walls is a panorama of the city, whilst in the centre is a fountain which represents the moment the bomb was dropped while the water offers relief to the victims.
An adjoining room has a large screen displaying names and photographs of those who perished. There are also computer screens where you can search for details of all known victims.
Exhibit Facility for Atomic Bombed Remnants
This is a recent addition to the Peace Park, opening in 2022. During a survey conducted in 2019 in the area around the park, remnants of bombed houses were found buried underground. Here, you can see one such house.
Monument in Memory of the Korean Victims
Around 10 per cent of the victims of the bomb were Korean. There were around 100,000 Koreans living in Hiroshima at the time primarily as conscripts or as ‘mobilised students’. This somewhat belated monument (it was erected 16 years after the completion of the Peace Park) acknowledges their plight.
Sitting in the middle of a lotus pond is this temple style bell. It was placed here so that people could ring it and hope for peace.
Atomic Bomb Dome
Across the river from the park stands probably the starkest reminder of the devastation wreaked upon Hiroshima is the Atomic Bomb Dome. Built in 1915, it was the Industrial Promotion Hall until the bomb exploded almost directly above it. Everyone inside was killed but the building, designed to withstand an earthquake, was one of very few left standing near the hypocentre. It was decided to keep the remains as a memorial. The building has since become a poignant symbol of the city and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Dinner at Coco Ichibanya
Coco Ichibanya is a chain of Japanese curry restaurants. You order food on a tablet at your table which has an English option, so we actually know what we’re getting in advance. The menu is extensive; you can add curry sauce and rice to a wide range of foods which you wouldn’t necessarily think of adding curry sauce and rice to, like omelettes and sausages, for example. I opt for a vegetable curry with a cheesy garlic naan. It’s very tasty and goes down a treat after a very long day.