Dick's Thoughts on Hiroshima
31.05.2014 - 31.05.2014
Since I was eight or nine years old I've known that Japan's August 6, 1945, when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, was August 5 on the American side of the international dateline. Calculating precisely when it occured Seattle time would always have been child's play. Over more than 50 years, though I've contemplated the exercise numerous times, I've never completed the task.
I was born in Seattle on August 5, 1945.
We chose to make our first visit to the A-Bomb memorial site shortly before sunset, late on a sweltering Saturday afternoon. It was a good decision. We first saw the skeletal dome at the blast site from a streetcar. The day's crowds had almost completely thinned so, except for a handful of other visitors, bicyclists, lovers, musicians and picnicking families, we were able to explore the site in tranquil solitude. On the hot afternoon and evening of our visit, the park's vegetation, fountains, and surrounding rivers lowered the temperature to a comfortable level, making it, a bit ironically, a sanctuary.
The park is on the northern tip of an island in the highly urbanized delta complex of Hiroshima's rivers. Everything one can see within a roughly 2 kilometer radius, except the dome, was constructed or planted after 1945 -- much only after fully developed renewal plans were adopted in the mid 1960s.
A bridge, Aioi Bashi, just north and west of the dome, had been the target, easily identified from the air because of its distinctive T-shape. It has since been reconstructed.
Today the site, so dignified, solemn and beautiful, houses multiple memorial elements -- a museum, a peace conference center, bells, lanterns, sculptures and gardens. Admission to the museum is (U.S.) 50 cents for aduts, 30 cents for students and seniors. The rest of the Peace Park is free, and any and all concessions or commercial activity is prohibited.
I'm a kind of cynical cuss. No room for cynicism here. This visit stopped me in my tracks. It was possibly the single most moving experience of my life.
As somber and sobering as this first visit had been, it was now after seven and we were hungry. The view across the river, away from the Peace Park, was of a lively, brightly lit Saturday night, and the bright lights beckoned. As we walked from the Park across the bridge into the nearby restaurant and entertainment zone, the solemnity of the previous two hours was washed away by the frenetic blocks-long warren of covered arcades. We stopped to look at the menu of one of the first seafood restaurants we encountered. It featured whale bacon. Back to contemporary reality.