One day in Hiroshima recalibrates our focus on our fragile humanity. While news today talks of threats of imminent conflicts, this city, itself a casualty of war, is the symbol for peace, simultaneously evoking horror and hope.
Within the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum projection mapping reveals the calamity as it unfolded on that fateful morning of August 6, 1945. It’s a sobering glimpse into the reality of a moment in time whose enormity is too huge to fathom.
The history of Hiroshima leading up to the event, as well as its aftermath, provide context. A watch, frozen at 8:15 am, the exact time that the atomic bomb detonated 600 metres above; and the “Human Shadow Etched in Stone” on the steps where a man sat at the moment of his incineration, are shocking. But, it’s the photos, the letters and the stories of the school children, along with the warped tricycle that belonged to a three-year-old boy riding in his front yard when he looked up to see that fatal bright light flash across the sky, that made me weep. History is powerful. You cannot be educated without feeling.
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Outside, in the soft breeze, a short walk leads us to the Cenotaph. A stone chamber in the centre contains the Register of Deceased A-bomb Victims. “Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil,” it reads. It’s quiet now, except for the Children’s Peace Monument in which a bronze wind chime in the shape of a crane draws us toward its delicate calls. Suspended from a peace bell we gently pull it to herald world peace, harmony, and prosperity for all.
Across the river, 160 metres from the hypocenter, the skeleton of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum till stands as both a reminder of the past and our responsibility to the future.
While it’s an essential visit on every travel itinerary to Japan, Hiroshima today is not defined by that day. Beyond the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the charm of a resilient culture continues to flourish.
In nearby Miyajima, we look out over the inland sea and marvel at the fiery orange floating torii gates of Itsukushima Shrine, considered to be one of the top three scenic spots in Japan. At low tide we can walk out to it, at all other times it’s a boat ride. Dotted with temples like the Senjō-kaku Temple with its five-tiered pagoda, the forest and mountain trails of the island are a cool respite into natural beauty. Deer laze along the side of the road without a care in the world. The shops of the old town purvey all the local specialties from ripe fruit bursting with tropical sweetness to skewered meats. What makes my eyes pop out are the utterly massive smoked oysters cooked-to-order. Stop the tour. I’m happy right here.
The enticing aroma of freshly baked momiji manju (maple leaf-shaped waffles) wafts through the town. They’re stuffed with lemon, mikan, sweet bean or even local oysters. I eat them all. Within the kitchen of the Miyajima Traditional Crafts Center, we bake our own chocolate stuffed waffles, head outside to the tree-lined shore, relax amongst the deer, and enjoy our warm confections with a cup of green tea.
Hiroshima captivates our senses from our hearts and our minds to our palates. The bustling downtown with its steaming plates of okonomiyaki, chock full of meats and seafood, and savory bowls of umami-rich Onomichi ramen with homemade flat noodles, is contrasted by the quiet surrounding countryside, steeped in traditions that beckon further explorations. At the centre is our collective symbol of peace and hope from all those before us for all those after us.
For more, visit Japan Travel.
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine.