After spending the morning traveling from Kawasaki to Hiroshima at high speed, my family and I were looking for some food. It’s always a safe bet to find inexpensive and quick food at major train stations. We quickly found a small restaurant with a display of plastic food outside that looked good. When we went inside, the menus were all text with no pictures. Most of the characters were beyond my Japanese ability. The nice waitress, likely familiar with foreign tourists, took us outside the restaurant to look at the food models so we could order.
When it was my turn to order, I told the waitress in Japanese that I would like the una-don, which is grilled eel on rice. Not sure if I knew what I was ordering, the waitress responded with “unagi wa… eigo de… this is eel”. I responded in Japanese telling her that I loved eel. When our food arrived, my rice had a huge piece of eel on top. I love Japanese service!
We finished our lunch and took a bus from the station to the Peace Museum park, the location of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. One of the first things that visitors see when they get off the bus is the A-bomb dome (genbaku dome). The dome is the remainder of a building located almost directly underneath the detonation site of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Many people are not aware that the bomb actually detonated in the air over the city in order to cause more damage. The dome is the first sign that you are about to embark on an important, but not very fun learning experience.
Around the park you can find various monuments and statues dedicated to victims of the Hiroshima bombing. There are monuments for students, citizens, and even foreign labourers that died during or after the bombing. Since it was incredibly hot during the day, we didn’t spend a lot of time outside with the monuments, but instead headed for the Peace Museum.
The Peace Museum is one of the most interesting and depressing places I have ever been to. The museum starts with information about Hiroshima before the bombing, including maps, pictures and other displays. After setting the stage, you move onto information about the bombing itself, and it’s effect on the city and citizens.
I won’t spend time describing all of the exhibits in the museum, because I don’t have the ability to do them justice. However, I will describe two things that stood out for me. The first is a section of doorway from a building in Hiroshima. There was a person standing there when the bomb detonated, and you can see the shadow permanently burned into the concrete.
The second thing that stood out for me was the silence. In the first section of the museum (pre bombing Hiroshima), guests are walking around and talking to each other. Once people enter the post bombing area, nobody talks anymore.
The last area of the museum has information about the current state of nuclear weapons in the world, and copies of letters from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to countries who perform nuclear weapon tests.
The Peace Museum is probably one of the most important places a person can ever go to in their life. The museum doesn’t debate Japan’s role in World War 2 or America’s decision to use the atomic bomb, but it does present information about the real and lasting effect that the bombing had on the city of Hiroshima and the people who lived there.
The museum absolutely affected me to the core of my being, and I will never forget the experience.
(2014 update) I decided to include the story about lunch along with the story of my visit to the museum because the lunch story still makes me smile. After revisiting my memories of the museum, I needed a smile.