Hiroshima is a place I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’ve been thinking of how I might write about it – war & peace, just war, just peace – a good place for oysters, the place we saw a nice Shibu Inu dog. It’s not an easily defined place , so in the end, I’ve just started at the beginning. Though it will depending on where you start this story, I’ve decided to just call this part one..
I wasn’t sure what I expected to find in Hiroshima, or even sure now whether I expected anything to begin with. It was a place on a map, in a guidebook, in the world’s collective memory, always linked to a single event in a war that’s getting slowly forgotten. I doubt there’s any city that compares in the rest of the world.
Pikadon is the Japanese term used to describe the atomic explosion over Hiroshima at 8.15 am on 6 August 1945. Pika meaning Flash, and don Bang. I remember it better than most words, mainly because of Pikachu, the Pokemon, with its lightning flash tale.
We arrived in Hiroshima in the early evening after a long shinkansen journey from Tokyo, which of course went sanic hedgehog fast. There was my mother, myself and my two children, like the same number of the Beatles if that’s easier to remember (I’d be John if that was the case, because my name is literally John). I wanted the kids to see the world wasn’t always a nice place. That it needs protecting from evil from time to time.
But this evening it was not the horror of war that confronted us, but peace. Peace surrounded us. Not a tokenistic peace, but a deep, heartfelt and resonating peace, woven into the very fabric of this amazing little city.
We strolled, from our dodgy, smoky ryokan – the traditional Japanese inn where the walls were yellowy, brown from years of cigarette smoke – along the river promenade of the Peace Memorial Park, passing haunting statues along the way of children, families, gas company employees. Everyday folk who are likely to have been completely overlooked by history had they not been living here in 1945.
The last of the cherry blossoms were still blooming on the banks of the river, the pretty pink petals covering the ground around the promenade, and the fresh green leaves poking out from the branches. It looked to be low tide. I’ve never liked low tide much, high tide seeming so much more alive. I couldn’t see any signs of fish in the water, but cranes were about so I guess there must be smart ones staying out of sight.
A lone pigeon pecked around the blossoms for a while, with sparrows chirping about behind it. You can watch it on my YouTube channel: Pigeon in cherry blossoms, Hiroshima
We just walked, chatting as we had done the whole trip to Japan, enjoying the spring air, until we stood, across from the A-bomb dome, over which the single bomb exploded. It looks like a skeleton, some famous ruin, I can’t capture now what I felt there, but I was quiet. We just watched and chatted along with a few other tourists when we noticed the bats emerging from the dome, flying around collecting bugs, I guess, as the sun went down. You can see my son’s video of it on my YouTube channel: Bats @ Hiroshima A-bomb dome.
“I’m hungry”, my daughter said, “can we get some oysters?”
I took one last look at the dome, and the bats.
The sun had gone down and at the oyster restaurant, on the banks of the river, where they served the hugest oysters I’d ever seen in the world, I saw these crates of oranges. That was my first ever evening in Hiroshima. It’ll never leave me.