Hiroshima: The Oleander Blooms

We are here, in Hiroshima, because of a solitary speck of time in the history of our world. It was 8:15 on the morning of Monday, August 6, 1945. The Little Boy atomic bomb exploded. 70,000 died immediately. Within three hours, a firestorm cloud would rage overhead, with an estimated energy 1000 times more than the bomb itself. By year’s end the death toll would rise to 90,000-160,000. 70% of the city would be levelled. Hiroshima, 1945. The first city on our planet to be targeted by a nuclear bomb.

Today, the hypocentre of the initial explosion is but an easily-missed plaque sitting alongside a modern commercial building. Mushrooming off to one side, much like the bomb itself, is a cultural landscape defined by that singular moment. Numerous memorials dot the treed grounds of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the Children’s Peace Monument and the Flame of Peace being two of the more evocative sculptural and architectural examples. Off to one side is National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. Visitors wind their way down to the partially submerged Hall of Remembrance, a spare, quiet space to reflect on that fateful event. Continue reading

Miyajima: Island of the Gods

The gods may be in hiding this week.

It’s a brief train and ferry ride from downtown Hiroshima to the small island of Itsukushima, more popularly known as Miyajima or, perhaps, Miyashima. And popular it is. The ten-minute ferry ride is jam-packed with tourists, Westerners like us but primarily Japanese nationals. As we pour off the ferry, there is a sudden realization that this will be far from a tranquil visit. The scene is carnivalesque. Children and adults run about madly. Tame deer follow, hoping for a handout. Unknowingly, we have arrived at Japan’s top tourist site on the first day of Japan’s most popular vacation period, Golden Week. Continue reading