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

Another Day in Nagasaki

Our cruise ship slowly makes its way through Nagasaki harbour. Under the delicate spans of a cable-stayed bridge. Past Mitsubishi dry docks, busily fitting a new cruise ship. Past Catholic churches, their bright white walls and spires set against the dark greens of steep forested slopes. And onto the open sea.

We navigate around numerous uninhabited islands until one – our destination – appears on the watery horizon. A long, grey form crusted with ruins. From this distance it looks like a battleship and, indeed, it is locally known as Battleship Island, Gunkanjima. It’s real name is Hashima and the reason we and a boat full of other tourists are coming here is because of Hashima’s industrial history.  Continue reading