The photo below is a view of the Centotaph for the A-bomb victims, what I learned was that within the centotaph are the names of the victims. The literature about the cetotaph says that it was erected in honor of 200,000 dead.
I really couldn't help the tears. Those numbers are astounding. When we think of 9/11, we are mourning the loss of 3,000 people. This was over 10 times that on the first day. Along with the loss of the entire infrastructure of the city, few buildings were left, and no real medicine or supplies. 65 years later, you can still feel the absolute shock of it in the air.
My second stop was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. This museum hold artifacts of the blast, watches stopped at 8:15, more first hand accounts of what people were doing on that day, pieces of buildings with twisted and broken metal girders, lots of melted pottery and glass, drawings done by survivors, etc. There is something compelling about the stopped watches- time stopped that morning for so many thousands.
This museum also has the story of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako was a 12 year old girl who had been exposed to the radiation from the bomb when she was 2. 10 years later she developed leukemia- this was a common late stage condition for people who had survived the heat and fires of the original blast. Sadako held the belief that for every 1000 paper cranes that were folded, a wish would be granted. This has started a paper crane movement that exists through today, there are paper cranes everywhere, on many of the shrines around the city as well as the millions of paper cranes that are housed at the monument for the children affected by the bomb. Below is a picture we took our first day- I wasn't sure what I was taking a picture of that day, but it had a certain draw that I couldn't quite place. After I saw the story in the museum, I understood what it was.
Other images from around peace park. A group of school children on a field trip:
Images from the 3rd story of the museum looking out over the centotaph and the eternal flame for peace with the "A-bomb dome" in the background.
Workers cleaning the area:
Another view of the centotaph.
My next stop was the Hiroshima Castle. The castle was originally built in the 1500s, but was destroyed in 1945. It was rebuilt in the early 1950s. The infrastructure of concrete and stone lining the moats was not destroyed, just the wooden structure of the castle. There is also a bunker on the site of the castle where the first radio transmission was made after the bomb dropped.
Stone staircase along a stone wall on the castle grounds:
More stone stairways:
There is a Shinto shrine within the walls of the castle. The shrines are fascinating, each is entered through a gate guarded by stone lions. Each has an area for ritual cleansing prior to approaching the shrine itself. I will likeley learn more about the ritual and symbolism over the next few days. Here is an image of the gate at the shrine at Hiroshima castle:
Before climbing the steps up to the castle, I had my first taste of a non-western style bathroom (I pretty much undressed from the waist down so I wouldn't pee on my clothes):
Other images from the castle grounds (I don't know what this is, but it was beautiful):
And from above:
Another amazing stone wall:
Looking from the castle over to the moat:
And the rebuilt castle itself. I did not go inside.
Back in the city (5 blocks away), I sat and watched people. After the war, other Japanese cities sent Hiroshima their streetcars. Hiroshima has a big trolley system using those streetcars, so many of them are different. This one was the only one that came by while I was sitting.
Noodle shops all have 'curtains' over the door, I am not sure what that means, but I remember seeing the curtains from old movies. Here were some on my route:
For the third day in a row, I had lunch at the same place, there is a window with plastic food on the outside, and inside you put your yen in a machine with pictures corresponding to the food. No English anywhere, but all you can eat rice. I am doing quite well with chopstick eating. The few pitiful words of Japanese I learned prior to coming are almost laughable. But at least I can say hello, excuse me, thank you.
Last night I went to a banquet with Sheldon for the members of the conference. It was a 5 course meal, artfully served. The first course was 4 pieces of art made from fish. The second course was a creamy fish bisque. The beef course had vegetables cut up in the shape of leaves, I gave the actual beef to Sheldon, but the food was so beautiful, it was hard to eat it! Many people were taking photographs of the food before they ate it. Dessert was another piece of art made from fruit. Entertainment was a Tanto drum troupe, amazing stuff!
One thing I learned last night is that the first week-end in June is the annual kimono festival, where everyone wears their kimonos. So that explains the diverse mix we saw on Saturday when we arrived. I had thought it was a regular Saturday night thing. I feel so lucky to have been here to see it! Next time I come here (and there WILL be a next time) I hope I can do it the first week-end in June so I can see that again!
Today I am going back to the shopping district for a while, then coming back to the room and packing for our trip on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto, where we will stay and be tourists until Saturday. Sheldon will be done with his conference today.