In Obama’s Footsteps

2/6/16. Taking our lead from President Obama, we went to Hiroshima on Thursday catching the train in from Kure. We headed for the main attraction, the Peace Memorial Park, and on the way passed a group of 5-10 trees which had survived the bomb despite being just over 500 metres from the centre of the blast.

Arriving at the Park, we went into the museum – a bargain at ¥200 or £1.30 each. This was really moving. It stuck to the facts without expressing opinions on the rightness or wrongness of what happened.

Visiting the park and the museum is obviously a “rite of passage” for Japanese children as there were many groups clearly on school trips. After the museum they headed for the Children’s Peace Memorial which is in memory of a girl, aged 2 at the time of the bomb. When Sadako developed leukaemia at 11 years of age, she decided to fold 1000 paper cranes. In Japan, the crane is the symbol of longevity and happiness, and she believed if she achieved that target she would recover. She died before reaching her goal, but her classmates folded the rest.

The groups of children visiting the memorial bring with them hundreds of these cranes tied together in colourful streams and lay them at the base like wreaths while singing songs – done with much gusto from what we saw. It is difficult to imagine British schoolkids being so enthusiastic!

Also in the park is the Atomic Bomb Dome which is the remains of the building directly under the bomb (which exploded 600 metres above ground.

After lunch we walked to the nearby Hiroshima Castle (a reconstruction, of course) which is OK – a nice moat and an impressive tower but not much else – and then on to the garden of Shukkei-en.

This garden is much smaller than the lovely one in Takamatsu which we enthused about and, initially, we were not too impressed. Gradually, however, it grew on us. The name means ‘contracted view’, and it has many different areas (what garden designers would call “rooms”), with an emphasis on the vistas to be seen from them. In the centre is a large pond with 14 little islands and many Koi which have been helped to reach enormous sizes by visitors feeding them using bags of food sold at ¥100 each.

On the way back to the station we were surprised to spot 2 churches as well as a spectacularly ugly cathedral built entirely of dull grey concrete – although the stained glass windows were much better and we enjoyed listening to a 100+ strong ladies’ choir rehearsing.

A separate page of photos of Hiroshima has been created here.

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