As I stepped off the bus from Osaka, I expected Japanese people to start throwing rocks at my white, American face. I didn’t experience that, though. I noticed a few odd things and tried to put two and two together — this city seems completely flat, and all the buildings look like they were built in the past 50 years, which seems weird for a city with more than a million people living in it.
Then you realize the horror of the place: I’m talking about Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb during World War II. I vacationed in Japan for a few days and spent most of it in Osaka, but I wanted to see some history, so I took a bus to what I expected to be the creepiest of places.
This is where about 90,000 to 140,000 people died on Aug. 6, 1945, from the first atomic bomb dropped on a city. One of my teachers in high school said they deserved it; another said it was a horrible thing to do to civilians.
One of the only surviving buildings is an old observatory that used to be the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Now, it’s called the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, and it looks like a set of Legos put in the microwave. Only a gray skeleton remains.
I walked nearby and saw the Motoyasu River. I checked the internet on my phone to learn if touching the water would melt my skin off. Luckily, the water is safe-ish.
A few minutes later, I arrived at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. This is amazing and truly something else. There is a museum, fountain, stacks of flowers, eternal flames, bells, a list of names and even origami cranes. I wondered if whenever they come up with an idea to add to the park, they build it.
I walked around the museums and memorials reading everything I could. I learned more horrible numbers, personal accounts, estimations and technicalities. You know what I didn’t see? The Japanese blaming, hating, chastising or insulting Americans for dropping the bomb. In fact, the only time I saw the USA even mentioned in the entire park (which is about the size of a county fair) was when a plaque mentioned the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Japanese people were really nice. When I couldn’t figure out how to use the bus ticket machine, a lady left her booth unattended so she could run and help me.
Hiroshima may not be the most beautiful — or even most horrifying — city I’ve visited. I thought Prague and Bruges were the most beautiful, and the most disgusting is easily Auschwitz. However, one thing stands out. All the museums, statues, memorials and ponds seem to be telling you that an absolutely awful thing happened in this city, but maybe if we put differences aside and work together for peace, we might prevent something like this from ever happening again. That changes my view of humanity from horrific to hopeful.
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