It was truly Hell.
Hell beyond conception; a dark horror whose shadow is deserving of the utmost terror.
Hell indiscriminate and undeserved; innocent children and the cruelest of men burned alike.
Hell for the soul; families rent apart if not destroyed entirely.
It was war.
It was Hell.
The stories are all the same which, instead of dulling the senses, makes a tide; slow and steady but whose power is yet unfathomable.
Nobuko Oshita (13) was a first-year student at First Hiroshima Prefectural Girls High School. She was exposed to the bomb at her building demolition work site and fled to Koi. There she was found by relief corps workers who returned her to her parents in Otake. She died late that night. She sewed this summer uniform herself.
Nobuko Shuda (14) was a second year student at Yamanaka Girls School. She was exposed to the bomb at her building demolition work site. She was found by her parents and brought to the Red Cross Hospital where she passed away on the 10th.
She died that night.
He died in 4 days.
She survived a week.
They only found his bag.
They found her wallet.
They kept her shoe.
This watch, a gift from his father, reads 8:15, the time of the explosion.
None escape the gates of Hell, and Hell is certainly what they glimpsed.
A land of devoted to destruction, wreathed in flame, flowing with blood, and tainted with a peculiar, invisible death.
I intend to instill in you a parade a horrors. We’ve all seen photos of the bomb. Photos of a flattened city. Photos. A city. Never your city. Never real.
Perhaps because I’ve spent a year in Japan, but Hiroshima’s Peace Museum made it a real city, with real people, and a real story.
I have a shirt with a quote saying “One death is a tragedy. A million is a statistic.” A million deaths don’t seem real. They can’t be real. We cannot fathom that kind of devastation and, if we could, I’m quite certain we wouldn’t want to.
Numbers are wonderful. They give us power to make the best decisions possible but even me, a numbers person, does not think in numbers. We think in stories and so stories are how love, life, tragedy, and death must be conveyed.
It was not 10,000 children that died in Hiroshima, it was Akiko, Yukiko, Kenta, and Takeshi. Numbers tell generals how effective the bomb was as a matter of strategy but the stories tell us its cost in life. That is what the designers of that museum knew. “Many children died.” That’s sad in the “ahh, that’s very unfortunate” sort of way. “Nobuko Oshita, 13, sewed this uniform herself. She was exposed to the blast at her work site and died with parents that night.” That is something we can understand. A girl just like the one that plays by your house, young and happy, died because a bomb ending a war she did not understand. “She sewed this summer uniform herself.” Obviously a poor family surviving the war. She couldn’t afford nice cloths but she made some. She probably wore that every day. She was so proud of it. Her mom was so proud of her. A “child” did not die. Nobuko Oshita died. She was beautiful I’m sure. She was happy, at times at least. She was loved. She is lost. All of her beauty, happiness, love, and life are what died. That gives meaning to a number.
You see what I mean by tide. One story has power. Many make that power unstopable and that horror inescapable.
Here are the other pictures from the museum:
Interesting to see their side of the story. These are US censorship marks on a writers letters about Hiroshima.
So now that you are depressed, I’d like to tell you about the rest of Hiroshima. It was forecast to be a cloudy day but I left that dark museum to see a glistening green park bathed in yellow sun, perhaps the best way to end that tour. There really isn’t much to say. I saw the dome whose copper cover melted in the heat of the blast. I saw the Children’s Peace Memorial where people put thousands of paper cranes in the name of peace. The story goes that a girl about two survived the blast in a house somewhere in Hiroshima. She was physically fine but about a decade later she was diagnosed with leukemia. As it took her health, she found comfort, entertainment, or maybe just purpose in folding little good luck paper cranes. She died. Her memory did not; the cranes are made in memory of her, a little girl who died for a war she had no part in. And so, they are made by the thousands in the name of peace.
I saw an elementary school that was near the center of the blast. The only students who survived were a couple boys still changing in the basement. One section of the school survived the blast so survivors would go there and write their name and whereabouts on the walls. I can’t imagine the chaos. To think that your hope for finding love ones was depending on little messages scrawled on the walls of a burned out, half destroyed school would be unbearable. But hope, no matter how small, I suppose is hope.
And lastly I got to see Miwajima. It is a really famous shrine that sets in a little bay partially submerged. The time was most of the way out when I went but it was still quite pretty.
The deer there were perhaps the most amazing. They are completely tame and they do not seem to make good pets. They remind me most of goats; anything that’s can be chewed to pulp is food. My map sticking out of my cargo shorts almost became fodder. It was pretty fun to pet deer though and see little Bambies unsteadily walking around or sleeping under trees.
The ferry ride back was fun too. The clouds were all layered and silver lined on one side and on the other oyster farms sprawled across the bays back into a cove misted over with fog.
By this time it was already 6:15 pm and my bus left at 8. I tried to get up to the “Peace Pagota” somewhere on a hill by the train station but it turned out it was over a kilometer away, so that would have been a bit tight. I had one last thing on the list for Hiroshima; okonomiyaki. They have their own particular type that is made with lots of soba noodles. Here is a picture of one:
If you ever get the chance, definitely go to Hiroshima. It is a fun town with lots of cool temples and such but more than that it give history a setting. It is the place that was annihilated by the first atom bomb ever to be used against people. The museum will show you how horrible that time was but the lush park and lively city will tell the story of recover.
Speed racer for dad: