Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Miyajima and Hiroshima

Sunday morning, we gathered in the hotel lobby as usual and headed out for our day of sightseeing. First up was a train and ferry ride out to Miyajima to check out the island and its famed floating Torii gate. Here is the view from the ferry as we were coming up to the island.

Upon arriving at the ferry's dock and exiting the terminal building, we were immediately surrounded by a couple of dozen deer looking for handouts from the arriving tourists. Happy to oblige, we bought some shika senbei and made them happy. My brothers had the bright idea to stand on a raised platform and bring all the deer to them.

My little Yoshiko ended up with more than she could handle, they are quite pushy once they see you've got some grub... all in good fun though.

As we made our way to Itsukushima Shrine, Sebastien spotted a fried squid stand and Luc and he decided to dig in. Here they are simultaneously biting into their tasty treat.

We were again quite lucky with the weather and the gate was framed with blue skies and water. This floating gate is one of Japan's 3 most famous views, and the second I get to see after the islands of Matsushima back in August 2005.

We visited the shrine and my family got to take in a bit of a wedding ceremony which was going on. We exited the shrine on the other side and took a bit of a rest and saw a pretty funny little scene unfold. A little boy of about 2 years was running around on the beach chasing the wandering deer. Well one deer decided he was bored with the game and headed out into the water, with the little boy in tow. Here is his father calling him back to dry land.

After touring the island a bit, we hopped back on the ferry and headed back to Hiroshima for lunch and a visit to the Peace Park and A-Bomb dome, of course a very sobering experience. The first thing we met up with was the remains which have come to be known as the A-Bomb Dome.

Since most of the buildings in the city were wooden at the time that the bomb hit, most of the 2km radius around the hypo center was instantly flattened by the force of the blast and resulting fire ball. Only buildings built of concrete were left standing, and these were severely damaged. This building was chosen, due to its unique shape and the fact that it was very close to the hypo center, to serve as a reminder of the horrors of nuclear weapons. Over the years, the building has been stabilized and steps have been taken to ensure it will stay in the same condition it was in after the bomb hit in '45. The grounds of the park and the museums were very well laid out and we had a quiet afternoon reflecting on the horror which was unleashed here some 60+ years ago. The exhibit which stands out for me are the letters which the successive mayors of Hiroshima have written over the years. With EVERY nuclear test, undertaken by any nation in the world, the mayor pens a letter outlining what happened to his city and strongly protesting the continued testing of nuclear weapons, weapons that, by the way, are now more than 1000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Another thing which stuck with me was the monument to the children of Hiroshima and the exhibit in the museum which outlines the story of one of these children. A little girl was exposed to the bomb's radiation and eventually developed Leukemia. Believing in the old Japanese folk tale that folding 1000 paper cranes would allow a wish to be fulfilled, she started folding. When she reached one thousand and wasn't feeling better, she kept going until she finally succumbed to the disease. Some of her cranes were given away at her funeral, and others are on display at the museum. Her story has become a bit of a symbol of the children of the bomb and to this day, thousands of paper cranes continue to flood into the memorial and are put on display.

Not a happy touristy visit, but definitely a necessary one.


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