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We did a two day trip to Hiroshima a couple of weeks ago. Although we loved Hiroshima and the surrounding area, it was an upsetting experience, not only for my husband and I, but also for our children. Pretty much daily, my 4-year old daughter still spontaneously states: ‘It was a bad, bad bomb’.

And it was a bad bad bomb. The World’s first ever Atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima at 8.15am on the 6th August 1945, instantaneously killing approx. 70 000 people, mostly civilians. Due to extremely bad burns and radiation, during the days, weeks or months following that moment, a further 140 000 people died. Furthermore, the radiation made sure that many people who were not even born at the time of the bomb, people who had no part in the WWII, other than of course being ethnically Japanese, died before their time.

The only building that was not completely demolished in the Hiroshima city centre when the bomb detonated was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Dome, the reason being that the dome was located underneath the epicenter of the bomb, and thus spared from the full blow. See photos below.

Hiroshima A-bomb dome

Hiroshima Atomic bomb dome

 

Hiroshima A-bomb dome

Hiroshima Atomic bomb dome

The area surrounding the dome is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial park with several memorials and the Atomic bomb museum.

 

Memorial for the people who died

Memorial for the people who died

 

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

 

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Visiting the Atomic bomb museum was the most upsetting part of our weekend in Hiroshima. I (and many other people) were in tears seeing photos of the city before and after. Seeing the stopped watches at 8.15am, the glass bottles and roof tiles that had melted and bubbled in the extreme heat of the A-bomb, and the list of approx. 200 000 names of the people who were killed, seeing the displays of (wax) children whose clothes had burned off, and their skin and flesh melted to the point that it was hanging off their bones, yet still conscious, in a state of shock and confusion, trying to find they way back home in the chaos and destruction, and seeing the photos of dying people either due to severe burns or radiation, and reading about the thousands of people who instantaneously burned into ash for having been in close proximity to the epicentre.

It was heartbreaking reading the stories of parents’ relentless and desperate attempts to find their children, who never returned home from the city centre (where many school children worked during the war). Tragically, the children or their bodies were often never found. Worse yet, the parents were unaware of the fact that going into to the city centre to look for their children was not a good idea because of the radiation. Although, knowing about the radiation would probably not have stopped any parent from going and trying to find their child.

The fact that people (in Japan or elsewhere) were not made aware as to the kind of a bomb it was that exploded in Hiroshima (and Nagasaki) for about 10 years is pretty upsetting. Apparently, America didn’t want to face the anger –  and the consequent resistance – from the Japanese (or the rest of the world) so they kept it as a secret until the 1950s.

Surprisingly, the Japanese do not seem to hold a grudge – at least not the young people – even the ones that are from Hiroshima. Most Japanese people seem to think that Japan was cruel and out or order, and that America did what they had to do to stop the war – that the Japanese somehow deserved it. However, what the nowadays more open (and critical) history books seem to suggest is that America knew that Japan was on the verge of surrendering and no disproportionate acts of force were needed to end the war, but that America had used a lot of money in developing the Atomic bomb, and so, it had to justify the big spend.

I can’t help but thinking that the person who writes the Japanese primary and secondary school history books works for the American government’s division for propaganda, given that, if anything, the Japanese (counterintuitively) seem to glorify America.

The destruction power of the atomic bombs that were used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a fraction of the modern nuclear warheads – warheads that are used as deterrent, threat and negotiation leverage by countries like Russia and the US while the rest of us, helpless bystanders, watch and hope that there will never be World War III.

At the eve of the 70-year anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb I feel deep sadness by it all and all I can think is:

Nobody deserves that.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

17 thoughts on “It was a bad bad bomb

  1. Kylmät väreet tuli tätä lukiessa. Nyt kun Eurooppa ja muu maailma tuntuu kävelevän jälleen samoja reittejä kuin 1930-luvulla ei voi olla kauhistelematta, että mihin tässä vielä päädytään. Toivoa voi, että jotain oltaisiin opittu historiasta.

    • Ihan totta, elämme pelottavia aikoja – Ruotsi ostaa uusia sukellusveneitä, Suomi lähettää n. miljoonalle suomalaiselle kirjeet minne he sijoittuvat jos sota syttyy. Pelko kolmannesta maailmansodasta kasvaa 😦

  2. Karmeata. Ei tuosta pommista edes yläasteellla opittu: se vain “tuhosi Hiroshiman”. Entä se inhimillinen kärsimys, hirveä kuolema, hätä ja tuska? Miksi se ei näy (näkynyt) hissankirjassa?

    • En minäkään muista hissantunneilta, tai kylmän sodan aikaisten YLEn atomipommia kuvaavien lyhytelokuvien keskittyneen muuhun kuin tuhoon. Kärsimys (fyysinen ja henkinen) oli järkyttävää.

  3. Itku tuli minullakin siellä Hiroshimassa muutama vuosi sitten. Liikuttavin minusta oli se lasten tekemä paperilintuveistos, jonka joku pikkutyttö aloitti silloin vuosia sitten. Hän oletti että jos ehtisi tietyn määrän rauhanlintuja tehdyksi, syöpä paranisi.

    • Joo origami kurkien tekeminen oli liikuttavaa. Meidänkin lapset näpersivät museossa kurjet vapaaehtoisten Hiroshimalaisten avustamina. Käsittääkseni vanha japanilainen sanonta sanoo että tuhannen paperikurjen tekeminen takaa pitkän iän. Tyttö, jolla oli säteilystä johtuva leukemia teki toiveikkaana tuhansia paperikurkia, mutta siitä huolimatta kuoli muistaakseni n. 10 vuoden iässä 1950 luvulla. Niin surullista.

  4. I completely agree with you. As excruciating as it is to face what we can know of the
    horrific-beyond-imagination effects of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we must do that. Thank you for going to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the Hiroshima Bomb Museum and bearing witness of what you learned to your readers. These bombs never should have been used, and their descendants must never be used.

  5. I had very much the same feelings as you when I visited a few months ago with my daughters.

    I too was surprised when my co-workers in Tokyo were willing to talk about it with me (a US citizen). Their take on it was that the US was right to be fearful of an invasion of the Japanese mainland.and that the loss of life (civilian and military) would have been equally horrendous – an argument that I heard as a child growing up in the US.

    That war is a many-faceted beast. My grandfather served as a US Army medic in the Aleutian Islands (US territory that was invaded by the Japanese in WW II) and even at the end of his life his fear of and anger at the Japanese was very strong. Visiting Hellfire Pass and the Death Railway in Thailand a few months ago where 60,000 Australian, British, New Zealand and 180,000 Asians civilians died is another dimension that still provokes stong feelings. And traveling in China and Korea – two nations that were invaded – and listening to the stories of what happened in places like Nanking.

    None of which justifies the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. But it is a context that should not be ignored. It was a terrible time and a terrible war. And it is so strange for me to be here in what continues to be, to a certain extent, a US military protectorate. There used to be US bases here in Osaka (an acquaintance of mine in Paris spent several months here in a US hospital recovering from wounds he received during the Vietnam war).

    • Yes, I’ve experienced the same with many of my Japanese friends (apart from the ones who have lived outside Japan and have a wider world view) – the Japanese seem to blame themselves. However, I doubt many other nations (with equally cruel histories) would be as understanding had an A-bomb been dropped there. For instance, the Finns would never forgive, and I guess neither would the British, given that they still dislike the Argentinians over a relatively minor Falklands conflict over 35 years ago.

      • I agree. Recently a friend reocmmend Ian Buruma’s book Wages of Guilt. He’s Dutch and lived in Japan for many years. The books compares Germany and Japan and their national responses to the events of the last century. Perhaps there will be some insight there.

  6. I was moved by your visit to Hiroshima and looking ‘hell’ in the face. Lest we forget….It must have been very sad. It would have upset me looking back to that day and actually being there. It WAS a bad, bad bomb.

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