This is a guest post on Japan by Sarah Kloke.
The lessons learned from travel are often the most invaluable of teachings. Be it a two-week jaunt to an all-inclusive resort, or a 6-month stint on the beaten trails of Southeast Asia, most travellers will pick up some sort of knowledge which prior to that passport stamp, was completely nonexistent.
Knowledge learned from travel has that funny way of broadening the way you view the world, or at the very least, teaching you the importance of understanding a country’s currency exchange rates.
Learning through historySometimes during travel, you learn more than just local customs, or even how to convert your dollars into yen. Sometimes you learn about the history of a place. Sometimes you explore an area with your senses and develop knowledge in a way which you would never fully be able to understand, even from the most comprehensive of textbooks.
Places like the Killing Fields in Cambodia. Or the Auschwitz in Poland. Even the city of Hiroshima in Japan. All of these places have an inevitable future of becoming their own teachers and advocates, telling a natural story of the city’s history and ultimate impact on the remainder of the world.
The city of Hiroshima, JapanTo an outsider (with absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of World War II), Hiroshima would look a lot like any other medium-sized city in Japan. An old-fashioned tram cuts along the city centre, a river trails through the concrete steps and bridges of artful statues. The city even offers up the well-known okonomiyaki as its signature dish.
But the city is also home to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. A park full of monuments, memorials, and colourful paper cranes. They are meant to symbolize the tragedies which took place when an atomic bomb named “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima in August of 1945.
It is this memorial park, which while paying tribute to the catastrophes caused by nuclear bombings, also becomes a city-wide classroom of sorts. A classroom which does not instruct or exam, but instead, teaches any traveler through raw images, impactful reminders, and an overwhelming impression that the residents of Hiroshima and the country of Japan continue to be some of the most resilient.
The Atomic DomeBefore even entering the grounds of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the all-but defeated structure of the Atomic Dome greets your arrival. This becomes the first telltale sign that Hiroshima is unlike any other city in Japan.
Peering through the rubble of one of the only standing buildings post-atomic bomb, the Atomic Dome invokes incredibly intense and apparent emotions of damage and hurt.
This isn’t just a monument staged to educate locals and foreigners on the consequences of nuclear bombing or act like a history lesson on the events of a detrimental night in late August 1945. Instead, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park becomes a genuine walking museum.
A Place to rememberVisiting Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park makes the events of World War II all the more real. Panes of glass do not separate you from the artifacts, statues, and structural remainders of nuclear arms.
Tour guides do not usher you along while regurgitating a script on the history of Hiroshima. Instead, the park offers one of the most straightforward recollections of a traumatic historic event.
Forgoing aggressive propaganda for more innocent notions of rainbow-coloured paper cranes and prayers for peace, the entire park resonates as a place to remember, appreciate, and resound that these events shall never happen again.
Have you been to Hiroshima in Japan? What were your impressions?