The Peace Memorial Park is a sea of tranquility amid the hustle of Hiroshima. The changing leaves turn the scene into a riot of yellows, golds and reds. I ran into Lindsey, a student traveling to Hiroshima on her own, so we wandered around the park together. The A Bomb Dome stirred emotions similar to those I’ve experienced at the war memorials in Washington DC – a solemn sadness, a burden of grief, born for a few moments then left behind – but traces linger. We wandered through the trees to each monument in the park: the Peace Bell, the Peace Tower Clock, the A Bomb Memorial Mound (where cremated remains of those killed by the blast are interred), the Peace Fountain. There are so many, all sharing a single purpose: end the obscenity of war and existence of nuclear weapons. The Flame of Peace will burn until all nuclear weapons are destroyed. The Peace Memorial Museum tells the story of Hiroshima’s rise to first a cultural and educational center, then later as the war progressed, to a military stronghold. It outlines the events leading to the dropping of the bomb from the US standpoint, and then from that of the thousands of citizens going about their daily lives when Hell descended upon them. The photographs of the victims are graphic, and luckily are in black and white. There are the remains of shredded school uniforms, charred lunchboxes and melted bottles. The displays went on to chronicle the tales of survivors, but I had had enough and escaped back into the fresh air of the park. I slowly worked my way back to the train station, grabbed a quick lunch of seaweed udon (noodle soup), then back onto the Shinkansen for the ride home. I spent the evening relaxing, organizing, and ruminating.
As this voyage winds down, I’m being easier on myself. I realize I don’t have to justify to anyone why I would travel all the way to Hiroshima just to see the park, and not feel obligated to cram in a number of other sites. I’m just enjoying being in my own skin, filling my own needs, and focusing on what I need to do to continue to be healthy and happy. I’m slowly starting to feel less exhausted, probably due to my taking it a little slower recently. This is our last port – well, we have a day in Honolulu but I really don’t think that counts – and the next two weeks will be filled with end of voyage inventories, reports, packing up office supplies for the staff packing and personal belongings, and saying goodbye. Or at least “see ya later” for all. For the students it will also be filled with lots of studying and finals.
Anyway, my day in Hiroshima was yet another memory to be tucked away in the vault, along with the emotions and thoughts it stirred. Later on I’ll pull them out one by one and reexamine them – but for now, suffice to say I’m glad I went, and hope that soon no one has to toll the Peace Bell again, longing for peace in our war-torn world.