Road to Hiroshima

What a technological miracle a sat nav is for a co-pilot when you are on a road trip. Remember the days of large maps alway unfolded in a mess or the funny AA route planner you sent away for, but if you missed one instruction on it you were lost. With a mobile phone, I can even double check the route on Google maps, so all I have to do is sit back and enjoy the scenery and wonder where the next coffee stop will be. But I am a driver too, so still twitch at the odd strange manoeuvre and am alert for any good photos en route. The roads themselves are amazing. I have never seen so many hillsides and mountain side shored up with concrete to stop them and the roads disappearing. Tunnels appear regularly whenever the hillside gets too difficult and bridges abound. Being Scottish, all these tunnels make me wonder why Scotland cannot build a tunnel at the “rest and be thankful” instead of the poor efforts made to shore up the hillside there. Travel does make you compare one countries solutions to its challenges with your own.

Today we were on our way to Hiroshima to see the Peace Park and to meet with a friend and their family. Each city we have visited so far has had a different feel to it. Having found our hotel and seen the car swallowed up into the amazing mechanised car parking facilities that seem to abound in Japan, we went in search of lunch and immediately started to see a new tribe of youngsters dressed in coz play outfits and others like characters from Manga books. Lunch was the No 1 Ramen restaurant – more vending selection prior to being shown a table – and a firm to fill in saying just exactly how you like your ramen and how spicy you want the sauce.

We had thought we might have been able to take a boat trip to see the famous Miajima beauty spot an hour outside Hiroshima, but the weather had turned grey and showery, so we explored the Peace Park. Mankind is sadly stilling killing thousands of people round the world in wars, climate destruction, acts of terrorism, but this is a specific memorial to a moment of manic intense destruction of human life and the park tries to tell us all to make sure it never happens again. The mound mass grave in particular sent shivers up my spine and the circular underground memorial showing all the districts with photos taken a few days after the bombs was very moving, as was the little tricycle which belonged to a little boy killed by the bomb. Shinichi Tetsutani (then 3 years and 11 months) loved to ride this tricycle. That morning, he was riding in front of his house when, in a sudden flash, he and his tricycle were badly burned. He died that night. His father felt he was too young to be buried in a lonely grave away from home, and thinking he could still play with the tricycle, he buried Shinichi with the tricycle in the backyard. In the summer of 1985, forty years later, his father dug up Shinichi’s remains and transferred them to the family grave. This tricycle, Shinichi’s best friend, was donated to the Peace Memorial Museum.

Interactive displays at mueseums are the most memorable and ringing the Peace bell is a hope for the world and future generations.

The paper cranes at the Chidren’s memorial come originally from the ancient Japanese tradition of origami or paper folding, but today they are known as a symbol of peace. They are folded as a wish for peace in many countries around the world. This connection between paper cranes and peace can be traced back to a young girl named Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia ten years after the atomic bombing.

Sadako was two years old when the bomb was dropped. She had no apparent injuries and grew into a strong and healthy girl. However, nine years later in 1954 she suddenly developed signs of an illness. In February the following year she was diagnosed with leukemia and was admitted to the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital. Believing that folding paper cranes would help her recover, she kept folding them to the end, but on October 25, 1955, after an eight-month struggle with the disease, she passed away. 

Sadako’s death triggered a campaign to build a monument to pray for world peace and the peaceful repose of the many children killed by the atomic bomb. The Children’s Peace Monument that stands in Peace Park was built with funds donated from all over Japan. Later, this story spread to the world, and now, approximately 10 million cranes are offered each year before the Children’s Peace Monument. 

Later that evening, when I met with the friends who live in Hiroshima and the lovely daughter who is nine, I thought again on children all over Japan and the world who have folded cranes for peace.

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