11th Jun 2010 - 14th Jun 2010
Hiroshima : Where the Past meets the Future...
At 08:15 on the 6th August 1945, an American B-29 bomber - The Enola Gay - dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
The bomb - known simply as Little Boy - a gun-type fission weapon with 60 kilograms of uranium-235, took under 60 seconds to fall from the aircraft to the predetermined detonation height of about 600 meters above the city.
Due to a crosswind, the bomb missed the intended aiming point - the distinctive ‘T-section’ of the Aioi Bridge - by almost 800 feet and detonated 580 feet directly above the nearby Shima Hospital. The detonation instantaneously generated a blast equivalent to around 13 kilotons of TNT. Effectively it created nothing less than a small sun which burned for nearly 10 seconds over the city. Temperatures at the point of impact are estimated to have reached 3,900 °C (7,000 °F) with winds reaching over 1000 km/h.
The subsequent radius of total and immediate destruction was about one mile, with the resulting fires spread out across 4.4 square miles of the city. Studies later confirmed that 69% of Hiroshima's buildings were totally destroyed in just seconds.
70,000 - 80,000 people (around 30% of the population of Hiroshima - mostly civilians) were killed immediately - quite simply vapourized by the intense heat rays.
Within the first two to four months of the bombing, the acute effects killed an estimated 160,000 people in Hiroshima. Health department estimates state that, of the people who died on the day of the explosion, 60% passed away from flash or flame burns, 30% from falling debris and 10% from other causes. During the months after the bombing, large numbers died from the effect of severe burns, radiation sickness, and other horrific injuries.
Knowing all of this happened makes walking around Hiroshima today - almost 65 years later - even more of a remarkable and uplifting experience. The city is a bustling, clean, friendly, almost sparkling place and - no doubt because of what took place here in 1945 - there really does seem to be a real, almost tangible, sense of optimism in the air.
What the city-planners of Hiroshima have done with the area of the city that was at the centre of the bombing is a truly moving and beautiful tribute to those people who lost their lives as a result of the atomic explosion. In 1945, the area now occupied by The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was once the city’s busiest downtown commercial and residential district. This peaceful park was built on open land that was created by the explosion, and as you enter from the south-side you can clearly see the distinctive Genbaku, or A-Bomb Dome in the distance. This mangled building, which somehow managed to remain standing, has been left as a permanent reminder of that fateful day.
We walked around the park, the A-Bomb Dome and crossed the Aioi Bridge, visiting a number of different memorials and monuments along the way. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum - which serves not only to keep alive the memory of the nuclear horror, but also advocate world peace - was an excellent and really informative tribute. After seeing some of the exhibits (including the shadow of a vapourised victim, permanently seared into the stone steps of a building where they were sat at the time of the explosion), watching some of the moving video footage and then walking around The National Peace Memorial Hall for the A-Bomb Victims which also sits within the park, you really do get to thinking about the fact that we still have so many nuclear weapons armed and ready to fire in the world today. Neither of us are what you would call ‘political activists’ - pretty far from it, really - but, we would both have to say that when world leaders stress the ‘need for a nuclear deterrent’ they really are talking an absolute load of utter bollocks.
A visit to Hiroshima today doesn’t have to solely be all about what took place in 1945 - of course it’s going to be a big part of it (and rightly so), but there is a whole lot of city to see besides!
With that in mind - and aware that we really didn’t have too much time before we moved on to our next destination - we decided to do something a little bit different to the stuff we’ve done before and pay a visit to the world headquarters of Mazda. They’re based in the Aki District of Hiroshima - two stops away from the city centre by local train - and offer a free guided tour around their museum as well as a trip around part of their production line. As it turned out, it was a pretty interesting and informative visit! We got to see some of the cool old cars from the 1960’s as well as some of the concept stuff that they’re working on for the future. The production line at the plant is a staggering 7km long, and to actually get to see some of the robots in action was pretty cool - kind of like going ’through the round window’ on Playschool when we were kids!
Just like Tokyo and Kyoto before it, Hiroshima has proved to be a thoroughly exciting and engaging place - we’re both really glad that we decided to take the time to pay a visit. When you look around this modern and busy city and realise what they’ve done here in just over 60 years… it really is truly fantastic.
It’s safe to say that Japan continues to amaze and delight!
If anyone would like to know more about what happened in Hiroshima - and the city of Nagasaki a few days later - then we recommend you track down HBO’s excellent 2007 documentary White Light / Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as it really does give an insightful, harrowing - and no holds barred - account of what happened when these terrible weapons were deployed at the end of WWII.
If any of you know how to use bit-torrent (and we suspect that’s just a few of you!) then you can grab the above mentioned film here: http://isohunt.com/torrent_details/27222029/hiroshima?tab=summary