Thursday, March 4, 2010
Japan, Part Six
Hiroshima is the Japanese city where the first atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945. We, the United States, dropped it, and a few days later we dropped another on Nagasaki, the only times in history that atomic weapons were ever used in warfare. Strange as it may seem, the bombing saved millions of Japanese lives by putting an end to World War II in the Pacific (it had already ended in Europe with the surrender of Germany).
The bombings took over a quarter of a million lives within two months, and many more in the years following from the effects of radiation. Yet, according to the information at the memorial museum, they saved millions of Japanese lives.
You see, Japan would not surrender, in spite of the fact that the U.S. and our allies were bombing their cities daily with conventional weapons. They were hugely outnumbered, and could not win--especially as the Soviet Union had just declared war against them--but they were determined to fight to the last person. It took the shock value of a new technology far beyond anything anyone had seen before to convince the Japanese command to surrender.
It is strange for an American to visit Hiroshima. Everything in the museum and the guidebooks is from the Japanese point of view. They never question our motives or morals, much as we may do so ourselves. Hiroshima today is a thriving modern city, but there are a number of memorials, plus the ruin of the Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, now known as the A-Bomb Dome. Despite being less than 500 feet from ground zero, this building survived because of having been built to withstand earthquakes. However, most of Hiroshima was completely flattened.
The museum tells the story of that summer day. Because it was a potential target for the atom bomb, Hiroshima had been spared the regular bombing raids on other Japanese cities. The Enola Gay was accompanied by only two other planes, so although people saw the Amreican planes approaching, they thought it was a commonplace reconnaisance mission and were not afraid. So they went about their business until the flash and the firestorm, and sudden death.
There were far more Japanese tourists than foreigners visiting the city and the museum, and they were moved to tears much as Americans are when visiting the 911 ground zero in New York. But there is no blame placed--it is, if the English translations are to be trusted, more as if that horrible lesson were necessary for the Japanese people to change their ways and turn away from war and conquest.
Outside the museum, there are numerous monuments and gardens, all devoted to peace. Where once there was horror and destruction and pain and death, there is now beauty and life. Where once there was a nation of warriors, there is now a nation of pacifists.
Next time: palaces of the warlords.
How to import a car from Japan. Click here.
Click here for Seven Reasons to Visit India.
This series of posts on my trip to Japan begins here.
The journal of my trip to India and Nepal begins here.
The series of posts on my trip to Italy begins here.
Geezer-Chick's guest blog on York, England is here.
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