Osaka and Hiroshima

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We had only a day at Osaka. Osaka Castle is the main attraction, begun in 1583 by the famous unifier of Japan Toyotomi Hideyoshi, destroyed a number of times across the centuries (eg 1615, 1868), reconstructed in concrete in 1931 and then refurbished at great cost in 1997. There are 8 stories, which include some museums plus a splendid view of the city from the top floor (much arduous climbing). We felt we could have stayed longer in Osaka.

Rail to Hiroshima on our trusty Japan Rail pass (the trains are fantastic in Japan, fast, extra clean and reasonable in cost). Hiroshima was at times a gut-wrenching experience but ultimately uplifting. After viewing Fudo-in, a temple in the lower hills on the north side, in a rare surviving style of Kaga architecture, we went to the Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Park. The Dome of cement and stone was the Industrial Promotion Hall and a centre of operations for Japan’s Fifth Army (hence a target). It became the hypercentre of the world’s first atomic blast, everyone instantly killed, building decimated but its shell remained standing. It is now propped up and conserved, with twisted metal stairs, misshapen walls and window frames, a testament to man’s savagery to man. Many wanted it taken away but it was kept and is now a World Heritage Site.

The Peace Park is ironically a very peaceful and pretty area. Hard to realise that in this area over 350,000 people died. There are features and fountains, and children play there. The Children’s Peace Memorial was inspired by Sadako, a little girl who died of leukaemia brought on by radiation. When she found out she decided to fold 1000 paper cranes. She died when she got to 644 but the children from her school folded the remaining number to fulfil her wish. The Museum is quite striking, telling a quite balanced story of Japan’s militarisation before and during WW2, the aftermath of the bomb and later history of Hiroshima, which is now a thriving city. Quite heart wrenching was the area where remnants of people’s clothes, shoes and so on are collected, together with photos of the damage. There are many personal stories about how people survived and tried to come through the great crisis. We felt that all world politicians and statesmen should have to visit the Peace Park. Next Okayama and Nara.

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