There really is no proper way to compare Hiroshima and Nagasaki – each has its own unique flavor, with a catastrophic story that will bind them forever in thoughts, conversations, museums, history books, and web entries.
The unspeakable tragedies of 1945 have been racking my brain for quite some time now, especially after visiting both sites where the bombs fell from the sky. How can I possibly translate the feelings I experienced in these two sorrowfully historic places? Yet alone, compare them? Impossible. Lost in any type of translation. Not going to happen. One has to be in the moment, experience the moment, live the moment, and breathe the moment for themselves.
However, I can offer two pieces of writing that sum up my experiences in each city the best I can. The former is a letter I wrote to my father last October after I came back from travelling in Japan. It attempts to explain what I felt on that very day of visiting the A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. It was the first time in my life I felt that forgiveness can be real. The latter is a letter written by the Mayor of Nagasaki that is posted atop a monument at the hypocenter in Nagasaki. It is beautifully written and is a summation of how you can turn a devastating event into one that shines positivity, without forgetting the past.
Both experiences deeply moved me, brought tears to my eyes, and peace to my heart. May there never, ever be another nuclear weapon used, and may peace continue to bless the world.
おはようございます(Good Morning) Dad,
On my recent trip to Japan, I spent roughly 22 hours in Hiroshima. I’m quite sure now that I made this stop subconsciously to make some sort of peace with what happened there the morning of August 6, 1945. The sheer magnitude of this tragic event never really bothered me before. Sure, our high school history courses may have sugar-coated the events of that mortal day, as it was always taught that these new nuclear toys were used to put an end to the Second World War. And fair enough, it did end the war, surely saving the lives of many people, Americans or otherwise. One could obviously argue until the wee hours the decision Truman made to nuke the daylights out of Japan’s mainland. America came out the victor and in many eyes the heroes of the world.
Enough about history, though — I’ve never been the most scholarly in the subject and won’t pretend to understand all of it. All I know after visiting this historic site is that 200,000 innocent lives vanished by the flick of a switch. Being at the site really drove this home. I could not help the tears in my eyes. I walked around the site aimlessly for a good two hours, snapping photos, trying to make sense of it all. I watched countless school groups as they passed through the site. The kids were happy; this brought a smile to my face. During my last few moments at the A-Bomb site I listened to some anti-war music on my iPod, closing with “Let It Be.” I made the sign of the cross and left.
I soon found myself wandering the streets of what seemed to be downtown Hiroshima. I ate lunch. I went to a golf store and hit golf balls into a net. I visited an art museum; the beauty of a real live Picasso painting also brought a tear to my eye. I proceeded to wander, almost hoping to get lost, as I thought it would erase the memory of August 6, 1945. It did not, of course, and I actually ended up back where I started. It was as if a magnet was pulling me back to the site. I did not fight it.
Across from the A-Bomb site stands the old Hiroshima Carp baseball stadium. The gates were open. I walked in. As I entered the stands just behind home plate on that beautiful October day, I was greeted by the sights and sounds of children playing baseball. Fathers and sons were tossing the ball back and forth, kids were taking batting practice, yelling the sounds of baseball in a universal tongue. It felt like home. And made me realize that Hiroshima – as a unified body – had moved on. There was zero hatred in this city towards the United States, a city of International Peace. I no longer felt any sense of guilt. If the people of Hiroshima can pick up and carry on, even become forgiving and welcoming, after the events of that tragic day, well, then this world is a pretty great place. Forgiveness is a powerful, powerful thing. Never forget that!!
“Atomic Bombing 50th Anniversary Commemorative Projects Monument”
When considering the present prosperity and peace of Japan and the development of Nagasaki, we must never forget that about 70% of the Nagasaki atomic bomb, which exploded over this city at 11:02 a.m., August 9, 1945, were children, women and senior citizens.
Created by Nagasaki-born sculptor Naoki Tominaga, this monument expresses the horror of the atomic bombing, prays for the repose of the souls of the victims from whose noble sacrifice buds of peace grew, and – through the form of a stricken child sleeping in her mother’s warm embrace – reaches with great motherly compassion and pleas for eternal peace toward a prosperous Japan of the 21st century.
Embodied in the monument is the sculptor’s reminder that the child is like Japan on the day of the atomic bombing, while the mother represents the support provided by the countries of the world in Japan’s effort to build the peaceful nation that it has become today.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing, the hypocenter area was refurbished and designated as a “prayer zone” a place to pray for the repose of the atomic bomb victims, to inform the world about the horror of the atomic bombing and to appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons and for the realization of lasting world peace.
This monument was erected here as the “Atomic Bombing 50th Anniversary Commemorative Projects Monument” to enhance and strengthen the hypocenter area’s role as a “prayer zone” and a hub for world peace.
Mayor of Nagasaki
From Nagasaki and Hiroshima,