Kamis, 06 Agustus 2015

Article#450 - Memento


One called Little Boy, one called Fat Man. Three days apart. The one implicit in the other.


If a person were to film them falling, it would have to be from a great distance, through a veil of Japanese cities: old homes, new factories, idling cars, passing carts, and kites. Little Boy or Fat Man a black spot, center-screen. Encircled, in future broadcasts, by white light: an emphatic moon where otherwise they would be missed, descending as the gnat-speck plummets.

Until pika don—“flash boom.”

Or one might film them from the plane above. Some enterprising journalist or rising military star would begin with the shell in profile, waiting in the plane’s cold, clamorous womb. It would fill the screen.

Then the hatch would open underneath. Fat Man or Little Boy would drop out of sight. The camera would pan down to watch the bomb shrink until it was a pinprick. Until it could not be sorted from the landscape below—the factories, the homes, the tangle of power lines.

Until pika don.

The swell of light.

(from Fat Man and Little Boy, by Mike Meginnis)


A mushroom-shaped cloud arose above Hiroshima, taken by Enola Gay
flying over Matsuyama, Shikoku.
(National Archives/International Business Times)
The names of Hiroshima and Nagasaki easily carves its places in our minds. I can't really tell of what actually happened during all those past ordeals within the history classes, but one can easily tell how famous those names have become, engrazed even in the minds of the historically illiterate fellows. Being exposed to the vague version of what actually happened during the last days of World War II, I decided to set foot on those two places, as my destiny set its view on the Japanese archipelago about three years ago.
Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Three days apart, three hundred kilometers apart. Two names that are, to date, remains the only places where a nuclear weapon was used in any sorts of warfare.

That was only when I realized, how far I would be residing from the cities. Sendai is known for being the biggest city within the Tohoku (literally means "northeast") area, while both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were situated within the western part of the country. Hindered by my own ordeals more than the distance, I was forced to put any sort of visit to the cities out of consideration.
At least for the next two and a half years.


Thursday, 12th March, 2015.
I woke up to the fact that the day will be the last of my travel days during early March. Marked as my most ambitious solo travel to date, with thousand of kilometers and twelve days consumed on board, a visit to the center of Hiroshima is planned to conclude the travel. Quite unknowingly, the day also marked day number 900 since I set foot on Japanese soil for the first time.

As every devoted tourists would have done, I approached Hiroshima from the west, stopping by Miyajima. This might sound peculiar the first time you hear it, considering that I am staying in the eastern part of the country. But in fact, I came across Hiroshima after spending several days wandering around Kyushu, the southernmost (and westernmost) of Japanese main islands. Which (hopefully) clears the speculation.
Arriving at late Wednesday afternoon of 11th March—which also coincides with 4th commemoration of Great East Japan Earthquake—I found myself in an unfavorable time for a little travel, thus waited for the morning to come.

...And so the morning came.
I hadn't pay much attention to the city life in Hiroshima during the previous night, but as you get used to Japanese transportation and some dose of internet, getting anywhere for your own travel is an easy deal.
You can easily catch a tram (or 電鉄 dentetsu, as they call it in the native Japanese) stopping by Hiroshima station—generally speaking, the main station of a city is the easiest starting point for your trip anywhere in Japan. And after ensuring that the trams I took was the one heading for the eponymous Atomic-bomb Dome (原爆ドーム genbaku dōmu), it's time to depart.

Inside the tram—apologies for the overexposure
As sophisticated as Japanese transportation system have become, trams appear to remain a specialty of western Japanese cities—in the east, only Hakodate appears to keep it operational. As a lone self-proclaimed traveller from the eastern side of a country, that day became my first time experiencing trams in Japan; even though I saw trams commuting around Kagoshima and Kumamoto just a few days earlier. 160 yen for one-way travel easily paid off.

Spacious (広 hiro) roads; staying true as Hiroshima
From the stopping point, the infamous dome was only a little walk away. I suppose it would be only natural to rush to the iconic memorial of the atomic bombing, preserved as the way it was just after the bombing. Or at least that's what various sources from the internet told me.
I approached the site, but I was not aware that the dome was on for quite a surprise.

A-Bomb Dome with.... scaffolds?
TL;DR: There is a maintenance going on till 31st March, 2015. 
Apparently they were conducting a survey on the durability of the structure. And I arrived just 19 days prior to the completion of the survey. Lucky me, I guess? A-Bomb Dome with scaffolds was not an everyday scene, I guess?
The show must go on, hence the tour commenced yet again. Let the photos be your guide.

(to be continued)

A-Bomb Dome by the riverside

The T-shaped Aioi Bridge (相生橋 Aioi-bashi); side view. Its distinctive shape apparently 
makes for a nice target for Enola Gay. The atomic bomb actually detonated a few hundred meters away.
A description about the effects of bombing on Aioi Bridge
Hiroshima Peace Memorial (formerly Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall),
in comparison before and after the bombing
An elderly man (probably old enough to have lived at the time of the bombing?) sitting by the riverside, occasionally throwing some bread crumbs to the nearby crowd of pigeons.
Children's Peace Monument
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
The current Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was built on an open field created by the atomic bombing in 1945, south of Aioi Bridge. Prior to the bombing, the location was a piece of the city's bustling political and commercial center; the sheer energy from the detonation reduced it all into rubbles.
At 1949, it was decided that the location would not be rebuilt as a city center—instead, the whole area were dedicated to peace memorial facilities.

The Memorial Cenotaph. A-Bomb Dome can be seen on the background.
After a little walk across the park, it would be only natural to stop over the museum. I decided to go inside anyway, even though time constraint was getting high (I only have about an hour left before I head for Kobe). Being a traveller at a shortage of memory space for documentation—I know right, such timing—I didn't manage to snatch plentiful photos during my visit.

Long story short about the main museum: It definitely succeed in portraying the bitter reality of the bombing as it happened. Filled with several exhibitions ranging from photographs, remains of victim's belongings, or even remains of the victims themselves.

Exhibition of the photos of the initial blast
One of the more famous exhibition: A pocket watch frozen in time, right at 8:15.
A depiction of the bomb's fireball, about a second after the detonation
While the first half of the exhibition blatantly portrays the horror of the bombing day, the second half of the exhibitions portrayed the aftermath of the bombing on Hiroshima, i.e. the reconstruction of the city, its devotion on promoting peace to the world, all that kind of stuffs. The message conveyed within the second half of the exhibition was subtly similar to what I have seen around the tsunami-struck area of northeastern Japan: it was about how the community managed to recover after a disaster, and prevail yet again.

A view of the cenotaph and A-Bomb Dome
Last photo of A-Bomb Dome, up close. Still with the scaffolds.

The dome is standing as a memento of the bombing victims, as an epitome of warfare destruction. It feels as if the haunting figure was trying to convey something to the puny humans walking all around it.
It's as if it was going to tell an old story. Story from seventy years ago. About memories that couldn't just let go. About the peaceful future we're longing to.

The dome stood still, frozen in time. A time where a series of warfare brought a country, its people, and its dignity to stake. A time where an arguably unnecessary acts of war led to unnecessary losses.
The atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki may not be the trigger of Japanese surrender as well as the end of World War II. But it sure signify the last episodes of the war, just like the A-Bomb Dome signify the last episodes of my spring travel. As well as my years to come.

A photograph of Hiroshima atomic bomb explosion, as taken by
Yoshito Matsushige, 2.5 kms away.
image source
An aerial photo of Hiroshima before the bombing. The city is noticably divided into several delta islands (島 shima);
staying true to its identity as Hiroshima. And well, they're quite spacious (広 hiro), too.
image source
A burnt child helmet and tricycle, now an exhibit in the museum.
(image source; be wary of disturbing contents)
A white road.
A white road in Hiroshima.
Mother walked that scorching road
Working clothes all torn.
And I, who had been born
Just 40 days before,
Held in those arms,
Gazed up with eyes of innocence
To where the deep blue sky
Stretched wide, she said.
The white mushroom cloud
Moved like a sea slug,
Growing wide, and wider still.
Mid-summer phantoms
And those hateful things
That happened long ago
Are all so infinitely sad.
The image of that single
Long white road
Lies in the corner of my mother's heart
And mine
And does not even try do die.
The road stretches on and on;
An endless road,
White, dust-covered, soiled by grief.
The road began that moment,
The road without an end,
The road we've walked without a pause,
For fourteen years.
Mother is tired.
And I am tired.
And when beset by waves
Of sadness and exhaustion
She lay a while to rest.
Her tears fell on my face
And left their patterns in the dust.
A white road.
A white road in Hiroshima.

-as depicted on a video exhibition in Hiroshima Peace Museum

Last but not as fast, more on the perspectives of the bombing:

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