Ever since Faye told me about her experience in Hiroshima on August 6th, I've wanted to go there for the Peace Day ceremonies. I had thought that I would go last year, but I think that was a bit optimistic - I had only arrived in Hagi 6 days earlier! However, this year I was determined to go - and told Erin, Ange and Katie that I was doing that before they even booked their plane tickets!
We got into Hiroshima the afternoon before (5th). I had had an easy run in from Osaka, but the other 3 had gone mental criss-crossing Japan (coming via both Himeji and Miyajima) so they were tired. Hence, the evening of the 5th was a quiet one. I suppose that wasn't bad given the early morning that awaited us.
We left the hostel around 6.30am, grabbed breakfast at 7-11 and headed over to the Peace Memorial Park to try and get seats in the shade for the 8am ceremony. Luckily the unassigned seats were under marquees, though ages away from the front (as would be expected). You weren't allowed to take photographs during the ceremony, but I really think that it is unphotographable (if that is a word). It's really about the speeches, and listening to the music. What surprised me was that both the Japanese PM and the UN Secretary General were there and there was practically no security. Before the ceremony we attempted to fold paper cranes to add to the pile - but the directions were a LOT confusing. All 4 of us eventually managed it, but they certainly weren't terribly attractive.
Probably my favourite part of the ceremony was when the doves were released. They stayed in their flock as they flew overhead, and it was quite beautiful. All the speeches, except that of the Japanese PM, were provided in the opposite language (Japanese-English I mean) so it was easy to understand what was going on.
After the ceremony we went into the museum. It was insanely busy. Seriously. Luckily I had been through before, and had only recently been to Nagasaki, so I knew a lot of it, but the other 3 took a while, so they could actually read the information at each exhibit. I just waited in a/c comfort, so I was fine.
Some shopping, and lunch ensued, and then we decided to go to Hiroshima Castle. Actually Katie wanted to go early in the day, but then was tired, as were the other 2, so I was going to go by myself, but all 3 of them talked themselves into coming! It was so hot in Hirosh, and we were so sweaty by the time we got to the castle - even though we only had to walk a few blocks from the tram stop. It wasn't even humidity that was making it uncomfortable, lately it has been really hot in Japan, and the sun is strong!
The castle was totally rebuilt, given it was flattened by the A-bomb. However, in their infinite kindness, the Hiroshima City Council (or whatever it is called) decided to build it down the bottom of a mountain, so at least we didn't have to climb up just to get into the castle. The castle is refurbished, vaguely correctly, for the middle floors (2, 3 & 4). The 1st (ground) floor is just the ticket booth, and on the 5th floor there are just seats and vending machines!
In the castle we dressed Katie up as a samurai, and she almost died from overheating whilst wearing it. I think it was all polyester, so it was sweaty when she took it off, so I saw no need to put it on!
We went back to the hostel, all sweaty again, and showered before heading back to the Peace Park for the lantern floating. We got there around 6pm and made lanterns, and set them off down the river. Then we just settled in to watch them, and all the people, as it got dark. Finally we rounded off the day with a great dinner - the highlight of which was some salmon sushi for Katie and I (the other 2 don't eat seafood, their loss!)
I am so glad I went to Hirosh for August 6th. Despite the ridiculous amounts of sweating we did, it really was a great day.
The only thing that remains unanswered in my mind is about the pilot who actually dropped the A-bomb. It's not that I want to send him hate mail, rather I am interested to know how it changed his life. Given most army (etc) people return from war changed in some irreversible way, I wonder how this event changed that pilot's life. I wonder if his family knows, what his kids think (if the has kids). However, for many great reasons, his name remains unknown.