Another day. Another early start. I am not the kind to take a holiday and lounge around or sleep in. I tend to wake early – far earlier than necessary – and then make the most of the full day ahead of me. Impatiently waiting for the hotel restaurant to open so I could get some breakfast in before heading off for the day. I tend to get breakfast included whenever I have book a hotel. It may seem trivial but when I am out all day and doing lots of walking it is important to me to get a good breakfast first. And if it is included in the room deal then I am more likely to make sure I do it.
Whilst I was preparing my gear for a day out and about I decided to walk to the nearby Lawson’s Family convenience store for an iced coffee. The sun hadn’t properly risen yet in Kyoto but it was already very humid. The sky was clear and it promised to be a very bright and hot day. The roads were quiet and there were very few people about.
I was so excited on that morning. I made my way to Kyoto Station to catch a train. But not just any old train. I was taking a Shinkansen from Kyoto to Hiroshima. Bullet Train! What an amazing display of engineering and urban planning. These machines are 16 carriages long. They travel at up to 350 km/h. Seeing one pull into or out of the station is like watching a space ship. We flew through equal parts of dense urban population and mountain communities with fields of rice-growing. Such an incredible journey and I didn’t take my eyes away from the window for a second.
I had a long-standing fascination with Hiroshima and the impacts of the atomic bomb that struck the city.
On August 6, 1945 the first ever city in the world to be hit with an atomic weapon was Hiroshima. The bomb was nicknamed Little Boy and contained enriched Uranium-235. The creation of this bomb used up almost all of the known Uranium available in the world. Crazy. It is reported that 90% of the city was destroyed and that 80,000 people died instantly with countless others suffering and dying from radiation based illnesses. The bomb actually detonated high above Hiroshima – directly above what is now referred to as the ‘Atomic Bomb Dome’. It sits in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Most of the structure of this building, which was once the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, is intact. Brick, concrete and the recognisable dome formed by metal beams. It was one of the only buildings to have remained standing. But the 6,000 degree heat blast did warp solid concrete like butter and twisted steal beams like spaghetti.
Three days later on August 9, 1945 the United Stated dropped a second bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Unlike the Hiroshima bomb, this one contained Plutonium-239 and delivered a far bigger blast. This bomb was nick named Fat Man. However in this instance the bomb killed an estimated 40,000 people instantly.
The level of destruction and the death toll is staggering. Yes it ended a war but in some ways these bombings heralded a whole new threat to the world’s security and peace – the Cold War. Yes the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour. But in the space of three days the United States killed 120,000 civilians on their home soil. Men, women and children. So much pain and destruction.
So as it turned out, I was heading to Hiroshima on the International Day of Peace. That was not planned. It just turned out that way. But it added so much more levity and emotion to my journey and experience that day. Later that day I wrote home to my family about my experience:
21 September 2016
I rose early this morning to catch the 7:20 Shinkansen to Hiroshima. What a sexy sleek machine it was. 16 carriages long. 350km/h and a 10 degree tilt on the corners! Only took an hour and a half to get here.
A quick tourist bus ride and I got off at the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome site. The building – with only concrete and steel remaining – is a shell of twisted steel and even melted concrete and bricks. Some historical facts about the incident that restored peace through absolute destruction and terror. And, unfortunately, marked the beginning of the Cold War. Kind of fitting I am here today as it is International Day of Peace. True story.
On August 6, 1945, during World War II (1939-45), an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure.
Such a humbling experience to be here and see this site. The park that it is located within is also home to a Children’s Peace Memorial. Children from schools all over Japan (and many from overseas) make chains or brightly coloured origami paper cranes. These are draped over statues and hung throughout the park.
That’s it for now. Will soon board my rocket ship to Miyajima.
The Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima was busy that day. It was hot and sunny and scores of busses were depositing groups of school children and elderly people who were visiting the site to learn, honour and remember how the world, their world, changed forever. I walked the area for almost two hours observing the many statues and memorials, fountains and pools and of course the people.
I felt such a strong sense of grief for how this city had been devastated in the blink of an eye. Imaging that kind of destruction being unleashed today. A whole city incinerated. And how tens of thousands more suffered afterwards with terrible illnesses and infliction – the likes of which the world had never encountered. Being a street photographer I work at being inconspicuous. But on this day I worked extra hard to be silent, still and almost irrelevant. I didn’t want to interfere in something so intense.
I had intended to take another train and travel even further south to Miyajima. The home of the giant red tori gate sitting in the middle of the bay. But I was pretty exhausted both physically and emotionally. So instead I opted to return to Kyoto on the Shinkansen – a very reflective journey. This had been a significant experience in my vanilla life. One that I will always remember and value. Happy shooting.