Tomorrow is the 6th of August. 70 years ago the first atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima in Japan. The explosion and its aftereffects caused the deaths of more than a hundred thousand people. Looking at the cityscape of Hiroshima today, you would be hard pressed to believe that Hiroshima suffered such a terrible tragedy in its past. It is an amazing illustration of resilience and spirit. I was watching a BBC newsclip yesterday morning which said that the city had restored tram services partially within 3 days of the atomic bomb explosion. 3 days- 72 hours! How does somebody do that when you have just had close to 70,000 people who have died and when you have an almost equal number who are close to death’s door? Maybe hardship made the people even more stronger, even more determined to get back what was once lost.
My friend and I had an opportunity to visit the Genbaku Dome or the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima earlier this year. The building- originally the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall- was almost directly under the location where the bomb exploded and hence the strong concrete walls were able to withstand the vertical blast waves. Everybody in the building died instantly but the building itself survived in a skeletal form.
This building is now called the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and is a UNESCO Heritage site. I felt a bit odd to tell the taxi driver that we wanted to go to the Genbaku dome- it is not your usual tourist destination of course. It is a place where you need to meditate and reflect. When discussing how different places in the world cope with disaster differently (that is how Hiroshima had bounced back from an appalling tragedy whereas some other cities and countries still totter decades after a disaster) my friend mentioned that grief was like a gas and the more space you give to it, the more it will expand and take everything up. You couldn’t really compare the grief of one person or culture to another. I thought that was a really interesting point of view.
There are still old people in Hiroshima and the surrounding areas who are battling with local authorities over reparations on damage caused by the explosion. How can one truly assess all the damage that was caused by these bombs? How can one truly assess the damage of any tragedy? I guess that’s a question we will never be able to answer.
Incidentally there had originally been a lot of opposing views about whether the Dome needed to be taken down or preserved. It was finally decided to preserve this building as an everlasting symbol of remembrance of the horrors of an atomic bomb. When we visited, teams were carrying out routine maintenance studies on the building and hence the scaffolding.