This will be a short post and, for obvious reasons, will not be written in my usual, flippant style. Nor could it be.
Although I knew I would find the experience harrowing, I wanted to visit Hiroshima during my time in Japan. I planned to do so on my journey back to Tokyo from Kyushu.
I don’t know what I had expected to find, but I stepped off the train into a very normal city. I had hiroshimayaki, a delicious variation on okonomiyaki, a pint of beer and hit the hay.
In the morning, I walked to the Peace Memorial Park in the centre of the city, a large space next to the river where the museum and several memorial monuments are located.
I entered the museum and paid for an audioguide. From the very first exhibit – photographs from eyewitnesses of the mushroom cloud – I was overwhelmed, as I attempted to take in, process and understand the magnitude of the tragedy.
At each listening station was some fact, some item that wrenched at me, drawing the tears to my eyes. Here the tattered remains of a school uniform, the rest incinerated by the blast; there a roof tile whose surface had melted and blistered.
Through moist eyes I looked at everything, read everything, made sure it was etched into my memory. Why? Because each and every generation needs to understand the true horror of nuclear war. Only by acknowledging and learning from our errors can we keep from repeating them.
I visited the eternal flame and the Peace Memorial, the roof of which was vaporized by the bomb.
Just as I was leaving I was presented with some levity to brighten the mood. A whole host of Japanese men of differing ages had just gone for a swim in the freezing-cold river and were being filmed and interviewed as they exited. I left with a shrug and a smile.