If not for its remarkable past, the discovery of this populous city in the west of Honshu, the largest island in Japan, would never have been a priority.
Like any outsider, we arrived intrigued by the historical scars we would come to find. We were aware that more than six decades had elapsed since its massive destruction.
The arrival of the bullet train (shinkansen) a local upscale station that housed several similar trains told us more of the futuristic side of Japan. The surrounding urban scene was of little help.
Tram trip aboard the Hiroshima Past
We ask for directions to get to the bus stop. An old green and yellow tram is approaching with the number we should catch. When we climbed up, we finally traveled aboard the city's past.
Hiroden, the company that operates them and the city's buses, was established in 1910. By the beginning of 1945, it already operated dozens of trams. Only four survived World War II but building a metro proved too expensive (Hiroshima is located in a delta).
Accordingly, the authorities opted to reinforce surface transport. They bought old trams from nearby towns. Today, they combine their service with that of more modern ones.
It's weekend. We pass a pine cone baseball stadium. In the distance, we see the replica of the city's medieval castle. Sooner than we expected, a female voice with a youthful tone, in good Japanese fashion, announces the stop for our departure.
We crossed the same avenue where the tram continued. On the opposite side, we come across the Peace Memorial Park. And, in absolute architectural and temporal solitude, with the ruins of the Genbaku Dome, on the banks of the Aioi River.
The Overwhelming Bombardment that Ended World War II
At the time of the bomb explosion Fat Boy, this building functioned as the Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall. Its resistance to explosion continues to amaze scientists.
Due to the intensity of the wind, the crew of the B-29 Enola Gay missed their defined target, a bridge near the Aioi River. The detonation of little boy it took place 580 meters above the ground, as predetermined, but about 240 meters beside the chosen point.
Even so, from about 100 meters away, it is estimated that the pressure on the building was 35 tons per m².
Within a radius of 2 km, almost no structure was left standing. Widespread destruction took place up to 12 km².
In this space and outside it, between 70 and 80 thousand inhabitants (about 30% of the population at that time) died immediately. Many other inhabitants were injured. And it is known that the uranium (U235) used was inefficient and that only 1.68% of the material in the bomb cracked.
Furthermore, it was surrounded by hills, which would help to increase the effects of the explosion and convince Japan to surrender unconditionally, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration.
Hiroshima Peace Park. A Verdant Memorial of a Ruined Japan
We cross the river and the green park.
We walk among groups of Japanese children that schools are keen to take to the memorial to elucidate the darkest period in Japanese history.
As expected, the innocence of their ages prevents them from assimilating the meaning of that place. Many indulge in demonic games around the monuments and disturb the thoughts and prayers of visitors who continue to suffer from the loss of family members or just Japanese honour.
We entered the museum. For three long hours, we were left in the eerie silence of its rooms, the maps, the videos, the vestiges distorted and transformed in other ways by the explosion and its effects. And to the scenarios reconstructed from the terror experienced by the city.
In that time, the abundance of simplified information also allows us to know and understand several surprising aspects of the tragedy: the fact that Japanese radars detected the planes an hour before the bombing and chose not to send fighters to try to intercept them because they were just three and the Japanese air force needs to save fuel.
We also learn about the incredible fate of Eizo Nomura who survived just 170 meters from the hypocenter (now marked on the ground as a monument) because he is in the basement of an anti-seismic reinforced concrete building.
And the moving drama of Sadako Sakai, the girl who was two years old when the explosion occurred and who, nine years later, was diagnosed with leukemia.
It is known that Chizuko Hamamoto, her best friend, visited her at the hospital. And that, in keeping with the popular Japanese belief that a swan will grant a wish to anyone who folds 1000 origami swans, he offered Sadako the first.
At the time, Sadako was only one year old. It is said that he doubled 644 origami swans before he died and that his friends completed the rest and buried them with the girl.
The Punished Survival of hibakuskas, the Victims of Hiroshima
We return abroad. We found two elderly Japanese women meditating next to the statue of the children of the atomic bomb. We wonder if they won't be hibakusha – survivors of the nuclear attack. His age and his passionate and moved posture lead us to believe it.
In 2010, the Japanese government recognized 227.565 hibakusha, largely still living in Japan and many in Hiroshima.
Of these, 1% suffered from illnesses caused by radiation. All survivors receive financial support, but the medical and financial support provided to the last is special. How special, in a negative way, is their hidden social status.
For decades, ignorance about the effects of radiation has led to hibakusha discriminated for fear of contagion and heredity of diseases. This question faded as the victims, all elderly, died.
The Chimera of Nuclear Peace Propagated by Hiroshima in Peace
It is another of the problematic legacies that Hiroshima is trying to overcome. In 1949, on the initiative of his Most, the Japanese parliament declared Hiroshima City of Peace.
Since then, it has become a desirable venue for international conferences on peace and other social issues. Accordingly, in 1998 the local University founded a Hiroshima Peace Institute.
As of the date of this text, the current mayor of Hiroshima was the President of Mayors for Peace, an organization whose aim is to mobilize cities and their citizens for the abolition and elimination of all nuclear weapons by 2020.
And at the date of the last revision of the article, May 2020, that goal remained unfulfilled.