It was 6 August 1945. With not a cloud in sight, the fate of over 140,000 lives in Hiroshima was sealed. At 8:15 am sharp, the world's first atomic bomb was dropped. Almost everything then disappeared into nothingness. And the world was forever changed.
I think I was in primary school when I first learned about the bombing in a history lesson. Until this very day, the codenames of the bombs are still fresh in my head. Little Boy and Fat Man. The former was dropped in Hiroshima, and the latter in Nagasaki three days later. My visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum earlier this month transformed pages of my history textbook into real, tragic stories of ordinary people affected by the bombing. It was one of the highlights of my second trip to Japan.
One part of the museum showcases incredibly personal items donated by relatives of the victims. I was most affected by the story of Noriaki Teshima. A first-year junior high school student, Noriaki was only 600 m from the hypocenter when the bomb dropped. He managed to returned home with the help of a friend, but died in suffering the next day. His desolate mother kept his fingernails and part of his skin to show to his father, who had not returned from the war. There was no mention as to whether he actually returned.
I also learned about Kengo Nikawa. He was 59 when the bomb was dropped. Suffering major burns, he died 16 days later. His pocket watch, a gift from his son Kazuo, is forever frozen at 8:15 am. Apart from the watch, there was also a lunch box found clutched to a mother's son. A wooden sandal of a 13-year old girl whose body was never found. Damaged clothing carefully extracted from dead school children. Locks of hair of a girl named Teruko Aotani that her mother kept as keepsake.
All these stories, and many others, made me sobbed. My sombre mood was echoed by those in the same room. Everyone was in complete silence. Perhaps grateful that we have not experienced such devastation first hand. Perhaps quietly wishing that history will not repeat itself.
After the bombing, there was a widespread rumour that no plants, grass or trees would grow in Hiroshima for 75 years. However, grass began to sprout by fall. And slowly Hiroshima managed to find its feet again. Today, this booming city is home to over one million people. The recovery that it has gone through since 1945 speaks volumes about the courage and determination of those who survived.
To me, Hiroshima spells a message of hope. That even the most darkest of times will pass. That no matter how down we are, we should find the courage to get back up. Because the best of times is still ahead of us.
A rare photo of A-bomb survivors taken by Yoshito Matsushige at 11:00 am more than 2 kms from the hypocenter (represented by the red balloon). “I fought for 30 minutes before I could take the first picture. After the first, I grew strangely calm and wanted to get closer. I took about ten steps forward, but the scenes I saw were so gruesome that my viewfinder clouded with tears.” Matsushige was not badly injured and lived until 2005.
Kengo's pocket watch, forever frozen at 8:15 am.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was establised in 1955 to exhibit facts of the atomic bombing. And contributing to the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The culture of folding origami cranes was started by a girl named Sadako Sasaki while battling leukemia. According to an old Japanese saying, 1000 cranes grant one a wish. Sadako died at just 12 years old on 25 October 1955.
The A-bomb Domb is one of a handful buildings that survived the bombing, albeit partially. And cranes "for those who died and for those who cried" from some Australian students.
Standing in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the A-bomb Dome is World Heritage site since 1996 that serves as a monument appealing for lasting world peace.
The Memorial Cenopath carrying the epitaph "Rest in peace, for the error shall not be repeated". As I was taking this picture, I overheard a Japanese guide saying to a group of American tourists, "The Japanese people do not hate the Americans. What we are truly against is war".
The Memory/Memorial art exhibition at the Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art to mark the 65th anniversary of the bombing. The exhibition shows how memory of Hirosima has been expressed through art, and how this memory is changing as time goes by.