8:15 am, August 6, 1945. (October 2013)

We all know our history, but until you have been to Hiroshima the full impact of this date doesn’t become clear.

This is a city of paradoxes.

There is the part that is dedicated to the memory of the A-bomb and then there is the new Hiroshima, a lively cosmopolitan city that has recreated itself with culture, fashion and a contemporary lifestyle.

Yet it remains a city that is committed to peace.

From the ashes of 1945, Hiroshima has used the devastation of that first nuclear attack on mankind and turned it into a feature of the city. Not in a negative way but in a way that promotes world peace and harmony as well as actively encouraging nuclear disarmament.

Hiroshima is built on a delta, so you are constantly crossing rivers to get to the lively centre and the A-bomb memorials and that can be very confusing.

We took two trains to get from Beppu to Hiroshima, the ‘Sonic’ to Kokura and then the ‘Hikari’ Bullet Train.

The ‘magic’ JR Pass, gets you all around Japan on The Bullet Train, plus local trains, like the Sonic, ferries, city tour buses and even a shortcut through Hiroshima Station.

On our first afternoon we visited the A-bomb Dome and then walked through the Memorial Peace Park to the Memorial Mound, Korean A-Bomb Memorial, Cenotaph and the Flame of Peace.

The A-bomb Dome is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the building that was closest to the epicenter when the bomb exploded 600 meters above it. Remarkably much of the structure survived the blast, considering the entire area around it was flattened.

The building now known as the A-bomb Dome was designed by Czech architect Jan Lethal and completed in 1915.

Opinion, within the Hiroshima community, about what to do with the dome was divided, however in 1966 the council passed a resolution to preserve the remains.

The Memorial Mound has a simple pagoda on the top of a grassy hill. The small shrine next to the mound is filled with with thousands of origami paper cranes, dedicated to Sadako Sasaki.

Exposed to the A-bomb at the age of 2, Sadako contracted leukemia and a decade later died in 1955 at the age of 12.

Sadako was convinced that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes she would survive. She folded far more than that and as the leukemia spread, the cranes got smaller and smaller. In the end she was using a needle to make the folds.

After Sadako’s death her classmates, from the Nobori-cho Elementary School, continued to make this symbol of longevity and happiness. They also started a movement to build the ‘Children’s Peace Monument’. The movement spread to schools across Japan, then worldwide, and by 1958 the monument was built.

The weather again played a part in our decision to visit Miyajima, or Shrine Island, on our second day.

Typhoon Danas had passed and was on its way to China, but rain was forecast for our final day so we thought this might be best spent indoors at the Peace Museum.

Miyajima Island is best known for the 16.6 meters high, bright orange, O-Torii Gate, that seems to float offshore from the Itsukushima Shrine. Another UNESCO World Heritage site the O-Torii Gate is one of the most visited tourist destination in Japan. There have been 8 gates built since the Heian period, (794-1185) this one was constructed in 1875.

We, like thousands of others, spent time walking round the Itsukushima Shrine, there was a wedding taking place and the bride and groom seemed ambivalent towards their many extra ‘guests’.

We then took the Rope-way and funicular to the Misen climbing path and walked to the observatory.

This must be the only chair lift in the world that you need a chair lift to get to. There was a good walk to get to the rope-way and then another tough descent and then an ascent to get to the  Mount Misen Observatory.

It was worth every step, as the views from the top were spectacular. The mountainside is covered with a rich, verdant primeval forest so the views looking down weren’t that shabby either.

Walking to the summit we passed several temples dedicated to Kobo Daishi, a great Buddhist priest. There are statues of his likeness everywhere, many with humorous expressions.

We had been told not to miss a meal of Hiroshima’s specialty, known as Okonomiyaki, a pancake filled with any number of things and topped with different sauces. One of the most popular restaurants serving this dish is Okonomi-mura. It has 26 areas, each serving a different variation of Okonomiyaki.

The sauces used in the restaurant are specially made by Sun Foods.

We then had a nightcap down on the river, overlooking the Peace Park, and walked to the illuminated A-Bomb Dome. Here we met Happy, a 14 year old Corgi, and his owner. Happy walks sometimes but mainly rides on the back of the bike.

Our last day in Hiroshima was dedicated to visiting the Peace Memorial Museum.

Like all good museums it takes you on a journey – a journey of ups and downs, highs and lows, positives and negatives.

I rarely take snaps in museums, as I believe they are artificial places and only give a contrived view of history.

There is an exception to every rule and the sight of Sadako Sasaki’s tiny origami cranes inspired me to try and capture their frailness.

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