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The revenant city

The revenant city

Hiroshima, Japan

To the outside world there can be no other image that defines a place, a city like Hiroshima, than the A-Bomb Dome building. I have pondered long and hard how to describe this upload as I don’t want this to be just another cliché photo without explanation. They say a picture paints a thousand words but in this case I disagree. Having spent a couple of days here, it does not do justice to the city or the people of Hiroshima… I’m reluctant to use the word icon or iconic, for this cements Hiroshima in the past and to one particular day in history – 6th August 1945.

Of all the cities we’ve visited throughout the world, none has created more emotional and uplifting memories as Hiroshima. Maybe the day started too perfectly for us… two journeys on the Shinkansen from Kyoto, the change in temperature as we stepped out of the station into a glorious late summer’s afternoon, or maybe it was the helpful and friendly taxi driver we chatted with in broken Japanese whilst he drove us through the beautiful tree-lined streets en route to the hotel. Whatever it was, there was a distinct difference in our emotions and excitement at the thought of exploring this city, much more so than Tokyo and Kyoto before.

Hiroshima is a beautiful city, a welcoming and relaxing place, a retreat from the fast paced, hectic lifestyles of it’s bigger sisters – Tokyo and Osaka. People here display the usual Japanese traits of politeness and friendliness but somehow exude a more relaxed, reflective and peaceful outlook. This was most apparent the moment we stepped out of the hotel for our first walkabout around the Peace Memorial Park and for me, particularly so, during my early morning shoots… however, more of that in a later upload!

Walking through Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a humbling and emotional experience, deserving of the time to sit and contemplate the world changing event that occurred here on that day in August 1945. We in the West take the nuclear weapons argument very lightly. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard "the ultimate deterrent, it’s us or them". However, it is clear to see that Japan, Hiroshima and not forgetting Nagasaki have a very different outlook on the weapons debate, especially with the current political gamesmanship between the US/North Korea posing a real threat. I can’t imagine anywhere else in the world that a hotel deems it important to issue you with a nuclear strike memo when you check in. Initially I dismissed it out of hand with typical western ignorance, or maybe a little arrogance, but two days in this city has given me a different viewpoint on the direction the world is taking with nuclear weapons. I’ve kept that memo and this is what it says…
J-Alert Emergency Announcement

Dear Guests

Thank you very much for staying at the ANA CROWNE PLAZA HIROSHIMA.
As you may be aware, there is a growing concern of possible missile testing by North Korea.
Under these circumstances, please be informed that there may be an emergency announcement regardless of the time of the day if J-Alert* by Japanese government is released, as your safety and security is our highest priority.

Timing of announcement: When necessary

* J-Alert is a satellite based warning system by Japanese government, which allows authorities to quickly broadcast alerts to local media and to citizens directly via a system of nationwide loudspeakers, television, radio, email and cell broadcasts
We sincerely apologize for any inconveniences this may cause and appreciate your kind understanding.

Thank you

The A-Bomb Dome is clearly the landmark of the city, but it is not glorified or sensationalised in any way. There are no Japanese flags flying from the defiant steel dome. The building stands opposite the Peace Memorial Park where the Rivers Ota and Motoyasu meet. It is there as a reminder to the world of the horrors of war and the technologies that fuel them. You can’t wander amongst the ruined shell and leave your tag on the walls as many other landmarks suffer, for it is completely fenced off and monitored by CCTV from every angle. The grounds are simple manicured lawns with the fallen bricks and stone work left in situ, presumably from the day of the bombing. At night it is very subtly lit; no blinding spotlights; no dazzling laser shows; no political statements made. But it does subliminally suggest to you – "yes, a terrible thing happened here many years ago, but we have moved on, we have rebuilt a better place to live, we will look to the future but we will always respect the past".

What I hope I’ve conveyed in this brief blog is that Hiroshima is not a city haunted by its past, nor does it pity itself. We both found it to be a vibrant, modern city with a forward looking relaxed atmosphere and the most courteous of people. If we could have stayed longer in Hiroshima we both would have gladly swapped a day from any of the other cities such is the aura of the place. It was the highlight of the holiday for me and I haven’t even gotten around to describing the mornings in the Peace Memorial Park, or the Orizuru Tower yet.

Posted by andyrousephotography on 2017-11-10 13:56:02

Tagged: , Japan , Hiroshima , 6th August 1945 , atomic bomb , Little Boy , Enola Gay , B-29 Superfortress , bomber , A-Bomb Dome Building , Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park , Andy Rouse , Canon , EOS , 5D3 , 5DMkIII , EF24-105mm f/4L

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