Ground Zero, Hiroshima

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Seventy-four years ago this month, the city of Nagasaki, Japan was bombed with an atomic weapon. Three days earlier, Hiroshima had suffered the same fate. Within a week of the bombings, the Japanese agreed to stop fighting, thus ending WW2.

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Japan. It is a fascinating country -- and very, very different than European countries I have visited. The landscape, architecture, food and culture really made the trip very interesting.

Since my base was not too far away from Hiroshima, I decided to add it to my itinerary and see the city that had the ignominious distinction to be the first in the world upon which was detonated a atomic weapon. As an American visitor, I didn't know what to expect -- not from the citizens of the city or even how I would feel personally.  

Upon exiting the train station, my first impression was -- "Wow - this city is beautiful!"  The city was filled with markets and malls, baseball stadiums, restaurants and stores, one of which had a huge American flag hanging from its sign.

I slowly made my way to ground zero - the epicenter of the explosion near the river that runs through the city. There the skeleton of a cement building is all that remains from the explosion and ensuing fires that enveloped the city. It was a striking reminder of the past, but in sharp contrast to the vibrancy of the new city that sprung up in its place. The museum dedicated to peace at the epicenter was horrifying and also interesting. It was horrifying because of the graphic depictions of the survivors of the bombing and of the destruction it wrought. It was interesting because the museum's narrative was utterly devoid of references to the brutal world war that the Japanese entered by attacking America years earlier. I distinctly remember thinking that the museum had given the impression that a bomb was dropped on a clear summer day...for no rhyme or reason. 

So, while I was very impressed with the Japanese resilience to begin anew and rebuild a city destroyed in a terrible manner, I was also a disturbed that the context of the war was missing from the national memorial museum to the bomb's victims.  Let's hope, pray and work for a world in which war -- and the need for terrible weapons -- will be unnecessary!