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paper cranes and peace
hiroshima

Peace in paper cranes at Hiroshima

Paper cranes writing out peace

It is a sad truth that world peace has become a naive impossibility, what beauty queens ask for when they answer their final question, and the two fingers that the Japanese and Chinese toss up when posing for pictures.  War is a necessity, we argue, an undeniable, unenviable task that every country must face at one point or another.  "Peace in the Middle East," "Free Tibet": they are slogans that ring in our minds though we may not believe in the causes or understand the politics that propel the controversies.

Model of Hiroshima before the atom bomb Hiroshima after the bomb

Models of Hiroshima downtown before and after

I never thought I would find a place where people believe, truly, fundamentally, in the essence of world-wide peace.  And, when I found that place, I did not think it would be Hiroshima, a city ravaged by a violence that the mind shudders to contemplate.  Yet, that is exactly what Hiroshima has become: a place of peace, the most beautiful unadulterated peace I have ever experienced, born from a tragedy that frames the history of that city.

 Pictures of the atom bomb Hiroshima  Pictures of victims of Hiroshima atomic blast
 Remnants of a tricycle at Hiroshima  Picture of victim of atom bomb

Pictures of the bomb exploding; victims of the bomb; a tricycle buried with a child; and burn victim from the blast

In May 1945, after a chilling deliberation about the best target for the use of the expensive atom bomb built under the Manhattan Project, American leaders selected Hiroshima because of its military importance, large population, and small number of Allied POWs.  Regardless of whether it was the right or wrong decision, the only way to end the war or a way to demolish a powerful enemy, on August 6, 1945, at 8:15 a.m., people died.  Light, noise, and fire reduced a city to dust.

A bomb dome

A-bomb dome

The twisted steel girders of the Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, the one building that survived what President Truman called the “rain of ruin from the air,” is now known simply as the A-bomb Dome.  It stands in the midst of a serene garden with fountains and gaping children who draw sketches of the fragments of the building.

A-bomb dome Fountain in Hiroshima Peace Park
Flower at Hiroshima Peace Park Hiroshima Peace Park

Hiroshima Peace Park

Occasionally, the sonorous ring of a giant bell echoes against the pavement as visitors ring it and wish for world peace.  A fire burns in the center of a fountain; it will burn until worldwide nuclear disarmament.  At the edge of the park, memorials etched in many languages repeat the same phrase, “Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil.

Peace Park memorial Paper cranes at Hiroshima
Paper cranes at Hiroshima Children's Peace Memorial

Paper cranes and memorials

Throughout, there are paper cranes in every shade and color of the spectrum, resting against memorials, hanging on ropes throughout the park, and tens of thousands of them surrounding the Children’s Peace Memorial.  The memorial commemorates the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was diagnosed with chicken pox and leukemia, ten years after the atom bomb exploded one mile from her home. 

Paper cranes at Hiroshima

Children at Peace Memorial Hiroshima
Paper cranes at Hiroshima Paper cranes

Children at the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima; paper cranes

She believed in a Japanese proverb that a person who folds a thousand cranes would be granted a wish and laid in her hospital bed for four months folding tiny paper cranes until her eventual death.  Today, children across the world send paper cranes----tiny, large, in plain colors, and vivid silk designs---to Hiroshima in memory of one little girl who died.  

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Hiroshima Peace Memorial; designed so the A-bomb dome and lit torch can be seen through the arch

We went to Hiroshima not knowing what to expect, wondering whether we would be ashamed by our country’s role in this act of war or saddened by the sheer brutality of the loss as we had been in Phnom Penh.  Instead, as my fingers traced the granite etching on the memorial at the end of the park, I felt hopeful: this place “expresses the spirit of Hiroshima – enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.”

07/23/2010 21:03
Hiroshima was one of my favorite places in Japan and your pictures and this post are a wonderful synopsis. Did you try and fold any paper cranes while you were there? It was much harder than I thought it would be.
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07/24/2010 20:50
Beautiful post, thanks so much!
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07/25/2010 16:00
Akila, you always have the most beautiful way of looking at things. Good post!
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07/26/2010 05:15
Your brilliant photos add a lot more to your way of looking at things.

Thanks for sharing this.
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07/26/2010 20:15
Lakshmi Sankar
Akila,
What a touching post! I am so proud that you were able to draw such sentiments in the middle of such despair! Love, Mom
07/27/2010 21:20
Even after all the years that have passed the images of the aftermath of the A-bomb is disturbing. Thanks for the post
07/28/2010 12:52
Chetan Sankar
I just heard this morning in NPR that the congress voted for $40 billion for the ongoing wars in Afghanistan & Iraq. The same congress had a much more difficult time passing the health care bill. Given that background, I was moved to read your post on Hiroshima. Your post reveals that the Japanese are truly practicing Buddhist/ Christian teachings .. forgive & forget.

Love,
08/02/2010 06:45
Just wanted to drop a comment and say I am new to your blog and really like what I am reading. Thanks for the great content. Look forward to coming back for more.

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