“Japan knows the horror of war and has suffered as no other nation under the cloud of nuclear disaster. Certainly Japan can stand strong for a world of peace.”
Visiting the Atomic Bomb Museum is not the kind of thing I was eager to do, but I am very glad I did. It’s a difficult visit, and indeed, some of the photos here are graphic. But I wanted to know and see for myself what happened here. I don’t think I made it past the first exhibition room before the tears started: tears for the mother who never found her daughter’s body but found the sandal she made for her; tears for the mother who tried to nurse her badly burned daughter and could only keep a sample of her ash-streaked hair after the girl died; tears for the 139,998 other people who lost their lives that day and in the days that followed, tears for the world that the reality of nuclear war is even a possibility.
It seems to me this museum serves three important functions: to document the events and aftermath of August 6, 1945; to memorialise the dead; and to advocate for peace. It’s this final function that is so carefully woven into the exhibits without having to say a word. As you enter the final part of the museum: the hall where you can sign a petition to reduce nuclear proliferation, you are then able to watch videos of survivors sharing their stories. They have done so for the world to see the horrible impacts of war and of nuclear war particularly. Only two cities have ever been the victims of nuclear attacks like this, and they are telling the story.
Before I visited Hiroshima, I understood the politics and history of the U.S.’s decision to drop the atomic bomb here and in Nagasaki. But I don’t think I truly understood the cost and can’t claim such an understanding today, not really. But if there is one place on the Earth that makes me want to become a pacifist, Hiroshima is it for me.
Title quote: Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project