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2019 - Japan - Day 5

Another sleepless night for me, this time of my own doing. I was really thirsty by the time we had got to the restaurant last night and drank two large glasses of Coke Zero. I should have known better. As I get older, drinking lots of caffeine at night plays havoc with me. My mind races ninety to the dozen and I cannot settle for hours. Not the easiest thing to cope with when I am only allocated 11 inches of bed and that is with the wall hard against me. Still at least Karen slept well, obviously dreaming about tractors with all the noises she was making.

By the time the alarm went off I was just about ready to settle down and so got up even more tired than when I went to bed. The alarm was set for 6.45am as we had booked tickets on the bullet train to Hiroshima for the day. Breakfast was the same as before in our room and I may only be at Day 5 but I am longing for some porridge already. We made our way to the station in good time and awaited our train. This time I did manage to get a photo of it arriving. The train made very light work of the 200 miles and we were soon getting off in Hiroshima and looking for a Tram to take us to the Atom Dome and Peace Memorial park.

The Tram had yet another ticket system. This time you paid a flat fee when you got off. It was all very labour intensive and I was tired just watching the conductor go about his duties. He was constantly having to lean out of the window, press buttons, ring bells, take money and deal with idiots like us. The Tram driver seemed to have the easier job to me.

Then we were there, at the site of the first ever Nuclear bomb detonation at a target. This place felt all too surreal to me. I was born just 17 years after the bomb was dropped in 1945. I grew up during the arms race and used to worry about what was happening as soon as I was old enough to understand and it was talked about at school. Although I was too young to recall the Cuban missile crisis, I knew that the threat was always present and all too real. At the time I could never have contemplated ever visiting such a place where such devastation took place.

I know and understand the arguments about why it was dropped. Indeed one of the big factors in taking the decision was the real fear that given Japan’s weakened position at that point in the war and what this may cause them to do with all their POW’s. We may never know, but without the Hiroshima bomb I may not have been here today. We will never know if this was a right or just decision or not, but it did seem to hasten the surrender of the Japanese forces.

Nevertheless I cannot help feeling that although I know that there was devastation and brutality on both sides, but two wrongs do not make a right.

I am still sure if it is macabre to visit such sites but I know if we had not made the effort today then I would have regretted it. Taking some photos was another interesting decision as I didn’t really want to show a happy smiling face but did want to be able to record our visit.

The first thing we saw was the Atomic Dome. This is one of the only buildings near the bomb centre which survived and had been preserved as a symbol of the destruction. It does look poignant. We then walked to the Peace Flame and then onto the Cenotaph.

There were dozens of school parties around, as it seems that Japan is passionate about their children learning about what happened and why. They are frantically recording the stories of the people who somehow managed to survive. We paid the small admission fee to enter the Peace Museum. The first parts of this was grim and concentrated on the people who died or were horrifically injured. Then it showed how all the rescue workers also all suffered from the effects from the radiation. The final part showed details about the bomb development , why Hiroshima was selected as a target and the consequences. I thought it showed it factually without emotion. Karen felt it had a Japanese bias, which would be understandable.

We bought a drink from the cafe and sat outside in the lovely sunshine with hundreds of school children who were enjoying quietly their bento boxes. We then went to the mound where many of the cremated bodies were buried. It was with real belief that I took turn in ringing the large bell for Peace. Our final site to see was some 160m behind the Atomic Dome and was a marble marker outside a local Hospital. This marked the exact hyper centre of where the bomb exploded some 600m in the air. I am not sure why they didn’t expand the Peace Memorial grounds to encompass this as it seemed rather too important to be left on a pavement with cars going inches past it. Only one or two other people had wandered to find it as well.

Hiroshima as a town seemed to be nice enough although rebuilt bit by bit with no real purpose or plan, which I thought was surprising. We wandered past a few shops before coming across a Subway, so went in and purchased some rolls to eat for a late lunch on the return journey. We enjoyed the Tram ride back and then bought some hot drinks to have on the bullet train train.

Then for the first time the rail network let us down. We departed exactly on time but soon were getting delayed. Something had apparently blown onto the electrical cables miles ahead of us, and after having several unscheduled stops we were eventually told that the train was terminating. We had no idea where we were or what to do. Amazingly we were both calm and went and to the ticket office for advice. They told us to go to track 23 and get on the waiting train to get back to Kyoto. That all seemed far too simple. So we got onto a virtual empty train which almost immediately started moving. Not only that but it was a direct train which the terminated one wasn’t. We have no idea what happened to everyone else on the previous train but no else seemed to have made it to this train. We kept expecting to be asked to leave or something as we did not have the appropriate tickets for this train (which was apparently running 63 minutes late) as we know that the Japanese are sticklers for keeping to the rules, but never saw any train staff. We ended up back in Kyoto only about 20 minutes that our scheduled arrival.

Karen fancied a walk in the sunshine to try a Green Tea Ice cream. We thought we would head North out of the station. Easier said than done, Kytion Station is easily the biggest train station I have ever been in. Going from South to North across the lines involves 15 minutes of walking and going up and up and up incredibly high on several escalators followed by a walkway through a maze of shops. There is simply no other way through, as we found on our return to on Hotel which was on the South side of the station. We got hopelessly lost and Karen got more and more annoyed with this 'pointless gargantuan monstrosity of a station' (her description). Anyhow once on the North Side, we eventually found a safe looking establishment selling the desired Green Tea Whippy Ice cream. Karen deemed it to be just OK and nothing special, but then again she would often pick vanilla ice cream by choice much of the time.

Eventually we got back to the Hotel, where I was allowed to catch up on some holiday admin before we set out again. I was able to exchange messages with Neil who was just starting out on his journey to join us tomorrow and was at Norwich airport.

We then went for our usual evening stroll to the supermarket before hitting Tony Roma’s for the third and final time. This time we both went for the Chicken Caesar salad which was very nice. By 9.30pm we were safely back in our room.

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