I wasn’t prepared for Hiroshima, which is historically appropriate. We’ve all seen the grainy footage, and the monochrome photos of the aftermath, but being there in person is much more profound. The landmarks and Peace Museum see to that.
The most visible landmark at the site of the first nuclear attack is the A-Bomb Dome, by the river near the city centre. The bombers used the adjacent bridge to target the drop. They weren’t far off the mark. There wasn’t much else left afterwards. They preserved it in its resulting state as a permanent reminder of the event.
Although the bomb detonated high above the ground, the force was enough to kill everyone and destroy all wooden buildings in over a 1 mile radius. The bridge’s metal railings bounced off the river bed and pulled the bridge into the air. Anyone in plain sight was crushed or burned alive. Those a little further away were either killed by giant fireball or flying glass. 66,000 people died immediately. And 70,000 died over the next few months from radiation effects. At least 85% of the deaths were civilian.
Little Boy was a small atomic bomb. Fat Man, dropped on Nagasaki, was a bigger more ambitious design. It was only less effective because the bombers missed the target by thousands of yards (due to cloud cover). It was supposed to cause a lot more death and destruction. Nowadays, atomic bombs are hundreds of times more powerful. Yes, hundreds.
So, once I took all that information on board, it was time to get out of Hiroshima and visit the island of Miyajima, a short ferry ride away. Arriving at Miyajima, you are greeted by the impressive Itsukushima torii. It acts as a gate to the Shinto shrine, partly resting on stilts in the sea.
Miyajima is a small island. As well as the shrines, there are lots of deer, which are very tame — actually, very cheeky. They will have the snack out of your hand as soon as you look away.
We found a walking route around the island, taking in the shrines and views (and a small hillside bar). It was just long enough to keep us busy until the last afternoon ferry back to Hiroshima.
Like the Zen Buddhist temples, the shrines are impressive old buildings, but get a bit repetitive after a while. So it was great to park our backsides with a biru and a good view of the giant torii and the view of Hiroshima, peacefully nestling between the mountains.