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Enola/Alone: Visiting Hiroshima

It’s 8:15, and that’s the time that it’s always been…

At a quarter past eight on the morning of the sixth of August 1945, the first atomic bomb in human history was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, a moment forever frozen in time amid the horrifying death and destruction of war. In the words of celebrated fashion designer Issey Miyake…

On Aug. 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on my hometown, Hiroshima. I was there, and only seven years old. When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape. I remember it all. Within three years, my mother died from radiation exposure.“

As part of my first trip to Japan*, in the beautiful cherry blossom spring of 2019, I visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial site which includes the Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims, a museum and the iconic dome building set in a beautifully compact patch of parkland that was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

The memorial is a highly recommended must-see if you are in the area, especially if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the suffering caused by nuclear weapons and the true value of peace today. Sadly, thanks to the West’s repeated cynical and bogus invasions of the Middle East — which clearly gave the millennial monster Putin, or Vlad the Invader as I like to call him — a barrage of imperialist ideas for his evil onslaught in Ukraine, peace seems as much of a pipe dream as it was seven decades ago. We all know from experience wider history there are no winners in war, and yet all we do is switch on the news to remind ourselves how depressingly little progress mankind has made.

The domed ruins you see in a selection of my photos were located almost directly underneath the World War II explosion. While many of the buildings in decimated downtown Hiroshima were instantly rendered to rubble and ash, the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (as it was then clunky monikered) consisted of an earthquake-resistant stone and steel design that helped in largely avoiding the carnage, except for the metal dome melting on to the people below like something out a Dali painting. 

After a fragile peace had been achieved with the Allies, many residents of Hiroshima wanted the building torn down, and to start life anew. However, the authorities decided to keep it as it was —and its remains stand today as a tragic if slightly defiant reminder of the senseless, indiscriminate brutality of war, and human beings’ continuing ability to hate and destroy. 

In the words of Enola Gay — the OMD song written about the plane that dropped the bomb — it’s never ever gonna fade away. 

Peace, mon amour.

Steve Pafford

*In a reply to a question posted on an earlier version of this article on Facebook, I was asked if there was still radiation in Hiroshima. After 77 years it would be nowhere near of the levels still present at Chernobyl, but it reminded me that I’d actually delayed my Japanese trip several times because of the tsunami-triggered Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011. But also that I’d spoken to an Australian couple in 2014 who had recently come back from Tokyo (which is much closer to the disaster area) and after radiation checks were instructed not to conceive for ten years.

When I did traipse through the remains of Chernobyl later in 2019 we had a Geiger counter round our necks at all times, plus frequent checks and monitoring. Thank feck…

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