Hiroshima literally means "broad island," and is both a city and prefecture in Japan
: city population 1.1 million, prefectural population 2.9 million (1997). Built on a river delta
in western Honshu
, roughly equidistant from Fukuoka
, it is the largest city in the Chugoku
region. It is also the third-largest destination for foreign tourists in Japan after Tokyo
: the anti-American sentiment many would expect is virtually non-existent.
Hiroshima was the site of several Japanese military bases during the war, although not as many as some American accounts imply. In 1945, Hiroshima was one of only three major cities in Japan spared from American firebombings (the other two were Kyoto and Nagasaki). At the time, many residents believed that the US was planning to spare those cities for future use as military bases and American communities, but August 6, 1945 proved the common assumptions to be false.
IMHO, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is depicted best in Ota Yoko's short story City of Corpses, and in the manga/anime Barefoot Gen.
Hiroshima was, needless to say, completely devastated by the A-bomb. The only structures in the inner city that survived the blast were reinforced smokestacks and the building directly at ground zero, now known as the gembaku-dômu or Atomic Dome. Hiroshima Castle, an artifact of the Edo period, was leveled.
The city has since been rebuilt. Much of the area around ground zero is now part of the Peace Park, where the A-bomb museum is located. The castle was also rebuilt to resemble the original. Astute visitors to the city can notice the subtle changes in architecture between the areas inside and outside the blast radius.
Hiroshima is also a great place to get okonomiyaki.
You can get there by Shinkansen: Hiroshima is west of Osaka and Tokyo on the Tokaido-Sanyo line. There is also direct air service from several major cities in Japan and South Korea.
25 Oct 2002: I've just come across this poem by Toge Sankichi, which appears on the memorial at Hiroshima. It follows, first in Unicode hiragana, and then transliterated and translated:
Chichi o kaese, haha o kaese
Toshiyori o kaese
Kodomo o kaese
Watashi o kaese, watashi ni tsunagaru
Ningen o kaese
Ningen no, ningen no yo no aru kagiri
Kuzurenu heiwa o
Heiwa o kaese
Give back the fathers, give back the mothers
Give back the elders
Give back the children
Give me back, and give back
The people that are tied to me
And the peace that never crumbles
While mankind's, mankind's world exists
Give back the peace
As I looked toward the eternal flame
, I stopped when I saw the words: Rest in peace, for they shall not repeat the mistake.
Right now, somewhere—maybe next door, maybe a thousand miles away—a bomber is flying over someone's head. Think about it.