Hiroshima’s past is one of many reasons to pay a visit

Hello Hugo

Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.  No doubt living there, you will have learnt a lot about this at school and elsewhere.  This article appeared in The Japan Times on Friday and is a reminder, not that you would need it, that there is a lot on offer there – although you are still a little young for some of the below, I have visited most of the places referred to.  It is a lovely city and whenever I read about it my thoughts inevitably turn to you.

This post is also the 100th one categorised with your name, either alone or with other categories – all my messages to you personally or posts that otherwise relate to you directly; the total number of posts is now approaching 300.

STEPHEN MANSFIELD
Travel
Hiroshima’s past is one of many reasons to pay a visit
by Stephen Mansfield
Special To The Japan Times

Aug 4, 2017

 

The early morning light on this summer day, illuminating the under canopies of trees and sending warm, golden strobes across the oyster cafes over the embankments of the Kyobashi River, is enchanting.
A fan-shaped city divided by seven deltaic waterways, Hiroshima sits on six islands formed by estuarial rivers. It feels large and expansive, but is free of the crowds that fill Tokyo and Osaka. Elegant bridges and river perspectives add notes of grace to this modern city, but its streams of history and collective memory return, invariably, to the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, when a white light lit it up from west to east before plunging it into semi-darkness.

 

It was the world’s first use of nuclear weapons on a civilian population, and the effects have been indelible. Today, the story of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is well understood, but it wasn’t always so — the full truth of what happened took decades to come out as the U.S. Occupation and government sought to keep a lid on images of the destruction and suffering. Japan, for its part, also took decades to erect a memorial acknowledging the Korean laborers who perished alongside Japanese in Hiroshima. The Koreans, whose experience must count as a double misfortune, did get their memorial in the end, though you will have to seek it out. Sidelined away from the central monuments of the Peace Park, it feels a little like an uncomfortable afterthought.
Visiting the city around this time of year can be intense, especially in the areas connected with its wartime history, but it is well worth your while. Local residents enjoy the open spaces and river views; groups of tourists follow guides, stopping periodically to hear explanations; and people with signs and clipboards are never far away. Causes include everything from pleas for world peace and efforts to project Japan’s pacifist Constitution to protests against the harvesting of human organs in China. It’s tempting to get caught up in this highly politicized vortex and become a victim of the mild delirium that can assail visitors, but don’t worry — people with agendas tend to cluster around Motoyasu Bridge. Those with interest can get involved; for others, it’s good to just keep moving.
You have to steel yourself for a visit to Hiroshima. The travel writer Ethel Mannin visited the city in 1958, bracing herself on one occasion when a doctor passed her an album of photographs of A-bomb injuries.
“Once you have looked without passing out,” she noted, “you can go on looking, for you can only be profoundly shocked in that way once; after that comes only the dull repetition of horror.” Mannin witnessed the living conditions of the very poor, many of them debilitated by radiation sickness in the days before the city’s slow recovery.
She was taken to an area behind the Atomic Bomb Dome, the ruins of the former Industrial Promotion Hall, at the hypocenter of the explosion. Today, the area is set aside for restaurants and bars catering to tourists, and to a pier where visitors embark for cruises along the Motoyasu River. In Mannin’s day, improvised shacks made from scavenged corrugated iron, sacking and splintered wood, occupied the spot. The writer was told that eviction orders had been served on the slum’s residents, but many of them, unable to work full time, were incapable of paying even the lowest rents.
The plight of those exposed to radiation extended well beyond the end of the war and the limits of corporeal suffering. In the decades that followed, discrimination against the hibakusha was remorseless — some healthy families refused to let their offspring marry a sufferer, and some employers denied them work. Many of those with nonvisible injuries, fearing stigmatization, refused to visit hospitals and receive treatment.
You needn’t be of any particular nationality to be affected by the lessons this city has to teach, for its tragedy is fundamentally a human one. That said, life has moved on in Hiroshima, a city with many dimensions. The best approach, perhaps, is to pay your respects early on, and then turn your attention to a city that has become a model of forward-looking prosperity.
My first stop after visiting the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum is always to seek out the grounds of Shukkei-en, a traditional Japanese garden. Its location, close to ground zero, resulted in extensive damage. After painstaking reconstruction, it was opened to the public in 1951. If prewar photos are anything to go by, the restoration appears to be remarkably faithful.
A typical Japanese circuit garden, the site was created in 1620, purportedly by the tea ceremony master Ueda Soko. The name translates as “compressed scenery garden,” an apt description for the series of valley, forest and mountain cameos skillfully integrated into the grounds. Like today, the original garden contained a number of teahouses, stone lanterns and miniaturized scenes to form a cultural digest of sights in China and Japan. Perhaps the strongest Chinese reference is the Takuei Pond, with its many islets, including the clear outline of a turtle and crane island. The water is transected by Koko-kyo bridge, modeled on the causeway at Xi Hu, the West Lake in Hangzhou. A green and bucolic spot, Shukkei-en is more than just a garden: It is a symbol of rebirth and hope.
The original garden was constructed around the same time as Hiroshima Castle and is within walking distance of it. There are only 12 authentic castles remaining in Japan, and this is not one of them. The fortress replica that stands today is skillfully done, however, with three towers and a wide moat shored up with the original masonry. Innovations found in other castle replicas, such as elevators, are mercifully absent. As you climb to the fifth story of the donjon (keep), each floor has historical displays of armor, weaponry, manuscripts and maps, not to mention actors in costume stalking photo opportunities here and there.
It’s a short enough walk from the castle to the Hiroshima Museum of Art, though the city’s straight avenues and boulevards can also be negotiated by tramcar, vehicles that add a touch of old-world urban elegance. If the exhibits of paintings by the likes of Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and Pierre-Auguste Renoir seem removed from the life of the city, the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum (to the east of the castle) has a number of works more expressive of the spirit of place, the most conspicuous being the rather harrowing “Holocaust at Hiroshima,” a large painting by Ikuo Hirayama. The artist witnessed the bombing, so we can depend on the authenticity of the scenes it depicts. Among the museum’s more arresting works by foreign artists is the surrealist masterpiece, “Dreams of Venus,” by Salvador Dali. With its signature melting watch the canvas put me in mind of a curious weekend spent in the company of Dali and his wife Gala at their seafront home in the Catalan village of Cadaques, Spain. But that’s another story, another moment in time.
The third venue in the cultural triangle is the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, with its fine collection of works from around the world. The grounds of the museum, located at the top of Hijiyama, an incline with commanding views of the city, are peppered with important modern sculptures, including a work by Henry Moore. Hiroshima’s vibrant art scene, restaurants, gardens, parks and cafe life and the undeniably international feeling conferred on it by so many visitors from around the world combine to make it an inspiring model of dynamic recovery.
Inevitably, though, one is drawn back to the oppressive final days of the war and the superheated summer that put Hiroshima, a then little-known port city, forever on the map. I returned on my final night for one last look at the Atomic Bomb Dome. Apparently some local residents had objected to the beautification of the monument with the installation of colored lights for nighttime. The word “magical” may seem inappropriate, but there was a haunting, phantasmagoric quality to the lit girders, torn walls and blackened cavities of the building.
Despite its nocturnal charms, it is advisable to visit Hiroshima in the daytime, when the sunbeams chase away the scorched shadows of the past and one can appreciate the light, passing as it should from east to west.
High-speed shinkansen, local trains and buses all arrive at Hiroshima Station. Hiroshima-Nishi Airport and Hiroshima Airport host flights from Tokyo and other large cities. There are two information booths in Hiroshima Station. To learn more, visit http://www.visithiroshima.net.

Source:  “Hiroshima’s past is one of many reasons to pay a visit”, The Japan Times, 4 August 2017

Heavy rain in your prefecture this summer

Hello Hugo

I was concerned to read about the bad weather in Hiroshima today, as documented in the article below.  I hope that you are fine.  In London, we are gearing up to a further heatwave following on from the last one that set records.  Hope that you can see that I am always looking out for you, whatever the distance.

The Japan Times

Man dies in Hiroshima Prefecture, children missing in Fukuoka after heavy rain hits west

KYODO, STAFF REPORT

One person died after being swept away by a swollen river and six people, including some children, have been reported missing after heavy rain hit western Japan on Wednesday, officials said.

More than 60,000 residents of Hiroshima and Shimane prefectures were temporarily advised to evacuate.

In Fukuoka Prefecture, six people are feared to have been buried in mud or swept away in swollen rivers in the city of Asakura and Uki, local police said Wednesday evening, adding that the missing include children.

In Hiroshima, a 93-year-old man was found dead in a river in the city’s Asakita Ward. He is believed to have been swept away when water levels rose due to torrential rain that pummeled the two prefectures earlier.

Another man in his 60s suffered a minor injury after he was hit by a landslide in Masuda, Shimane Prefecture while he was evacuating, police said.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed relevant ministries and agencies to grasp the situation and come up with quick measures to prevent further damage in the affected regions.

The city of Hamada in Shimane, which faces the Sea of Japan, saw hourly precipitation of over 80 mm Wednesday morning, as a seasonal rain front brought in moist air from the East China Sea and caused a strip of storm clouds to develop, the Meteorological Agency said.

The agency issued an emergency warning for heavy rain over parts of Shimane Prefecture on Wednesday morning.

“(Shimane) is seeing really heavy rain like it has never seen before,” an agency official said at a news conference held at 7 a.m. Wednesday. “This is an extraordinary situation in which serious crises are approaching. Some disasters, such as landslides and floods, may already be occurring.”

The emergency warning — issued in the cities of Hamada and Masuda and the towns of Onan and Tsuwano — was lifted before noon.

The prefectural governments issued evacuation orders and advisories Wednesday to a total of 28,000 residents in 13,000 households in Hamada, Masuda and Onan, and 36,000 residents in 16,000 households in five municipalities in Hiroshima Prefecture, including the city of Akitakata.

West Japan Railway Co. said the JR Sanin Line suspended operations Wednesday morning between Hamada and Masuda stations as sediment under the rails was found running off at two locations.

Service on the JR Sanko Line, which connects the cities of Miyoshi and Gotsu in Hiroshima Prefecture, was also suspended.

Source:  “Man dies in Hiroshima Prefecture, children missing in Fukuoka after heavy rain hits west”, The Japan Times, 5 July 2017

UK heatwave

Hello Hugo

Hope you are keeping well.

As the Telegraph article below relates, today was the hottest day in June since 1976 – the year before I was born.  It certainly felt it.  Ironically, the peak was recorded at Heathrow, the location where you last set foot in the UK in 2011.

The heat this week has been oppressive and reminds me of when I worked in Japan:  in the summer months, when walking to the station in the mornings, my shirt would be soaked through with sweat.  Similar experiences in London this week.

I imagine that the weather is similarly oppressive in Hiroshima so hope that you are coping with it better than I would be.

It would be great to hear from you some time…

 

The Telegraph

UK Weather: barristers remove wigs and gowns as Britain sizzles in hottest June day since 1976

Britain enjoyed the hottest June day for 40 years 
Britain enjoyed the hottest June day for 40 years  CREDIT: AMER GHAZZAL / BARCROFT IMAGES

Barristers and judges were allowed to ditch their traditional gowns and wigs and school sent pupils home as Britain experience the hottest day for 40 years yesterday.

Temperatures soared above 34C as the UK saw its hottest June day since 1976, the Met Office confirmed.

Heathrow in west London had recorded temperatures of 94.1F (34.5C) by 4pm, the highest for June since the 35.6C (96F) recorded in Southampton on June 28 1976.

Sweltering temperatures inside Croydon Crown Court forced Judge Deborah Charles to allow counsel to leave their heavy black gowns and horse-hair wigs to one side as they addressed a jury in the opening of a case.

Andover Church of England Primary School, Hants, closed its doors at 11.30am yesterday morning because of the increased heat.

Wednesday saw the hottest summer solstice on record as temperatures rose above 86F (30C) for the fifth consecutive day in a row.

A lady sunbathes as they enjoy the hot weather on the beach in Brighton, East Sussex
A lady sunbathes as they enjoy the hot weather on the beach in Brighton, East SussexCREDIT: GARETH FULLER PA 

But the hottest prolonged spell in June since the drought summer of 1976 is set to come to an end, as a cold front swept across the UK overnightt

There are also weather warnings in place for Wednesday afternoon and evening, with heavy rain and thunderstorms forecast for parts of southern Scotland, northern England, north Wales and the Midlands.

The Met Office warned of the potential for torrential downpours, frequent lightning, very large hailstones and strong gusts of wind, which could lead to localised flooding and temporary disruption of power supplies.

Chief meteorologist Steve Willington said: “The high pressure that has dominated our weather of late is starting to move away, allowing fresher air in from the west.

“A cold front that will pass through the UK will mark an end to the hot spell of weather in the south and bring cloudier skies and lower temperatures.”

 Large crowds of sun seekers pack Brighton beach to cool off on scorching day
 Large crowds of sun seekers pack Brighton beach to cool off on scorching day CREDIT: BARCROFT MEDIA

The sweltering temperatures have seen “unprecedented demand” for ambulance services in London, with people fainting, collapsing and becoming unconscious in the heat.

Patients calling for non-emergencies are likely to wait four hours for an ambulance, London Ambulance Service warned.

On Monday, London Ambulance Service call handlers answered 6,613 emergency calls, compared with 4,695 the week before – a 41 per cent increase – and the service warned this was expected to continue while the heatwave lasted.

Peter McKenna, deputy director of operations, said: “Our crews are extremely busy.

“On Monday we attended 20 per cent more seriously ill and injured patients than the same day last week and we’ve also been involved in a number of high-profile major incidents.”

Medical director Dr Fenella Wrigley said: “We see an increase in calls because people can forget to stay hydrated and the heat can exacerbate heart and breathing conditions.

“We are getting calls from people who do not need an ambulance – for minor sunburn, heat rash, hayfever.

“These can be dealt with by a pharmacist. If you call us for something minor, you may experience a long wait.”

Youngsters were urged not to go swimming in lakes, rivers and reservoirs during the hot weather, following the deaths of two teenagers in separate incidents.

A 16-year-old boy died at a reservoir in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, on Monday, while a 15-year-old boy died after going into a lake with friends in the Pelsall area of the Black Country, in the West Midlands, on Tuesday evening.

West Midlands Fire Service’s area commander Ben Brook, said: “We absolutely understand the temptation to swim, have fun and cool down during the heatwave, but we are asking people not to.

“It simply isn’t worth the risk nor the heartbreak for all involved when things go wrong.”

A pensioner also drowned off the Sussex coast on Monday.

Thousands of sun-worshippers witnessed a spectacular dawn as they gathered at Stonehenge for the summer solstice.

Approximately 13,000 people descended on the neolithic monument in Wiltshire to watch the sun rise at 4.52am – up from 12,000 last year.

Source:  “UK weather:  barristers remove wigs and gowns as Britain sizzles in hottest June day since 1976”, The Telegraph, 21 June 2017

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas, Hugo.

This Christmas marks your 6th in Japan.  I don’t suppose that anyone will take you to a church on Christmas Day  but you should, one day when you are old enough, visit Hiroshima’s best kept secret, the Noboricho Cathedral in Naka-ku.  Known as the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace it is built on the site of a parish church that was destroyed by the the 1945 bomb.  The then priest of the parish, also named Hugo (Lassalle), a German citizen who later became a Japanese (taking the name Enomiya Mabiki), survived the bombing and set about raising funds to build the modernist cathedral that stands on the site today.

Image result for catholic cathedral hiroshima

The Cathedral 

I hope that you have an enjoyable Christmas Day in Japan.  You remain, as always, in my thoughts and prayers.  Please see below for the presents that I sent to you on 7 December.

Early summer 2016 – Green Park

Hello Hugo

I am not sure whether you went to see President Obama when he visited your city yesterday but the visit is bound to rank as one of the most significant days for Hiroshima in your childhood.

Earlier this week I had to visit a client at a prison in Surrey. I didn’t have to be there until 9am but generally get up very early these days. Whilst travelling through central London I got off the subway at Green Park station and walked through the park down to Buckingham Palace as I had some spare time. Below are the photographs I took; there were very few people around as it was before 7am.

Green Park 1

Green Park 2

Green Park 3

Green Park 4

Green Park 5

Green Park 6

Green Park 7

Green Park 8

Green Park 9

Green Park 10

Green Park 11

Green Park 12