Hiroshima – June 21

24 06 2010

by Professor George Sanchez

Tears, anger, and upset stomachs. These are just three of the reactions that our students had to an emotionally intense visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park in Hiroshima. The goal of the museum is to encourage the destruction of all nuclear weapons and to insure that no other population ever suffers from the devastation caused by being a target of an atomic attack. Unlike the carefree group full of laughter that we have grown accustomed to, the students spent two hours at this museum as individuals, alone in their thoughts with an English language audio-guide and powerful interpretations and pictures of the impact of atomic destruction in the everyday lives of the Hiroshima citizens of 1945. We heard stories of instant horrific death and long-term radiation poisoning, children left orphans and Korean forced laborers dying indiscriminately. We walked rather silently through the Peace Park after the museum, each student alone in his or her thoughts.

We had planned for this intense experience, so we took a boat ride for the afternoon to Miyajima Island, one of the loveliest, most peaceful islands in Japan, for an unstructured afternoon. The students explored the island in small groups, some concentrating on shopping, eating in small groups, others visiting the many amazing shrines and temples on the island. There were even a hearty few who spent the afternoon hiking up the mountain to see the island in its entirety.

That evening, after returning from the ferry, train and streetcar rides to get us back to the hotel, we met as a group to talk about our feelings on the day. Amazing, articulate students talked passionately about their personal emotional reactions to that morning’s experience, and some expressed the guilt or shame they felt that the bombing had been initiated in name of all Americans. I was left amazed by the difference it makes to take something that most had read about in books and experience it firsthand in the city that had been a target of a U.S. atomic bomb. History came alive for these students today, and I was proud to be a part of that educational experience.

After a long day in Hiroshima and Miyajima Island, we have a discussion about atomic bomb. Discussions have been part of our days in Los Angeles and Japan.

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