Hiroshima in the background behind the o-torii of the Itsukushima shrine (from above the town of Miyajima).
For whatever reason, I didn't expect to find myself deeply affected by seeing the A-bomb dome and Peace Park at Hiroshima. I was wrong.
I found my way to the epicenter area from the tram line. There are signs in English, so it's not hard. And along the way to the park, you come first to the A-bomb dome. The dome is what's left of a commerce exhibit building.
I don't know how to describe my feelings; there's something about knowing what happened here, even abstractly, but I was overwhelmed and nearly in tears as I walked closer to the dome. I understand concrete grief, grieving for someone I've known. But this feeling is different; I've come closest to it seeing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but I expected to feel overwhelmed by that, since I know people who served and wore a POW/MIA bracelet for several years.
One of the faculty here arranges this trip for students in hir class, and allows others to go if there's room; I had to make my own travel arrangements, but I did get to join the class to see and hear a speaker, a Hiroshima a-bomb survivor (Hibakusha). She was a superb speaker, and told her story compellingly; I don't know how to explain, but she was, she said, deeply bitter, and yet she seemed not angry. (It wasn't just the bomb, of course; from what she said, the Japanese government didn't start helping the Hibakusha for some years, and didn't really acknowledge the Korean and other non-Japanese Hibakusha, much less help them, until the 70s.)
In the museum was a display of narratives and art by survivors remembering the people left behind when they fled (from the fires which engulfed much of the area) because they couldn't get them out of buildings or help them escape. I can only imagine how that would feel; the survivor who spoke to us talked about her friend Michiko, who she found and tried to escape with, and had to leave behind because Michiko couldn't walk any further.
There are also displays of items donated by survivors or their families; for some reason, the blond Shirley Temple doll remains in my mind's eye.
Late in the afternoon, overwhelmed and tired, I walked through the grounds of the Hiroshima Castle; now there's only a rebuilt tower, but the grounds are beautiful, inside a restored moat where I saw some ducks (Common Polchard and Tufted Duck, since you asked). There's a Eucalyptus tree there that survived the bomb (as well as some nearer the epicenter in the Peace Park which are marked as well).
And today I went to Miyajima, and spent a beautiful day wandering around temples and shrines, walking quiet walks to and from parks, visiting a historical museum, and mostly being quiet with myself. I needed a quiet day.
And now I'm home again, tired. I don't know how to say this, but I have no desire to go back to Hiroshima again, and yet I'm not glad, but let's say I have a sense of obligation that I went.