It was 8.15 on a snowy December morning when I heard chimes start to ring in the Memorial Peace Park. I happened to be standing beneath the Peace Clock Tower that marks the time when the nuclear explosion happened nearly seventy years ago. The devastating effects of the atomic bomb have not been forgotten in Hiroshima but have been memorialised in the Peace Park; a place I found hauntingly beautiful.
Photographing the floodlit A-Bomb Dome at night made me look closely at the building that was at the hypocentre of the blast. From a distance its iconic round dome looks sturdy and steadfast but once up close you can see it is reinforced by steel beams and concrete blocks. It is a skeleton that should have been buried years ago. Yet, it stands as a powerful reminder of the destruction the atomic bomb inflicted on the city of Hiroshima.
The Children’s Peace Monument remains the most moving statue in the park, and also the most positive. Beneath the statue of a young girl holding a giant origami crane are garlands of colourful paper figures, folded by school children from all over Japan and other countries. On a miserable, rainy day these rainbow coloured artworks are a glimmer of home for a more peaceful world.
Hiroshima is also known as the city to sample fresh seafood and gobble down hot okonomiyaki. For lunch, my companions and I went in search of authentic Hiroshimayaki, and we were not disappointed. The culinary tradition is made of two batter pancakes cooked on a hot grill with a layer of cabbage, bean sprouts, meat and noodles sandwiched in between. There is a rich, sweet sauce to lather on the top pancake, and it’s optional whether chilli flakes or katsuobushi (bonito fish flakes) are thrown on top too. It’s a Japanese equivalent to a pizza, pick your base and choose your toppings.
I, however, wouldn’t stand outside for forty minutes whilst a pizza was cooked for me, but this seemed to be the norm for popular Hiroshima okonomiyaki joints. As we waited in line, sitting on metal stools on the pavement, one of the staff came to take our orders. I wondered if we could have enjoyed a drink whilst waiting outside, but I’d be afraid my fingers would freeze to the glass!
It’s said that punters enjoy roller coasters more when they’ve had to wait for the ride, and the same could be said of eating okonomiyaki. Starved and cold we were finally directed inside the small grill restaurant, which only had enough seats for twelve people. Our ready-made orders were placed in front of us and within minutes we were woofing down the hot, delicious food, washed down with a glass of beer. I can safely say the food was worth waiting for.
This trip gave me a flavour of a city that has recovered from 1945’s atrocity and has developed into a buzzing, lively and modern city, with great food.