Frozen moments from the infinity that is time

Leave a comment


Nagasaki has the unenviable place in history of being the second city subjected to the horror of an atomic bombing, which took place at 11.02am on August 9, 1945. Over 150,000 people were killed or injured and approximately one-third of the city was flattened by the ferocity of the windblast and scorching heat generated by the explosion. Today, Nagasaki along with Hiroshima stands as a reminder of an event that must never happen again and of the resilience of both nature and the human spirit. Whilst forever scarred, the city has grown from the ashes and regenerated itself.

As with Hiroshima, the city has sought to use the past to promote the message of peace to the rest of the world and in this post I want to highlight some of the symbols for peace to be found in Nagasaki. The opening photograph is a view looking out over the city from the Nagasaki Peace Park and within the park one finds a number of impressive sculptures promoting the need for peace, of which the most dominant is Seibo Kitamura’s Peace Statue at the northern end of the park.

94.03 Peace Statue (IMG_7162)

Peace Statue

Seibo, a local sculptor from Nagasaki Prefecture, described the statue thus:

After experiencing that nightmarish war,

that blood-curdling carnage,

that unendurable horror,

Who could walk away without praying for peace?

This statue was created as a signpost in the struggle for global harmony.

Standing ten meters tall,

it conveys the profundity of knowledge and

the beauty of health and virility.

The right hand points to the atomic bomb,

the left hand points to peace,

and the face prays deeply for the victims of war.

Transcending the barriers of race

and evoking the qualities of Buddha and God,

it is a symbol of the greatest determination

ever known in the history of Nagasaki

and the highest hope of all mankind.

— Seibo Kitamura (Spring 1995)

At the southern end of the park is the Fountain of Peace, constructed in 1969 as a prayer for the souls of atomic bomb victims who perished searching for water.

94.04 Fountain of Peace (IMG_7152)

Fountain of Peace

A stone plaque in front of the fountain carries the following words from a poem written by a survivor – a young girl named Sachiko Yamaguchi who was nine years old at the time of the blast.

“I was thirsty beyond endurance. There was something oily on the surface of the water, but I wanted water so badly that I drank it just as it was.”

In 1978 the city of Nagasaki established a Peace Symbols Zone on both sides of the park and invited donations of monuments from countries around the world.   China’s donation in 1985 was the Maiden of Peace, for which the plaque reads:

“It expresses the sincere aspiration of the Chinese people for human love and the everlasting friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China.”

94.05 Maiden of Peace (IMG_7160)

Maiden of Peace

New Zealand’s donation is the more contemporary Cloak of Peace by Kingsley Baird donated in 2006, for which the plaque reads:

“The statue symbolizes consolation, protection, and solidarity. It also expresses ambivalence, reflecting conflicting interpretations of historical events.”

94.06 Cloak of Peace (IMG_7161)

Cloak of Peace

Nagasaki has historically had a significant Christian population and a tragedy within a tragedy occurred when the Urakami Cathedral, only 500 metres from the epicentre of the blast, was destroyed whilst a Mass was being held. The congregation attending Mass was cindered and buried, with the loss of life and property presenting a spiritual challenge to the religious community. Similar to the debate around the future of Hiroshima’s Dome building, there was a difference of opinion as to whether or not to rebuild the cathedral. In this instance, the congregation was successful in its desire to rebuild, despite the city government’s preference to preserve the site as a memorial. Rebuilding commenced in 1959, with further remodelling in 1980 to more closely align with the original French style. Today the Cathedral holds a dominant position in the Nagasaki streetscape, as can be seen below at pics 7 to 10.

Some scars from the bombing have been retained such as a fallen belfry being left where it fell (pic 9) and battered statues (pic 10) near the front of the Cathedral.

On the walk from the Peace Park to the Cathedral I came across a small museum commemorating the life of Dr. Nagai Takashi. Dr. Takashi was a radiologist who, prior to the bombing, had been diagnosed with myeloid leukaemia as a consequence of working with sub-standard equipment and given three years to live. As well as losing his wife in the bombing, he was further injured, yet continued to work tirelessly to help victims and write extensively on the subject of radiation treatment. Until his death in 1951 (aged 43), Dr. Takashi lived with his two children in Nyokodo (As Thyself Hermitage), which stands today as a symbol of Dr. Takashi’s selflessness and community spirit (refer pics 11 and 12).


A display (pic 13) from the Atomic Bomb Memorial Hall serves as a sobering reminder of the destructive nuclear arsenals that represent an ever-present danger to the ideal of peace in our times. When faced with such reality, the lessons that can be learnt from Nagasaki and Hiroshima take on an even greater importance and monuments such as People at Peace (pic 14) found in both Nagasaki and Hiroshima serve as apt reminders of what should be.


(Please click on any of the images for an enlarged view.)

Leave a comment

ICAN …. can you?

I had expected to be posting on a different subject, but changed my mind when I learned that the Nobel Peace Prize 2017 was awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

Having visited Hiroshima a number of times, the first time being six years ago to the day, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize award to ICAN resonated with me. Prior to my visits I was, like many people I expect, horrified at the potential for nuclear weapons to be used again. However, spending time at the site of humankind’s single most horrific act focused my understanding on how truly horrific the use of nuclear weapons was and can be. From that moment I have strongly believed that the stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki must continue to be told and it was most pleasing to hear this sentiment echoed by President Obama during his speech at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial on 27 May 2016, when he said: “But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.”

Technology has taken great leaps forward since 1945 and the destructive power of today’s nuclear warheads is many times greater than the weapons used in 1945. When considered alongside the current emergence of leaders apparently more driven by ego than wisdom, ICAN’s work is timely.

Can one person make a difference? Can you or I effect the destruction of nuclear stockpiles? The answer is, of course, no! But just as it takes many stitches to make a blanket, you and I combined can, over time, make a difference. We cannot rely on politicians acting independently to make such a monumental change. The self anointed “political class” lack the moral fortitude to take the lead. If it is to happen they must be dragged by the undeniable weight of public opinion to act and perhaps this is what President Obama during his Hiroshima speech was alluding to with the words: “Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.”

The photographs I have chosen are a combination of historic photographs and photographs of paintings made by survivors almost 60 years later of their memories from 6 August 1945. The clarity of those memories reflected through their art talks directly to the impact on their lives. I have also included links below to a series of posts I made on Hiroshima in August 2014.

Thank you for reading and I hope you will consider your position on this important issue.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)




Shukkeien Gardens (Hiroshima)

This is the fourth and final post of my Hiroshima series. I realise that the subject matter has often been confronting, but I believe we must sometimes confront the horrors of the past to focus on a brighter future.

I am happy to end the series with a selection of photographs taken during a visit to Hiroshima’s Shukkeien Gardens. One may view the photographs as “pretty pictures” and that is essentially what they are. However, I ask that viewers consider the following facts about the Shukkeien Gardens.

  • Commissioned in 1620.
  • First opened to the public in 1940.
  • Demolished by the A-bomb on August 6, 1945.
  • Approximately 1.4 kilometres from the bomb’s hypocentre.
  • Victims took refuge in the gardens. Most died and their remains are interred there.

When viewed in this light, I see the gardens as a symbol of regeneration and a place that has once again become a happy place for residents of and visitors to Hiroshima. Even the high-rise buildings that overlook and somewhat diminish the ambience of the gardens can be viewed as a sign of a city moving forward.

To those who have viewed this series – thank you!

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


Peace Park Memorials (Hiroshima)




Take away the Dome Building from the background of pic 1 and the scene could resemble that found in many municipal parks around the world. However, Hiroshima’s Peace Park is no ordinary park, of which the Dome Building is the focal point and one of many memorials within the Peace Park.

Walking in the park

Walking in the park

Four years to the day after the bomb was dropped, the decision was taken to devote the area to peace memorial facilities – a major change from the area’s previous role as Hiroshima’s political and commercial centre. Construction of the park took place between 1950 to 1964 and for those interested in early footage of this period, I again refer you to the classic French movie titled “Hiroshima Mon Amour”.

This post shares images of some memorials and their significance, though I must qualify this by saying that their significance is most strongly felt on site.

The Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims (pics 2 and 3) straddles a direct line of sight between the Dome Building and the Peace Museum. Below the arched tomb is a stone chest with a register of the names (more than 200,000) of those who perished in the initial blast or through subsequent exposure to radiation. At the centre of pic 3, one can see the Peace Flame, which has burned continuously since it was first lit in 1964. The Flame stands as a perpetual beacon for peace and will only be extinguished when all nuclear weapons are destroyed. Sadly, one must wonder if that will ever happen.

Cenotaph - pic 1

Cenotaph – pic 1

Cenotaph - pic 2

Cenotaph – pic 2

To the east of the Cenotaph lies the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall, a beautiful yet sobering remembrance to the atomic bomb victims. On the roof of the mostly underground memorial (pic 4), one will observe the clock frozen at 8.15am to mark the time the bomb exploded and the cascading water, symbolic of survivors’ craving to quench their thirst.

National Peace Memorial Hall

National Peace Memorial Hall

Below ground the central feature is the Hall of Remembrance (pics 5 and 6), which features a 360-degree panorama of the destruction following the blast. To create the panorama, a total of 140,000 tiles were used to represent the estimated number of people who died from the bomb by the end of 1945. The depiction of individual victims through their photos on a bank of frequently refreshing screens (pic 7) communicates the personal cost of the tragedy and serves to remind us how many families must have been impacted directly or indirectly.

Hall of Remembrance - pic 1

Hall of Remembrance – pic 1

Hall of Remembrance - pic 2

Hall of Remembrance – pic 2

Hall of Remembrance - pic 3

Hall of Remembrance – pic 3

A particularly poignant memorial is the Children’s Peace Monument to commemorate the children who died as a result of the bombing. Pics 8 to 10 show a group of students paying tribute in a ceremony that ended with laying a bouquet of folded paper cranes at the base of the memorial. (I would have shared the moment photographically had an overly zealous teacher not blocked my view.)

The statue atop the monument shows a girl with outstretched arms, above which is the representation of a folded paper crane. This depiction was inspired by the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who had appeared to survive the blast only to succumb to a radiation related illness some years later. Sadako’s belief that by folding 1000 paper cranes she would be saved was sadly not enough to save her. However, her story lives on through the adoption of paper cranes (pic 11) as a symbol of peace. In fact, it is estimated that more than 10 million paper cranes per year are sent to Hiroshima, mostly from children around the world.

Children's Peace Monument - pic 1

Children’s Peace Monument – pic 1

Children's Peace Monument - pic 2

Children’s Peace Monument – pic 2

Children's Peace Monument - pic 3

Children’s Peace Monument – pic 3

Inspired by Sadako

Inspired by Sadako

As one would expect, not all victims could be identified and the grassy Memorial Mound (pics 12 and 13) contains the ashes of an estimated 70,000 unidentified victims. Similarly, the number of Korean nationals who perished is uncertain and the Cenotaph for Korean Victims (pic 14) was created to honour victims and survivors from the bombing and from Japanese colonialism. An inscription on the statue reads “Souls of the dead ride to heaven on the backs of turtles”.

Memorial Mound - pic 1

Memorial Mound – pic 1

Memorial Mound - pic 2

Memorial Mound – pic 2

Monument to Korean Victims

Monument to Korean Victims

Two statues of very contrasting styles encapsulate the message of the Peace Park. The first is the “A-bomb Victim – the Monument of Hiroshima” (pic 15) located 141 metres south of the hypocentre by the bank of the Motoyasu River. The bronze sculpture remembers those victims who were killed instantly by the blast and serves as a graphic reminder of their horrific end. Although the sentiment behind the sculpture is positive, the twisted, distorted representation of the victim remains confronting. Further along the river, close to the Dome Building, one finds the statue of a girl and boy with the boy holding a dove (pic 16), which communicates hope for a peaceful future. These two contrasting sculptures that show the horror, yet advocate for peace is very much the message of the Peace Park.

Monument to A-bomb Victim

Monument to A-bomb Victim

To a Peaceful Future

To a Peaceful Future

In conclusion, I would like to remember the resonant sound of visitors ringing the Peace Bell (pics 17 and 18) located near the Children’s Peace Monument. This is perhaps the most pleasing sound one hears in the Peace Park. The Bell, donated by the Greek Embassy, is inscribed in Greek, Japanese and Sanskrit characters, which translate to “Know yourself”. I rang the bell only once during my final visit as a mark of respect and to bid farewell to Hiroshima. Whilst I cannot speak for others, I found the experience of ringing the bell as akin to that of making a commitment to support the message of the Peace Park.

The Peace Bell

The Peace Bell

Ringing the Peace Bell

Ringing the Peace Bell

(Please click on any of the images for an enlarged view.)

1 Comment

Hiroshima Peace Museum

In my last post I described Hiroshima’s Dome Building as the most enduring symbol of the catastrophic events of August 6, 1945 when an atomic bomb was exploded over Hiroshima. Today, looking across the Motoyasu River from the Dome Building, the wasteland has been regenerated in the form of the magnificent Peace Park, at the end of which and in a direct line of sight to the Dome Building lies the Hiroshima Peace Museum (pic 1).

Peace Museum approach

Peace Museum approach

For those readers who would like to see vision of the Peace Museum soon after its opening, I suggest watching a classic French movie titled “Hiroshima Mon Amour”. As the title implies, the movie is set in post-war Hiroshima and the opening scenes contain some interesting footage, including a walk through the Peace Museum and some early footage of the Peace Park during development.

A visit to Hiroshima is incomplete without visiting the Peace Museum and my advice would be to allow more time than you may expect. Given the historic event it exists to portray, the Museum is confronting in the way it provides an accurate and objective account of the events of August 6 1945 and thereafter. In fact, the objectivity and lack of rancor in the presentation of the story is commendable and refreshing. The horror and atrocity is, of course, recognised and discussed, but most importantly the emphasis shifts to the need to learn from what happened and ensure that history is not repeated. It is a museum that should not be rushed and can be visited more than once.

Today’s photographs are mostly shots of Museum exhibits, including a number of archival photographs on display in the Museum. The pictures tell the story. The model at pic 2 shows the hypocentre of the blast as the red pole just to the right of the Dome Building where, it is estimated, the temperature would have approximated 4000 degrees Celsius. One can also note the intersection of the two bridges to the left of the Dome Building forming the T that was the target point for the Enola Gay’s bombardier.

One minute following the explosion, the mushroom cloud photograph (pic 3) was taken by Russell E Gackenbach; a crewman on the Necessary Evil, which accompanied the Enola Gay. It was reported by Russell Gackenbach that the crew’s return journey was made in silence after witnessing the event.

Whilst there is no need for further description of the pain and suffering depicted by pics 5 and 6, the obvious tenderness of the Red Cross nurse and the gratitude of her patient at pic 7 is a heartwarming image of the human spirit.

The series of shots (pics 10 to 16) titled Memories of the day give an insight into the minds of survivors and are particularly compelling when one considers the drawings and paintings were made decades later. One hopes the process of graphically sharing their recollections provided some level of comfort to the contributors, yet their clarity of memory is a frightening reminder of the lasting effects of traumatic events.

On a more positive note, pic 17 shows a 1956 photograph of Japanese students seeking support for the establishment of a Children’s Peace Monument. Their efforts were successful and photographs of the monument will be shown in my next post.

An ongoing role of the Peace Museum is to monitor nuclear testing internationally and via the Peace Watch Tower (pic 18) located in the Museum foyer, to display the number of days since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the number of days since the last nuclear test. At the time of posting this blog (August 15, 2014), the current figures are 24,923 days and 49 days respectively.

I strongly recommend anyone visiting Hiroshima to spend time visiting the Peace Museum and the other memorials within the Peace Park. Although the history is dark and sombre, its purpose is to advocate for an end to nuclear arms and a brighter, less oppressive future for all. I have never before written a comment in a Visitors Book. However, during my first visit, I commented to the effect that all newly elected politicians should spend a few days there before taking office, in the hope that they may better understand the futility of war. Perhaps the hope is futile, but who knows!

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


Time and Place (Hiroshima)

Please take a few moments to dwell on the first photograph, rather than dismiss it as merely a bland image of another Japanese street, free of litter and showing people going about their business in an orderly manner. View it as a photograph of time and place – two variables that have such a defining influence on our lives. Where would you rather be: the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time?

The T intersection

The T intersection

Everyone in the photograph was safe in that place and time. However, at the same place at 8.15am on August 6, 1945 the cyclist at the centre of the pedestrian crossing would have been the target for the bombardier on the Enola Gay, the US bomber assigned to drop an atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima. A moment that changed the world forever!

The target point was the T-intersection more clearly shown in the archival photograph at pic 2, in which, coincidentally, a cyclist is at almost the same position. Today the two bridges forming the T look much the same and it is easy to forget the historical significance of the place. However, we should not forget how significantly life changed in a blinding flash, a memory poignantly captured by a survivor’s words reproduced at pic 3. From the archival images at pics 4 and 5, one can gain a sense of the destruction, as well as identify the most enduring symbol of the event – the Dome Building.

I was unprepared for my first visit to Hiroshima and the range of emotions one encounters by spending time in the proximity of the Dome Building. Despite having seen images and documentary footage and having a general understanding of the history, it was nevertheless a surreal feeling to be standing at the site of such a horrific event.

Although one tries to imagine what it would have been like, this is, of course, impossible. Some things are beyond imagination. The overpowering feeling was that of sorrow and if one is honest, a feeling of guilt by association of being a national from an allied nation. This took me by surprise. History positions the bombing as a necessary evil within the overall context of an even more horrific war, an argument that can be grasped intellectually. However, when standing at the scene, humanism outweighs intellectualism.

Almost seventy years later, the Dome Building (pics 6 to 16) stands as a reminder, but not the only reminder. Hiroshima continues to wear the scars in less obvious ways. The resilience of the people is commendable in the way they overcame the trauma to rebuild their city and their lives and the smiles of Hiroshima residents are the most genuine one will encounter. Nevertheless, the city presents differently to other Japanese cities.

Hiroshima is playing catch-up. One does not see the obvious lifestyle signs that one sees in (say) Tokyo and Osaka; one does not see as many glitzy high-rise developments; and even in the general demeanor of everyday life, one detects a more serious approach to life – as if the mission is unfinished. In a subsequent and longer visit to Hiroshima, I became more aware of signs that the city is poised to burst free and flower again. The mission is unfinished and below the surface bubbles a subdued excitement.

We must not forget Hiroshima. What happened there and at Nagasaki must never happen again and I firmly believe that awareness is the key to success. August 6, 1945 was a shocking start to the story, yet the real story is how the negative became a positive through people helping people and Japan becoming a strong advocate for peace and for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Thank you for reading this far and if the subject is of interest, there is a considerable volume of information available online and in libraries around the world. I will be staying with Hiroshima for two or three more posts and I hope you will continue to show an interest. I read somewhere a criticism that Hiroshima was just emotional tourism (or words to that effect). Well, what is wrong with that? It does not hurt us to have our senses awakened to think about important issues. Maybe history keeps repeating because we forget. Let’s not forget this time.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)