Frozen moments from the infinity that is time

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Lasting Impression

Travelling is full of emotional experiences, some expected such as an occasional loneliness for home and others unexpected such as one’s reaction to places visited.

In my case, visiting Hiroshima’s Dome Building fell into the latter category. Even though I had a reasonable knowledge of the history of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, I was unprepared for the impact of standing on ground that had been the epicentre of the single most destructive military attack in history. Among the emotions I recall from that initial visit were shame as a citizen of an allied nation that supported the attack; sorrow for the scale of innocents killed and injured; disgust that the decision was made with the knowledge of the potential impact; and concern about the nuclear arsenals that have been built since that fateful day in 1945.

102.01 Negativity (IMG_4501)


I was to learn that I was not alone in how I felt. A few months after my first visit I was fortunate to be able to exhibit photographs taken during the trip, which included the image of the Dome Building titled Negativity (pic 1). Once again I found myself unprepared in that this photograph was the most discussed photograph exhibited. I did not keep count, but more people went straight to this photograph than to any other and many of those people had visited the site during visits to Japan. Listening to those people share their thoughts and experiences felt very similar to my thoughts and feelings and it was a humbling experience to listen to strangers speak so honestly.

There is a story behind every photograph and the image shown is not the original shot. When I arrived at the site the weather was overcast with grey, lifeless skies. When I returned in the afternoon after spending time in other areas of the Peace Park (including the Peace Museum) the weather had improved and I was much happier at being able to capture the shot with a wash of blue sky, suggestive of optimism. Even in the space of the few hours between the two photo sessions I had felt the initial negativity start to give way to more positive feelings. I have no doubt this was due in no small part to the decision of the Peace Museum administrators and curators to tell the story of the event in a factual manner and without rancour.

102.02 Positivity (IMG_6252)


By the time of my second visit to Japan my feelings regarding the event had shifted towards finding the positives. The horror of the day can never be erased, but it need never be repeated – a message that Japan has consistently promoted since the event. This time I took different shots of the Dome Building, one of which is shown here titled Positivity (pic 2). The bricks and mortar are the same, but nature has softened the horror and provided a subtle message that we must move forward.

In conclusion I would like to comment on references I have read that visiting Hiroshima is emotional tourism. I think this is nonsense and should never be a reason for visiting any location. Travel is like art in that it encourages one to think and feel about your surroundings and like art there is no substitute for viewing works in their original form.

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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.)





It is almost a year since I last posted on this blog. During this time I noted that some bloggers I follow had similarly quiet years and I look forward to again reading your posts when the time is right. Others kept powering on and those I thank for their entertaining posts and inspiration.

This year I want to finish my series on Japan and thought I should start with an iconic subject, hence my choice of kimono – instantly recognisable as Japanese. I have taken a broad approach to my selection of photos by including different types of kimono from the ceremonial to the more lightweight yukata and by showing kimono worn by women of different generations.

Being of the wrong gender and nationality I can only speculate why Japanese women continue to wear kimono and at the risk of being corrected, I suspect that wearing kimono represents a connection to past generations, to Japanese culture and as an affirmation of their nationality. Other reasons might simply be that wearing kimono feels good and is something they like to do.

The opening shots (pics 1 and 2) show two young women engaged in viewing the cherry blossoms and my observation of each was that they were very much “in the moment”. Would wearing western clothing have lessened their experience? Only they would know, but I do know my experience was enhanced by their presence at those locations.

Shichigosan (pic 3) is a Shinto festival where three and seven year old girls in formal dress receive blessings. Unfortunately I arrived late and this is literally the only shot I was able to capture. I see a proud young girl in a splendid kimono posing for a “milestone family album” shot that, in future years, may remind her of a special day in her life. Will this experience encourage her to wear kimono in her later life? Again, only time will tell, but festivals such as Shichigosan provide important opportunities to expose children to their cultural heritage.

The closest I have come to a personal kimono experience is shown at pic 4, where this colourful arrangement occupied a corner of a tatami room at the traditional Japanese house I rented in Hiroshima. Looking at the photo brings back pleasant memories of the stay.

I have included a selection of photos (pics 5 to 8) to show that wearing kimono does not hamper everyday activities such as shopping, with women in several cities shown going about their business. My favourite from this group is the woman doing her Christmas shopping in Dotonbori (pic 5), who encapsulates the Japanese ability to combine the traditional and the contemporary; in this case kimono, modern handbag and cell phone.

One also sees many younger women in kimono, especially during times of celebration such as celebrating the autumn colours (pic 9) or simply enjoying the fantasy of dressing as a geisha for the day (pic 11). I first noticed the elegant woman in pic 12 for the furoshiki she was carrying – a simple square of cloth that can be configured for multiple uses, including carrying goods. Someone else obviously noticed her, but whether wearing kimono or not it would seem that body language tells the story.

I often walked past the teahouse in pic 13 and every time the hostess greeting patrons at the door was smiling. One could not imagine her wearing anything other than kimono. Finally I have chosen to close the post with several photos of a Shinto bride taken at Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu, whose kimono epitomises elegance.

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


2014 Favourites

As 2014 draws to an end, it is natural to become somewhat reflective and for my final blog for this year, I thought I would select my favourite shot from each month’s posts.

This was more difficult than I had thought. Each photo is a memory and some months had several favourites. However, changing the rules on New Year’s Eve does not bode well for 2015 resolutions, so I stuck to the task and made my selections.

There is no theme. They are simply my selections for a variety of reasons and no further commentary will be made, except to say they are shown in chronological order (January to December) should anyone wish to visit the original posts.

I would like to thank everyone who has supported my blog this year and I hope the photos and stories have brought you as much pleasure as they have brought me.

I wish you all a safe and happy New Year and my best wishes for the year ahead.

(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.)

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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.)



Wherever one travels there are always recurring photographic subjects.  Sometimes we seek them out and others just seem to accumulate as the trip goes on.  One of my recurring subjects was steps, though there is more as will be seen in future posts.

Steps seemed appropriate for my final post of 2013.  As we approach 2014, many people will make resolutions and set goals for the New Year, some of which will be pursued and achieved.  Reaching a goal requires taking the necessary steps and I hope that someone may find among these photographs, an image to help them focus on their goals.  If you do, please write and let me know.

The images are varied and speak for themselves.  Some were taken for their simple beauty; others such as the mum keeping a close eye on her energetic daughter are universal; and others such as the monks returning to their quarters at day’s end capture a scene that has travelled through the ages.

I wish everyone a happy, safe and successful new year and I look forward to sharing more of my photographs with you in 2014.

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


This gallery contains 12 photos