Commemorating the dropping of the atomic bombs in Japan [Hiroshima]

Article updated on May 22, 2020
Text: Marcella van Alphen
Photos: Claire Lessiau

The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall was one of the very few buildings that remained standing after the “Little Boy” atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. wiping out the complete city of Hiroshima. The exact number of casualties is really hard to estimate, as beyond the 80,000 instant deaths, tens of thousands have died from the consequences of the radioactive explosion from cancers to severe burns. Experts seem to agree on a figure of 140,000 by the end of 1945; the death toll as of today is unknown.

Today, Hiroshima is bustling city with almost 1.2 million inhabitants, and life has taken over. The atomic bomb dome remains a strong symbol and is surrounded by camphor trees, homes of singing cicadas and sparrows, starlings and an occasional black raven.

The surroundings of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall have become a commemoration ground where people from all over the world pay their respects to the victims, and educate themselves in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Apprehending this dark part of history from the Japanese point of view is a dramatic eye-opener. It is overwhelming to convey the destruction and horrific stories of victims and survivors. To try and do so, we chose to highlight the story of Sadako Sasaki through a poem.

About Sadako Sasaki

Sadako Sasaki was exposed to the atomic bomb in her house that was located 1,600 meters (one mile) from the epicentre of the explosion when she was two years old. She suffered no apparent injuries. When fleeing Hiroshima, she was exposed to the black rain (radioactive rain composed of ashes and dust). She grew up as a healthy and strong child until she was diagnosed with leukaemia 10 years later. Admitted in the hospital, she saw paper cranes that were sent to A-bomb patients to cheer them up. She heard that if she could fold 1,000 paper cranes, her wish to survive would come true. Her classmates helped her folding, and kept on folding paper cranes. Beautiful colourful patterns of paper cranes, true pieces of art folded with hope for peace and in commemoration of the victims are still folded every day and donated to the peace memorial in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by school kids from all over the world. Sadako died at 12, eight months after being hospitalized, and having folded way more than one thousand paper cranes.

One thousand paper cranes

One thousand paper cranes,
folded by Sadako with all her hope.
Ten years after Hiroshima’s flames,
suffering from leukaemia, she tried to cope.

One thousand paper cranes,
every single one of them dedicated.
Ten years after Hiroshima’s flames,
to survive this illness the A-bomb created.

One thousand paper cranes,
folded from her hospital bed.
Ten years after Hiroshima’s flames,
one more victim was soon added.

Millions of paper cranes,
folded all over the world for peace.
70 years after Hiroshima’s flames,
Crying out for all wars to cease.

Marcella van Alphen

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Red circle with white text over three photos commemorating atomic bom victims in Japan.

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2 thoughts on “Commemorating the dropping of the atomic bombs in Japan [Hiroshima]

  1. Pingback: Road trip in the wild Northern island of Japan: Hokkaido | Best regards from far,

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