"Necessary Evil"


- Name of the Observation plane that accompanied the Enola Gay to Hiroshima. 



I got a bullet train early in the morning and arrived in Hiroshima sometime before noon. I was excited to visit such a famous place, and strangely enough was slightly surprised to find it looking so normal. I walked from the station firstly to the castle gardens, and had a short look around there, before finding my way to the atomic memorial and museum. I felt somehow awkward to be there. I was reluctant to ask directions to the museum for fear of appearing ghoulish, like someone hanging around to watch the aftermath of a traffic accident. When I got to the museum, I looked around the outside first before I went in. There were probably half a million cranes on the children's monument, still not enough to help little Sadako, for whom they were brought there. 


Inside the museum were basically two different types of artefacts. There were scientific and technical explanations of the effects of the bomb: Photos, models, maps and diagrams showed the effects of an atomic bomb on buildings and people; all very scientific and impersonal. Then there were the personal effects, things that I felt should be mementoes for the relatives of those who died, but presumably there were no relatives left to whom they could be returned. I thought these things did not belong there, they were too personal; glasses, clothing, notebooks, personal papers and trinkets. Each personal belonging gave details of the owner, where they were and what they were doing when the bomb was dropped. Remarkably few people were doing anything that could be considered "ordinary" by today's standards. It has been said that this museum treats the Hiroshima bombing as something that came out of the blue, like a sudden natural disaster that could not be avoided. Many of the exhibits in this museum refer to building bomb shelters or fire breaks as if they were everyday activities like washing clothes or painting a fence. It became clear to me, seeing these objects and their descriptions, how the daily lives of the Japanese people were totally thrown off track by the effects of the war. One can only wonder, if the Americans had not dropped the bomb, how far would the Japanese leaders have driven their own people down the path to destruction before surrendering, and how far would the public have let themselves be led. 


At the exit of the museum, there was a booth where people could return the rented tape recorders that played a pre-recorded guided tour of the exhibits. One American woman returned her tape recorder, took a step back and then bowed from the waist as formally as anyone would in the presence of the emperor himself (but probably nowhere else). I don't know if she was doing that because of some deep regret or remorse she felt after seeing what her country had done, or because that was the only way she knew to bow, but it struck me as ridiculously overdone.


Outside the exit there was a guest book in which many people had written their impressions and wishes and prayers for peace. I could not think of anything suitable at the time, but the following came to me during the journey home: 


“Do not blame the Scientists, for they merely furthered our knowledge.

Do not blame the Americans, for they merely won a race.

Do not blame the Soldiers, for they merely followed orders.

Do not blame the Leaders, for they merely sought to protect their people.

Do not blame Anyone, for the evil that did this is in us all. “


On the Bullet train back home, I sat with a can of beer and reflected back on what I had seen that day. It wasn't long before I started to cry. 


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