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Full Circle

Day 38: Fukuyama to Hiroshima

Michael Palin - Full CircleThe monks line up to wave us goodbye. Though the older ones smile serenely, Almon looks earnest. He's thin and his shaven skull stands out almost blue against his white skin. Find myself feeling sorry to be leaving him here, but as our bus honks, revs up and pulls out into the wide world I wonder, in a Zen sort of way, who the prisoner is, him or me?

An hour later we are approaching Hiroshima on the bullet train. Though it is a totally rebuilt, bland, modern city which looks forward to the future rather than back to the war, the symbolism of the place is disturbing and impossible to ignore.

We visit the famous sites, like the domed skeleton of the Industrial Promotion Hall whose walls survived the blast of 6 August 1945. At the Peace Memorial Museum today's children pull mock horror faces at the waxwork tableaux of yesterday's children, with hair burning and melted skin hanging from their arms. The younger generation doesn't seem to want to remember any more. They're interested in an abstract way but what does it mean to them now? Defeat and destruction? Hardly. Today's Japan Times carries a report that nine of the top ten world banks are now Japanese. Anger and resentment at America for dropping the bomb? Hardly. There is a baseball stadium just across from the Peace Dome. American movie-stars stare down from the billboards - Arnold Schwarzenegger advertising cup noodles, Madonna, air conditioners, Jodie Foster, Mitsubishi Cars, Michael J. Fox, canned tea. Japan was rebuilt by the Americans in the seven years after the war and it is the reconstruction, rather than the destruction, that is remembered.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 38
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Hiroshima
  • Book page no: 64

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