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Full Circle

Day 39: Hiroshima

Hiroshima, Japan 
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A survivor of the bomb. The Industrial Promotion Hall, Hiroshima.
Michael Palin - Full CircleAs far as I'm concerned there is nothing I shall remember about this city but the bomb. The fact that I'm lying in a hotel bed in the centre of Hiroshima sets my imagination to work vividly and uncomfortably. If I had been in this exact spot fifty years and two months ago, and not toddling round a garden in Sheffield, I would have been wrenched instantly from sleep by the sound and light of the greatest explosion ever made by man. One second after detonation a fireball, 1400 feet wide, would have filled the sky 1000 feet above my head. Only a fraction of a second after that I would have been one of seventy thousand people torn apart by a blast travelling at the speed of sound and incinerated by heat that, at the hypocentre of the explosion, reached 4000° centigrade. If I had been here fifty years ago, I would have been reduced to a pile of dust.

At midday we leave Hiroshima but not the shadow of the past. Japan Airlines flight 5035 connects Hiroshima with Nagasaki, less than 200 miles away. 'Fat Man', a bomb with a force equivalent to 22,000 tons of TNT was dropped on Nagasaki three days after 'Little Boy' (15,000 tons) had destroyed Hiroshima. These two bombs killed and maimed half a million people. But the first sight of Nagasaki clears away some of the complex negativity, the uneasy mixture of compassion and complicity that I can't seem to throw off. At last, a Japanese city that doesn't look like all the others. Nagasaki is a green city, set amongst rocky peninsulas and deep bays, hemmed in by waves of thickly-wooded mountain ranges. And as we fly lower I have the first sight of palm trees on the Pacific Rim.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 39
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Hiroshima
  • Book page no: 65

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