In my time in Japan, I have been able to realize the unique relationship and view Japan has toward Nuclear Energy. Not only has Japan been the only country to experience the destruction, loss, and pain of a nuclear bomb, but also one of the few that have experienced a catastrophic nuclear reactor meltdown. This was the first year that this study abroad program added a trip to Hiroshima into the schedule; I’m glad they did, as, for me, it was the most impactful trip of the program. Although there is no American who does not know of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there are few of us who have seen it through the eyes of the Japanese, and to witness first-hand the wounds which are healing, and scars that remain from the event which took place 72 years ago.To say the least, it was a difficult day. My eyes were opened to a different side of the story. Whenever I heard about the A-bombs in school it was “the bomb that brought the end to the war”, and that was the end of the story. What is not discussed were the approximately 140,000 lives which were lost, half lost in the first day, and the rest from the effects of radiation still taking lives to this day. As I walked through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum I read dozens of stories of people who were taken that day. For the first time in my life, the horror, destruction, and sadness of the bombing became a reality. This was no longer a chapter in a textbook: I was walking under the same sky where a nuclear bomb was detonated, reaching temperatures of the sun as atoms collided and released untold amounts of energy; I was breathing the same air which 72 years ago would have been so radioactive to took thousands of lives of a span of a few days; I walked past the ghosts of building whose concrete and steel beams were melted and vaporized by the heat.
The purpose of this memorial is not to blame, nor to create guilt, but to open our eyes to the past so we can clearly see our future. On The Memorial Cenotaph, the inscription reads “please rest in peace, for [we/they] shall not repeat the error”. The [we/they] is a subject up to the interpretation of the reader, and for me, it refers to the world: one people, one species; we shall not repeat the error.
This journey gave me a glimpse into the conflicting views Japanese have on nuclear power, as on one hand, you see the destructive and costly effects of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and now Fukushima, yet on the other, you see the benefits of having so much power produced through controlled nuclear reactions.