More Japan: Nara and Hiroshima

After Kyoto I passed through the fine historic town of Nara. Another cultural gem, Nara was an ancient capital city and the heart of Buddhism when it arrived in Japan around AD 500. So there are lots of Buddhists and deities there. They also claim to have the largest wooden structure in the world in Todai-ji temple, which is also home to the largest Buddha statue in Japan. Here is the Todai-ji temple:

There are many tame deer walking around. You can feed them and pet them, although they haven’t bathed in awhile. This one got a little too close to my camera.

Here is a five story pagoda at the Kofuku-ji temple:

Some Buddhist stones. Not sure what they represent. Anyone know?

Some black music for ya in a Nara back street.

After Nara I hopped  a bus to Hiroshima and lo and behold, my spare hub was waiting for me at the post office. I immediately took it to a bike mechanic and two hours later my wheel was as good as new (I hope).

So I had a couple days to relax in Hiroshima. First thing I did was visit the atomic bomb site, which is now a park and museum. They left one building standing exactly as it was after the bomb went off. This domed building was about 150 yards from the hypo-center.

The atomic bomb, called “Little Boy”, detonated at 580 m above the ground. At its core the temperature reached 1 million deg. C. on the ground near the hypo-center the air heated up to 4000 deg C within a second. In three seconds 80,000 people were incinerated and 70,000 buildings evaporated. Most of the people within 2 km of the hypo-center just vanished. Their bodies were never found. The museum is fascinating but grim.

Here is a before and after model of the area around the dome. The target for the bombers was the T-shaped bridge in the lower right.

before : 

        after :

A photo of the dome again in Oct. 1945.

A watched stopped at 8:15 am, August 6, 1945.

The area around the bomb site is now a park filled with monuments and the atomic flame. They will extinguish the flame when the last nuclear weapon is destroyed.

A tree in the park 

6 thoughts on “More Japan: Nara and Hiroshima

  1. Ben Kilpela May 2, 2008 / 3:07 pm

    Hi, Kev. Debate continues to swirl concerning the morality of the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. You can read almost endlessly about this topic on the web and in dozens of books. The consensus? There is too much disagreement to discern one, it seems to me. One’s judgment of the morality of the deeds appears to be relative to one’s current circumstances. I tend to think the bombings were immoral, but I remain open to nearly all interpretations. Japanese literature and film have been obsessed with the meaning of the bombing, and that is another area of study that could consume years and years of one’s life — just the Japanese discussion of and debate on the bombings. Also, lastly, a book came out last year that looks to be stunning, First into Nagasaki, the report of the first western journalist, an American, into the city after the bombing there. He arrived only three days after it took place, without authorization. You can find a lot about that book on the web as well. I want to read it some time.

    Kippis tervydeksi, Ben

  2. Ben Kilpela May 6, 2008 / 6:25 pm

    By the way, Kev, two things:

    I did respond to your last two posts to me on my CH blog, in case you’re wondering.

    Also, the morality of all of World War II has come under question — serious and severe questioning — with the release of a new book on the war entitled “Human Smoke,” by Nicholson Baker (a noted radical). This is another I want to read it, having skimmed it at the book store and read a couple reviews. The thesis is, clearly, that there was little that was morally good in any sense about World War II, which is usually considered one of the most moral wars ever waged. This history book is also highly unusual in form. It is a huge pile of reminiscences of battles and destructions and bombings and attacks of all kinds and on all sides. The reader is left to make his own interpretation of the mountain of “facts” amassed. But, as I opine, the thesis is nonetheless clear as sunshine, as shown in the facts Baker has chosen for interpretation, the facts that stand, in his eyes, as the significant moments of moral consequence in that war.

    See ya, Ben

  3. Kevin Koski May 8, 2008 / 1:29 pm

    Ben, I’m not sure morality has any more to do with the atomic bomb than any other bombing decisions. After all, 200,000 people were killed during conventional bombing of Tokyo, which surpasses the 140,000 estimate of Hirshima, even counting the radiation victims.

    From my understanding if the USA invaded Japan using conventional ground forces, they estmated casualties in the millions. So from a strictly pragmatic point of view it made more sense to drop the bomb, wipe out a few hundred thousand people, and hope Japan would surrender (the US also wanted to end the war quickly so the USSR would not have a reason for invading Japan. Also, they had to justify the expense of creating the bomb, some $2 billion, a lot in those days.)

    For me the question of morality comes in when you ask, is it morally justified to kill a few people to save many? If 140,000 people had to die in order save a million, is that justified? It seems so to me. As long as I am not one of those sacrificed.

    There is a great quote from the movie Breaker Morant in which Lord Kitchener is talking to his aide about the three Australian prisoners. He says, “I am trying to stop this useless war. If these three men must be…sacrificed… small price to pay, wouldn’t you say?” His aide responds, “yes, although I doubt the Australians share our enthusiasm.”

    So it is morally OK to sacrifice a few to save many, as long as the few volunteer to do so.

    For more about the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima check out their web site:

    Here is a good reenactment of the bomb explosion.

  4. Ira May 8, 2008 / 2:59 pm

    Couple of points about the Bomb…it was clearly part of a very morally ambiguous pattern of reaction by the US and England to atrocities committed by Germany and Japan. Just because your enemy has attacked civilian populations does that make it right for you to do so? And in such an extreme manner? Tough questions to answer.

    I do know that I’ve spoken with several WW II veterans in Florida in recent months who were poised to invade the Japanese homeland. They were not looking forward to it. To a man they were very supportive of Truman’s decision.

    And lest anyone think that millions would not have died in such an invasion, I give you the Nagasaki bomb to think about. How could the Japanese rulers not have surrendered immediately after the Hiroshima bomb? At that point it was evident they were finished, yet they put their people through more hell. And this wasalready after sustained bombing of Tokyo that burned most of it to the ground – 100,000 people perished in one night! Whatever the reason – insanity, clinging to ancient codes of honor – this was definitely irresponsible leadership that could not be trusted to do the right thing until incomprehensible damage was done.

    This doesn’t eliminate the need to question the decision, but I think it cannot be denied that it saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives.

  5. DAD May 15, 2008 / 9:42 pm


  6. kenisha May 20, 2008 / 1:46 am

    loving the photos

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