Visit to Hiroshima

Jack & I with the kids in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome

Hiroshima is one of my favorite cities in Japan. It is the perfect size for a city, about 1 million people. Osaka, the city I live in, is a bit too big, but our suburb of Minoh is really nice. Hiroshima also is beautiful, surrounded by mountains and it has wider streets than most Japanese cities. This is my fourth visit to the city, twice for school business and twice with my family. Because of the history here, the beauty and the proximity to Osaka, it is an easy place to take guests and give them a taste of a different part of Japan. My uncle is visiting this week, our last of summer holidays, so we took drove the 4 hours from Osaka to Hiroshima this morning.

Flowers to mark the anniversary August 6, 1945 

71 years ago Monday, US forces dropped “Little Boy” above what is now the Peace Memorial Park. Going through the museum is always emotional for me. Reading the stories and seeing the photos of the children killed by the blast is tough, especially as a father. Not only the 140,000 people dead is a tragedy, but the families of the 140,000 that survived. As I’ve written in the past, every world leader should come and visit the memorial. Hopefully, it will make them consider more the human toll behind ordering bombings. Today is the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, a city I hope to visit before leaving Japan and one that does not get recognized enough for what it suffered.


It was so pleasant in the late afternoon sitting along the Motoyasu River that we spent several hours, just watching the river under the trees. That is one good thing to come from the nuclear bomb, a beautiful green park in the center of the city. Our relaxation came to an abrupt end when an unnamed member of our family (perhaps my spouse) dropped my iPhone 8+ into the river. Oliver climbed down the embankment and retrieved it in about a foot of water. We learned that the iPhone 8 is water resistant and when dropped in water for under 30 minutes and less than 1 meter, it should be OK, which so far, my phone has been fine.


We are staying in an Air BnB apartment near the park. Nadia and I went for a drink at a local sports bar and watched the extra innings of the first place Hiroshima Carp against the Chunichi Dragons. The patrons were totally into the game and it was fun to watch the outcome of a replay challenge of a close play at first base.


Mazda Tour

Checking out the Aventa model in the showroom. 

I visited the Mazda Motor Corporation yesterday as its world headquarters are in Hiroshima. Hiroshima is most well known for the atomic bomb blast. Without that, it would be known for being the home of Mazda. Car manufacturing is big in Japan with the world’s largest producer of cars, Toyota, being based in Nagoya and four of the top 10 largest automobile manufacturers in the world being located in Japan. Mazda is number 15 in the world. They had a long relationship with Ford, but recently Ford has divested itself from Mazda and only owns 3%.

Hiroshima is almost a company town, with the Mazda complex taking up 7 kilometers of the city. We toured “Mazda-landia” and it is huge. They have the world’s longest privately owned bridge, two fire stations, a hospital, a coal burning power plant and even their own port! They have a large test track in another part of the city.  Mazda also owns the professional baseball team, the Hiroshima Carp and professional soccer team. I can imagine how big the larger car companies must be! I am embarrassed to have grown up in Michigan and never visited Ford or GM.

The metal frame before it hits the assembly line.

The most interesting part of the tour was watching the 1000 meter long assembly line. I could have stayed for a couple of hours. There were not too many assembly workers as much of it is controlled by robots and machines. The guys on the floor were all young and nimble, crawling in and out of cars. They assemble a car in 15 hours and they produce about 400 cars per day. Watching the frames getting parts stuck on with rivets and the incredible amount of engineering and logistics that goes into assembling an entire car in a day is amazing! We were not allowed to film or take pictures on that part of the tour.

I am not into cars, as I only see cars as a way to get me from point A to point B. I would never buy a new car, preferring to spend my money on other things. In fact I don’t even own a car and we just occasionally rent a car when we need it. I understand guys who are passionate about cars, but it is just not for me. The tour was interesting however and I learned a lot.

The three-wheeled truck that helped the city recover after the bomb. 

Mazda’s speciality is the rotary motor, which is different from the common piston-driven engine. It has more power and a smoother ride, but is not very fuel efficient. This almost bankrupted the company in the 1970s, but they survived and have done well with the “roadster” or “miata” rotary engine car. They switched to the more fuel efficient piston engine for most of their models. The company survived the atomic bomb and were producing a 3-wheeled mini-truck only 4 months after the devastation. They were also the only Japanese car company to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, accomplishing the feat in 1991.

Hiroshima – August 6, 1945


The Atomic Bomb Dome Monument – Hiroshima Peace Park

This is ground zero of the first atomic bomb detonation aimed at killing humans. The “atomic bomb dome” in Hiroshima is now a monument visited by thousands of people weekly in the Hiroshima Peace Park. On August 6, 1945, an uranium bomb exploded 600 meters almost directly over this building, a former exhibition hall. Because the angle of impact was directly above, the building’s columns and dome survived the blast while a kilometer in every direction was leveled. Almost half of the city (140,000 people) were killed and combined with a second atomic bomb in Nagasaki August 9, 1945, the Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945, known as VJ Day (Victory over Japan) in the USA. The Americans were aiming for a nearby bridge as the target, but missed by about 300 meters.

Hara-san gives his story with a translator. 

I am in Hiroshima  as a chaperone with students from our school. Last night at the hotel Garden Palace, we arranged a survivor of the bomb to come and speak with us. Hara-san is 77 years old and the former director of the Hiroshima Peace Museum. He was waiting for a train on that fateful morning at the Hiroshima station with his parents and older sister. Fortunate for him, they were on the backside of the building and luckily survived the walls crashing on them. The debris protected them from the fire and they were able to crawl out. They also fled the city in an eastward direction, which was away from the epicenter. They had no idea which direction the blast came from and by leaving to the east, avoided more radiation poisoning. He spoke of stepping over dead bodies for hundreds of meters and listening to the cries of people with burned flesh. Absolutely horrible. His message to us was one of peace and futility of nuclear weapons. Walking through the museum and seeing the charred school lunch boxes and school uniforms emphasized the fact that many children died.

A scale model of the city after the blast – the red ball is bomb explosion.

The grade 4 students made 1000 paper cranes, a symbol of healing and long life in Japan in honor of the children who died in the blast, and like the famous Sadako, died from cancer several years later, and the students placed the cranes at the children’s peace memorial.

Peace Cranes at the Children’s Memorial