On the anniversary of Hiroshima’s nuclear destruction, a walk through the city’s memorial park reveals a complex mix of devastation and rehabilitation
Hiroshima is flourishing. It has a population surpassing 1.19 million, a burgeoning gourmet scene, towering luxury shopping centres, and a trendy night life. It is a city of vibrant green boulevards and open spaces, entangled by the braided tributaries of the Ōta River. However it is also a city of memorialisation. Over 75 monuments, large and small, sprout like delicate mushrooms in parks and on sidewalks, scattered across the city as if by the wind. Whilst the city grows and evolves, the memory remains of Hiroshima as first place on Earth where nuclear weapons were used in warfare, on 6 August 1945.
The number of fatalities is not known, due wartime population transience and the destruction of records in the blast. Estimates are in the region of 135,000 people, roughly equivalent to the population of Oxford. It is therefore unsurprising that many locals have Hibakusha veterans in their families. The Hibakusha community maintain a living collective memory of the bomb, sharing their atomic folktales similarly to the Kataribe storytellers, as a cautionary modern mythology against nuclear war.