By Joe Nalven

I recently visited Hiroshima, perhaps two weeks shy of President Obama’s visit last Friday. His was the first visit of a sitting U.S. president.

The city of about 400,000 was devastated by an atomic bomb in 1945, losing about 80,000 people immediately and tens of thousands more as a result of radiation. Seventy percent of its buildings were destroyed.

I was surprised to learn that radiation from the atomic bomb is no longer measurable and has not been for many years.

Now, it is a modern city of more than 1 million, rebuilt with a forward looking attitude. Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki see themselves as modern peace cities.

If the President had been allowed to walk freely, I’d tell him to go to Hondori Street, a covered thoroughfare with dynamic bustle and many, many shops and restaurants.

Hondori Street. Photo by Joe Nalven

However, since he focused on the symbolism that Hiroshima represents, there are several alternative perspectives he might have considered.

Atop the Hotel Sunroute is an expansive view of the city that is centered on the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and museum. This bird’s-eye view reveals the central importance of city’s self-knowledge of what occurred there seventy years ago.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and museum. Photo by Joe Nalven

Or Another perspective is to listen to the story of Kiyomi Kohno, a hibakusha (a bomb-affected person), as told by her daughter Nobuko Morikawa. Spared from the bomb blast, Kiyomi walked into and around the city the next day. Her images picture what she saw the day after the bomb blast.

Drawings of the aftermath of the atomic bomb by Kiyomi Kohno. Photo by Joe Nalven

Yet another perspective is to make an origami paper crane as thousands of others do in honor of Sadako Sasaki, also a hibakusha, who had folded 644 paper cranes before she died of leukemia in 1955. The Children’s Peace Monument is dedicated to her.

Or simply stand in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Peace Memorial) or the Memorial Cenotaph in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The Memorial Cenotaph in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Visual interpretation by Joe Nalven

Whether one is an optimist or a pessimist about the future of nuclear weapons, or unintended destruction by nuclear plants, such as occurred in Fukushima, Japan, it is worth reflecting on this moment in human history and where we are headed.

“Living in a world such as this is like dancing on a live volcano.”
Kentetsu Takamori


Joe Nalven is a San Diego-based digital artist.

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