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Journeys : Aug Sep 2010
This page: A-Bomb Dome, Peace Park; Hiroshima Castle, rebuilt after the blast; A-bombed eucalypt Opposite: Paper cranes on the Children's Memorial in Peace Park; expatriate Tasmanian Michael Shaw and his Mazda Roadster; golden wattle Photos: Chris Viney The first atomic bomb dropped in wartime exploded above Hiroshima one August mor ning in 1945, killing 140,000 people and leaving behind a black plain of smoking r ubble. The city's parks, gardens, avenues of shade trees, vegetable plots and emerald ledges of rice all vanished in a white-hot split-second. When people lear ned that the blast and its black rain had spread an invisible poison called radiation, there were rumours that nothing would grow in Hiroshima soil for 75 years. But within a couple of months, nature bounced back. Green shoots poked through the ashes and new buds appeared on blackened trunks. One of the first plants to grow was a hardy Australian forest tree. In the places I love -- Victoria's alpine valleys, the coastal woodlands of Br uny Island and the hilly shores of the D'Entrecasteau x Channel -- the flowering of golden wattles goes hand-in-hand with skiing on spring snow, a salty freshness in the air and an occasional fit of sneezing. In Japan, where seasonal change is celebrated through the bud-burst, flowering and leaf-fall of trees, wattles have long been prized for the bright blaze of gold that marks the end of the northern winter. In their Australian homeland, wattles are quick to colonise fire-ravaged bushland. Hiroshima's wattle trees had been blasted and scorched to the ground, but new growth pushed up from underground root suckers and young trees grew tall and flowered while the city was being rebuilt. Along with the wattles, oleanders soon sprouted buds, which flowered only a few months after the bomb. Hiroshima chose the oleander as the city's floral symbol -- pink, white and red oleanders bloom through most of the year in Peace Park, site of the explosion's hypocentre. Eucalypt trees also sur vived. Overhanging the moat of Hiroshima Castle today there's a gnarled old eucalypt, with three thick coppiced trunks, each exactly 65 years old, growing from the side of the white shell of the tree that was shattered by the blast. The castle, 740 metres from the hypocentre, was totally destroyed but the eucalypt lived. The people of Hiroshima rebuilt their castle and replanted wattles in the grounds. Whenever I visit, I like to climb to the top turret and look out over this friendly, attractive city, with its wide boulevards, rattling trams and green spaces. Beyond the stadium where faithful fans cheer their red and white Hiroshima Carp baseball team, I can just see the A-Bomb Dome in Peace Park. Closer is the cool green foliage of Shukkei-en Garden, where hundreds of bur ned sur vivors gathered, seeking water. Many people died there. Several old ginkgo trees in the gardens lean slightly in the direction of Ground Zero. After first being blasted outward by winds of 1500 kilometres per hour, they were sucked in again as air r ushed back after the explosion. Today, the trees still seem to bow towards the centre of the catastrophe. Destinations August / September 2010 16
RACT MNJ June July 2010
Oct Nov 2010