Seventy-one years have passed since an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
On May 27, 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city. After spending time at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, he laid a wreath of flowers at the cenotaph dedicated to victims of the 1945 atomic bombing of the city and exchanged words with hibakusha atomic bomb survivors.
The president brought origami cranes he made himself to the museum.
The dreadful destructive force of an atomic bomb exceeds our everyday imagination. The temperature of the ground surface was estimated to be from 3,000 C to 4,000 C. The maximum wind speed of the radioactive blast wave was believed to be 160 meters per second at a point one kilometer away from the blast center.
“Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not so distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 in Japanese men, women and children; thousands of Koreans; a dozen Americans held prisoner. Their souls speak to us.”
― U.S. President Barack Obama
“When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.”
“Among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.”
“We were surprised to see huge ― and friendly ― crowds welcoming us,” said Ben Rhodes, who accompanied Obama to Hiroshima and prepared a draft of the president’s remarks there.
Rhodes described a boy standing on the side of the road as Obama’s motorcade passed by. Smiling, the boy held up a sign in English that read, “Welcome to Hiroshima.”
“You think of what would have happened to him standing there nearly 71 years ago,” Rhodes said.
“Someday the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of August 6th, 1945, must never fade.”
“I want to tell [President Obama] that we should get rid of nuclear weapons for the sake of the future of mankind,” said Sunao Tsuboi, 91, who was exposed to radiation when Hiroshima was bombed.
In the United States, there are still many people who strongly believe that the bombing was justified, especially among older generations. Behind the decision for Obama’s visit, however, is the fact that the number of young people in the United States who support the bombing has decreased.
It is highly significant that Obama, leader of the only country that has used a nuclear bomb, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leader of the only country that has suffered a nuclear attack, stood together in a city that was ruined by such a weapon.
Hiroshima has once again become a starting point to change the world. “I don’t know whether a nuclear-free world ― which Mr. Obama mentioned ― will be realized, but it’s better to have hope,” a resident of Hiroshima said.
“The president’s visit will become an opportunity to draw broad attention from foreigners [to Hiroshima]. And it has become a milestone for the museum, which has continued to face the reality of what happened to the victims,” said Kenji Shiga, director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
When Obama visited the museum, he wrote a message in the visitor’s book after viewing the exhibits, including the personal belongings of those who died in the atomic bombing and cranes folded by Sadako Sasaki, a victim who survived the immediate effects of the bombing only to die later of leukemia at the age of 12.
The president gave two cranes to local primary and middle school students who greeted him at the museum.
“The world was forever changed here. But today, the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is.”
The message Obama wrote at the museum.