HIROSHIMA, Japan — A group of schoolkids approached my friends and me with a simple request: They wanted to take their picture with us.
I recognized the irony: 63 years ago their city — and country — lay in ruins following the first-ever atomic bombing of a city, a move that helped bring about the end of World War II. In the four years following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor, which brought the U.S. into World War II, our two countries became bitter enemies. In the six decades since, our countries reversed course, and today we are friends.
That hardly entered my mind. Without hesitation, my friends and I took pictures, standing in the shadows of the many monuments dedicated to the city’s bombing and the devastation that signaled the end of the war.
The city has since rebuilt. It’s modern. There are no smoldering ashes. Just memories of what happened at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945.
When I look back on 2008, I would mark Hiroshima as the single most worthwhile trip of the year. It’s a place that everybody should see in their lifetime. Everybody should understand what happened here and the events that led up to this bombing.
The bombing of the city will likely always remain a controversial topic of conversation, and to have an honest discussion requires the proper context.
History isn’t pretty. Places like Hiroshima are in the history books for one reason. Traveling to places that made history isn’t always a joyous occasion. But, I’ve found, that traveling to places like Hiroshima makes for a more meaningful experience.