As I was visiting Hiroshima only for the second time, the city felt much more familiar than it should have. When I came here for the first time last July, I found the city immediately likeable. It feels small, a bit rough around the edges and easy-going in pace. I remember experiencing something of a culture shock, coming here from Tokyo and having strangers casually chat to me on the street. You could describe dozens of cities in the world in this exact same way: approachable size, laidback pace, friendly locals, “nice”. But of course, Hiroshima’s charm is just as much in the things that make unordinary: its heavy history and resilience.
I walked by this jizo statue last summer but only looked at its face now. Located very close to the epicenter, its cheeks were permanently marked by the explosion in a mocking imitation of a healthy blush.
I did nothing to dispel the warm feeling of familiarity, going back to the hostel I stayed in last time and mostly eating in the same places, too. When I’m visiting somewhere I’ve already been to, I definitely have a tendency to repeat things, even if there are still countless new places to explore. Whether it’s laziness, the desire to belong somewhere, an attempt to gauge how I’ve changed by comparing my state of mind now and ‘back then’ in a more-or-less unchanged environment, or just convenience, I don’t really know. But I felt very comfortable ticking off a list of repeat visits this time in Hiroshima.
Maybe I’d been half-hoping to quietly blend into the surroundings, but I still felt pleasantly surprised when the owners of the hostel and the waiter at the restaurant immediately recognised me from last summer. Not much had changed in the hostel - the owners’ toddler-age son had grown a bit, and the dog was different, but the stacks of shiny coffee-table books and the peaceful atmosphere were just like I remembered them. The dog was very friendly and insisted on climbing my lap as I was trying to do some work, which I didn’t really mind.
One of the reasons I decided to stop by Hiroshima was to revisit the A-bomb memorial museum, because the main building, which had been under renovations last summer, was reopened just a couple of days before my visit. The new exhibition space was very well designed. I also spent a lot of time looking at the temporary exhibition, which now consisted of images painted by survivors long after the event. They create a very interesting examination of collective memory, the things that are repeated or absent across the after-images created by all these individuals.