THE ISLANDS OF JAPAN
My visits to Hiroshima over the years have always been conflicted by somewhat irreconcilable images of the city and contradictory emotional reactions to its place in world history. The museums and memorials marking the atomic bombing of the city on August 7, 1945 have always disturbed me by arousing doubts concerning humanity's general proclivities towards violence and war as a means of solving problems and resolving conflict. Yet, on the other hand, contemporary Hiroshima always seems to be constantly reinventing itself; every visit to the city finds entire districts transformed and glittering new structures popping up everywhere -- as if to obliterate even memories of past injustices.
This trip my digital camera malfunctioned after a day photographing both aspects of the city's life (including a moving exhibit featuring archeological remnants unearthed in the neighborhood most directly affected by the bombing and a lively, stylish multiple-level shopping arcade newly opened in the city center), leaving me only with a set of seemingly timeless images of Shukkeien, an exquisite garden built around a tranquil pond reconstructed on its original site after the war.
The modern city seems to want to move on; those dedicated to preserving peace appear to prefer to freeze the city at that moment of blinding nuclear ferocity some fifty years ago. Perhaps the garden, in its evocation of the natural world, best serves to remind us that neither perspective captures the reality, the truth, of Life's ultimate purpose and meaning as represented by this city so incapable of escaping its place in our common history.
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