The other Hiroshima shrine

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The Torii gates of Kinkou-Inari Shrine.

Far from the Hiroshima Peace Park, on the other side of the hill from the Peace Pavilion, there sits another shrine that does not memorialize the victims of the atomic bomb but cannot escape the shadow of the war. Kinkou-Inari Shrine was built to honor Inari, god of prosperity, and the shrine sports rows of red Torii (gates) lining the path, much like in Kyoto’s famous Fushimi-Inari.

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Shrines line the uphill path after Kinkou-Inari’s entrance.
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A praying mantis camouflages itself on a moss-lined tree stump.

But beyond the gates, the similarity between the two shrines disappears. As you climb past the main shrine and continue up the hill, you’ll find not a well-worn path of stairs to immaculately-maintained shrines but a jumble of uneven steps, obscured in part by dirt and fallen leaves. Shrines lay beside the path in various states of upkeep; some are clearly swept and cared-for, while others are mere remnants, scattered pieces of wood with flecks of faded vermillion paint. A sign at one shrine near the hill’s top gently implores guests with “please do not cause trouble in the shrine.” Its altar is devoid of all but a single glass plate, and pieces of broken vases and ceramic plates are embedded in the dirt nearby. It seems that here the shrine to prosperity is in want for itself.

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A well-maintained, small shrine beside the path.
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The remnants of another shrinehouse, fallen into disrepair. Visitors have left coins and attempted to repair it with rocks.
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A shrine near the hill’s top, recently vandalized. The sign to the right asks that people “please do not make trouble in the shrine.”

A plausible source of the area’s unpopularity lies at the top of the hill, where hidden between the overgrown trees and heavy leaf litter is a collection of circular structures sunken into the ground. “These are the remnants of an anti-aircraft battery from World War II” reads a nearby sign, but it looks like few souls come by to read it. The masonworks is now nothing but a remnant from when Japan had a military, a reminder that Hiroshima is part of a country that once used its military might to control much of East Asia.

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The remnants of an anti-aircraft battery above Kinkou-Inari Shrine, mostly forgotten and covered in leaf litter.
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A view of the forest standing within the remnants of the anti-aircraft battery. Someone might have once stashed their belongings in this hole while on shift watching for enemy aircraft flying above Hiroshima.

Maybe few come here because it doesn’t fit with Hiroshima’s narrative of being the victim of a terrible event, or maybe it’s a painful reminder to people that they lost the war. But if narrative historical accounts are to be believed, the people stationed up here on the fateful day the bomb was dropped would have seen the Enola Gay before their grisly hand was dealt. They became victims too, just like everyone else in Hiroshima, just like millions and millions of people in cities across Japan, across Asia, around the world. That’s war, isn’t it?

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Alone and undisturbed, a plant grows from the masonworks in the remnants of the anti-aircraft battery.

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