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     Volume 8 Issue 86 | September 10, 2009 |

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A Slice of Japan

Dr Syed Anwarul Haque
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

I was looking forward to a visit to Japan for along time and so was delighted when Dr. Yoshiyuki Murata, Professor of Cell Biology at the Okayama University invited me to visit his lab. We had as many as nine post-graduate research students from Bangladesh Agricultural University working under the supervision of Dr. Murata. Dr. Yoshiyuki Murata, one of the staff members of the Okayama University, was a distinguished scientist of Japan, having his Ph.D from the renowned University of Kyoto. The University is located in Okayama, which is a small but very neat and clean city.

I left for Okayama at mid-night and reached Hong Kong airport in the early hours of the following morning. The duration of the journey was 3:40 hours non-stop to Hong Kong in the first leg of my journey to Okayama and then reached Kansai International Airport in Osaka the same day. The hour difference of Hong Kong with Bangladesh was two hours.

On coming out of the airport after Immigration checking, I found my host Professor Dr. Yoshiyuki Murata waiting for me. A young handsome (47 years old) professor attired in a red jacket came forward to me with a smiling face. I could immediately recognise him. We left Kansai International airport for Okayama, our destination by Super Express train which runs at a speed of 250 km/hour. On completion of necessary formalities of the Rest House where I would be staying, Professor Yoshi and I left for the lab, where our students were working. I found the students busy with their research activities. Japanese students and the Professors alike are very hard working. They remain busy in work at the lab till 9 or 10 p.m. in the evening. I talked with Bangladeshi post-graduates, who were also in the lab and were very happy to see their professor in a foreign land. They had been my students at Bangladesh Agricultural University at Mymensingh.

In my itinerary, I included a visit to Hiroshima, the atom bomb dropped by the US during World War II. The horror of the atom bomb dropped in Hiroshima still haunts the Japanese people. I decided to visit Hiroshima on a Saturday as it was not far off from Okayama. It was three and a half hours drive. One of the Bangladeshi students volunteered to accompany me by bus. The world had witnessed the horror of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, first ever used as a weapon in human history. On August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. the A bomb was dropped on Hiroshima by the US. The bomb was detonated approximately 600 metres above the city centre. The heat rays and blast burned and crushed nearly all buildings within 2 kilometres of the hypocentre, killing thousands of people. Those who managed to survive, their burned and bloodied clothes hanging in tatters clambered over the rubble to flee the city. The entire city of Hiroshima was virtually leveled; thousands of lives were lost. Many of those who managed to survive suffered irreparable physical and psychological damage and still suffer the effects today.

Asakusa Kannon Temple, tokyo.

The A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima was approximately three metres long and weighed four tons. It was dubbed as “little boy”. The bomb carried about 50 kilograms of uranium. The special characteristic of the atomic bomb is nuclear radiation, something which conventional weapons never produce. The radiation inflicts severe injuries on the human body. The radiation affected those within a kilometre of the hypocentre. Many of them died within a few days. The acute effects that appeared immediately after the bombing, a short time thereafter manifested in a wide range of symptoms, including fever, nausea, diarrhea, bleeding, and loss of hearing ultimately resulting in loss of huge number of human lives. The after effects began to appear about two years later and continued appearing for more than ten years. These include leukemia and various cancers that continue to plague survivors even today.

It is terrifying, hard to imagine that at detonation the atom bomb releases such high temperature. At the instant of detonation, the temperature at the centre exceeded a million degrees. The blast pressure 500 metres from the hypocentre was enormous, 19 tons per square metres. Buildings were crushed and people were blown away through the air. Instantly the city of Hiroshima was almost entirely destroyed and thousands of precious lives were lost. By the end of December 1945, when the acute effects of radiation of the bomb had subsided, roughly 140,000 precious lives were lost.

My impression on visiting the Hiroshima peace memorial museum was that the damage done by the atom bomb was so catastrophic that any further use of atom bomb must be stopped at any cost. Human race cannot coexist with nuclear weapons. The present day race with developing A-bomb must stop in order to save humanity from annihilation. Abolition of nuclear weapons and realization of lasting world peace is the demand of present day people. We must adhere to it. Peace we want, war we hate.

The following Sunday morning, February 1, Professor Yoshi and I went to Tokyo. We used Bullet Train, the fastest train in Japan.

It was my first visit to Tokyo. We went through a typical bazaar selling all sorts of products such as dried fruits, sliced raw fish, garments etc. I wondered how raw fish, a delicacy in Japan, was eaten. We moved to the famous temple located nearby, the Asakusa Kannon Temple (Sensoji). It was built in the 7th century. It is a Buddhist temple located in Asakusa. There is a story behind the temple. The legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River. Even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, temple was built for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in the year 645. It is Tokyo's oldest temple. It has a wide range of complexes with beautiful pagodas covering the whole area. A series of decorated shops lined the way to the temple mostly selling souvenirs. The area remains crowded with people of different ages. To my surprise, I found a hand drawn rickshaw there as well and the children were getting a big kick out of the rickshaw rides.

We came back to Okayama on Monday with an overnight stay in Tokyo. I had a pre-scheduled meeting with the Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture at the Okayama University in the afternoon. The main topic discussed was to initiate an international exchange programme between Okayama University and Bangladesh Agricultural University as soon as possible. It was the best decision that we could take in the interest of both the Universities. This exchange programme would certainly benefit our young scientists to conduct research on different aspects of modern cell biology at Bangladesh Agricultural University. My stay in Okayama came to a close. I started preparing to leave Japan. I came back to Bangladesh, very impressed with Japan where even the smaller cities like Okayama are so neat, so disciplined that are beyond description. Another eye-catching sight in Japan is the traffic system. It is simply wonderful. People are very conscious about the environment. I could not find any trace of litter in the street.

The writer is Senior Agriculture Specialist Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS).


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