Hiroshima, in Japan’s Chugoku region, about four hours from Tokyo by bullet train, is an immensely popular destination for both Japanese and foreign travellers, due to its delicious food, great climate, but most importantly its significant cultural history. On August 6th, 1945, at the tail end of World War Two, the Unites States military dropped the first of two nuclear bombs on Japan, detonating it over the city of Hiroshima. In an instant, over 70,000 innocent lives were wiped away, as well as another 70,000 suffering fatal injuries as a result of the radiation. The atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki devastated Japan to such an effect that in many ways the effects of the bombings are still felt to this day.
Atomic Bomb Dorm, only structure left standing in the area
One of the most popular places to visit in Hiroshima is the Peace Memorial, where visitors can learn about the tragic events that occurred, potentially helping society to better reflect on the consequences of war and the importance of continued peace throughout the world. One of the only buildings to survive the atomic bomb, the Peace Memorial was originally known as the Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, but is now more commonly referred to as the Atomic Bomb Dome. In 1996, the Atomic Bomb Dome was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage and currently stands as a monument to memorialise the people who were killed by the atomic blast.
The Atomic Bomb Dome can be easily accessed from the Hiroshima Station Streetcar platform, by taking the line 2 or 6 and alighting at the stop named “Gengaku-Domu Mae”. It takes approximately 15 minutes and the ride costs 160 yen. Alternatively, it can be reached by foot in just under half an hour.
Hiroshima Peace Park, a memorial park in the center of Hiroshima
The Peace Memorial Park (“Heiwa Kinen Kouen” in Japanese), spans a massive 120,000 square metres of land, and is home not only the Atomic Bomb Dome, but several other monuments, along with the centrepiece of the park, the Peace Memorial Museum.
One of the most powerful monuments that exists in the Peace Memorial Park is the Children’s Peace Monument, a statue dedicated to the memory of the many children who lost their lives as a result of the nuclear attack. The statue of a girl with a paper crane above her is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl whose story is also told in the Peace Memorial Museum.
Foreign visitors to the park might see Japanese people lining up to pay their respects in front of the Memorial Cenotaph, one of the first monuments built at this site, the inside of which contains all the names of the people killed by the atomic bomb.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, visit here for lasting world peace
Established over 60 years ago, in August of 1955, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum has become the most popular destination in Hiroshima for both Japanese and foreign travellers, and continues to be a popular destination for school excursions for students in Hiroshima (the day I visited this was definitely the case!). From September 2014 to February 2017, the east building will be undergoing repairs, and unfortunately my visit happened to fall at this time. Regardless, there is still a lot to see and learn inside the museum.
Entry is 200 yen, and the museum opens every day from 8:30am to 6pm, except December 30 & 31st when the museum is closed. Flash photography is not permitted, but without a flash guests can take photographs. Regardless, it is still important to be respectful of the museum and other guests, so it is advisable to remain as quiet as possible during your visit.
One of the centrepieces of the Peace Memorial Museum is the model of Hiroshima City, showing the location from where the atomic bomb detonated as well as the level of devastation it caused to the landscape. Surrounding this model are articles of clothing and personal belongings that survived the attack and were later salvaged.
The museum also contains information about radiation and its effects on the environment and people, relief activities after the attack and continuously updated information about political activity to do with Hiroshima, including the US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to the park.
Upon finishing the tour of the main museum, visitors can also enter the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall, which was created by the government to mourn the sacrifice made by the atomic bomb victims. There are several areas, including a library, screening room and the Hall of Remembrance which features a panoramic image of the ruins of Hiroshima after the bombing.
While a fairly sombre occasion, my experience visiting Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park was both incredibly informative and moving. Growing up in a developed country and not ever having seen anything close to what could be considered war, this park is both a stark reminder of the devastating capabilities that man possesses and a shining example of what can be achieved through continued peace.
Matt De Sousa
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, I am a freelance filmmaker, writer & photographer based in Tokyo. I moved here to study Japanese language and like many others, fell in love with Japan and decided to stay. In my rare moments of spare time you can find me reading Dragon Ball manga or eating at CoCoIchi Curry.
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