Life forever changed for Hiroshima and its residents on 6 August 1945 when the world’s first atomic bomb was dropped on the city.
Although I knew a visit to the city, with ‘highlights’ that include the Atomic Bomb Dome, Peace Memorial Park and Peace Memorial Museum, was going to be tough going, I spent a day there nonetheless.
There is plenty of literature around cataloging the event that is internationally significant so I won’t do it the injustice of a short summary here. Instead, the following is a selection of photographs of my visit.
If you get the opportunity to go to Hiroshima, I would highly recommend it. While not the most upbeat day you will have, it’s a healthy reminder of the ongoing need to support the effort for world peace.
Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park
The park is a prominent feature of the city that stretches over 120,000 square metres. Sat where the financial and political centre once stood prior to the bombing, today the space is a haven of tranquility where people go to remember or simply just be. The sights below are all within the park and well sign posted.
The Atomic Bomb Dome is more formally titled the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and is one of the few buildings that remained standing after the bombing. The building was once a Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (a place where local business promotion was carried out) and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After the atomic bomb was dropped, it was thought that nothing would grow in Hiroshima for up to 75 years. If that were true, Hiroshima would be a barren land even now. Fortunately, greenery is thriving and nowhere more evident than in the park, as illustrated by this super-hairy tree.
Children’s Peace Memorial & Sadako Sasaki
If you haven’t heard the story of Sadako Sasaki, be warned it is a sad one. A local girl, Sadako was two years old when the bomb dropped and although her family were initially relieved she survived the bomb, ten years later, aged 12, she developed leukemia.
Believing the old adage that by building a thousand paper cranes, she would be granted a wish, Sadako tried to recover from her illness by tirelessly folding paper cranes. Sadly, her efforts were in vain and Sadako died, her class mates left to complete her crane folding.
The image above is of some of Sadako’s cranes, which can be seen in the Peace Memorial Museum.
At the top of the nine meter monument, a bronze statue of a young girl lifts a golden crane entrusted with dreams for a peaceful future. The inscription on the monument reads: “This is our cry. this is our prayer. For building peace in the world.”
Sadako’s story prompted the building of the Children’s Peace Memorial within the park to commemorate Sadako and all the other children who died as a result of the bomb.
Today, the crane has been taken as a symbol of peace. Many school children were at the memorial during my visit, the class above donating their own crane mural as many children before them have done.
A group of children were singing at the memorial and while I couldn’t understand the words, I’ve no doubt their soft song was sad. Afterwards, I watched humbled as the small girls and boys cried for the generation of children who were strangers to them but who had suffered at the hands of the bomb.
The Peace Flame is another memorial to the bomb and has been continually aflame since it was first lit. It is said that the flame will remain lit until the world is free of all nuclear bombs. Sadly, the following is a map of the current existence of nuclear weapons around the world, demonstrating that it will be some time yet before the flame is extinguished.
The Memorial Cenotaph holds the name of all those killed by the bomb.
The inscription reads: “Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.” It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima: enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.
The Peace Memorial Museum
The museum features a number of floors that record the history leading up to the war, the dropping of the bomb, the aftermath and many artifacts. As somber as it is, I was impressed by the objectivity and completeness of the history, which included Japan’s attacks on China and Pearl Harbor.
The museum included survivor recollections of the event.
This watch stopped at the exact time the bomb hit.
There were also aerial images depicting the city before and after the bomb, demonstrating the level of destruction.
Hope for world peace
The week before I flew to Japan, the country mobilised its defense missiles through fear of attack from North Korea, a country known to have nuclear weapons, but with no real clarity on the extent of their nuclear ability. The threat is ongoing and a reminder that peace cannot be taken for granted.
While I’m sure my signature won’t create peace all on its own, I took the time to stop at the petition box and sign a form. As I left the Peace Memorial Park, I couldn’t help but wish that a visit to Hiroshima were mandatory for every person at least once in their lifetime.
If the world needs a painful reminder of the destruction and devastation caused by war and, worse, nuclear war, it rests in the city of Hiroshima and in it the hope that we can, if not immediately, then perhaps with a new generation, get closer to the promise of enduring world peace.
If you’re not staying in Hiroshima itself, the city is easily reached from Osaka and Kyoto.
From Kyoto, take the 15 minute JR ride to Shin-Osaka and from there transfer to the train to Hiroshima, around 2 hours. From Osaka, take the train direct. The Japan Rail Pass covers the journey.
When in the city, street car number 6 will take you to Peace Memorial Park. The fare is 150 Yen each way and is paid when you get off the street car. make sure you have the right money as no change is given.
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