August 6, 1945, would be the day that goes down in history that devastated the city of Hiroshima, and particularly the area surrounding the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park for years to come. The United States dropped one of two Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima, codenamed ‘Little Boy’, it was the first time in world history that a nuclear weapon was used. It also marked the final days of Japan’s looming surrender, as they continued what seemed like a futile battle. On August 9, 1945, another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, with similar consequences for the port city. Six days later Japan finally agreed to surrender, and this was the catalyst for a chain of events that would force Japan to relinquish its right to a military and any future wartime aggression.
In 1949, Hiroshima was heralded as the City of Peace by Japanese parliament, and in this year a design for the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park (広島平和記念公園 or Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Kouen) was also chosen. It was eventually established in 1954, and continues to serve as a reminder of the horrors of nuclear bombs and to endorse peace and unity throughout the world.
The Park itself has many areas to visit and explore, but some of the highlights include the infamous A-Bomb Dome, the Hiroshima National Memorial Hall, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Children’s Peace Monument, the Gates of Peace and plenty more.
From Hiroshima station you have several options, obviously, there are the Tram or Bus options, which have terminals outside the front of Hiroshima’s main train station. But of course, you can also catch a cab (a cheap fare) or enjoy the stroll (about 20 minutes) to the park itself.
The closest Tram station is Genbaku dome-mae, which, as the name suggests if you understand a little Japanese, is located almost next to the A-Bomb Dome ruins.
The A-Bomb Dome
The A-Bomb Dome represents one of the only semi-standing structures left after ‘Little Boy’s’ detonation, particularly considering how close it was to the blast zone of the bomb. Once the official Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, it was left in a tattered form, and it continues to stand today, even after being restored a number of times, in remembrance of the victims that suffered from the blast. In December 1996, it was added to the UNESO World Heritage list of sites, and serves to honour the casualties of this horrific event.
Visiting the place, especially for the first time 6 years ago, was one of the most eeriest and memorable experiences that will haunt me for years to come. Something about the air in that area, irked and messed with my senses in ways I cannot explain as if I was amongst the souls of the dead. It definitely has a chilling atmosphere to it.
In contrast, when you compare the city of Hiroshima and its various architecture to the ruins of the A-Bomb dome, it is easy to think these ruins are misplaced. The city itself is now home to more than 1 million inhabitants, and is a thriving spot for tourists, even receiving a visit from the US President Obama in 2016. Yet, when you continue to delve deeper into the details of the devastating event, especially the before and after models of Hiroshima’s landscape in the museum from the time of the A-Bomb, it starts to sink in …
The Hiroshima National Memorial Hall
This Hiroshima National Memorial Hall is a very uniquely designed building and another must-see on your venture through the park. Situated towards the centre of the grounds, the structure sits inconspicuously amongst its surroundings and is easy to miss as it sits almost underground. The memorial honours the victims of the attack and is symbolic in many ways. Take for instance the clock at the top of the entrance, frozen at 8:15 (am), the exact time of the bomb’s detonation, or the 360-degree panorama which is made from an estimated 140,000 tiles, meant to represent the approximate number of casualties of the catastrophe.
As you walk through the building you can also see the horror and devastating effect of this weapon. However, it’s not until you enter the 360 panoramic halls, that you’ll find a truly emotional impact. Numerous tales of loss, sorrow and hardship, some finding the bodies of their family members and many losing their siblings without a trace. As you read through the subtitled stories and listen to their weeping voices, it is hard to hold back tears as you cannot even begin to imagine what they went through. My advice, bring a tissue box (or 4) if you plan to enter this place of remembrance. Jokes aside though, it is something I would really recommend you experience and appreciate.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Established in 1955, soon after the Park grounds had been officially completed, the museum is the city’s most popular tourist attraction, averaging more than a million visitors annually. It’s primary role, as the main museum in the park, is to educate people about the Atomic Bomb and the consequences of using such lethal weaponry.
There are two key areas that can be found within the building, the East Wing and West Wing. The East Wing the latest inclusion since being renovated in 1994, includes descriptions of Hiroshima both pre and post the A-Bomb blast, the development of the technology and the lead up to the decision to the drop the bomb. There is also a model of how the city looked, prior to August 6, 1945.
Perhaps the most shocking or eye-opening is the model of the city in the aftermath of the attack, you can see everything has been levelled, minus a few structural remains including the A-Bomb Dome.
The West Wing, on the other hand, focuses more on the damage of the bombing, including the impacts to victims and their personal effects. The impact on materials found throughout the city like metal, glass, stone and wood, and the health impacts both short and long-term.
The Children’s Peace Monument
The Children’s Peace Monument is located close to the A-Bomb Dome on the opposite side of the river that divides the two monuments. The statue portrays a child, arms wide open with an origami crane positioned above her. Taken from the famous true story of the young girl Sadako Sasaki, a girl who passed away due to her exposure to raditiation. She held conviction in the idea that if she could will herself to make 1,000 origami paper cranes, she would be cured of her illness and free to return to her life as a child.
Now children from all over the world visit the statue and send paper cranes to Hiroshima every year, and these are placed around the statue in remembrance of the brave girl.
In fact, they receive so many that there is always more than enough to replenish the display cases situated around the monument.
Other monuments found throughout the Park
Gates of Peace – built in 2005, a series of ten gates were erected covered in the word ‘Peace’ and written in 49 different languages.
Cenotaph of Korean Victims – this monument, which is enhanced by Korean symbols, cememorates the estimated 400,000 who died as a result of Japan’s actions in World War II.
Peace Flame – a flame lit since 1964, and continues to burn until all Necleaur Weapons have been eradicated from the world.
In addition, to the above monuments there are many others you can visit and appreciate. For more information, please visit the official Hiroshima City website here.