Favorite thing: This is of course not my "favourite thing" about Hiroshima, but until VT provides a tip category for general information about a destination I see no alternative but to place this one here.
Before you start to look round the Peace Memorial Park it is as well to know something about what happened here on Monday 6th August 1945. You can do that very effectively through a visit to the excellent museum, but that lies at the far end of the park, so if starting at this end (as we and many other visitors do), it’s good to have read a bit beforehand.
Of course Hiroshima has a history that stretches back for centuries, and if you’re spending any time here and exploring all over the city it would be as well to appreciate that. But the dropping of the atom bomb was an apocalyptic event and understandably tends to dominate any account of the past, and thus the more gentle evolution of a city and its people is obscured.
One thing that fascinated me as I read the accounts in the museum’s displays was the almost random manner in which Hiroshima met its fate. Firstly, the Allies could have chosen to use the atom bomb against Germany, as they had developed the technology in time. But they rejected the idea, believing that should things go wrong and it not detonate, the Germans had sufficiently advanced skills to quickly learn from the bomb and develop their own to be turned against the Allies. So Japan it was.
Secondly, they could have opted not to use it at all. Several leading scientists of the day argued unsuccessfully that merely having (and demonstrating that they had) the capacity to build and use atomic weapons would be enough to ensure US post-war supremacy, and that indeed using the bomb would restrict that supremacy as it would speed up its acquisition by other powers. But they were not listened to.
Thirdly, there was an initial long-list of 17 Japanese cities, and then a short-list of four, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki (where the second bomb was dropped) were just two on this list. The criteria for the list included factors such as not having any prisoner of war facilities (the Allies didn’t want to bomb their own people), plus of course being of some strategic importance (a significant number of troops were stationed in Hiroshima and its port was one of the most important in the country). Also, to some extent the dropping of the bomb was an experiment by the Allies; they didn’t know exactly what impact it would have. So to ensure that the effects could be accurately observed, potential target cities had to have an urban area at least three miles in diameter (about 4.8 kilometres). Interestingly, at one point Kyoto was apparently considered as a possible target, but the wife of a senior US general reminded him of the wonderful honeymoon they had spent there and pleaded that its temples should be spared, so they were. Finally, they had a shortlist of four: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki.
But in the end it all came down to weather. On the morning of 6th August 1945 the skies were clear over Hiroshima, so Hiroshima it was. The Peace Memorial Museum website describes what happened:
”The bombardier was ordered to conduct a visual bombing, the most reliable method at the time. Before dawn on August 6, weather reconnaissance planes took off for Hiroshima, Kokura, and Nagasaki from Tinian, Mariana Islands. Three B29s took off later: the Enola Gay carrying the atomic bomb, a second bomber carrying scientific observation equipment, and a third with photographic equipment. Receiving the report that the sky over the primary target was clear, the Enola Gay headed straight for Hiroshima. The aiming point was the T-shaped Aioi Bridge in the central part of the city. At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, the atomic bomb was dropped and detonated approximately 600 meters over the Shima Hospital, located about 300 meters southeast of the Aioi Bridge.”
The bomb killed an estimated 80,000 people instantly. It flattened an area of five square miles (13 square kilometres) and destroyed about 69% of the city's buildings were completely destroyed, with another 7% severely damaged. Three days later the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, and five days after that, Japan surrendered.
But of course the effects of the bomb were much longer term, with estimates suggesting that the final death toll was about 140,000, (out of a population of about 350,000), including those who died later from radiation. Many also suffered long-term sickness and disability as a result of the bomb’s radiation effects. Hiroshima would never be the same again.
Yet like a phoenix rising from the ashes it has succeeded in reinventing itself as a modern city that pays tribute to its past in the best possible way – using those terrible events as a platform from which to campaign for peace. Its memorial park and museum are not “Bomb Memorials” but “Peace Memorials” and this ethos pervades everything you see will here and the people, especially children, whom you will meet.
However there is one stark exception to this focus on looking forwards, and that is the Atomic Bomb Dome
- Historical Travel
Meeting Japanese children
Favorite thing: Unsurprisingly, the story of what happened in Hiroshima seems to be on the curriculum in every Japanese school, and the children are taught through this story, and in particular that of Sadako Sasaki, to work for peace and a non-nuclear world (perhaps somewhat ironically given recent events at Fukushima). It also seems that every class in the country is brought at some point to see Hiroshima for themselves and to learn about the devastation of war in the hope that they would grow up determined never to allow another “Hiroshima” to happen. Or so it appears, judging by the number that were there on the day we visited! But although this made the park, and the museum in particular, more crowded, it also provided us with many lighter moments to contrast with the sombre nature of the sights here.
Fondest memory: We quickly discovered that their teachers, no doubt keen to extract as much learning from the day as possible, had briefed them to practice their English by talking to Western tourists. We had not been in the park very long before a group of three girls approached us and asked, in hesitant English, if they might ask us a few questions. We naturally agreed and, armed with a clip-board and a work-book with a set of these questions, the girls proceeded to “interview” us. They were to be the first of many! Our progress through the park was regularly interrupted as group after group spotted us, hurtled towards us, paused, maybe giggled or nudged each other, and then began: “Excuse me, may we ask you some questions?”, spoken in chorus and with mixed level of English, from the reasonable to the almost non-existent. On one occasion there were even two such groups fighting over us!
After each interview we might be asked to write something in their work-books – our names, where we lived, and in one, our message for peace. They posed for photos for us, and asked us to pose with them. And often there were gifts – a paper crane, a hand-made bookmark, a photo of their school. I think we must have given about ten of these “interviews”, but I have to confess that in the end we did tire of them a little and learned to take a circuitous route around the classes we saw ahead of us. Not that the experience of meeting these kids wasn’t a special one – it was – but we had lots to see in the park and a train back to Osaka to catch at the end of the afternoon.
But we left with their halting English voices and shy smiles as lasting memories of the positive side of Hiroshima and its efforts for world peace.
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Christmas Time lights along the parkway
Favorite thing: This was a bonus we weren't planning on. The key to it had been the location of our hotel along the parkway. We stayed there on December 27 and were surprised to find it illuminated all along the parkway. It was stupendous. It was obvious with people out and about that many others were enjoying this Christmas light display as well.
There were lights along Hiroshima Peace park, but they weren't as decorative as the ones
lining the hotel areas of the parkway.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
The Bombing of Hiroshima
Fondest memory: This isn't exactly a 'fondest' memory but I didn't know where else to put this info...
In 1945, as World War drew to a close in Europe, the Japanese were still holding out in the Pacific and refusing to surrender. To bring the war to a speedy end, the US decided to use an entirely new and relatively untested weapon to pressure the Japanese into surrender. At 8.15am, on August 6, 1945, a US B29 bomber dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The bomb, which was developed in New Mexico was nicknamed 'Little Boy' and targeted the Aioi Bridge in central Hiroshima. Detonating a little off target, almost directly over the present day A-Bomb Dome, at an altitude of almost 600m.
The explosion killed tens of thousands of people instantly and claimed many more lives in the following days. Even today the fallout from the bombing is still claiming lives and further damage to the environment and health of Hiroshima's people is still not fully known.
Whether or not the decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was correct, is not something I am willing to discuss on VT although I do have very strong opinions on this. One thing I will say is this; after seeing what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is clear that with far more advanced nuclear weapons present in the world, a similar incident in the future would spell disaster for the entire planet. Nuclear weapons have no place on this planet, and that means for everyone...not just Iran and North Korea!!!!! France, Russia, USA, Britain...why the hell should they be the sole possessors of nuclear weapons...EVERY country needs to call a halt to nuclear weapons development.
Hiroshima Landmark Building
Favorite thing: Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome (Gembaku Domu) is a symbol of Hiroshima known worldwide.
It is left standing to remind everyone of the horror of the first atomic bomb dropped on a civilian population in the world. It is next to Aioi river where many people jumped into the river when the bomb exploded but did not survive.
Previously, the building was the Industrial Promotion Hall and was within 2 km radius of the epicenter of the bomb.
Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation
Favorite thing: Hiroshima is the first city in the world to be hit by a nuclear bomb on August 6, 1945 causing an estimated 140,000 people losing their lives.
From website: http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/hpcf/english/
Purpose of Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation
"Based on Hiroshima's A-bomb experience, and collaborating with peace research institutions and related organizations in Japan and abroad, this Foundation aims to convey that experience and to contribute to the dissemination of peace thought and international understanding and cooperation, and thereby to contribute to the creation of world peace and the betterment of human welfare, from a global perspective."
Understanding Peace Park Monuments
Favorite thing: Most tourists who come to Hiroshima go to the A-bomb Memorial Museum and Peace Park. When you walk through Peace Park, you will obviously see many monuments scattered about. If you truly want to get the most out of your experience in Hiroshima, then I suggest you make sure to bring a book that explains each monument. If you do not have a book when you go to Hiroshima, it's not a problem! Before you look around Peace Park, tour the musuem. Inside the museum there is an area where you can purchase souvenirs. At this gift shop/souvenir area, you will find books about Hiroshima and Peace Park. The Hiroshima Peace Reader (in the picture) contains a map of Peace Park with each monument marked on the map. It also provides an explanation of each monument. Aside from this, it provides historical information and information about creating the park! It's a must for those who truly want to understand Peace Park!
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
- Museum Visits
Hiroshima is big and new
Favorite thing: Well, of course some crazy *** happened here in WWII. The area is not radioactive due to how the bomb exploded (in the air). A lot of people still died though. Since the city was demolished by the bomb, the whole city looks new and is pretty wide compared to some cities.Bring good shoes.
Fondest memory: Being blessed by this old woman near ground zero.
Old people rock.
Favorite thing: We had an adapter when we travelled to Japan. What we did not know, is that they have two different types of sockets! And naturally our adapter wouldn't fit in the socket! Of course we were able to buy one in a department store, but it was not easy to find the correct one and took us some time as well.
- Arts and Culture
ATM at the Post office
Favorite thing: Finding an ATM that would also accept credit cards from foreigners was not so easy. There are many banks with ATMs, but none of them wanted to accept our credit card.
The post office's one did! So if you need money, look for a post office branch, that's also a good opportunity to buy some stamps for the postcards you surely have to send home!
- Arts and Culture
look at the trees
Favorite thing: trees are really weird.. probably they are deformed after the a bomb.. check this out.. there is grass on the branches
a lot of bushes around the a dome bomb have also weird and holed leaves...
there was also the oldest tree in hiroshima who had survived after the bomb, but during the days i was there a typhoon took it off the soil. now i am not sure if they planted it again or not
Favorite thing: Miyajima is an island located just offshore from Hiroshima. It is reached by ferries which run at regular intervals throughout the day.
I made a day trip to this beautiful island which offers spectacular views of the bay surrounding Hiroshima city.
On the island there are deer walking around and a few famous temples you must visit. The name Miyajima actually means temple island and there is a torii (temple gate) built in 1875 which stands in the waters near the main shrine; Itsukushima Shrine.
Fondest memory: There are many tourists and tour groups around the flat area where the main temple is but it is possible to 'get away' a little. You can climb up the mountain on the island (I chose to take a gondola ride instead!!) to the top where there are great views. I would recommend walking down though as there are some interesting things to see along the way. The path down is all steps which can be a little rough on the knees though!
Be careful at the bottom because the path is slippery as we found out!!
For a great website on Miyajima and the shrine and to see a map of the area please click this link: Miyajima
- Hiking and Walking
- Historical Travel
Woman Praying for Peace
Fondest memory: As I was taking a picture of the A-bomb dome a woman walked up to me and asked if she could pray for me. As I saw no harm in this I allowed her to proceed.
What she did was both moving and slightly eerie. She positioned herself in a position where she had to block the sun and raised her hand to block the sunlight. The symbolism of this in Hiroshima is self evident. She prayed for me for a couple of minutes, thanked me and proceeded to ask other people.
Favorite thing: "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima, followed by a second one (a plutonium bomb nicknamed "Fat Man") dropped three days later on Nagasaki. Beyond the unprecedented explosive power (12.5 kilotons for the first bomb and 22 kilotons for the second one), the delayed effects of radiation were another important distinction.
- Historical Travel
GenkiMac's General Tip
Fondest memory: HIroshima isn't a city you feel you need a break from the fast pace but it's always nice to find quiet places in any city and the river is it in Hiroshima.
Walking from the centre city past the A bomb dome and down to the river turn right as this is the nicest area with grass banks and apartments as opposed to tall city buildings. Take lunch and have a PICNIC!
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