There’s nothing like a sucker punch for bringing you up short and reminding you just why a place is as notorious as Hiroshima, and if, like most people, you start your explorations at the Atomic Bomb Dome, a sucker punch is what it delivers. This stark reminder of the impact of the atom bomb will ensure that no one leaves the city without appreciating the devastation that it caused.
On Monday 6th August 1945, at 8.15 am, an atomic bomb (bizarrely tagged as "Little Boy") was dropped on Hiroshima by an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, directly killing an estimated 80,000 people. I had imagined that the bomb landed and detonated, but in fact it was detonated some distance above the ground. Its target was the Aioi Bridge but it missed this slightly and exploded almost directly above this building, which was at the time an exhibition hall known as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Because the blast was felt from immediately above, hitting the structure vertically, a surprising amount remained intact even though, of course, everyone inside was killed instantly.
For some years after the war the skeleton of the building remained as it was. There were some who felt it should be pulled down and the site redeveloped, while others argued for its restoration and yet others for its preservation as a ruin, to stand as a memorial to what had happened and to those who had lost their lives. The latter group won the day, and in 1966 the city council declared that it intended to preserve the building, undertaking only the minimal work necessary to ensuring its stability. In December 1996 the Atomic Bomb Dome was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Its listing was based on its survival from a destructive force, the first use of nuclear weapons on human population, and importantly its representation as a symbol of peace.
The dome seems to have become a focus for individual local people who are keeping the memory of what happened on that day alive while hoping for the future.
The Second World War caused a major labour shortage in Japan, so the government brought in the Student Labour Service Act in August 1944 which required students in middle school and above to work in munitions factories etc. Later that year, in November, the edict was extended to cover the work of tearing down homes and other buildings in order to create fire-breaks to limit the spread of fire in the event of air raids. Many were working on these projects in Hiroshima when the atom bomb was dropped; of the more than 8,000 secondary school students mobilised at building demolition sites, approximately 6,300 died. Many students who were working at various factories around the city were also killed.
After the war, the government only permitted mobilised students killed in the atomic bombing or in air strikes to be enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine if their names and date of death were known. In response to this, bereaved families began a campaign to create a list of all the dead and donated funds to build this tower in their memory.
The tower was dedicated in July 1967. Its design incorporates eight doves and a statue of the goddess of peace, arranged on and around the five storeys, which widen towards the top. At the base are plaques with scenes of: 1) working to increase food production; 2) female students sewing; 3) factory work; and 4) Hiroshima’s Lantern Floating Memorial. Behind the monument is a list of 352 schools attended by mobilised students throughout Japan who died during the war, from air raids as well as the atomic bombings. An epitaph reads:
“Mobilised students working as volunteer labourers for increased production efforts number well over 3 million throughout Japan. Of those students who sacrificed their youth and opportunity for education, more than 10,000 fell in the ravages of war, approximately 6,000 of which were killed in the A-bomb. These mobilized students had high hopes and goals and dreamed of taking flight into their futures, but instead died for their country. This monument was constructed by friends and family members to console the spirits of the deceased students.”
Near the monument people have laid paper cranes as they do at many of the memorials here. The reason for this will be explained in my separate local custom tip. But now it is time to explore the Peace Memorial Park and its many monuments.
Fukuromachi Elementary School was located near the epicenter of the atomic bomb. Most of the school was made of wood, so it was all destroyed, but a small part made of concrete survived the blast. Most of the students died, because they were playing in the schoolyard at the time. Only a few students who had been slow to put on their shoes to go outside survived.
Since the situation in the city was so dire and there were so few buildings left standing, the school was turned into a makeshift hospital to treat victims. They used the chalkboards to write about patients. People also came looking for family members and wrote messages to them in case they (or someone who knows where they are) came and they could reunite. They also wrote death messages so that people would know if their loved ones were dead.
The building has been converted into a museum. In the basement there are artifacts found in the schoolyard and accounts from the surviving students as well as a video with English subtitles. They have also preserved portions of the wall that still has writing from the atomic bomb (names and messages).
This museum with the artifacts, information, and video is WELL WORTH it and will enhance any visit to the Peace Museum. Entrance is free.
Parts of Honkawa Elementary School withstood the atomic bomb, so it served as the school for local children in the area (including those who had previously attended other schools that no longer existed) from February 13, 1946, just 6 months after the bombing.
Today, a new school has been built however, they have preserved part of the old school that survived the blast. It is now a museum. Inside there are some artifacts taken from the schoolyard. Although it is a small museum, it is still interesting to be able to enter one of the surviving structures. This school was also featured in the famous atomic bomb comic, "Barefoot Gen".
Entrance is free.
Everyone who travels to Hiroshima goes to Peace Park, and one of the most inspiring monuments is that of Sadako Sasaki, the little girl who folded the paper cranes in hopes of recovering from leukemia, but sadly died.
For those who are particularly moved by Sadako's story, you may be interested in taking a walk by Nobori-cho Middle School. This is the elementary school that young Sadako attended until she was hospitalized in 1954 with leukemia, never again to return to school, although she received a diploma from her elementary school and was enrolled in junior high. In front of the school, there is a memorial statue of Sadako. Children still attend the school today.
(the website links to Sadako's life story)
Its a good idea to come to this lively shopping street "Hondori Douri" (Hondori Street) especially after visiting the atomic bomb site as normal persons become a little bit sad, depressed and shocked. The street runs from the east of the Peace Memorial (cross the bridge) and runs 2 blocks until Parco Shopping Mall. Its interesting to see so many different items- modern and traditional - are available for buying or just watching.
For shopping and food options, Hondori Street is a lively spot. It is a pedestrian arcade closed to traffic. It is fun to watch people going in and out of the arcade. You can find many shops and restaurants as well as some department stores nearby.
The Memorial Cathedral for World Peace was built in 1954 by Reverend Hugo Lassalle, who's church was destroyed by the atomic bomb. He himself nearly died. He actually travelled to Vatican City to meet with the Pope and the Pope funded the building of his church in Hiroshima as a symbol of peace, hope, and love for the victims of Hiroshima, as well as the survivors. Pope John Paul II visited this church in 1981 and gave his famous Appeal for Peace.
Today, the church is still there, and it is not only a tourist attraction. You can attend Mass there. Most of the services are in Japanese, but they do have Sunday Mass in Portuguese at 11:00 am and in English at 2:30 pm. The church is a great historical experience, and if you happen to be Catholic, you can experience history AND attend Sunday Mass at the same time! Of course, even for those who are not Christian, attending a church service in Japanese may be an interesting experience! I attended Mass here. The church architecture is interesting and the Mass was very nice!
English brochures about the Church are available inside, and because it is a church, entry is free.
99% of tourists come to Hiroshima to see the WW2 museums of ground zero and the atomic bomb. While those are inspiring and worth the visit, few people take in the city itself. I highly recommend simply taking a couple hours and wondering the back streets and alleys. While you wonder deep enough to get lost, and then find your way again, you can see the daily life of the city and people, as well as find a few treasures such as old temples and ancient river bridges.
It was a sunny day and it was nice to see several musicians around the city singing some nice tunes. Often they would sing in Japanese, however you can still admire the harmony. Like many starving artists around the world, youthful kids looking for there big break are all over the city!
Toss them a couple hundred YEN and enjoy the day!
Hiroshima is where some of the world's finest edible oysters are cultivated. Their texture and flavour is said to be unrivalled. You should see the plantations and taste some oysters while you're here!
Found that Japan has some of the most beautiful postcards and stamps.
So why not take some time and write a few postcards from Japan while you are there.
Your family and friends will enjoy receiving them for sure.
Postage of postcard to Malaysia: 70 yen
Setoda town a small island in the Seto Inland Sea.
Among others it has an original temple which is brightly coloured and has a 'tunnel of hell!', an art museum dedicated to Ikuo Hirayama, a famous artist who grew up in Setoda, a cafe situated amongst a medditeranian style bunch of sculptured rocks with a lovely view of the island and a beach called sunset beach where this photo was taken.
Don't miss it!
You wouldn't expect Hiroshima, Japan to be the place to go for a bush walk but it really really is!!! If you haven't seen Japan's bush in the Autumn...you are missing out! If you haven't seen Japan's bush in the spring or summer you are missing out!!! I wouldn't reccomend certain places in mid snow mid winter though(the place this photo was taken was where my friends sister almost plunged to her death when we went walking in the snow!due to an inability to read the danger signs in Japanese!) All year round the bush is a beautiful place to be and despite the heavy popn in Japan the bush is never crowded.
Check out the view from the Price Hotel in Ujina Port.
It's one of the few tall buildings in this area so it's the best place to be as the sun is setting and the lights lighting up. The view of Hiroshima Port is gorgeous and it's close enough to the centre city to take a taxi and not pay too much.
Excellent location close to the Peace Memorial Museum & Park and the Atomic Bomb Dome. Fees for...more
(last date stayed - Aug. 24, 2007) Rihga Royal Hotel single room - JPY 13,000 5% consumption tax...more
The location was excellent. However, for foreigners it'll be a little harder to find as we took a...more