It’s impossible not to feel the dark shadow of WW2 history in the Japanese city of Hiroshima, but the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is designed to offer the visitor a haven of hope for lasting world peace. There is so much to see and do and to experience in Hiroshima but number one on my travel wish list was to explore the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
I hope you enjoy reading my account of this special day and seeing my photos and watching the short video clips that I recorded in the moment to express my thoughts and feelings as we explored the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
The backpacking husband and I arrived in Hiroshima by Bullet Train from Fukuoka in March this year and we checked into a super-affordable private double room in a traditional Japanese-style hostel in a quiet street in downtown Hiroshima.
We used (affiliate link) Booking Dotcom to find and to book our accomodation and we very happy stayed three nights at J-Hoppers Hiroshima Guesthouse.
Right at the end of this post, I’ve included a video showing you around the guesthouse/hostel at J-Hoppers in Hiroshima, so you can see it for yourself.
Conveniently, The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was just a five-minute walk from our accommodation.
I felt overwhelmingly sad while visiting Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. That said, the Memorial Park that flanks either side of the river, is a beautifully landscaped and reflective place to walk and to pause and to think on the tragedy of war both past and present.
I’d recommend a whole day to walk around the Memorial Park and the Memorial Hall and the Peace Museum to see it all and to process your thoughts about it without rushing.
Then, you’ll have the rest of your time in Hiroshima to explore all the other wonderful things there are to do – like the fabulously reconstructed Hiroshima Castle and the beautiful Shukkeien Japanese Garden!
Table of Contents:
- THE HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL PARK
- THE T-SHAPED AIOI BRIDGE
- THE ATOMIC DOME
- HIROSHIMA NATIONAL PEACE MEMORIAL HALL
- PEACE MEMORIAL PARK GROUNDS
- THE FLAME OF PEACE
- THE MEMORIAL CENOTAPH
- THE MEMORIAL MOUND
- THE CHILDREN’S PEACE MONUMENT
- THE PEACE MEMORIAL MUSEUM
- WHERE TO STAY IN HIROSHIMA JAPAN
- MY VIDEO – STAYING IN A HOSTEL IN HIROSHIMA JAPAN
THE AIOI BRIDGE: As we reached the unusual three-way and T-shaped bridge over the Honkawa and Motoyasu rivers in the centre of the city of Hiroshima, I paused here for a moment, to take in the skeletal silhouette of the Atomic ‘Ganbaku’ Dome.
And, I hadn’t realised it then, but the unusually shaped Áioi Bridge on which I was standing, had been the intended aerial target for the America Bomber B29 Aircraft, The Enola Gay.
Except that the bomb exploded in the air and 500 meters off target over the now famously preserved Atomic Dome building, which became the epicentre of the atomic blast.
THE ATOMIC DOME: The Ganbaku Dome was one of the very few buildings to remain standing after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on the morning of August 6th 1945.
Built in 1914 to an earthquake-proof design and with a copper dome roof, the building once served as a Commercial Exhibition Hall.
Designated a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1996 and now known as The Genbaku Dome (Peace Dome) the ruin is a striking reminder of the destructive power and the horror of atomic war. It now stands as an iconic anti-war symbol and a monument to peace.
HIROSHIMA NATIONAL PEACE MEMORIAL HALL: This hall is a more recent addition to the Memorial Park as it was opened in 2002. Designed by Kenzo Tange and dedicated to the victims with names and portraits. The walkway through to the Remembrance Hall is atmospheric and depicts a haunting panoramic view of the city after the atomic blast.
PEACE MEMORIAL PARK GROUNDS: The Memorial Park is a vast 120,000 square meter area of grounds with foot paths, lawns, trees, statues, many different war memorials including the Atomic Dome, the National Memorial Hall, the Memorial Mound, the Cenotaph and the Flame of Peace. The Peace Clock chimes for perpetual peace at eight-fifteen every morning: the exact time the bomb was detonated on August 6th 1945.
THE FLAME OF PEACE: The Flame of Peace is designed to symbolise a person’s arms pressed together at the wrists with hands pointing to the sky. I like to think the flame – sourced from the eternal flame temple on Miyajima Island – burns to represent our enduring hopes of a nuclear war free world.
But I’m told that the flame actually symbolizes the terrible thirst and need for water following the blast, that had the badly burned survivors running into the river and into the nearby lake in the city’s Shukkein Japanese Gardens. How absolutely horrific.
THE MEMORIAL CENOTAPH: The Cenotaph is a centrepiece in the Memorial Park and an arched design that holds the names of all those killed by the atomic bomb – over 300,000 souls. It frames the Flame of Peace and reflects onto the Pond of Peace.
A remembrance ceremony is held annually on August 6th at the Cenotaph and paper lanterns with prayers of peace are floated on the river. But everyday this Cenotaph serves to remind us of the terrible thing that happened here in Hiroshima.
THE MEMORIAL MOUND: Close to the Children’s Monument and the Peace Bell, I found the sight of the Memorial Mound incredibly moving. It was a site of cremation after the bombing and, in a vault beneath the grassy mound, are the unclaimed and unidentified ashes of 70,000 people.
So many bodies were unidentifiable after the bomb and many reduced to ashes in the blast. But to this day, against all odds, work continues to try and identify the ashes of the unnamed and unclaimed and those names are published in local newspapers once a year.
THE CHILDREN’S PEACE MONUMENT: A memorial to all the innocent children killed in the blast and then later from the effects of radiation poisoning.
The somewhat haunting image of a little girl standing on the top of the monument is Sadako Sasaki who died of leukaemia in 1955 as a result of acute radiation exposure. She was twelve years old.
The monument was erected in 1958 and is inscribed “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.”
YOU MIGHT WONDER IF HIROSHIMA IS STILL RADIOACTIVE? The answer is no. The level of radioactivity in Hiroshima today is as low as any naturally occurring background radiation present elsewhere in the world.
THE PEACE MEMORIAL MUSEUM: I sat down and recorded my thoughts and feelings onto video immediately after coming out from the Peace Memorial Museum. I was emotionally drained from re-living Hiroshima’s day of Hell and needed to say how I felt about the experience before being re-immersed into the present day.
I hope you will want to watch and listen to my heartfelt account of how I felt about it in the video below. There are no spoilers because it would be disrespectful to take photos or video inside the museum. But I do conclude that it is harrowing and that of you come to Hiroshima you really do have to experience it for yourself.
The museum is a harrowing and poignant place of atomic bomb victim memorabilia and art and horror stories being told to advocate in the strongest possible way for peace on earth. And today, The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park IS a place of peace.
But, just so you are forewarned, the Memorial Museum IS a Museum of War.
The day I experienced The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima Japan, was a day that I’ll never forget. It was a day I felt so very sad and reflectively sombre because, of course, that’s exactly the way you’re meant to feel while you are there.
We used Booking Dotcom (affiliate link) to find and to book our various accomodation while in Japan and we very happy stayed three nights at J-Hoppers Hiroshima Guesthouse at a total cost of 17,000 Yen. That’s less than 100 GBP. The guesthouse was wonderful and I made a video of it to show you that it’s sometimes a good choice to stay in a budget accomodation to allow for more expenses in cities like, for example, Tokyo.
I hope you enjoy my video!
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