Attractions in the city remind the world to avoid the horror of nuclear weapons and to advocate world peace.
Hiroshima is known globally as the first city to suffer a nuclear attack. On 6th August, 1945, US B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the world’s first atomic bomb, “Little Boy,” on the city. Nearly all the buildings within a 2–3 km radius of the hypocentre were levelled by the blast and the intense heat that was released.
The human impact was catastrophic. More than 140,000 people who were there that day had lost their lives by December 1945, either from the explosion or the radiation from it. In the years that followed, hundreds of thousands of people also died or suffered long-term health problems.
Since the bombing, Hiroshima has repeatedly appealed for mankind to “never repeat the evil of war.” Monuments to peace can be found throughout the city. Visit2Japan explored a few.
Peace Memorial Park
Situated on the hypercentre, which was the political and commercial heart of this once-industrial city, this space became a peace park and memorial facility four years after the bombing. It was established not only to memorialise the victims, but also as a reminder that humanity should shun nuclear horrors and strive for world peace.
The beautiful lawns, lines of trees and numerous walking paths cover more than 120,000 square metres, making the park one of the most prominent features of Hiroshima. The greenery is an oasis amidst the surrounding skyscrapers and other buildings.
The park and its memorials, monuments and museums attract more than a million visitors annually, including guests from across Japan and overseas. The most important event on the calendar is the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony, observed on 8:15am on 6th August with a one-minute silence to honour the victims.
Peace Memorial Museum
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is located within the park. It consists of two buildings that outline the history of Hiroshima, the creation of the nuclear bomb and the impact of the bombing.
The exhibits and personal accounts displayed are harrowing, but serve as a reminder of how precious life is and how important it is for the world to achieve peace.
This skeletal ruin was the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, which was first constructed in 1914. As the only structure remaining in the hypercentre area, it has been preserved in the same state as it was immediately after the bombing. It is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its role as a “stark and powerful symbol” of mankind’s potential destructive power and hope for permanent peace across the world.
The A-Bomb Dome is an officially designated site of memory for the nation’s and humanity’s collectively shared heritage of catastrophe.
Located on the east bank of the Motoyasu River, the dome is lit up at night, creating a powerful image against a dark sky.
Children’s Peace Monument
The statue of a girl with outstretched arms featuring a folded paper crane rising above her is called the Children’s Peace Monument. It is dedicated to the memory of the children who died as a result of the bombing.
The monument is inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki who was two years old when the bomb was dropped. She died 10 years later from leukaemia caused by exposure to nuclear radiation.
In response to the Japanese belief that folding 1,000 paper cranes allows one special wish to come true, Sadako started folding paper cranes, achieving her target of 1,000 before her death. Her classmates and friends continued to make these cranes and, even to this day, people from all over the world make and send cranes to Hiroshima where they are placed near the statue.
Memorial Cenotaph and Peace Flame
A concrete, arch-shaped monument near the centre of the park covers a cenotaph that lists the names of all bomb victims. Its shape is designed to act as a shelter for the souls of those lost.
Care was taken in construction to ensure the A-Bomb Dome would be within view from the cenotaph, to create a tangible reminder of the loss on that day. The monument was one of the first built on the then-open land, on 6th August, 1952.
The Peace Flame has burned since it was first lit in 1964. It is designed to remain lit until all nuclear bombs are destroyed.
There are many more monuments to peace throughout the park, and visitors can easily spend a full day taking in everything. The memorials are all within easy walking distance of each other and there is plenty of information in English.
To find out more, visit Hiroshima City Tourism’s page on the Peace Memorial Park.