In order to really understand the modern history of Hiroshima and Japan, you have to visit the site of the nuclear bombing in the city of Hiroshima. You will see and learn things which will surprise you, amaze you and at times horrify you. You will be exposed to both the positive and negative aspects of our world, some of which you perhaps could not even imagine. One thing is for sure, after visiting this one of a kind place, your horizon and perspective will be broadened.
I recommend that you hire a guide for the Peace Memorial Park, as it will allow you to gain the perspective of a Hiroshima local on how life of the common man in the city has been impacted by the city’s history. During my trip, I was shown around by a very kind lady called Masako Kigami from the Hiroshima Optional Tours. Masako was a Hiroshima local and had a lot of information to share.
The pictures below present a one-day trip taken from Kyoto to Hiroshima:
There is a Hikari shinkansen (Hikari train) which departs from Kyoto station at around 7:20 am in the morning. The journey to Hiroshima takes 105 minutes, and since Japanese trains run like clockwork, I was in Hiroshima by 9 am. To check train schedules and pricing, use the absolutely priceless website Hyperdia (this tool is extremely useful for planning any Japan trip).
(Bullet train arriving at Kyoto station)
(leaving Kyoto – on to Hiroshima)
(watching the sunrise from the train)
As you arrive Hiroshima, you will start to see the baseball stadium and other buildings.
(home of the baseball team ‘Hiroshima Toyo Carp’)
(Bamboo-floral decoration for the new year)
The entrance of the park has a very famous statue. It depicts a mother shielding her two children from the black acid rain which fell at night after the nuclear attack during the day. The radioactive cloud and debris rose in the air and came down in the form of black rain.
(entrance of the peace memorial)
(interesting and colorful cabbage trees at the entrance)
The Hiroshima peace memorial park is a large area in the heart of the city. This area originally used to be the commercial center of Hiroshima, until it was wiped out by the atom bomb. Hiroshima and its citizens decided after the world war that this open space would not be redeveloped, but rather it would be made into a peace park. Below is a picture of a structure shaped like two human palms with a fire in the middle. This fire has been lit everyday since the atom bombing.
(a structure in the shape of two palms)
The peace park has a children’s peace monument, where hand-made paper cranes created by children around Japan and the world are showcased. This tradition is based on a real life story of a girl named Sadako, who was 2 years old when the bomb was dropped. She survived the attack but later developed lukemia, due to radiation, and died at the age of 16. While she was ill, she made 1000 paper cranes. Hence, today there are lots of bright colorful cranes hanging at this site. It is good practice to bring some paper cranes and hang them in the children’s memorial area.
(hanging paper cranes at the children’s memorial)
While walking around the park, the intensity of the damage that a nuclear attack can cause will be apparent. At a temperature of 4000 c, you can imagine what it must have been like. Below are some details of the destruction, including the picture of a structure which was 100’s of years old and extremely heavy, yet it was uprooted from its foundation.
(some details of the havoc that the bomb created)
(a stone structure uprooted from its foundation)
You can ring what is known as the bell of peace. Interestingly, this bell has sanskrit written on it.
(The bell of peace)
(Sanskrit letters on the bell of peace)
The most famous attraction of the whole park is the old Hiroshima exhibition hall, which was the only standing structure in the area after the bombing. This hall was designed by a Czech architect, and a picture of what it looked like before the bombing is also shown below:
(the Exhibition Hall in it’s current state)
(Hiroshima Exhibition Hall before the bombing)
The original target of the atom bomb was the Aioi bridge. This was the target because the T shape of this bridge was easily seen from the air. However, the actual hypocenter of the bomb is a little east of the Aioi bridge.
(the Aioi bridge)
A quick walk on the Aioi bridge takes you to the other side of the river stream. There, you can see the remains of the exhibition hall from close range and also visit the site of the hypocenter.
(view from the Aioi bridge)
(remains of the exhibition hall up close)
(railing around the exhibition hall remains)
If you walk 2 mins east of the exhibition hall, you will reach the hypocenter or ground zero of the atom bomb.
(hypocenter information board)
Close to the hypocenter, there is a rest house (originally a kimono store) with a tourist information center and a basement. In 1945, one person named Mr. Euzo had come down to this basement to find some papers. The atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima while he was down. Turns out, he happened to be one of the only survivor who was so close to the hypocenter. You can go to this rest house and ask the lady at the desk to let you see the basement. After filling out a form, she will give you a hard hat and take you down to the basement. Here you can see what it must have been like for Mr. Euzo, as the bomb exploded at the top. Truly amazing.
(resthouse from outside. image source: wikipedia)
(basement where Mr. Euzo survived the bomb)
Last, you must visit the peace memorial museum, which has original pictures and artifacts of the bombing. A lot of the things seen at the musuem were very intense and graphic, and hence I did not take many pictures. I remember there was a lunch box with rice in it, and all the rice had turned black. There are many wrist watches on display which have stopped at around 8:15 am, the exact time of the bombing. There were even pictures of people whose skin was hanging from their bodies. Very depressing stuff.
(picture of what was a complete house roof )
Hiroshima is famous for its trams. They still run to this day. What one would find impressive is that 2 days after the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the tram service resumed. Such was the recovery of the city. If one visits Hiroshima today, then except for the peace park and the old exhibition hall, you cannot tell that this city was the target of a nuclear bomb. For that, you have to salute the spirit of the people of Hiroshima.
(map of the hypocenter and exhibition hall/dome area)
Items: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (official website)
Price: Around ₹30 or japanese yen 50 for entry.
Location: 1-2 Nakajimama-cho, Naka-ku, Hirosima City 730-0811, Japan
Telephone: + 81-82-241-4004
Timings: 8:30 am to 6 pm, (closing time is 5 pm from Dec to Feb) Park is closed from Dec 29 to Jan 1
Type: Historic/UNESCO World Heritage Site
How to get there: Tram # 1 from Hiroshima station to Fukuro-Machi (cost is 150 yen or ₹90) then walk west for 30 seconds until you see the park site. Alternatively, walk west (slightly south west) from Hiroshima station.
Language: Mainly Japanese. Information boards in park and museum are in English.
Also visit: Hiroshima Castle, Miyajima Shrine