April 13, 2020

Hiroshima: City of Peace

8:15 am on 6 August 1945 was the moment the world changed forever. It was at this time Hiroshima became the target of the world’s first atomic bomb attack. This August commemorates 70 years since that devastating attack, which effectively brought an end to WWII in the Pacific.

There are many attractions in Hiroshima that are a reminder of that day, but the city is far from a depressing place. Present-day Hiroshima is a vibrant city with an internationally minded community. Reborn from the ashes, it offers a chance to learn about the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity.

The city of Hiroshima means ‘Wide Island’ in Japanese.

Hiroshima’s leafy Peace Memorial Park is dotted with memorials, one of the main ones being the Cenotaph, which contains the names of all the known victims of the bomb.

Some may find it upsetting as many of the displays are confronting, but Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum is an essential place to visit. It presents the history of the city prior to the bomb, along with some gruesome dioramas and artefacts recovered in the aftermath of the blast, such as ragged clothes, glasses, and twisted remains of roof tiles that bubbled with the heat of the explosion.

There are video testimonials from some of the survivors of what they witnessed that day, and in the years following. The museum also displays the development of even more powerful and destructive weapons in the years since 1945.

'Hello, Kitty', Hiroshima is far from a depressing place.

Across the river, the A-Bomb Dome is possibly the starkest reminder of the city’s destruction. The bomb exploded almost directly above the building. Remarkably, although everything around it was razed, the propped-up ruins still remain, and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.

While the memorials and displays relating to the blast are sobering, ‘The City of Peace’, inspires hope for the future.

A-Bomb Dome.

The Children’s Peace Monument is inspired by Sadako Sasaki, who survived the bombing as a baby, but developed leukaemia 10 years later. She decided to fold 1000 paper cranes, which in Japan are a symbol of longevity and happiness, convinced that if she reached that target she would recover. Unfortunately Sadako died before she reached her goal, however her classmates folded the rest. The story inspired a nationwide spate of paper crane folding that continues today. Many places give away free paper cranes as a symbol of the city.

Children’s Peace Monument.

Folded paper cranes are a symbol of the city.

This August commemorates 70 years since the bombing of Hiroshima, and the city has designated it the year “to share Hiroshima’s desire for peace”. Around 35 projects marking the 70th anniversary will begin, under the themes of “enhancing the city’s ability to convey its call for peace; supporting A-bomb survivors and handing down the desire for peace to future generations; expressing peace through culture and art; and appreciating the attractiveness of the reconstructed city and its ongoing development”.

My last stop is the Flame of Peace, which will remain lit until the last nuclear weapon on earth has been destroyed. Let’s hope we see it extinguished in our lifetime.

The Flame of Peace.

Further information http://visithiroshima.net

Getting there

Hiroshima can be reached in 4 hours from JR Tokyo Station by high-speed bullet train. It is 1 hour and a half by shinkansen from Kyoto Station.

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