Despite its famed okonomiyaki, oysters and love of baseball, there’s one thing that people across the world immediately associate with Hiroshima, and that’s the devastating atomic bomb that levelled the city in 1945. Hiroshima has since been rebuilt into a modern city with a lovely vibe, but it will always bear the scars of that time and in doing so continue to hope that the world will eventually be rid of nuclear weapons. We spent one of our mornings exploring the Peace Park and Museum.
We started by visiting the museum which is actually in the process of being renovated, but we were still able to see the permanent exhibits. We spent some time watching videos with testimonials from victims, and they also have lots of touch screens with a huge amount of information that you can interact with. There are some pretty distressing images throughout the museum which is something to be prepared for. Despite the tragic testimonials and images, the museum still ends with a note of hope, talking about the annual Memorial and how schools and communities still petition for an end to nuclear weapons.
After visiting the museum we walked through the Peace Park. We came first to the Memorial Cenotaph, through which you can see the flame and remains of the A-bomb dome.
A short walk along from the Memorial Cenotaph, is the Peace Flame representing Hiroshima’s hope for worldwide nuclear disarmament. The flame was lit in 1964 and will burn continuously until there are no longer any nuclear weapons in the world. I feel that there is a genuine belief in Hiroshima that that will eventually happen.
There is also a monument dedicated to the children who lost their lives in the blast. The Children’s Peace Monument is surrounded by displays of origami cranes in memory of Sadako Sasaki who suffered with and eventually died from radiation sickness. There’s an ancient Japanese legend that if you fold 1000 paper cranes you will be granted a wish or good health. Sadako Sasaki hoped that folding cranes would mean that she would recover. When we visited there were groups of children, presumably on school trips, lining up to pay their respects with each group saying a few words and some singing songs. I found it really emotional that so long after the event, people are still moved to do that.
Finally we reached the A-bomb dome, the remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall near the bomb’s hypocenter. The ruined building has been controversial as victims actually wanted it brought down so that they didn’t have a reminder of what they had suffered. However it exists today as a reminder to all of the destruction caused by nuclear weapons and, once again, representing the hope of the citizens of Hiroshima.