When you think of Hiroshima, Japan, the images that come to mind are that of that horrible day during World War 2 when my country dropped an atomic bomb on it. Since I was spending time in Kyoto and could reasonably do a day trip to Hiroshima via the Shinkansen, I wanted to pay my respects and learn a little more about the history of this place.
We left early in the morning and used our JR Rail passes to pick up Shinkansen tickets for the next train to Hiroshima, and we were soon on our way. About 2 hours later, our train pulled into Hiroshima station and we were there.
The first thing we saw upon arrival was the A-Bomb Dome. It sticks out quite a bit in what is an otherwise modern city and park. I can’t even begin to describe to you the impact one feels when setting eyes on this structure for the first time, but let’s just say it’s profound.
If you’re unfamiliar, the A-Bomb Dome is the remains of a building that used to be a beautiful building where people gathered. Designed by a European architect in 1915, the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall was a place where events were held. When the bomb went off, this building was only 160 meters from the hypocenter. Everybody inside was instantly killed, but while much of the city was flattened, this building was left partially standing. Today it serves as a memorial and a reminder to the world of the harsh realities of war and why we should never resort to nuclear warfare ever again. It is an emotional place to visit, and being there I really felt the impact of what had happened back in 1945.
We spent some time wandering around the peace park and checking out the various memorials and monuments to peace that are scattered around. There were so many and we had a limited amount of time, but we saw as many as we could. Each one was a symbol of hope or a memorial to those who had fallen. There is also an eternal flame at the peace park. Next to it is a plaque saying that this flame will burn until the world rids itself of nuclear weapons for good.
We headed next over to the Peace Memorial Museum because that was the main purpose of our visit to Hiroshima. When we arrived, we met Nobuko, a wonderful lady who was giving a talk about her mother’s experience with the a-bomb. She invited us to her talk, where she described in great detail the harrowing experience her mother went through when the city was bombed. It was an emotional story and left quite an impact on me. When she was finished, she gave us hugs and paper cranes to take home with us. The paper crane is a symbol of wish granting. I took the crane all the way home with me and I treasure it. I was so moved by her story I actually emailed the museum the next morning to tell them to tell her thank you for taking the time to speak with us. We’ve been emailing back and forth now and I have a new pen pal 🙂
The rest of the museum was really moving and informative. It shows articles of clothing and items owned by bomb victims and also tells the story of that day as well as the aftermath in great detail. There are also kiosks where you can watch videos and listen to stories of survivors.
After the museum, we were running out of time and were feeling pretty emotionally drained. We had wanted to visit Miyajima as well while we were in town, but we were running out of time and were feeling pretty tired, so we didn’t end up going. It’s something for next time. I would recommend if you want to visit Hiroshima and Miyajima, perhaps spend the night or at least take a very early train into Hiroshima if you’re doing a day trip.
For us, we just got ourselves back to Hiroshima station and returned to Kyoto on the Shinkansen.
I’m glad I visited Hiroshima. It’s so important to learn the lessons of the past, especially in today’s tenuous political climate. I’m glad I got to see it for myself and hear the stories of survivors for myself. It was an emotional experience, but it was something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. I’m also glad to see that the Hiroshima of today is a beautiful, thriving modern city. It is a prosperous place and it’s wonderful to see considering the history and the scars the city carries. Today, the city of Hiroshima serves as a worldwide reminder of the atrocities of war and the city stands for worldwide peace. It’s really quite beautiful.
Have you been to Hiroshima? Thoughts on any of this? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.