Hiroshima Peace Park & Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum 広島
Hiroshima Peace Park
The history of Hiroshima and the world changed irrevocably at 8.15am on August 6 1945, when the US B-29 bomber "Enola Gay" unleashed the world's first atomic bomb attack on an inhabited city.
The 3m long, 4 ton "Little Boy" bomb dropped on Hiroshima carried 50 kg of uranium 235 and the fission of 1 kg of uranium released the equivalent of 16,000 tons of high explosive.
The city was leveled by the intense heat rays (which witnesses describe as creating a "second sun") and the huge blast, the combined force of which destroyed nearly all the buildings within a 2-3 km radius of the hypocenter, resulting in approximately 140,000 recorded deaths by December 1945.
Hiroshima's Peace Park is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and contains a variety of memorials to the victims of that terrible tragedy in 1945.
Hiroshima Peace Park Map
See the main sights of interest in Hiroshima Peace Park on a Google Map.
Hiroshima's A-Bomb Memorials
Hiroshima's most recognizable symbol of the events of August 1945 is the A-Bomb Dome - the former Industrial Promotion Hall, built in 1914-15, and designed by acclaimed Czech architect Jan Letzel.
Although just 200 m west of the hypocenter of the nuclear explosion, the former Industrial Promotion Hall was one of very few buildings, along with the Former Bank of Japan Hiroshima Branch, to remain standing in a 3 km radius of the bombing. Parts of the concrete in the building were burnt and even melted, exposing the steel frame of the dome to the skies.
A little south of the Atomic Dome is the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students, dedicated to the more than 6,300 school pupils of the more than 8,000 in Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bombing who had been mobilized to clean up the city after conventional bombing raids. A recording plays in English and Japanese relating the story.
Listen to part of the recording from Hiroshima's Mobilized Students' Memorial
The majority of Hiroshima's peace momuments are a couple of minutes' walk further on, over the bridge, in Hiroshima Peace Park on the long, slim, delta island formed by the splitting of the Otagawa River into the Honkawa River to the west and the Motoyasu River to the east.
Crossing the bridge just south of the Atomic Dome and Mobilized Student's Memorial Tower brings you to the The Children's Peace Monument, erected in 1958 to remember child victims of the atomic bombing. The monument features millions of folded paper cranes and recalls the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young athlete who died of radiation-related illness but tried to cure her sickness by folding a thousand origami cranes. A statue of Sadako Sasaki holding a golden crane stands atop the monument.
This northern section of the Park also contains the Hiroshima Peace Bell, a large traditional Japanese bell which visitors to the Peace Park are encouraged to ring loudly for world peace; the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound, modeled after a prehistoric Japanese burial mound, which contains the remains of 70,000 yet unidentified people who died in the bombing; and the Cenotaph For Korean Victims of The Atomic Bomb which honors the 20,000 Korean forced laborers who perished in August 1945. The Korean victims' memorial was dedicated in 1970, but was only allowed into the Peace Park in 1999 due to the continued friction between Koreans and Japanese over the events of World War II and Japan's pre-war colonization of the Korean peninsula.
Go a little further south and you come to the Memorial Cenotaph and Peace Flame located in the center of the island, forming a peaceful concrete and water garden monument to the city's A-bomb victims.
The Cenotaph, designed by Kenzo Tange, and its almost 100 meter long pond, are in a direct line with the Atomic Dome across the river. The Cenotpah is shaped like the clay saddles for figurines found in ancient tombs. Underneath its arch is a chest containing the names of those who died in the atomic bombing with the inscription: "Repose ye in peace, for the error shall not be repeated."
The nearby Peace Flame will remain alight until all nuclear bombs are decommissioned and the threat of another Hiroshima is over for ever. It is here that a memorial service is held on August 6 each year, when white doves are released.
Just to the east of the Pond, near the river, is the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims (Tel: 082 543 6271) which is free to enter and contains a national archive of the names, photos, letters and memoirs of the victims. The building was commissioned by the national government in 2002 and designed by Kenzo Tange.
March 1 - July 31: 8:30 am - 6 pm
August 1 - 31: 8:30 am - 7 pm (until 8 pm on August 5 and 6)
Sepember 1 - November 30: 8:30 am - 6 pm
December 1 - February 28: 8:30 am - 5 pm
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a must-see for visitors to Hiroshima. The linear, concrete building has been expanded to comprise the newer East Building and the West Building. Visitors enter through the East Building.
The ground floor (1F) sets the scene for the nuclear bombing, including information on the Manhattan Project - the US development of the atom bomb - and the reasons it was dropped on Japan and Hiroshima in particular are analysed.
The US was faced with the costly choice (in terms of money and American lives) of invading of the Japanese mainland, inviting the Soviet Union to join the war on Japan, or using the atomic bomb. The choice to use the bomb was also intended to send a message to the USSR and limit its influence in the Far East.
Hiroshima's importance as a military HQ for the dispatch of troops on Asian campaigns is explained in a balanced way, along with Japan's militarism in the 1930's and its attack on the US and Britain in 1941.
There are scale models of Hiroshima before and after the attack and images of watches stopped at the exact time of the blast. Hiroshima was finally selected as the first target, possibly because it was the only one of the four cities without an Allied prisoner-of-war camp.
Normal bombing against the target cities was stopped so the full effects of the A-bomb could be analysed. On August 6 1945, three B-29 bombers, one, "Enola Gay", carrying the bomb, one carrying photographic equipment and the other loaded with scientific instruments, appeared over the clear skies of Hiroshima and at 8.15am carried out the world's first atomic attack.
The first and second floors of the East Building (2-3F) detail the "Nuclear Age" as the world's powers built up their nuclear arsenals. Exhibits here also trace the beginnings of the peace movement centered on Hiroshima.
The Main Building (i.e. west building) has the most shocking exhibits including twisted and melted bottles, coins, Buddhist statues, roof tiles, burnt clothing, ceramics, even golf clubs. The fireball reached temperatures of 5,000 degrees centigrade and left black shadows on stone steps where humans had been sitting or standing.
Dioramas of wax figures with their skin falling and photos of the victims and their terrible injuries and suffering are extremely saddening.
Further exhibits detail the damage caused by the heat rays, black rain, the blast and radiation. The effects of radiation continue to cause suffering for the estimated 300,000 surviving hibakusha (atomic bombing survivors).
There is a particularly poignant panel display dedicated to the young girl Sadako Sasaki, who lost her fight for life against radiation-related sickness, despite her determination to survive by folding a thousand paper cranes.
Finally visitors emerge from the darkened museum to a light-filled corridor as you exit. On your right here is a guest book and photographs of world leaders who have made the pilgrimage to Hiroshima.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (Official website in Japanese/English)
1-2 Nakajima-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima City 730-0811
Tel: 082 241 4004; Fax: 082 542 7941
August: 8:30am-7pm (Open until 8pm on August 5 and 6)
Closed December 29 to January1
Admission: Adults* 200 yen, high school students 100 yen from April 2016; junior high school students free.
*Visitors aged 65 and older 100 yen with official ID.
The International Conference Center Hiroshima is the next building west of, and connected by a walkway to, the Main Building of the Hiroshima Peace Museum.
To the south of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, on Peace Boulevard, which runs parallel to the three Peace Museum/Conference Center buildings, are the Gates of Peace - ten translucent nine-meter tall glass arches inscribed with the word "peace" in 49 languages. The promenade monument was opened in 2005 and was designed by artist Clara Halter and architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, the creators of the Wall for Peace in Paris (2000) and the Peace Tower in Saint Petersburg (2003).
The West Peace Bridge and the Peace Bridge cross the rivers at either side of the Peace Park on Peace Boulevard, and were designed by Isamu Noguchi.
Mobilized Students' Merciful Kannon Monument
Just south of the Park, on the east bank of the river a little south of the Peace Bridge, is another monument to the mobilized students: the Mobilized Students' Merciful Kannon Monument: a statue of the Kannon Buddha dedicated to their memory.
Access to Hiroshima Peace Park
Access: Hiroshima Peace Park is a short street car ride from Hiroshima Station to Genbaku Dome Mae stop.
Hiroshima can be reached by shinkansen from Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka, Kobe, Nagoya, and Yokohama. More information about access to Hiroshima.