Hiroshima has been redefining itself over the decades after its tragic place in history and today, is one of Japan’s major urban centres.
Founded as a castle town in the 16th century, it’s fair to say that most people venture to Hiroshima to see the city’s monuments to peace. But also to learn about the devastation caused by the Atomic Bomb (A-Bomb) on 6 August 1945 at 8.17 am, when Hiroshima was vaporised.
What to see
Rebuilt over decades, Hiroshima is a beautiful modern city sprinkled with green peaceful spaces, numerous bridges zig-zagging across several rivers, and friendly locals.
Although the Atomic Bomb exploded 600 metres above the Shima Hospital in the Saiku-machi district, people below were instantly exposed to temperatures as high as 3,000°C-4,000°C and perished. Townscapes completely changed forever.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Take a stroll to the expansive 120,000-square-metre Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in the Naka Ward’s western area, along the Ōta River delta, on Hiroshima Bay. Before the Atomic Bomb, this area was the commercial and political heart of the city. The reason the area was chosen as the pilot’s target,
The park holds more than enough to spend a full day visiting its different spaces, monuments, and buildings, aimed at non-nuclear proliferation and of course, peace. Although confronting, the park is a pleasant area to explore, dotted with statues and explanations in English (mostly) and Japanese.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Atomic Bomb Dome or Genbaku Dome)
Incredibly, only several buildings stood after the first Atomic Bomb exploded in 1945 with the Atomic Dome the only structure left standing in the area.
Over the years, most of the remaining buildings have been torn down as deemed unsafe or to make way for new buildings.
The only building left now and perhaps one of the most confronting images scarring Hiroshima’s riverside is the remnants of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial’s skeletal dome. The dome was registered in 1996 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Before being severely damaged in 1945, the Atomic Bomb Dome was originally the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall.
The remains symbolise the “pledge to convey the horror of the atomic bombing and the call for the abolition of nuclear weapons and eternal world peace”.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (entry ¥200 pp + ¥400 pp for a recording) is confronting but tastefully presented, depicting actual photos accompanied by words of survivors and artefacts. The museum omits the actual reasons why the A-Bomb was dropped. There’s a hint of Japan instigating the war with the attack on America with Pearl Harbour and the British in Malaya. But no objectiveness on why Japan started this – to expand the empire or that it was part of the Tri-Partide Axis.
No one can dispute the impact, destructiveness, and suffering of Japan’s people as a result of the A-Bomb, although an objective explanation is warranted. I’ve visited Auschwitz Museum Birkenau Camp and Majdanek in Poland, which are honest but brutal accounts of what occurred in history. Facts cannot be erased or dismissed.
Flame of Peace
The base of the Flame of Peace sculpture represents “two wrists joined together, and the two wings on either side represent two palms facing upwards to the sky”.
Kenzo Tange’s design was twofold: to “console the souls of the thousands who died begging for water” but also “to express the hopes for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of lasting world peace“.
The flame was lit on 1 August 1964 and burning since then as a protest of nuclear weapons and will “continue to burn until there are no nuclear weapons left on Earth”.
Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims
The Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims memorial, which is inscribed with the names of the 1945 Atomic Bomb victims was designed in 1952.
Children’s Peace Monument
The Children’s Peace Monument specifically commemorates the 2-year-old girl Sadako Sasaki irradiated by the bomb but lived for another 10 years.
This monument for peace is also in memory of all the children that died as a result of the bomb.
Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound
Strewn with corpses after the bombing, countless bodies were brought to this spot and cremated in 1946. A new vault was built in 1955. Unclaimed ashes kept in various places were brought to this new vault, which lies under the mound and now holds ashes from approximately 70,000 victims.
“Ashes were unclaimed because the entire family had perished or because they were persons of unknown identity.”
Built as a symbol for the spiritual and cultural movement to create a world of true peaceful coexistence without any nuclear weapons or wars, the Peace Bell was completed in 1964.
Monument to Korean Victims and Survivors
Dedicated to the Koreans that lost their lives in the bombing, the Monument to Korean Victims and Survivors features a turtle-shaped base and a crown of twin-dragon sculptures.
The shape represents the “folk belief that the souls of the dead rise to heaven on the backs of turtles”.
Along the Enko River and not far from the JR Hiroshima Train Station, Matsubaramachi Park is definitely worth a visit.
An enjoyable walk through the Promenade of Peace takes you along glass plate sculptures with poignant messages.
Where is Hiroshima?
Situated south-west of Honshu Island, Japan’s main island, Hiroshima is home to over two million people.
Getting there from Osaka
If you’re near Osaka’s Minimariachi train station, then take the short trip to Umeda station in the morning to connect with the JR 10:30 am bus (¥3,259) to Hiroshima.
The bus arrived on time to the minute and arrived at Hiroshima 5 hours later, on time and to the minute. Impressive.
Stopping three times for a toilet and snack stop, you only get a 5-10 minute break, which is always at one of the 7-ELEVEN stores.
The hilly countryside along this stretch of Japan’s Honshu Island from Osaka reminds me of Calabria in southern Italy.
It’s only just Spring so a wintery brown landscape unfolds on this not so congested inland highway.
Very impressed with the bus service from buying tickets to the end journey. Japan runs smoothly except for booking online accommodation.
Where to eat
Hiroshima offers numerous restaurants serving delicious food at reasonable prices. This city is famous for its amazing and addictive Okonomiyaki.
Once you try an Okonomiyaki, you’ll crave more of this savoury pancake dish, which consists of wheat flour batter and various scrumptious ingredients cooked on a Teppan. Check the Eat and Sleep in Osaka, Japan post for more information on this traditional dish.
Downstairs in the JR Hiroshima Train Station seems more expensive than upstairs where this restaurant is but sadly, I don’t have a name – just look for the above open kitchen.
For a reasonable coffee at a good price with great staff, Tully’s is a cafe chain found in many of Japan’s cities. You can find a Tully’s in the very clean Shareo Underground Mall.
Where to stay
As this is March 2023 and Japan is open for business once more after COVID-19, this means the government is giving locals accommodation discount incentives to jump-start travel in Japan.
Accommodation is booking fast and we’re lucky to book a great apartment at short notice for three nights with everything supplied for self-catering.
The very modern Minami-ku Apartment with a private bathroom is close to the JR Hiroshima Train station.
Visiting the very helpful Tourist Information Centre at the JR Hiroshima Train Station, decide to buy JR Bus tickets direct to Okayama (¥3,000 pp) instead.
Decided against the train as it takes 3 hours with 2 changes, compared to the bus, which takes only 2 hours. The Shinkansen takes 41 minutes but is much more expensive.
Coming next: Memorable Miyajima Island
Note: All photos by Nilla’s Photography unless otherwise mentioned. No part of this post was composed with the help of ChatGPT or AI.