My first morning in Hiroshima was dedicated to visiting the Peace Park and related activities.
It’s a slightly odd, and convoluted, reason that I decided to visit Japan and, specifically, Hiroshima, this summer. While I actually had a number of choices as to which city I could visit, I ended picking Hiroshima because of my interest in nuclear history. My past nuclear history tourism has included going to the site of Project Wagon Wheel in Wyoming plus visiting the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas.
The Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima is a large park dedicated to remembering the city’s bombing. There are a plethora of small memorials scattered around the park, including one to the Korean victims of the atomic bomb as well as a variety of smaller ones dedicated to key individuals.
The biggest “attractions”, per se, are the A-Bomb Dome, the Peace Memorial Museum and the Peace Memorial Hall.
The A-Bomb Dome, the most well known remnant of the blast, is a shell of what it was before the blast – it is, of course, a memorial to the outcomes of war. There’s not much that can be said, other than the fact that the structure of the building and its relative location to the detonation point meant that it partially withstood the explosion, even as those working inside did not.
Today I saw a family of cats sunbathing inside.
The second major attraction, of sorts, was Peace Memorial Museum – which, in this order, explores the history of Hiroshima, gives an overview of the explosion, makes a plea for peace, and then, finally, looks at what it was like on the ground after the explosion. Not that this material would ever have been uplifting, but in this sequence the last thing one is left with is haunting photographs of injured people, shadows of where people were evaporated in the heat, and other extremely depressing material.
Resident on Earth told me that she felt it was out of sequence, that the last thing should have been the plea for peace – and my impression, from a distance, is that she was right. But now that I’ve seen the museum, I’m not so sure. Maybe the plea for eternal peace is reinforced by the horrors of war. Either way, I left the museum emotionally flat.
Last of the major attractions is Peace Memorial Hall, which attempts to provide a space to remember everybody who was a victim of the atomic bomb – whether immediately or delayed. This was, without a doubt, well worth the stop. Unlike the Peace Memorial Museum, which has a strong anti-war message, this spot is a place for reflection. It was also, despite being less than 200 meters from the museum, very quiet. I saw only five other visitors to the memorial while I was there.
The park is some how an urban park – surrounded by modern Hiroshima. There’s an odd mixture of tourists visiting the park and commuters travelling on foot or bicycle through the park. There also appeared to be local users, who were doing their morning stretches.
While I would suggest that the Peace Memorial Museum needs some touching up (it’s showing its age) and the park itself needs some investment in its facilities (it’s clean, but worn out in places), that shouldn’t detract from the fact that it is a very moving and well thought out statement on the issue of war.