I have to be honest, I never even considered not taking Alannah to Hiroshima on our recent visit to Japan. Since then a lot of people have actually queried whether I took her or not making me start to wonder why I never gave it a second thought. I even had an older American lady approach me at Hiroshima and thank me for taking her. She said it is something all children can learn from. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial is one of the best attractions in Hiroshima and must not be missed.
I have to agree with her, the Japanese have done a brilliant job of preserving the area to ensure that going forward everyone who visits, will fully understand the complete and utter devastation that was experienced here on August 6, 1945. Alannah studies Japanese at school here in Australia and had a good understanding of what happened here before she arrived in Japan.
The easiest way to get around Hiroshima is to jump on the Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus, a one day ticket cost Y400 (AUD5) or if you have a JR Rail Pass it will be free, it’s well worth the price. It has 2 routes around the city including all the major sights and knowing what you want to see will help you decide with route to take. Both routes pick up and drop off at the Peace Memorial Park.
The Peace Memorial Park has a canal on either side so it almost feels like it’s on an island. The surrounding areas are beautifully landscaped and very well kept. Following are the main attractions found along the bus route:
Alannah shared the story of Sadako Sasaki and her 1000 paper cranes with her grandmother who was travelling with us. Sadako, was 2 years old on the day the atomic bomb fell, she lived 2 kilometres from the epicentre and even though she was inside her house the force of the bomb blew her out the window. Her mother found her outside the house and she appeared to be uninjured.
Ten years later Sadako was diagnosed with leukaemia, many other children were also diagnosed and it soon became evident that this was due to radiation exposure from the atomic bomb. While in hospital Sadako discovered the legend where those who fold 1000 paper cranes would be granted a wish. Sadako spent her time in hospital folding paper cranes until she died at the age of 12. It’s unclear whether she managed to complete 1000 as there are conflicting stories but information provided at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial states that she did complete her 1000 cranes and her class mates continued to make paper cranes after her death.
Her cranes are now displayed at the Children’s Peace Monument located in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park that pay tribute to all children killed by the atomic bomb. We were given a few paper cranes from different people and Alannah donated hers to be placed in with all of Sadako’s with a message of peace on behalf of herself and brother and sister. Sadako’s message is one on behalf of all children of Hiroshima, so many were badly affected.
The A-Bomb Dome sits directly below the spot where the Atomic Bomb detonated, 600m below to be exact. Everything within a 2 kilometre radius of the epicentre was disintegrated except the dome. Originally people wanted to pull it down but they have grown to except it and now it holds a pivotal position at the top of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The A-Bomb Dome remains in exactly the same state as it was immediately after the bomb hit the area. The Hiroshima Loop Bus stops right outside the A-Bomb Dome on both routes so this is likely the first memorial you will come across.
It’s very somber and heart wrenching when you read the plaques there in memory of at least 140,000 lives. A phenomenal number of lives for any tragedy but its hard to grasp that so many people were killed with just one bomb. This site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. The Japanese have preserved this area not only for all to reflect on the damage that this bomb created but a symbol of peaceful reflection and the need to eliminate all nuclear weapons from this earth.
The Flame of Peace is another monument to those killed by the nuclear bomb, the eternal flame was lit in 1964 and has burned continuously and will remain lit until the last nuclear bomb on earth has been destroyed. I hope to return there one day to see the flame has been extinguished and I will be able to say I visited when the flame was lit and be thankful that in working together we have made the world a much safer place. I am hopeful but the reality is that we may never see this flame extinguished, time will tell.
Located within the memorial park is a Cenotaph that lists all the names of every known victim of the bomb. It’s perfectly aligned so that when standing directly in front of it, you are able to look through the monument and see straight through to the Flame of Peace and the A-Bomb Dome. It was also the first of the monuments to be built on the 7 year anniversary in 1952.
The words written on the Cenotaph has been subject to a lot of criticism but the loose translation is ‘we/they shall never repeat the error’. I think that says it all. Enough said on that one.
There are a couple of Peace Bells in the park which I was unaware of until researching for this post. We went to the Peace Bell located near the Children’s Monument. It’s dome shaped and the ringer inside is in the shape of a paper crane, just like those ones made by Sadako and her friends and everyone else since then.
People are encouraged to ring the bell for world peace and as you are walking around the park you will hear it being rang regularly.
The knoll contains the ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims of the bomb. I didn’t see this Memorial Mound although according to the site map it’s just behind the Children’s Peace Monument.
This is located at the other end of the park from the A-Bomb Dome. Entry to this museum is Y200 (AUD2.50), it houses a large number of artefacts from the bombing and historic records that provide insight into the effects and aftermath from the nuclear bomb. It also contains a number of photos of the mushroom cloud created from the bomb from various distances and locations that captured the moment the bomb exploded.
This museum was both very confronting and educational and contains clothing, watches and other personal items from the day. There are also a lot of photos depicting the aftermath and what the effect of the bomb had on stone, tiles, wood and bricks. There is so much history on display and stories to absorb from people that survived and first responders at the time. There are many before and after photos that gave you a good grasp of the devastation that took place here.
The museum was established in 1955 and now averages over one million visitors a year. You need to really give yourself a good amount of time here. We were in there for at least 2 hours and while I didn’t feel I rushed it, I was a bit conscious of time as I had a number of things on my itinerary for that day. We only visited the main building as the East Building was closed for renovations. You couldn’t possibly walk out of this museum feeling anything other than support for the destruction of all nuclear weapons.
Would I have taken my two younger children to Hiroshima? Yes and I plan to in 2018. I am keen to take Craig back there as I know he would love it as he loves all things history. I think young kids would get very bored in the museum as the atmosphere is very somber and quiet. I would take them through and show them things I think would be suitable for their age and leave Craig free for a couple of hours to take it all in at his own pace. I was able to explore it at my own pace and will allow him the same opportunity.
There are plenty of things to keep the younger ones busy outside, exploring the rest of the park. When I return I will allow more time there. I would spend a night or two in Hiroshima and another night or two on Miyajama Island. The Visit Hiroshima website has some great information if you are planning to stay a couple of days in Hiroshima. Attempting to do both in the one day was ambitious and I don’t feel I saw enough of either.
Do you like to take it slow when travelling? I always talk about it but when the time comes around I always pack in way more than I should. I always stress about ‘what if I never make it back here and don’t get the chance to seeing something’. However this means I come home tired, I say to Craig next time I’m going to do it differently and have more down time but never do.
I also loved the many cultural experience we had in Kyoto, in particular our dinner with a Maiko. We only had a short time in Kyoto, although we managed to pack a lot in. Check out our 1 day itinerary of Kyoto, it will help prioritise the top attractions and give you ideas to see as much as you can. For a more family friendly option, you can’t go past Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, it has the Wizardry World of Harry Potter which is definitely worth a visit and the kids will love it.
Any tips on how to balance the want to see everything with the need to take things at a slower pace people? Leave me a message in the comments below, I would love to hear from others that manage to do this successfully.
Sal & Co.