My experience of Hiroshima in Japan
While travelling on the bullet train to Hiroshima, one inevitably thinks about everything you have ever learned about the devastating events that transpired here during the Second World War. On 6th August 1945, the Enola Gay dropped the first of two atomic bombs over Hiroshima. The city was levelled instantly from the blast and thousands of people were killed in the explosion and its aftermath. In all honesty, I was unsure of what to expect on arrival in this place that has sadly become famous for one tragic reason.
Despite its harrowing past, I was immediately surprised to see that Hiroshima has not only recovered but is now a buzzing and exciting metropolis, with huge amounts of growth, lots of green open parks and a young, thriving population. I boarded the tram and headed to the infamous Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial Park, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The dome was the only structure left standing following the disaster, so it was decided that it should remain permanent on the city’s skyline as a poignant reminder of the past and a symbol for future peace. While I walked around trying to take it all in, I found the sheer scale of the 1945 bombing hard to comprehend. The atmosphere is solemn but respectful. As the canal flowed behind me and the sun slowly set in the sky above, I found the experience both moving and intense.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, although very unsettling and disturbing, is definitely worth a visit. The exhibitions include women’s kimonos that survived the blast, children’s tricycles and remnants of newspapers from that dreadful day. A large group of Japanese children on a school trip followed me through each room of the museum, all whispering in hushed tones, as their teacher quietly explained the huge significance of what happened here. My guide was extremely open, describing the radiation impact that her father-in-law had suffered, before pointing at the pupils and telling me that every year 450 schools across Japan send students here to educate them about Japan’s recent war-time history.
Just outside the museum, the Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims frames an eternal flame, which my guide informed me will be burning until all nuclear bombs are abolished. I also learned about the very emotive story of Sadako Sasaki, who was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped. She is remembered through the story of the 1,000 origami cranes that she folded before her death, which are displayed close to the eternal flame. These colourful cranes are the most visited in the whole park.
My guide finished our walk through the park by saying that each year at 8.15am on 6th August, the moment of the bomb’s blast, a peace bell is rung. The same evening, people light candles in a Toro Nagashi ceremony (literally meaning ‘flowing lanterns’), with more than 100,000 candles being lit every year here. There is no denying that a visit to Hiroshima is an emotional and distressing experience, but learning first-hand about the tragic events that happened here, as well as the aftermath that still affects survivors today, was undoubtedly one of the most fascinating and memorable parts of my journey.
Do you see
anything you like?
CURIOUS FOR MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION
Keep up to date with our latest travel news and expertise.