On the morning of August 6th, 1945, at 08:15 am, an atomic bomb detonated at a height of almost 2000ft, dropped by an American B29 bomber over the city of Hiroshima. The first atomic bombing in human history. Its explosion caused a temperature of 3000-4000 degrees in the city center, the shockwave spread with a velocity of 400 metres per second and devastated the entire city within a blink of an eye. Four days later, Nagasaki was hit by another A-bomb, causing Japan to surrender on August 15th, 1945 thus putting an end to WWII.
Around 350.000 people are said to have been in the city of Hiroshima at the time of the explosion, including American POW´s and student groups from China and Korea. The impact of the explosion hit and leveled civilian buildings as well as administrative structions such as the city archive, so that exact numbers cannot even be reconstructed anymore. According of a study in 1976, the casualites between August and December 1945 are estimated to around 145.000 people – not including long-term consequences.
Today, Hiroshima´s population is around 1.2 million.
The Peace Park, just as its counterpart in Nagasaki, is a locality of silence. Idyllic, quiet, with monuments and memorials adding an eldritch atmosphere to this green and amicable location.
As a symbol of the destroyed city of Hiroshima, the remains of the only building that at least partially survived the atomic blast serves as the town´s landmark and reminder for future generations.
Originally, the “Hiroshima Prefectural Products Exhibition Hall,“ and afterwards the “Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall,“ was designed by the Czech architect Jan Letzel and completed in 1945, finalized with the distinctive green dome. At the time of the bombing there used to be a variety of governmental offices in the building. As the A-bomb detonated directly above of it, the metal skeleton partially remained.
The explosion indeed must have been massive beyond perception. You can still see the melted metal, wires, debris and all the deep cracks within the solid concrete…one can just adumbrate the intensity of this deadly and annihilating attack.
The decision to conserve this site and turn it into a memorial was not undisputed, but finally the government decided to keep it as it is. Since December 1996, the A-Bomb Dome is on the UNESCO world heritage list.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
For only 50 Yen, the Peace Memoril Museum offers you an overview over those events. I can recomment it. The staff is very kind and friendly, too. In the entrance hall, you will also find a small café and souvenirshop.
The park is really beautiful, but it feels almost disturbing to imagine all the misery of this place when walking in such a peaceful and quiet surrounding.
Paper cranes (Orizuru)
Origami, the art of folding paper (ori = fold, kami = paper), is very common and popular in Japan, especially for kids. There´s an old custom to line up 1000 paper cranes on a string (senbazuru) and give it to friends or relatives suffering from an illness in order to recover from it. In Hiroshima, especially around the peace park grounds, you can see many of these paper cranes everywhere, especially around the peace bell (see below).
National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims
March-November: 08:30am – 6:00pm
August: 08:30 am to 7:00 pm
December – February: 08:30 am – 5:00 pm
Closed from 29. December – 1. January
Admission : free
This museum offers you a very impressive memorial hall, consisting over 140.000 single bricks that symbolizing the victims of the nuclear strike, visualizing a 360 degree panorama of how the city grounds looked like after the attack. There is also a multi-media information hall, in which names and pictures of the deceased are being displayed.
In the exhibition hall, there are several artefacts being displayed, like melted glass or clothes covered by the black rain that followed the disaster. The staff is upmost friendly, and you will find free brochures available in many languages for you to take with you.
How to get there
It´s best to take the Shinkansen to get to Hiroshima. From Tokyo, it´s around 900km / 560 miles, but thanks to the bullet trains, you can get there in less than 5 hours. I´ve done day trips to Hiroshima before, leaving Tokyo early morning and getting back late evening. Although I recommend you to stay over night either there or in one of the Kansai region´s cities.
If you own a Japan Rail Pass, you can take the Hikari Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Kobe, which takes 3 hours and 10 minutes, then transfer to the Sakura Shinkansen, which will take you to Hiroshima in just around 70 minutes only.
When taking the Nozomi Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hiroshima, the direct trip (no transfer necessary) takes only 4 hours by train, but turns out to be quite expensive (20.000 Yen) as it won´t be covered by your rail pass.
Once more, I´d like to recommend Hyperdia for all of your planning. You can check and look up all train / Shinkansen schedules on this website
After arriving at Hiroshima station, you should buy a 1 day trip card and take a streetcar to “Genbaku Domu mae,” which takes around 20 minutes.