It’s a bit depressing to think that the vast majority of visitors come to Hiroshima because of the atomic bomb. But we’d be lying if we said we didn’t visit for that exact reason.
Furthermore although Hiroshima today is a pleasant modern city, there isn’t a huge amount to see that isn’t related to that fateful day in 1945. The city is synonymous with it.
In fairness the city doesn’t try to shy away from it’s history. Instead it hopes people will learn from what happened and it
The main bomb related sights are all in the Hiroshima Peace Park in the west of the city.
By far the most recognisable sight is the A-Bomb Dome – the skeleton of an exhibition hall close to the epicentre of the blast, and the official monument to the bombing.
It has been left untouched since 6th August 1945, initially for no reason other than there were more pressing things to rebuild, but as time went on there were calls for it to be left as it was (as well as some to demolish it) and so it was. It’s even had work done on it to strengthen it to keep it in it’s ruined state.
Seeing it in the flesh is bizarre and moving, and gives a glimpse of the destruction that was unleashed on Hiroshima. Despite the buildings survival, everyone inside was vaporised.
The rest of the Peace Park is dedicated to memorials. A lot of them. The most striking is the children’s peace monument, surrounded by cases full of origami paper cranes. At first we didn’t understand the significance but when we visited the peace memorial museum it made a lot more sense. A young student who contracted leukaemia due to the radiation she received, started to fold paper cranes as it was believed that folding 1,000 would make any wish come true. She sadly died but ever since, the paper crane has been a symbol of peace and remembrance for the thousands of children who died.
The A-Bomb victims cenotaph is the most striking of the rest of the memorials. It perfectly frames the A-Bomb dome in the background.
After the cenotaph you arrive at the Peace Memorial Museum. We thought we had some idea of the devastation Hiroshima suffered but it turned out we had no idea. The museum is easily both the most distressing and depressing one I have ever visited.
There are tattered clothes, mangled toys and tiles which melted from the sheer heat of the blast, some of which you can touch. The clothes all have the victims story alongside them. They all died.
This model was interesting and helps to visualise the scale of the devastation, as well as the height at which the bomb detonated.
Further on there were sections about diseases the survivors suffered after being exposed to radiation, including some detailed scientific explanation of how it affects the body which went over my head but Katy found very interesting.
We finished by signing a petition against nuclear arms, though I think we all know that is unlikely to be successful.
A few roads away, downtown, is one of the few buildings aside from the dome which survived the blast. The Bank Of Japan building was barely damaged at all though everyone inside still perished. It’s actually quite hard to spot these days, as it blends in with the city that was rebuilt around it.
Thankfully there were a few things that weren’t depressing in Hiroshima! The first was Shukkeien – a beautiful Japanese garden (yes, another one). It was compact and attractive, one of the best we saw in Japan.
There was also okonomiyaki – Hiroshima’s most famous dish. It is a pancake made of cabbage, egg, noodles, meat, sauce and perhaps cheese. It’s usually fried on your table in front of you and served sizzling. You then dress it with plenty of Japanese mayo and any other sauces they provide. It is delicious!
In fairness it is served all over Japan (Osaka’s is very popular and we also had a superb one in Tokyo) but Hiroshima is known for it and every other restaurant is dedicated to it.
So that’s it. Hiroshima is a fascinating, yet difficult place to visit. It probably isn’t for everyone but if you’re interested in WW2 then it is an essential stop.
Hiroshima is on the Shinkansen so easily visited if you have a rail pass. As for getting around Hiroshima, there is a good tram network.
We stayed at Court Hotel Hiroshima for 5,220 yen per night. A typical business hotel with a small bed and room, it was a decent base with a great view over the river.