An Afternoon in Hiroshima

Hiroshima Peace Park

It was ten days ago when we got the train from Tokyo to visit Hiroshima.

Hiroshima is most notable for its somber place in history due to one single incident in 1945 when it became the target for the world’s first atomic bomb detonation. The fatal moment was at 8:15am on Monday August 6, 1945.

The nuclear bomb “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima by an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, flown by Colonel Paul Tibbets, directly killing an estimated 80,000 people. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought the total number of deaths to somewhere between 90,000 and 166,000. Approximately 70% of the city’s buildings were destroyed, and another 7% severely damaged.

This panorama at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum shows the aftermath of the atomic bomb within a 2.75km of ground zero. The atomic bomb exploded 600m above the ground, generating an instantaneous fireball. The red ball above the panorama simulates the fireball (280m in diameter) one second after the explosion.

Hiroshima Peace Park

All wooden houses were destroyed, and even ferro-concrete structures near ground zero were destroyed by the force of the blast. Windows were smashed as far away as 27km from ground zero.

Interestingly concrete chimneys remained standing in the midst of the ashes. They were probably protected from the full force of the blast by their cylindrical shapes.

Some buildings also incredibly remained standing. One of them was the Fukuya Department Store.

Fukuya Department Store, August 1945
Fukuya Department Store, August 1945

It is still there today, in much better shape, and surrounded by a bustling modern city.

Fukuya Department Store, April 2015
Fukuya Department Store, April 2015

Then, less than 6 weeks later, on September 17, 1945, Hiroshima was struck by the Makurazaki Typhoon (Typhoon Ida). Hiroshima prefecture suffered more than 3,000 deaths and injuries, about half the national total. More than half the bridges in the city were destroyed, along with heavy damage to roads and railroads, further devastating the city.

The city today is a tribute to the way the people of Hiroshima found a way to recover from such disasters, with the city rising from the ashes to rebuild itself as one of Japan’s most relaxed, vibrant cities offering fabulous food and friendly, welcoming locals.

Hiroshima Peace Park
Hiroshima Peace Park

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is located in the center of Hiroshima City, but remains a quiet and spacious place. It is difficult to imagine that this triangle-shaped area bordered by two rivers was once a busy commercial and residential downtown area. After World War II, a group led by a Japanese architect named Kenzo Tange submitted a design to turn the land into the Peace Memorial Park. It was completed in 1954. By imagining the contrast between the misery of the atomic bomb attack and the beauty and tranquility of the park today, we are moved to appreciate how precious peace is. The park is also known for its beautiful cherry blossoms. Over 300 cherry trees are found along the Motoyasu River.

Hiroshima Peace Park

Mummy, mummy, look at me!

Hiroshima Peace Park

Hiroshima was rebuilt after the war, with help from the national government through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law passed in 1949. It provided financial assistance as well as land for the reconstruction of the city.

In 1949, a design was selected for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, the closest surviving building to the location of the bomb’s detonation, was designated the Genbaku Dome or “Atomic Dome”, a part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was opened in 1955 in the Peace Park. The peace park also contains a Peace Pagoda, built in 1966 by Nipponzan-Myōhōji. Uniquely, the pagoda is made of steel, rather than the usual stone.

A-Dome
A-Dome

The A-Bomb Dome is a symbol of peace which most people have at least seen at one time in a picture. The building was designed by a Czech architect in 1915 and had been used as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. In 1912, the National Confectionery Exposition was held in this place. Following that exposition, Baumkuchen, a German cake, was manufactured and sold in Japan for the first time. Since the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall was located only around 160 meters from ground zero, the building was also destroyed, and all those inside the building died. However, the building was not destroyed completely and it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 and today it is representing people’s prayers for lasting peace.

Hiroshima was proclaimed a City of Peace by the Japanese parliament in 1949, at the initiative of its mayor, Shinzo Hamai (1905–1968). As a result, the city of Hiroshima received more international attention as a desirable location for holding international conferences on peace as well as social issues. As part of that effort, the Hiroshima Interpreters’ and Guide’s Association (HIGA) was established in 1992 in order to facilitate interpretation for conferences, and the Hiroshima Peace Institute was established in 1998 within the Hiroshima University. The city government continues to advocate the abolition of all nuclear weapons and the Mayor of Hiroshima is the president of Mayors for Peace, an international mayoral organization mobilizing cities and citizens worldwide to abolish and eliminate nuclear weapons by the year 2020.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which includes the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, draws many visitors from around the world, especially for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, an annual commemoration held on the date of the atomic bombing. The park also contains a large collection of monuments, including the Children’s Peace Monument, the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims and many others.

Children's Peace Monument
Children’s Peace Monument

The Children’s Peace Monument stands in memory of all children who died as a result of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The monument was originally inspired by the death of Sadako Sasaki, who was exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb at the age of two. Ten years later, Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia that ultimately ended her life. Sadako’s untimely death compelled her classmates to lobby for the construction of a monument for all children who died due to the atomic bomb. Built with contributions from more than 3,200 schools in Japan and donors from nine countries, the Children’s Peace Monument was unveiled on May 5, 1958.

At the top of the 9m monument, a bronze statue of a young girl lifts a golden crane entrusted with dreams for a peaceful future. The figures of a boy and a girl are located on the sides of the monument.

The inscription on the stone block under the monument reads: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world. On the surface of the bell hung inside the monument, the phrases “A Thousand Paper Cranes” and “Peace on the Earth and in the Heavens” are carved in the handwriting of Dr Hideki Yukawa, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics. The bell and golden crane suspended inside the monument are replicas produced in 2003.

Inside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum you can see some of the paper cranes made by Sadako Sasaki.

Hiroshima Peace Park

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is located in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. By standing on the Peace Boulevard side, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Memorial Cenotaph, the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome can be seen along a straight line.

Hiroshima Peace Park

Hiroshima Peace Park

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which opened in 1955, gives people an opportunity to learn of the outcome of the bomb attack and consider what peace really means through many reference materials. The East Wing exhibits photographs, panels, videos and panorama models showing the actual history of Hiroshima before and after the bomb attack. The main building exhibits victims’ belongings and references which show the misery of the bomb attack. You will see a burnt lunch box, a tricycle which a 3-year-old boy was riding, etc., which reflect the instantaneous destruction and strike right at the heart of visitors.

Pocket watch stopped at 8:15
Pocket watch stopped at 8:15

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was designed by a group headed by Kenzo Tange, who also designed the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Kenzo Tange won the Pritzker Architecture Prize (the architecture equivalent of the Nobel Prize) in 1987.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima, 1955
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima, 1955

Little bears needed some nourishment before continuing with the visit.

Hiroshima Peace Park

Hiroshima Peace Park

The other love affair in Japan is with Italy. Lots of Japanese restaurants serving Italian style food 🙂

After lunch, little bears went to visit Hiroshima Castle.

Hiroshima Castle was a castle in Hiroshima which was the home of the daimyō (feudal lord) of the Hiroshima han (fief). The castle was constructed in the 1590s, but was destroyed by the atomic bombing on 6 August 1945. It was rebuilt in 1958, a replica of the original which now serves as a museum of Hiroshima’s history prior to World War II.

Hiroshima Peace Park

The castle was originally constructed in wood, pine primarily, and had attached wings to the east and to the south. It was completed sometime between 1592 and 1599, and was designated a National Treasure in 1931. The reconstructed castle features the main tower (tenshu) only, which is made primarily of reinforced concrete. Its five floors stand 26.6 meters above the stone foundation which, in turn, is 12.4 meters high off the ground. However, in 1994, a gate and a yagura in the ninomaru were re-constructed out of wood using the original methods.

An excellent example of a hirajiro or flatlands (plains) castle, Hiroshima castle once had three concentric moats in addition to the Otagawa river to the west (now called the Hongawa), which provided an additional natural barrier. The two outer moats were filled in during the late 19th & early 20th centuries, and much of what was once within the castle grounds is now modern urban areas, including homes, schools, offices and shops. A number of secondary castle buildings, towers and turrets once stood, and a Shinto shrine called Hiroshima Gokoku Jinja is located within the innermost moat, having been moved there after 1945.

An Afternoon in Hiroshima

Hiroshima Peace Park

Hiroshima Peace Park

Japanese Darth Vader 🙂

Hiroshima Peace Park

Within the castle walls, three trees survived the atomic bombing, a eucalyptus and a willow at approximately 740m from ground zero, and a holly approximately 910m from ground zero. Both specimens are preserved just beyond the Honmaru. Also located inside the Honmaru is the concrete bunker from which the first radio broadcast out of Hiroshima following the atomic bombing was made.

Hiroshima Peace Park

A bear-sized bonsai tree 🙂

Hiroshima Peace Park

To finish the day, little bears went to Andersen.

Hiroshima Peace Park

The bakery and café chain Andersen is a household name in Japan, known for its oven-fresh breads and pastries. Also part of Andersen chain are the Little Mermaid bakeries, and the hugely popular Danish Heart kiosks that sell piping-hot heart-shaped pastries in station buildings and shopping centers up and down the Japanese archipelago.

Less well-known is the fascinating history behind the enterprise, how a Danish connection turned a small Hiroshima bakery into a global business. The bakery was founded in 1948 by the Takaki family. In 1959, Shunsuke Takaki was in Europe on a study tour. He was so delighted with the sweet, flaky pastries served at his Copenhagen hotel that he sent a telegram back to Hiroshima: danish pastries. gear up now. Japan got its first taste of Danish pastry three years later and the rest, as they say, is history.

An afternoon in Hiroshima

One thought on “An Afternoon in Hiroshima”

  1. Amazing,,,I get a real feel for the incredible spirit of the Japanese people and how they rise up from adversity.
    I couldn’t imagine knowing I was to fly a plane that would kill that many people even though it would shorten the war and maybe save more lives ….I wonder how the Pilot reflected afterwards?
    What a trip guys!
    Xxx

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