“The best place to start our Hiroshima sightseeing tour, will be to visit the epicentre of the bomb” said our guide. Surprisingly this point is not on the ground but above us. The bomb, dropped on Hiroshima on the 6th August 1945 at 8.15am, exploded above Shima Hospital. The first building destroyed, the Shima Surgery was rebuilt at the same site in 1948 and is still in operation to this day.
The first obvious question which comes to mind, as I spent the day learning about the city’s tragic history on our Land of the Samurai tour, is why Hiroshima? Why did the Americans chose this medium-sized city as the target for the first atomic bomb attack? Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama were much larger and strategically more important. One of the main reasons was that unlike other Japanese cities, it was yet to be bombed. This was very important in America’s strategy that the target should be relatively untouched so the destructive power of a single atomic bomb would have an even more devastating effect. We learnt many of these devastating detail on our day visiting the memorials and paying our respects, such as how the Aioi Bridge was selected as the aiming point due to its unusual ‘T’ shape.
Probably the most recognised symbol of Hiroshima is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, also known as the Atomic Bomb Dome, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. Despite its close proximity to the explosion, the exhibition centre was not completely destroyed, the skeleton of the structure still stands today as a sombre remainder of the force of the atomic bomb.
The Memorial Cenotaph in The Peace Park holds the names of all of the 80,000 people killed immediately by the bomb – 90 percent of the city’s population. Most of the trees in a 2.5km radius of the explosion’s epicentre caught fire, burning in a similar way to a forest fire, with only a few tree trunks left standing. Scientists have since studied the trees affected by the radiation and stated that no trees will natural grow in this area for at least the next 30 years. After the war, there was a tree-planting campaign with over 100,000 trees and plants presented from the rest of Japan and the world. Today Peace Boulevard, the main street in Hiroshima, is a popular thoroughfare and lovely place to rest and relax in the replanted green areas.
Children’s Peace Monument
The Peace Park has many important memorials for the victims of the atomic bomb including the Children’s Peace Monument. It was created to honour the memory of Sadako Sasaki and the thousands of child victims. Sadako was just two years old at the time of the bombing.She survived the explosion but became ill with leukaemia a few years later. There is a legend in Japan that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by the Gods. Sadako’s biggest dream was to recover. Despite making 1,000 origami birds, the disease proved too strong and she passed away 10 years after the bomb. To this day people bring hundreds of colourful origami cranes to the Children’s Peace Monument to pay tribute to Sadako, as well as the many other children who met a similar fate. In May 2016 Barrack Obama become the first serving US president to visit Hiroshima and his origami crane is displayed at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
If you have experienced Hiroshima’s past share your memories in our comment section below or if you fancy visiting the historic city and Japan’s other highlights, browse our group tours.