Forgiveness, Peace and Hope in Hiroshima

The prevailing image of Hiroshima is that of a city obliterated by the nuclear weapon “Little Boy”, on that fateful summer morning in 1945. Today, however, Hiroshima is far more than that: it’s a city which lives and breathes forgiveness, peace and hope.

After four days in Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto, we were ready for another bullet train adventure – this time taking us further south to Hiroshima. Our regional passes necessitated a change at Shin-Osaka; from there we caught the Nozomi Shinkansen to Hiroshima. As we were travelling during Obon – an annual Buddhist event which commemorates the spirits of one’s ancestors and one of Japan’s busiest holiday seasons – the train was extremely busy and we had to stand the whole way.

Upon arrival in Hiroshima, we were given free packets of wet wipes and origami shinkansen; the former came in very handy, as Hiroshima’s climate was sweat-inducing to say the least. After dropping our luggage at our hostel and filling out the required paperwork, we took the tram to the Atomic Bomb Dome.

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After circling the skeletal remains of the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, known today as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial or Atomic Bomb Dome, we stopped where a small crowd of people had gathered to read copies of That Day by Mito Kosei. We pored over the binder, taking in the testimonies and the cold hard facts. Whilst the building remained – to some degree – intact, everyone inside perished. Some 70,000 people were killed instantly; by the end of 1945, taking the side effects of radiation into account, the death toll surpassed 140,000. That Day was available in several languages; it was a difficult but compelling and pertinent read, since the threat of nuclear warfare lives on.

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Wending our way through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we crossed the bridge towards the Children’s Peace Monument, which was inspired by the death of Sadako Sasaki and is dedicated to all of the children who lost their lives as a result of the bomb. Sasaki was just two years old when the bomb exploded, but developed leukaemia almost a decade later. She believed that if she managed to fold 1,000 origami cranes she would survive; sadly she never reached her target and her classmates folded the rest. Today, there are hundreds upon hundreds of multi-coloured paper cranes surrounding the monument.

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Further on, the Memorial Cenotaph frames the Flame of Peace and the Atomic Bomb Dome. We then joined the lengthy queue for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Filled with artefacts, harrowing images and haunting memoirs, it was a poignant reminder of the horrors Hiroshima endured. Although the queue moved quickly, we felt as though the museum was a little too crowded; this made it very difficult to pause to read something without being swept along by the crowd.

After a bite to eat at a nearby café, we visited one of the Peace Bells (Laurence rang it) before moving on to the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound, where the ashes of thousands of unidentified victims are interred.

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Later in the afternoon, we decided to wander up to the reconstructed Hiroshima Castle – the original was, of course, destroyed by “Little Boy”. Nevertheless, the reconstruction looked majestic and was surrounded by a substantial moat. We entered one of the buildings for free, but decided not to enter the main building.

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Returning to the Peace Memorial Park, we sat by the river with iced teas (just writing this makes me want a carton of Lipton Pineapple Tea) and biscuits across from the Atomic Bomb Dome. We rounded the day off with a stroll through the Gates of Peace – a dozen or so arches inscribed with the word ‘peace’ in many different languages – before hunting down the local delicacy (okonomiyaki, a sort of savoury pancake with vegetables, meat, noodles and egg) for Laurence to try.

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Tips:

  • We stayed at Hiroshima Hana Hostel, primarily due to its proximity to the station, which was useful for depositing our stuff upon arrival and for our early departure for Miyajima the following day. It cost us approximately £45 for one night in a private twin room/shared bathroom.
  • Hiroshima’s tram system is easy to navigate and operates a ¥160 (£1.11) flat fare system.
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12 thoughts on “Forgiveness, Peace and Hope in Hiroshima

    1. Hiroshima was a fascinating place to visit, though tragic to think of what happened there all those years ago. I’ll be sure to check out your article, her story is inspirational.

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    1. Hiroshima truly was a remarkable city, and is well worth visiting, though inevitably it’s tough to take it all in. I love your article ’30 Top Tips for Travelling to Japan’ – good shout out on the need for mozzie repellent, I got absolutely eaten alive by the things out there… somehow it had totally escaped me that Japan would be home to those pests!!

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      1. Mosquitoes are an absolute nightmare – I’d spent a week in Hong Kong before heading over to Japan, and we had insect repellent there but didn’t take it over to Japan as we’d heard how picky customs is there… Man did we regret that decision! Lesson learnt the hard way, I won’t make that mistake again.

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  1. I feel the same as you Rosie – can’t believe we weren’t taught about this at school. The British education system is so flawed when it comes to history: if it didn’t affect us directly, why bother?! 140,000 people dead, absolutely shocking. I can only begin to imagine how interesting yet overwhelming a visit to Hiroshima would be.
    And also, free wet wipes. Yes.

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    1. It really does have an awful tendency to completely overlook events like this – it’s almost as if anything outside of Europe, didn’t happen! We were there a few days after the anniversary commemorations; when we were in Kyoto just before Hiroshima, someone in our dorm had been there for on the anniversary and seen the lanterns which were lit for the victims, it sounded like a beautiful ceremony to mark such a terrible loss. Free wet wipes in humid countries always go down a treat!

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  2. What a somber, but enriching experience you had at Hiroshima. While one might have read about what happened during the war in history classes at school, it is by actually visiting the site does one really get to envision, as well as comprehend, the devastation then and the aftermath. Sounds like a really touching visit, and thank you for sharing!

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    1. I completely agree with you – and for me, what’s worse, is that we were never explicitly taught about it at school. Granted, the issue arose largely over the bombing of Pearl Harbour but to me it still seems a huge oversight to just leave it off the syllabus. Visiting places like Hiroshima really helps to piece history together and understand – to some extent – why certain events took place and their effect on individuals and communities. Glad you found it interesting 🙂

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