There’s a Patton Oswalt bit where he says you know you’re getting old when you find yourself fascinated by World War 2. I’ve always been interested in history but sadly it’s true, as I get older, the more interested I am in history and WW2. When we were planning our trip to Japan, I was really excited to see Hiroshima and learn more about the city before and after the war. President Obama actually visited Hiroshima just a couple days before us so we could have planned it better to see him as well but according to reports it was a bit of a madhouse with so many people coming to see him.
We were using Kyoto as our home base for the next couple of days so we caught the train from Kyoto to Hiroshima. The ride is about 2 hours and 20 minutes and involved a transfer at Osaka. There are a couple of direct trains to Hiroshima from Kyoto but we missed the last one and didn’t want to wait for the next one. It was pretty cloudy when we left Kyoto but it was a clear, beautiful, and hot day in Hiroshima. We grabbed lunch and got at Nagataya, the #1 Trip Advisor rated restaurant in Hiroshima, which was located close to the Peace Memorial Park. We had a dish called okonomiyaki which is a regional dish of Hiroshima. It was basically udon or soba noodles fried on a skillet with onions, cheese, meat, and special sauce. It was really good.
Like Nagasaki, I wanted to see some of the museums and sites about the atomic bomb dropping. All the museums, parks, and statues are located in the same central area in Hiroshima about a 25 minute walk from the train station. We went to the National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Children’s Peace Monument, the Atomic Bomb Dome, and walked around the Peace Memorial Park. After visiting the Peace Memorial Park, we walked to the Hiroshima Castle before heading to the train station. The castle is actually a replica of the castle that was there before the bomb. It was a nice castle but nothing too special so I won't go into it here.
The National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims opened in August, 2002, to mourn the lives lost in the atomic bombing and pray for everlasting peace as a country. It aims to deepen the understanding of people around the world of the tragedy caused by the atomic bomb, and to hand down Hiroshima's experience of the A-bombing to future generations. The Hall of Remembrance recreates a 360 degree view of the A-bombed city seen from ground zero, a space in which visitors can quietly pay tribute to the A-bomb victims and contemplate peace. The Memorial Hall also offers visitors an opportunity to view and listen to materials, such as A-bomb memoirs and survivor testimony videos, and puts the names and exhibits photo portraits of deceased A-bomb victims on public view.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was established in 1955 and according to the museum literature, the Museum “collects and displays belongings left by the victims, photos, and other materials that convey the horror of that event, supplemented by exhibits that describe Hiroshima before and after the bombings and others that present the current status of the nuclear age. Each of the items displayed embodies the grief, anger, or pain of real people. Having now recovered from the A-bomb calamity, Hiroshima's deepest wish is the elimination of all nuclear weapons and the realization of a genuinely peaceful international community.” There are a number of graphic photographs of victims and exhibits showing the power and extent of the devastation. They also went into the physics and function of the atomic bomb along with some of the history leading up to the dropping of the bomb. The Peace Memorial Museum was probably the most moving part of our experience in Hiroshima. Everyone was very quiet and somber going through the museum and the exhibits really do a good job of capturing the city and the people before and after the bomb dropping. Some people were crying as they went through and we got a little emotional as well.
The Atomic Bomb Dome is the skeletal ruins of the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall that was destroyed in the bomb. The Atomic Bomb Dome is a really beautiful building that actually reminds me a lot of the new San Diego downtown library dome but obviously with a lot more significance. It was the building closest to the hypocenter of the nuclear bomb that remained at least partially standing. It was left how it was after the bombing in memory of the casualties. It is estimated that over 70,000 people were killed instantly, and another 70,000 suffered fatal injuries from the radiation.
Hiroshima was very sobering and eye-opening experience but also very worthwhile. We actually visited on Memorial Day so it felt even more significant to me to not only honor our troops but also grasp the consequences of war. You can see the major sites in a couple hours because they are so close to each other. I was actually surprised at the size, speed, and extent of the rebuilding of the city in just 70 plus years. Hiroshima is now a city of over 1.1 million people. It is a bustling city with a number of modern buildings and thriving businesses. Hiroshima has convenient access to some famous sites and cities of Japan. One of the three famous views of Japan, Miyajima Island, is just a short train and ferry ride away. Even if you’re just visiting Tokyo, I still highly recommend going to Hiroshima to more fully comprehend the power and reality of nuclear weapons.
To see the full gallery of our trip to Hiroshima click here: Hiroshima, Japan.