The stark frame of the Atomic Bomb Dome symbolizes the devastation of war and the continuing efforts for a nuclear-free world. Around Hiroshima City, you’ll find carefully preserved fragments of history, each painting a vivid picture of life before and after the atomic bomb.
The Atomic Bomb Dome - Hiroshima’s Legacy to the World.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial, known around the world as the Atomic Bomb Dome needs little introduction. The skeletal remains of the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall symbolizes Hiroshima’s place in history as the site for the first ever use of an atomic weapon in wartime.
Take the bus or tram to the Genbaku Dome Mae stop
The dome is right in front of you once you get off.
We spotted this blue ‘Hiroshima Peace Tourism’ sign to the north of the Atomic Bomb Dome. If you have a mobile device connected to the internet, keep an eye out for this sign.
Photographing or clicking on the QR code will give you a virtual panoramic view from inside the dome and you can navigate around the image.
A part of the 360 degree image
Sitting a mere 160 meters from the hypocenter of the blast, the Atomic Bomb Dome is a reminder of the power and ferocity of the bomb. It’s a poignant start to our journey as we visit a collection of sites dotted around the city connected to that fateful morning of 6th August 1945.
Click here for more information on the Atomic Bomb Dome.
Honkawa Elementary School Peace Museum
A short walk across the Aioi Bridge to the north of the Atomic Bomb Dome took us away from the Peace Memorial Park to our next destination - Honkawa Elementary School. Sitting on the far bank of the Ota River, the school bore the full impact of the blast. It is still a fully-functioning elementary school and visitors can access the Peace Museum inside the remains of the original school building.
A thousand folded paper cranes signify a wish for peace
The museum building inside Honkawa Elementary School.
Exhibits and pictures show the area before and after the bomb
We had the privilege of being guided around the exhibits by the current headmaster. Viewing the exhibits and hearing the headmaster’s explanations inside a building that experienced the bomb made everything seem more real, less detached. Knowing people perished in the rooms we were visiting felt unnerving.
The headmaster guided us around the 3D model.
The model showed the proximity of the school to the Atomic Bomb Dome.
The Peace Memorial Park
After leaving Honkawa Elementary School, we strolled through the Peace Memorial Park and stopped to pay our respects at the Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims. The names of everyone who perished in the bomb blast and those who passed away in subsequent years from injuries and illness caused by the bomb are inscribed inside its stone vault. Looking through the cenotaph, we could see the Atomic Bomb Dome in the distance.
Paying our respects at the cenotaph.
A short walk from the cenotaph is the Children’s Peace Monument, built to commemorate the thousands of children who died because of the bomb. The significance of the monument felt all the more meaningful after our visit to Honkawa Elementary School. The statue of the young girl on top of the monument is Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who was exposed to the bomb radiation as a baby and lost her fight with leukemia ten years later.
The statue of Sadako Sasaki on the Children’s Peace Monument.
The folded paper crane has become a global motif for peace and you can see them everywhere in Hiroshima. People from around the world send millions of folded cranes each year to the Peace Memorial Park and the cranes are displayed in transparent cases around the Children’s Peace Monument.
The bell in the shape of a folded paper crane.
Displays of paper cranes sent to Hiroshima from all over the world.
Ringing the bell.
A view of the Atomic Bomb Dome from Motoyasu Bridge.
Taking a break by the river
We crossed the Motoyasu Bridge from the Peace Memorial Park and saw the brightly decorated Cafe Ponte. It’s hard to miss with crates of ripe oranges adorning this quaint riverfront cafe all year round. A place to pause and reflect while enjoying freshly pressed orange juice.
Café Ponte near the river.
Taking a break with freshly squeezed orange juice.
After Café Ponte, we entered the narrow street behind the Atomic Bomb Dome. At first glance, the street looks unremarkable. You would be forgiven for passing the placard on the side of the Shima Hospital opposite a parking lot without giving it a second look. However, at 8:15 am on 6th August 1945, the atomic bomb exploded 600m above that very spot.
The plaque directly underneath the hypocenter.
The Former Bank of Japan, Hiroshima Branch
Walking further into the city, we arrived at the Former Bank of Japan, Hiroshima Branch. The bank building was one of the only structures in the city to remain intact after the bomb. Aside from the third floor that was gutted by fire, the rest of the building withstood the effects of the blast. They reopened for business three days after the bombing and allocated floor space to other banks affected by the bombing.
Entering the Former Bank of Japan, Hiroshima Branch.
Viewing the exhibits on the second floor.
Go to the branch manager’s office on the second floor to see photographs of the bank before the bomb. The room also contains traces of the bomb blast. Wooden panelling inside the room still show marks caused by flying shards of glass.
Pictures of the bank building after the bomb.
Scratches caused by flying glass after the explosion.
The strong underground vaults remained undamaged.
Fukuro-machi Elementary School Peace Museum
Entering the Fukuro-machi Elementary School Peace Museum.
This section of the school has been turned into a museum.
We continued our journey to the Fukuromachi Elementary School. In the days and weeks after the bomb, the school grounds served as a relief station. The blackened walls quickly became a message board for people searching for loved ones. Once normal life returned to Hiroshima and the school reopened, the messages were buried under layers of fresh plaster and forgotten.
During renovation work in 1999, a section of plaster was removed and exposed the original messages underneath. This section of the school is now the Fukuromachi Elementary School Peace Museum. As well as exhibits and documents detailing Fukuromachi’s tragedy (and small miracles), you can see a restored version of the message wall reconstructed from photographs taken immediately after the bomb.
The original hole in the plaster that revealed the hidden messages.
You can see a full-size replica of the messages on the wall.
HIROSHIMA ORIZURU TOWER
The entrance to HIROSHIMA ORIZURU TOWER.
We arrived at our final destination on our peace tour. Our last stop – the HIROSHIMA ORIZURU TOWER - sits next to the Atomic Bomb Dome. With its cafe and souvenir shop on the ground floor, and interactive exhibits and an observation deck on the upper floors, the tower is the appropriate place to conclude the peace tour.
Passing the tower gate.
The panoramic view of Hiroshima from the observation deck.
A perfect place to collect your thoughts.
Taking its name “Orizuru” from the Japanese for a folded paper crane, you can see this motif for peace throughout the building. Relax on the observation deck and take in the views of the city. You can also try your hand at folding your own paper crane on the floor below.
Dropping a folded paper crane down the Orizuru Wall.
The wall is slowly filling up with thousands of paper cranes.
You can use your whole body to fold this large digital paper crane.
A view of the Atomic Bomb Dome and Honkawa Elementary School from the HIROSHIMA ORIZURU TOWER.
Words and Photography by Tom Miyagawa Coulton. (Visited in February 2019)