On my second full weekend in Japan, I bought a ticket for a Shinkansen ride to Hiroshima. By high speed rail, the trip takes a smidge over four hours. My plan for this weekend was aggressive and exhausting, but totally worthwhile given my limited time in Japan:
- Friday, go to Hiroshima. Stay there overnight.
- Saturday, stash my bag in a train station locker and then see as much as I can before late afternoon.
- Saturday before dinner, take another two hour Shinkansen ride to Osaka.
- See as much as I can in Osaka before it’s too dark, and stay there overnight.
- Sunday, see more of Osaka, including the aquarium.
- Sunday afternoon, take a very short train hop over to Kyoto.
- In Kyoto see two very specific things before taking one last two hour train back to Tokyo.
The weekend didn’t go entirely according to plan, but I did get to see most of what I wanted to see, starting with a lovely fast train ride through the Japanese countryside after leaving work on Friday. Have I mentioned lately that I love trains? I really do.
Arriving in Hiroshima shortly before sunset, I saw that a baseball game was in progress at the Mazda Zoom-Zoom stadium, which probably has another, more accurate name that I haven’t learned. I never had a chance to see a baseball game in Japan, but I’m told that they’re very entertaining. Fellow blogger Adam has written about baseball in Japan quite a few times.
A momentary aside about the station in Hiroshima- this waterfall statue thing looks a great deal to me like a pair of mushroom clouds. I’m quite sure that’s not the intent, but I can’t be the only person who sees that image, can I?
After checking into the hotel in Hiroshima, I was delighted to find that housekeeping had placed a tiny paper crane on the bed.
Once I dropped off my bag at the hotel, I set back out to have some dinner. I ate some junk food near the station, delighting in how much the city has been rebuilt since the bombs 70 years ago. I don’t know why I was surprised about the rebuilding- 70 years is a very long time. It’s not as if the land is irradiated.
I spotted this German restaurant after I had already eaten dinner. I rather wish I’d spotted it beforehand. I would have been thrilled to try German cooking in Hiroshima.
On Saturday morning, I found the Hiroshima sightseeing loop bus, with its adorable pudgy moose mascot. When traveling through multiple cities on an abbreviated timetable, it’s important to research things ahead of time. For example, it’s excellent to know that a single fee for the day will take me to all the things that I most wanted to see: Hiroshima Castle, the Peace Memorial Park, and the Genbaku Dome.
First up, Hiroshima Castle, sometimes known as the Gokoku Shrine. Terumoto established this castle in 1589 at the delta of the Otagawa River.
The original castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb blast in August of 1945, and was reconstructed in 1958 as a museum to exhibit historic artifacts. I didn’t take many photos of artifacts. I never really do. I do like the reconstruction of living quarters though. I find it interesting.
I’m also thrilled by the view of Hiroshima from the top of the castle. I like tall places.
The castle structure is built next to a shrine. I saw several weddings during my journeys; this was one of them.
The castle and shrine together are surrounded by high walls and a moat. The whole arrangement was really very pretty.
From the castle, it was less than a mile to walk to the Peace Memorial Park, which is preserved as a remembrance to the atomic bomb and the people killed or wounded at that time. I have misplaced my notes about the sculptures in the park, but I believe this one was about the families killed in the blast.
I think this one was about the teachers killed in the blast. There are about a dozen different sculptures and monuments in the park. I should have taken better notes.
This one, at least, I’m sure of. This is the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students. During World War II, more than three million students over age twelve were mobilized for labor services in Japan. As a result, more than 7,000 were killed by the atomic bomb. This tower is twelve meters high and gradually widens as it rises. The sculpture depicts the Goddess of Peace accompanied by eight doves perched around the tower.
This one is well documented on the Internet- the Children’s Peace Monument. The top depicts a girl holding up a crane, a symbol of longevity and happiness. The monument was inspired by the story of a young victim who believed that she would recover from her radiation poisoning once she made 1,000 paper cranes.
This structure is the Cenotaph. It is dedicated to all the victims of the bombing, and it embodies the hope that Hiroshima will forever stand as a symbol of peace.
The building behind the Cenotaph is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and I went inside after I was done in the park. I took almost no photographs inside this museum, because it felt like sacrilege.
Looking back through the Cenotaph, you can see the structure of the Genbaku Dome, the lone building to remain standing after the atomic bomb blast.
This is the Cenotaph courtyard as seen from the museum- this is a better view of how the entire park is laid out.
The Atomic Bomb Dome was once the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall.
At 8:15 AM on August 7, 1945, the atomic bomb designated “Little Boy” was detonated over the city of Hiroshima. The bomb missed its target by about 240 meters. It was supposed to detonate over a bridge, but instead detonated almost 2000 feet over a hospital. This red sphere signifies where the explosion occurred.
Because the bomb was almost directly overhead, this building’s dome and columns were able to partially withstand the downward force of the explosion. People closest to the center of the explosion were vaporized instantly. The pressure wave from the explosion reduced this portion of the city to rubble in moments. Roughly 70,000 people were killed immediately, and tens of thousands more succumbed to burn injuries from the blast or to radiation poisoning soon after.
Here’s what the Genbaku Dome looked like immediately after the blast.
In 1966, the Hiroshima city council adopted a resolution to permanently preserve the dome in its current state. It has been structurally reinforced and fenced off, but is otherwise unchanged from the way it looked in 1966.
Visiting this dome felt similar to visiting Auschwitz, somber and sobering. It’s important for us to remember places with massive death tolls, in order to prevent destruction of this magnitude from ever happening again.
Have you ever been to Hiroshima?