Japan is one of my favorite countries to visit. It is culturally rich and extraordinarily beautiful. I often traveled with my mom. Japan was one of her favorites, too, in part because of the respect and kindness she felt while there.
We had been to Tokyo and Kyoto — both must-sees and absolutely stunning not only during cherry blossom time but also in the autumn. Later, we visited Nagano and Jigokudani snow monkey park — a mile-long walk to the hot springs that my 88-year-old mom nailed.
When it came to visiting Hiroshima, my mom said no thanks. She’d lived through World War II and wasn’t interested in reliving it. I must admit, it wasn’t top on my list either, but it was a must-see for a fellow traveler in our group. I was reluctant to see the pain and to experience the emotions a place like this evokes. But just as Japanese tourists visit Pearl Harbor, seeking an American perspective, Mark and I caught a train in Kyoto and made our way to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park to learn about the day that changed history.
Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park is located in what was once a busy commercial district. Only one original building, Genbaku Dome or A-Bomb Dome, still stands. Architect Kenzo Tange designed the park to be a tranquil place for reflection and remembrance with 300 cherry trees, quiet walking paths, and memorials to the bombings’ victims. Seventy-five years later, these seven must-see things in Hiroshima’s Peace Park show visitors the devastation, the lives cut short, and the pain survivors endured — lest we forget.
1. Atomic Bomb Dome
Taking tram line 2 or 6 from Hiroshima’s main train station and getting off at Genbaku Dome-mae stop, you’ll be at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park’s entrance and steps away from the skeletal remains of this 1915 building and its dome. The building is 530 feet from the hypocenter of the bomb. Before it was bombed on August 6, 1945, the building was a commercial exhibition hall until Japan became embroiled in World War II, and it was taken over for government use. The interior was decimated, as were all of the workers. The damaged brick walls and dome’s steel frame remain and are the only remnants left from the day the bomb was dropped. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It has remained unchanged and is a lasting reminder of the destruction of war and the A-bomb in particular.
The remainder of the peace park is on an island accessed by walking over the Motoyasu-bashi Bridge. On your way to the bridge, you’ll see several monuments, including tributes to the workers who died in the Genbaku Dome and to the Mobilized Students, who supported the war effort. Japan enlisted the service of middle and high school students to build munitions and work in factories. Of the 8,400 middle and high school students in Hiroshima in 1945, 6,300 died during the bombing. This is their monument.