Hiroshima – Is It a Must See?

I`ll admit it to you. As much as I like to check off all UNESCO sites no matter how uninteresting some may be, Hiroshima was not high on my list of places to visit. As a UNESCO site it draws visitors from all over the world, but unless I could pass myself off as something other than American, I feared a hostile reception. I was more than happy to strong arm a visiting friend`s teenaged daughter to the site even though I`d avoided the trip myself. It was too late to back out when I realized I would have to be the one to take her.

At 8:15, the A bomb was dropped and time literally stood still.

DSCN2260We spent a lot of time looking at the only building to “survive” the blast which did so because it was directly under the bomb.

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Not much was left but remnants.

The dome and hall before:

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And after.

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Seen from the same position.

The area surrounding the Hall was incinerated.

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People were vaporized, leaving shadows to document their last action. Painting, walking, or sitting on a stair.

DSCN2273As it looks today:

DSCN2272The blast embedded shrapnel in concrete.

DSCN2276Everything melted.

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Cast iron, glass and ceramic roofing tiles were all susceptible.

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DSCN2225DSCN2230DSCN2232 DSCN2233Roaming around the site were hundreds of school children. A group of three shyly approached to practice their English, starting with our country of origin. Once the others saw our smiles and friendly dispositions, we were swarmed whereas the foreign men with somber faces were left alone.

DSCN2257Several laid origami wreaths made with thousands of cranes.

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All the hundreds of children present rang the bell. It`s loud.

Yes- peace- for all.

DSCN2249So yes- it is a must see. Like other horific reminders of the past, this place reminds us of the reality around nuclear weapons at the same time telling a story of devastation, pain, and healing.

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*** One of the best books on Hiroshima is John Hersey`s “Hiroshima.” Hersey tells the stories of 6 survivors describing that day in August 6, 1945. A truly compelling but easy read.

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55 Responses to Hiroshima – Is It a Must See?

  1. Damn, this looks like a fascinating site to visit. Thanks also for mentioning the book.

    By the way, downtown Cuenca is an UNESCO site. When can we expect your visit?

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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    • Is it!Gosh still trying to figure out exactly where ya`ll are! I love the pics. Hey- can Sara recommend any groups that take teenagers on service trips? OS2 wants to do that but I don`t even know where to start. I don`t want her going surfing in Costa RIca for “service”…

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  2. I’ve been to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and going to both Peace Parks is an amazing experience. The sad thing is that these towns are both wonderful places to visit, but because of what happen, most foreigner think they are very somber places. Personally, I loved the food. Did you go to Miyajima?

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  3. Lisa says:

    Thanks so much for sharing such a horrible piece of history. Lately, we’ve been having many discussion in our house about war and history,and how history (or anything) can be so slanted depending on who is telling it. I am going to get the book so I can be better informed (and have my boys read it when they are ready).

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  4. garnishednonsense says:

    Enlightening blog post, some of the remnants are beyond anything I can imagine.
    Tempted to pick up the book you’ve mentioned now !

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  5. We have also been to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think it’s a must-see, just as we visited the Killing Fields in Cambodia last Summer. I found both Hiroshima and Nagasaki very interesting and impressive. Would certainly go back when we visit Japan again..

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  6. Roselinde says:

    Wow, I hope I’ll be able to visit one day. The shadows after vaporization really got to me.

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    • There are so many images at the museum that just get you right in the gut. I think the shadows were the ones that got me the most. Imagine an explosion so hot, the mere presence of a body shields some of the heat from a surface behind it in the process.Amazing. In the book, one of the survivors got trapped between two bed mattresses she was moving and that`s what saved her. WOW

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      • Roselinde says:

        Yes, it’s simply so gruesome that somehow your mind can’t really grasp that such a think actually happened. I found a PDF file of the book, I’ll be reading it soon!

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  7. I visited Hiroshima when my Mom came to visit me in Japan. It was very somber. My mom felt very uncomfortable at the site. We went on to visit Miyajima after Hiroshima and that place was so beautiful! I think you did a post on Miyajima before. That’s a place I’d love to see again.
    How’s Canada treating you?

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  8. Nice piece, Emily. I have found that all you need to do, no matter what part of the world you are in is to smile and say “G’day”, that way you show the locals that you are friendly and interested. I have not been to Japan yet and Hiroshima and Nagasaki are high on my list to visit. I think both cities are examples of just how horrible people can be to each other and how resilient they are after what seems to be a complete and utter disaster. Thank you.

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    • Thanks Paul! YOu know you Aussies are reputed to be the friendliest people in the world according to my culture trainer! I actually have to agree having run across a bunch of your compadres! (WHo was convincing me of the presence of a Canadian culture)

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      • Paul says:

        G’day Emily, Having been to Canada, well Quebec, I must admit it was very hard to discover any signs of distinct Canadian Culture. However they are a very polite people and we do our best, when traveling, to raise the tone of the country we are in. Usually that is good fun.

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  9. The Nose says:

    Great Post. I love the crane wreaths. They must have a symbolic meaning because I often see origami cranes associated with tragedies. For example, after the earthquake and tsunami I saw fundraisers with origami cranes. I read the book. It is fascinating, tragic, eye-opening, moving- it really made it real for me.

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    • The crane has so many meanings in Japan but in origami it`s peace. Cranes are on wedding dresses (they mate for life) and included in all sorts of art. Very symbolic in Japan. YOU are the one who recommended that book to me! I thought it was really great.

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  10. Excellent post, Emily. I’m so glad you shared this visit. I remember having similar concerns when I visited Pearl Harbor and saw dozens of Japanese tourists there. But they were friendly and open as you pointed out. People make peace much better than governments do.

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  11. Buri-chan says:

    I’ve been to a handful of WW2 memorials and museums, and the one Hiroshima is one of the first that I suggest people visit. It carries a good balance between stating fact–what lead up to the decision, how people and the city were affected, what happened to the victims afterward–and pushing an agenda against the use of nuclear weapons world-wide (as opposed to simply guilt-tripping). I visited on my first trip to Japan in 2007, and went again this summer while my friends were in Japan for the first time. It really left a dark cloud over our day, but it was worth it. We also happened to arrive as a survivor was in the park telling her story.

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  12. Robin Bradley says:

    Thank you for the great post. I’ve have visited Hiroshimi and had the same thoughts going in. Of course soon after we arrived we realized that we were all there to learn “what not to let happen again” We miss you in Japan!!!!! xoxo

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  13. I’ve been there too, when I was 15 travelling alone. I think it’s a must see for people from everywhere, and every age. It is a true haunting image of aftermath of war and people couldn’t image how bad it can be (even movies can’t portray that) until you actually see the REAL stuff!

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  14. sweffling says:

    An illuminating post, thank you. I have reservations about visiting places like Hiroshima and Auschwitz, one part wants to go to somehow acknowledge the suffering involved, but the other part feels like a tragedy-tourist – some kind of peeping-tom. The trouble is that the people who really need convincing about the cruelties and horrors of war are not the ones who go.

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  15. tokyoaaron says:

    I spent four months in Hiroshima several years ago. Great little city. Memories of the War Memorial still haunt me, but I also have fond memories of just hanging out in the Peace Park…
    Thanks for the post!

    Like

  16. Stanley says:

    Hi Emily, its really a great post. i think most of the people would like to visit this place at once. I wish it’ll not happen again like Hiroshima….

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  17. W3000 says:

    Hat dies auf Wissenschaft3000 ~ science3000 rebloggt und kommentierte:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

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  18. Yo-
    It seems you found some value in your trip to Hiroshima after all.. Which is good. The place has a lot of history and all.. But, I wonder if you were able to hang out with and talk to some of the locals? They’re quite chill down there and Hiroshima also has a cool bar scene, if you know which bars to look for… Did you make it over to Miyagima-guchi? It’s where the famous large orange Torii is..

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  19. Dana says:

    Great post, Emily. I’m glad that there are sites like these. Even though it’s really difficult to learn about the horrors of history and to be physically present in a place like that, we become better people because of it.

    There is a synagogue in Prague that has the names of Czech Jews who were exterminated during WWII written on the walls in average-sized font. Those names take up the WHOLE SYNAGOGUE. Multiple floors– floor to ceiling. I bawled the entire time I was there, but I’m so thankful I got to see it all the same.

    Hope winter in Montreal is treating you well! xo

    Like

  20. TonyJ2 says:

    I agree it is a must see. Your experience reflects that of many who go there. I have been there 4 times now, each time with different family members. While it is new to them and the experiences intense, going to any place a few times can get gradually duller.
    So I have made sure I explore not just the peace park area, but other sites in Hiroshima.
    A fifth visit is on in April, but just for 2 days. Each of our group has been there before, but we wil still go.

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