The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is all about the atrocities that happened during World War 2, and it’s dedicated to showing the world why there should never again be an atomic bomb used.
First, an outline of what happened in the 1940s that would be good to know for context before visiting Hiroshima.
Then, a list of things to see at Hiroshima Peace Park. The peace park is a pretty large area and there are a few different things to see when you’re there.
Today, Hiroshima is a vibrant and modern urban city in Japan.
With over a million people calling Hiroshima home, it’s a safe city to visit.
So you could say that the city of Hiroshima has recovered well from the disaster it faced decades ago.
If you’ll be headed to Kyoto, Osaka, or flying into or out of Kansai airport, Hiroshima deserves a consideration on your Japan itinerary.
Hiroshima is in the region of these places.
Most people go to Hiroshima from Osaka by train or from Kyoto by train.
How to get to the peace park from Hiroshima station
The Hiroshima peace park is a short 15 minute Hiroden tram ride from Hiroshima station. There’s a tram stop called the Atomic bomb dome stop.
If you want to walk, it’s about a 30 minute walk. But keep in mind that you will also get plenty of walking in at the peace park!
How to get to the peace park from Miyajima
There is a direct ferry between Miyajima and the peace park.
The ferry can be convenient when you’re trying to do Hiroshima and Miyajima in one day.
More below about the things to know about Hiroshima!
Where to go from Kyoto?! You can go to to Nachi Falls to see one of Japan's most famous views: Kyoto to Nachi Falls! Then you can loop back around to Osaka or Kyoto, making a stop at Ise along the way!
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What happened in the 1940s?
Here are some quick facts:
1. The Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, killing 2,000+ Americans.
2. The U.S. entered World War 2 following the Pearl Harbor attack.
3. The U.S. military dropped the world’s first ever nuclear bomb over Hiroshima in Japan, killing 70,000+ Japanese people.
4. The U.S. military dropped another atomic bomb in Japan, this time over Nagasaki, killing 40,000+ more Japanese people.
5. People continued to die following the nuclear attacks due to the effects of radiation poisoning.
6. The exact number of people who died from the atomic bombings is unknown, and estimates vary.
Why visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park?
To take the words I saw during a visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii…
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii + Hiroshima, Japan
The events before the Hiroshima nuclear bombing
The early 1940s represents an uglier time in U.S. – Japan relations.
Japan had gotten some of its resources cut off by the U.S. and was determined to increase its power in Asia.
In 1941, Hawaii was not yet a U.S. state, but as a U.S. territory, it served (and still does) as a strategic military base in the Pacific.
At that time, Japan didn’t want any U.S. interference in its quest for dominance of different parts of Asia. They felt that the way to do this was to put a dent in the U.S. Pacific military force.
And so a plan was formed by the Japanese military to attack Pearl Harbor.
The plan was so secretive and off the radar that the Japanese were able to travel 4,000 miles at sea undetected.
This resulted in the surprise attack in Hawaii that the U.S. was unprepared for and resulted in thousands of American deaths. (So the story told by the US government goes.)
The Pearl Harbor attack happened in December 1941.
Roughly half of the 2,000+ Americans killed were crew from the USS Arizona.
Today, there is the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor to remember those lost.
This memorial can only be accessed by boat.
Because of the events that followed the attack in Hawaii, a visit to Pearl Harbor means a visit to a place where the course of global history changed.
The United States becomes active in World War 2
It wasn’t until after the attack on Pearl Harbor that the United States started being actively involved in World War 2.
The U.S. declaration of war against Japan would eventually lead to dropping nuclear bombs in Japan over Hiroshima and Nagasaki a few years later.
An atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima in August 1945.
Then 3 days after the Hiroshima bombing, another atomic bomb was dropped over Nagasaki.
These bombings resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
Did the atomic bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki end the war?
It is these attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that is often cited as the events that ended World War 2.
Although there is dispute about the bombings being the defining reason.
Some historians argue that the declaration of war against Japan by the Soviet Union was a bigger reason that Japan didn’t want to continue the war.
A visit to Hiroshima will provide a greater understanding of this world-changing event in Hiroshima and the hardships experienced by the Japanese citizens
You will be in the very place where so much tragedy occurred.
Present day relations between the U.S. and Japan
The U.S. – Japan relations have changed greatly since the era of the bombings.
The two countries now serve as allies.
As a show of peace, President Barack Obama and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe together visited both the Hiroshima peace memorial and Pearl Harbor memorial.
Obama visits Hiroshima
Obama and Abe stood side by side at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan.
Abe visits Pearl Harbor
A short time later, Abe then visited the United States.
Obama and Abe then stood side by side at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
Both of these acts, at Hiroshima and at Pearl Harbor, were seen as largely symbolic to show current friendship among the two countries despite the tragedies that each of the countries caused for the other in the past.
President Trump and Prime Minister Abe also have shown a public display of friendliness with each other.
Abe was the first world leader to visit Trump after the 2016 presidential election.
They have had a number of photo opportunities together with big smiles and a show of friendship.
And so, if you have plans to go to Hawaii at any point in the future, it could be interesting to visit Pearl Harbor in Hawaii too, as these events are closely related.
So now that you know a little bit more about Hiroshima…
Things to see in Hiroshima Peace Park
aka how to visit Hiroshima peace park on your own without a tour
First, the quick list of what to see at the Hiroshima peace memorial park:
- Hiroshima peace memorial: Atomic bomb dome
- Hiroshima peace museum
- Hiroshima peace memorial hall for atomic bomb victims
- Cenotaph for atomic bomb victims
- Flame of peace
- Children’s peace monument: Story of Sadako Sasaki memorial
- Hiroshima peace bell
- Atomic bomb memorial mound
- Memorial for Korean atomic bomb victims
- Peace clock tower
- Aioi Bridge
Even if you are short on time, try to make time for either the peace memorial museum or the peace hall, if not both. They are both worth a visit.
Hiroshima peace memorial: Atomic bomb dome
Following the Hiroshima bombing, everything in this area was obliterated.
This building in ruins was the only one left standing, and it’s listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Hiroshima peace memorial museum
Cost: 200 yen (US$2)
At the museum, you can learn about the process of creating and detonating the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and the detailed effects of what happened once the bomb was dropped.
You can also watch documentaries on personal stories of people who were affected by the bombing, as well as what Hiroshima citizens are doing today to promote a world free of nuclear weapons.
See here for a pdf about more of what your museum experience can include.
The museum closes at 6pm, so be sure to plan accordingly if you will be ending your day at the peace park.
Confirm the opening hours of the museum for updated information, as hours can change based on season.
Hiroshima national peace memorial hall for atomic bomb victims
If you are looking to learn more about what the victims went through in the aftermath of the nuclear bombing, this is a place you could spend an hour or 2.
There’s the hall of remembrance, an area you can watch a documentary where survivors detail their experiences, and a library with more materials.
It’s said that at the center of the hall of remembrance is a basin “intended to offer water to the souls of the A-bomb victims who died craving water that day.”
Cenotaph for atomic bomb victims
Flame of peace
It is said that the flame of peace has been continually lit since 1964 and will continue to burn until the world is free of nuclear weapons.
Children’s peace monument: Story of the Sadako Sasaki memorial
The children’s peace monument is dedicated to all the children who lost their lives because of the bombing.
This monument was built after a girl name Sadako Sasaki died.
Sadako survived the bombing at the young age of 2, but was exposed to radiation and developed cancer as a result.
She died around the age of 12, and after her death, her classmates worked to build a monument for all the children who died due to the atomic bomb.
With help, her classmates were able to gather the support of students from over 3,000 schools around Japan and in nearly 10 other countries.
The story of Sadako Sasaki goes that until her death she was folding paper cranes because of the Japanese saying that if you make 1,000 cranes your wish will come true.
She died before she was able to fold 1,000 cranes, and it’s said that her classmates finished folding the remaining 300+ cranes to be able to bury all 1,000 with her.
Paper cranes are also said to be built every year in memory of Sadako, and the monument also has been given the name “tower of 1,000 cranes.”
Hiroshima peace bell
Atomic bomb memorial mound
It’s said that there are the ashes of around 70,000 people under the mound.
The ashes are from people who were never claimed. They may not have been claimed because the entire family died, or because they were unable to be identified.
There were also many bodies pulled out of the river following the bombing, and they were dumped at this site and later cremated.
Memorial for Korean atomic bomb victims
It’s believed that of the Hiroshima residents that died, 10% were Korean. The memorial was created because the Koreans were never formally memorialized in Hiroshima.
Peace clock tower
This clock tower is set to chime every morning at 8:15am as a reminder of the Hiroshima bombing.
The Aioi Bridge is the closest bridge to the atomic bomb dome memorial.
It’s considered to be the target of the Hiroshima bombing.
There are even more things to see in the Hiroshima peace park, so if you’re able to, dedicate at least a half day here. Dedicate a full day, and you’ll be able to more fully go through the museum, the hall of remembrance, and the other sites of the park.
HERE’S TO A MEANINGFUL VISIT TO THE HIROSHIMA PEACE PARK
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- Day 1: Top tourist spots with one day Kyoto bus pass
- Day 2: Fushimi Inari Shrine hike through 1,000 torii gates
- Day 3: Philosopher's Path walk
- Day 4: Arashiyama and Sagano
- Day 5: Kurama Kibune Ohara with one day pass
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