The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

As a part of my summer Japanese Language and Culture course in Hiroshima, I visited the World Heritage Site Atomic Bomb Dome. During this field trip, I learned about the history of the atomic bomb which was detonated above Hiroshima and gained an understanding of how that affected the lives of people that survived the bombing.

The Atomic Bomb Dome

In 1996, The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima became a World Heritage Site due to being one of the buildings which survived a great destructive force, which was the first nuclear weapon to be used for war. The Atomic Bomb Dome is a remains today as a symbol of peace.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Despite the incredibly hot weather, I made it a point to visit all of the key areas of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Sadako’s Paper Cranes

I find myself standing afoot a large sculpture with a statue of a girl holding an origami crane. I could see a large bell below the statue connected to a rope. My teacher explains the story of Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes. I learn that Sadako two years old when the bomb detonated above Hiroshima. Despite not having any apparent injuries, the severe radiation caused fatal effects to her body. In order to continue living and not give up hope, she aimed to create 1000 origami cranes (orizuru) which are a symbol of longevity. This inspired the survivors in Hiroshima, but despite her efforts, she passed away at the age of twelve before she could complete her goal.

As a contribution, together with Hiroshima Shudo University, we donate our creation of paper cranes to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The Memorial Tower dedicated to Mobilized Students

Not far from the sculpture of Sadako, I see a five tiered tower surrounded by lovely bushes. Upon inspection, I learn about the deep meaning behind the tower and what it stood for.

Due to the war, over three million students over the age of twelve were mobilized for labor services throughout the country to aid in the war. Due to this, around 7000 students were killed by the atomic bomb alone, with many many more casualties as a result of the war itself.

In remembrance of these students, a tower was created by the families and friends who had lost those dear to them. The tower consists of a sculpture of the Goddess of Peace accompanied by eight doves which are resting around the tower, which symbolize peace.

The Hall of Remembrance

Within the Peace Memorial Park I visit a large underground hall called The Hall of Remembrance. It is a circular hall with a fountain in the center. Around the edges were 140,000 tiles which made up a 360 degree panorama of the aftermath of Hiroshima as seen from the hypocenter of the bombing. Each tile represents a victim who was estimated to have died by the end of 1945.

The atmosphere at this location is still. You could definitely hear a pin drop in this hall. It is a location to mourn over the victims of the bombing and to think about peace for the future. I take the time to explore the panorama and read the names of the nearby towns which were obliterated.

The representation of the tiles to show victims was breathtaking. I could clearly see how many lives were taken due to the events of the bombing.

The Twinkling Stars Know Everything

After exploring the Hall of Remembrance, I head inside a building to find a video presentation in a small exhibition room. I could see a crowd of people sitting on chairs viewing the presentation. The presentation consisted of a collection of sentimental memoirs written by families of students which were involved in the labor service at the time.

In one memoir, it consisted of a mother describing the conversation that she had had with her son the night before the bombing. The son had wished for no more war on Earth. They stood on a balcony that night and stared into the starry night sky. The night after the bombing, the mother reported “There was absolutely no change in the beautiful sky from the previous night. … I felt that the spirits of all these boys had risen up into the sky and become stardust, hoping that such a disaster would never again occur on the Earth. I felt that they were watching over us quietly.”

In the video presentation, there were paintings which helped envision the severity of the aftermath of the atomic bomb. People on the streets with such extreme bodily harm that it had looked like a scene from the end of the world. Fire outbreaks across the city. People crying out to loved ones.

After watching the video presentation, I think about how oblivious I had been to how the atomic bomb affected the lives of the people that lived in the area of where it was detonated. I feel like I knew nothing about the atomic bomb before coming to Hiroshima.

The Library

After exploring the majority of the Peace Memorial Park, I come across The Library. The Library contains an archive of all of the victims which died during the bombing, as well as written and video memoirs submitted by survivors.

I grab a chair and sit down at the computer. I decide to read memoirs at random. There is one memoir in particular which stands out compared to all of the other memoirs.

A housewife was in her house at the time of the bombing. She was in the house with her daughter at the time. At the time of the bomb strike, she was very disoriented - she had no idea what had happened. She could hear her daughter calling for her in the distance somewhere within what used to be their house. She climbed over the rubble to find her daughter trapped under the debris of their collapsed house. During her attempts to free her daughter, a fire broke out and began to engulf the surrounding area. Despite the thick smoke, she tried and tried to save her daughter. Eventually, the fire got too much for her. “Please forgive your horrible mother, who is scared of the fire” she said to her daughter before fleeing the area.

Conclusion

Overall, after reading about the memoirs of various survivors of the atomic bomb, as well as viewing the different memorials within the Peace Memorial Park and learning about their history, I realise how oblivious I was to the cruelty of the nuclear weapon and the great suffering that the survivors dealt with. The entire trip to the Peace Memorial Park was a big eye opener and I feel informed about the inhumanity about the use of nuclear weapons and why Hiroshima desire world peace.

Written on July 31, 2018