Peace Memorial Park
This morning we caught another bullet train from Kyoto to Hiroshima which took just over an hour and a half. We skipped breakfast in order to make it to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to check out the Peace Memorial Ceremony at 8:15 am. This was the exact time that the bomb was dropped 64 years ago. This park is dedicated to the memories and over 140,000 victims of the nuclear attack that happened on August 6, 1945. Hiroshima was the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack. The park was built on an open field that was created by the explosion. Today is the anniversary of this attack which is why the ceremony is happening. We are very lucky to be here today to witness this event. The purpose of the Peace Memorial Park is to not only memorialize the victims, but also to establish the memory of nuclear horrors and advocate world peace. There were many hibakusha in attendance. Hibakusha is the name given to the survivor’s of the attack. As soon as the clock hit 8:15, the air raid sirens sounded, a minute of silence followed, and then we heard appeals for peace by the mayor of Hiroshima. We took some time to check out the park and saw a lot of amazing monuments and structures.
We started with the Memorial Cenotaph which is a concrete, saddle-shaped monument that covers a cenotaph and holds all of the names of the people that were killed in the attack.
Inside of this monument we saw the A-bomb dome, which is the the skeletal ruins of the former Industrial Promotion Hall. It is the building closest to the hypocenter of the nuclear bomb that remained at least partially standing. It was left how it was after the bombing in memory of the casualties.
We also saw the Peace Flame which is another monument to the victims of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The flame has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964, and will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Next we moved onto the children’s peace monument which is a statue dedicated to the memory of the children who died as a result of the bombing. The statue is of a girl with outstretched arms with a folded paper crane rising above her. The statue is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki a young girl who died from radiation from the bomb. She believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes she would be cured. To this day, people from around the world fold cranes and send them to Hiroshima where they are placed near the statue. The statue had a massive collection of folded cranes surrounding it. I remember hearing this story when I was in Elementary school. I wouldn’t be able to even attempt to fold a crane now. It was very sad to experience this monument.
We decided to move on to the Rest House which was another building that was bombed in the attack. The building was built as the Taishoya Kimono Shop in March, 1929. And the building had been used as a distributing station of the fuel since the shortage of the fuel in June, 1944. On August 6, 1945, when the bomb exploded, the roof was crushed, the interior destroyed, and everything consumable burned except in the basement. Thirty six people were killed in the building and one person had survived in the basement.
We passed by the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound which is a large, grass-covered knoll that contains the ashes of 70 thousand unidentified victims of the bomb. After passing this mound, we went on to see the Gates of Peace which contains 6 gates covered with the word “peace” in 49 languages from around the world.
We took a break and went for some food. We wanted to kill some time before going back to the park for the lantern ceremony. About a half hour before dusk, we went back to Peace Park as the ceremony was to begin and continue through dusk. The lantern ceremony is held to send off the spirits of the victims of the bombing on lanterns with peace messages onto the waters of the Motoyasu River. Japans Buddhists believe the souls of their ancestors visit them every year so they put out lanterns to guide the spirits and when the visit ends the lantern is set adrift to light the path back to heaven. Each lantern is a symbol of a personal commitment to create peace in this world and hopes for the future. This experience was surreal and I would recommend everyone who has the chance to see it, to take the opportunity to do so.
We took our time getting back to our hotel; we didn’t want our trip to end!! Tomorrow we head back to Tokyo to catch our flight home.