Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hiroshima: Peace Park and A-Bomb Memorial

Hiroshima . A city that will forever be remembered in history as the target of the world's first A-Bomb.
During the World War II , Hiroshima was a city of military and industrial significance. Many arms and munition factories were located in and around Hiroshima. It was a stock and supply base for the Japanese military and also had a port which made it a logistics hub.  Due to these reasons, Hiroshima was chosen as the first target. The other shortlisted targets were Kokura, Yokohama, Niigata and Kyoto.  

At 8:15 A.M on  6th August 1945, The A-Bomb, known as "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima by the American B-29 bomber, Enola Gay. The bomb destroyed almost everything within a radius of 2 kms. Almost everything was razed to the ground, barring a few concrete structures. 
In an already sweltering Japanese summer, the temperature rose tremendously killing thousands. A mushroom cloud formed over the epicentre and has been much photographed. A black rain fell on the city later that day. An estimated 70,000 people were killed in the explosion and its aftermath. Those who survived had to face radiation related diseases. The effects of the radiation were such that these survivors, known as Hibakusha, had to face several difficulties, including discrimination. In the decades to follow more people died from the effects of the radiation. An estimated 220,000 people have died till date. Many hibakusha still live in Hiroshima and the surrounding areas. The dual bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki paved the way for a campaign against the use of nuclear weapons. 

Most of Hiroshima's A-Bomb memorials are in or around the Peace Memorial Park, known locally as Heiwa Koen.




 More than fifty memorials, statues and other structures are scattered throughout the 120,000 sq m area of the park, which once was part of the busy merchant district, Nakajima. The area was almost instantly razed to the ground due to the A-Bomb explosion.

The symbol of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is the A-Bomb Dome also known as The Hiroshima Memorial. 

The Japanese name for this structure is Genbaku Dome. The structure is the skeletal remains of the erstwhile Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Centre. Designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel in 1915, the building was predominantly designed in European style with a green dome. When the A-Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the people inside the building were instantly killed due to the tremendous heat. 

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1996.

Near the A-Bomb Dome is the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized students.
It is dedicated to the memory of 6300 students who worked in munitions factories at the time of the bombing and were killed in the blast.
A mural depicts this near the tower. Statues of doves are scattered throughout the towers 5 levels.
 A Kannon statue at the base is draped with origami cranes. 

The hypo center of the A-Bomb is a short walk away  from the A-Bomb Dome. 

The bomb had exploded 600 meters above the Shima Hospital. 
A plaque marks the exact spot above which the bomb exploded. 

The Children's Peace Monument- Genbaku no ko no zo is a monument to a young bomb victim, Sadako Sasaki. 
Sadako was only 2 years old at the time of the blast but was affected by leukaemia and passed away when she was 12 years old. She believed that folding 1000 origami paper cranes( Japanese symbol of longevity) would cure her and kept folding paper cranes till she succumbed to her disease in Oct 1955. School children across Japan send thousands of origami paper cranes in her memory. The monument was constructed in 1958. At the top of the monument is a statue of Sadaki holding a golden crane.
Under the arches is another suspended crane which serves as a wind chime. The monument is draped in thousands of origami paper cranes.
Some paper cranes are also joined together to form pictures like the picture of the A-Bomb Dome. 

Visitors can ring the Peace Bell. 
Installed in 1964, the bell is engraved with a border less world map signifying ' One World'.  

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound holds the ashes of 70,000 bomb victims who were unidentified or whose remains were unclaimed by living relatives. 

At the centre of the Peace Park is the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims.
The Cenotaph was one of the earliest memorial monuments dedicated to the victims. It was opened on August 6th 1952. The arches symbolize a shelter for the souls of the victims of the bombing. 
A stone chest containing a register of names of every victim of the A-bombing is placed here. Names are added to the list with the death of every hibakusha, who pass away from radiation related disease. An inscription reads : Let all the souls here rest in peace, for the evil shall not be repeated". The A-Bomb Dome can be seen through the arch of the Cenotaph.  

The Flame of Peace (seen in the above picture) burns at one end of the pond and is visible through the arches of the Cenotaph. It was first lit in 1964 and a plaque reads that the fire will not be extinguished till the last nuclear weapon is gone from earth. 

The Peace Memorial Museum has on display documents relating to the atomic bombing, models depicting Hiroshima before and immediately after the bombing and artifacts depicting the destructive power of the bomb.


 Pictures of destroyed buildings, hibakusha and victims are also on display.

 
 
The timeline from the development of the bomb till the bombing of Hiroshima is explained through visuals and photographs.
A watch which stopped at the time of the blast is on display.
A reconstruction of the A-Bomb Dome is also placed inside the museum.  
An appeal for abolition of nuclear weapons in the world is also on display. Audio guides are available at an extra cost and these provide an insight into the various displays.
 Some of the pictures and descriptions can be disturbing especially for young children. (Entrance fees - Adults 50 yen ; Children 30 yen)

Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall  is dedicated to collecting names and photographs of people who died due to the blast. Stories and descriptions collected from survivors are displayed here. 

The Fountain of Prayer is outside the Peace Memorial Museum on the Heiwa Odori side. 

The statue of Mother and Child in the Storm depicts a woman shielding her child from the black rain that fell after the A Bomb exploded.
The Gates of Peace were installed in 2005 on the Heiwa Odori, the main road outside the Peace Park. 
Designed by a pair of French artists, the nine of the ten gates represent the nine circles of hell from Dante's Inferno whereas the tenth represents the hell created by atomic bombing. 

On the surface of the gates and on the sidewalk, the word peace is written in 49 languages. 

On our way to the Peace Park we had passed by the  Bank of Japan.

The building was built in 1936 as the city's main branch of the bank. Located just 380 meters away from the hypo center, the building was one of the handful of buildings that survived in the vicinity. The strong architecture helped the building withstand the powerful explosion but the heat from the explosion killed all 42 employees inside the bank at the time of the explosion. But what is most remarkable is that the banks operation were restored just 2 days after the explosion and continued to be in operation till 1992 when the branch was moved to another location. Since 1992, the building has been designated an important cultural property of Hiroshima city.  The branch is located close to the Fukuro-machi tram stop . 

Each year on 6th August, a ceremony is held to mark the anniversary of the A Bombing. The ceremony is held at 8:15 am in the morning, the exact time when the bomb was dropped. Air raid sirens sound and minute of silence is observed.  The mayor of Hiroshima appeals for peace. People pray in the memory of the victims at the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb victims. Many hibakusha also attend the ceremony. In the evening, thousands of colorful lanterns are floated down the river in memory of the victims.  


Visitors can also chose to ride one of the cruise boat to Miyajima from a pier close to the Peace Park. 

Access: Nearest tram station is Genbaku Dome Mae on Hiroden(Tram) Line 2 and 6. 

Entry: Peace Park - Free
          Peace Memorial Museum -  Adult 50 yen; Children 30 yen
          A Bomb Dome- No entrance; view from outside 

Address:

A Bomb Dome: 730-0051 Hiroshima, Naka ku, Otemachi 1-10 
Phone: 082-504-2390

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum : 730-0811Hiroshima, Naka ku, Nakajima cho 1-2
Phone: 082-241-40004
Old Bank of Japan Building : 730-0036, Hiroshima, Naka ku, Fukuro cho 5-16
Phone: 082-504-2500 

Opening Hours
Peace Memorial Museum : 8:30 AM - 5 :00 PM ( Open till 6 PM from Mar to July and Sep to                                               Nov and till 7 pm in August)

Closed: 
Peace Memorial Museum - Dec 29- Jan 1

Official Website:
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum : Click here


           

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