Visiting the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima
Hiroshima is well-known to non-Japanese people mainly due to the devastation levied by the Enola Gay on August 6, 1945. The city has rebuilt itself over the years and today, you can recollect its recent history all that’s happened since by visiting the Peace Memorial Museum.
Peace Memorial Museum
Visiting the Peace Memorial Museum is a hard thing to face but a place that we all should. To make things a bit more complicated, we arrived during one of Japan‘s busiest holidays—Children’s Day. This was our last chance to see the Peace Memorial learn more about the world-changing event. Whether or not one feels either the Hiroshima-destined bomb or the dropped on Nagasaki to be justifiable, a large portion humanity lost its conscience in August 1945.
Hiroshima does not explicitly use the Peace Memorial Museum as a jab at those responsible for the destruction. Instead, the building promotes peace education and awareness through its history as an example. After seeing images of nuclear bomb development and Hiroshima just before the bombing, I can barely prepare for what’s next. Prior to entering the Main Building, there’s a section dedicated to peace and a nuclear-free world. It surely makes one think there’s still hope for the world and our future existence.
The Main Building
The images and stories found inside the Main Building are the most gut wrenching and tear inducing I’ve come across in life. There were seemingly countless tragic stories of families—forget buildings or bases—destroyed by The Bomb and the first images I will always remember are the wax figure recreations of people losing skin to the extreme heat produced by the explosion. Among the other troubling sights, we walked past tattered remains of clothing, hair, and even fingernails saved by devoted parents. It is becoming too much but I had to keep going through each room.
What struck me most were the multiple stories of “disappeared” families mostly included children. Part of me wanted to get out of here and just run away to a far-off corner. I continued reading the terrible accounts of those who’d “met the A-bomb,” known in Japanese as Hibakusha. I forced myself to read everything and take in everything that the museum had to offer.
Something else caught my attention to keep the emotions veering towards collapse. Kids were everywhere in this place, walking around and seeing these horrible things. Parents made a conscious effort to show their children what happened to people just like them almost 70 years ago. It made sense and I secretly commended the parents for doing this. As I walk through the displays explaining the cancerous after effects of radiation, a few questions came to mind. How would our kids handle such a place? Would they grow up advocating world peace? Would our society grow into a more peaceful one if all kids visited the Peace Memorial Museum? Before I could answer that question, I arrived at the wall dedicated to the most famous victim of The Bomb: Sadako Sasaki.
She’s the girl who was miraculously unaffected (at first) when the explosion happened. After growing up as a normal girl, Sadako later sought care at the hospital and the doctors diagnosed her with leukemia. This all occurred 10 years after the bomb had fallen. In hopes of surviving, she recalled an old folktale which declared a wish would be granted to anyone who could fold 1,000 paper cranes. Young Sadako fell short of her goal when she died less than one year after entering the hospital. In a truly heartwarming finale though, Sadako’s classmates chipped in and finished the remaining cranes to complete 1,000.
Walking Out, Thinking Back
After seeing drawings from Atom Bomb survivors, we leave and encounter exactly what the museum strives for—peace. Outside there was a celebratory atmosphere and even more, we could see a beautiful celebration of Hiroshima’s flowers and tons of children enjoying their day. We walked past all this and made a visit to the Peace Memorial, also known as the Atomic Bomb Dome (Gembaku Dome). After listening to the joyous music, consuming copious amounts of street food, and staring at gorgeous flowers, I still struggle to cope with the images seen inside the Peace Memorial Museum.
It perfectly captures one of the world’s worst tragedies but leaves one with hope for the future. To a large degree, the people in Hiroshima have moved on. One thing clearly lacking is a pointed finger for the destruction imposed on its people. What exists in abundance is hope for a peaceful world in the future. Hiroshima was a separation between past and present but also between peace and war. There is so much one can learn from walking around in Hiroshima. I hope to one day show my own kids around it and hope that they’ll understand its importance. Hiroshima’s past and present can teach us all a thing or two about how humanity lost its way but through peace, a more positive future is possible.
Have you ever visited the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima? What did you think of it? Do you think there should be more testaments to peace in this world?
Getting to the Peace Memorial Museum
Courtesy of Visit Hiroshima
There are two tram options for reaching the Peace Park and Memorial Museum. You can either take the Tram bound for Eba and Miyajimaguchi from JR Hiroshima Station and get off at “Genbaku Domu-mae.” The other option is to take the Yoshijima-bound tram from JR Hiroshima Station and getting off at the “Heiwa-kinen-koen” stop.
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