While museums are usually a celebration of achievements, some of them exhibit something quite heavy for their visitors. Rather than showcasing something extraordinary, they remind viewers of a painful past with a goodwill that people take it as a lesson learned and hopefully never happen again.
I ended my visits to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum with a heavy heart where I learned the price had paid with wars.
Hiroshima 1945.08.06. 8:15 am
Perhaps Hiroshima is best known for being the first city (and the only two) in history to be attacked by a nuclear weapon. Before the atomic bombing, Hiroshima was a major urban center of the Sanyo region of Japan. It is beautifully situated on the Ota River Delta coastline of the Seto Inland Sea with six rivers run through the city center.
The nuclear weapon was developed during World War II as the US government initiated the Manhattan Project. Hiroshima was targeted because at the time the city was a supply and logistics base for the Japanese military, also was a communications center, a key port for shipping, and an assembly area for troops.
When the U.S. Army Air Forces dropped the bomb “Little Boy” at 8:15 am on 6th August 1945, the destruction was effective. Ninety percent of the city was destroyed. After Japan surrendered, the nation picked up the pieces and rebuilt the entire city from the shambles. Today, 70 years after the attack, the once devastated city has been restored to a thriving modern metropolis of 1.2 million people. Yet it doesn’t mean the painful past has been forgotten.
Once we got off the tram at the Genbaku-Dome-Mae Station (the Atomic Bomb Dome), we were walking on the Aioi Bridge. Many thought that the Atomic Bomb Dome was the hypocenter of the bombing, but it was not the case. In fact, the original target was the Aioi Bridge, an unusual T-shaped bridge that straddles across the Ota River, as it was an outstanding target for the Air Forces to easily recognize from the air. In the end, the bomb exploded directly over the nearby Shima Hospital and the Atomic Bomb Dome, which was the only structure that left standing and is now a landmark, and a World UNESCO Heritage Site. The building was built in 1915 as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. While the force of the blast came from almost directly above the dome. It survived from collapsing like the surrounding structures. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was built in the ground zero as a memorial of the people who were killed and suffered in the incident.
Monuments in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park:
- Atomic Bomb Dome
- Monument in Memory of the Korean Victims of the Atomic Bomb
- Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound
- Peace Clock Tower
- Children’s Peace Monument
- Cenotaph of the Atomic Bomb Victims
- Rest House
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims
Please visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum on the other side of the park as it recorded the history and the aftermath of the bombing. I was not prepared for the visit and the images and information there was a brutal realization of how destructive war is.
One of the most shocking moments was that I learned the victims were instantly killed (or combusted) as they were exposed to the explosion. They only left a shadow – and a shadow on a stone staircase of a bank was shown in the museum.
Nagasaki 1945.08.09 11:02 am
While Hiroshima was in chaos after the attack, the second (and currently the last) atomic bombs exploded after merely three days and basically led to an end of World War II. As there was no indication of Japan surrendering, the Allied decided to proceed with dropping another bomb. Kokura, where one of Japan’s largest munition plants was at that time, was the next target. It was eventually spared from the attack due to poor vision over thick clouds; and Nagasaki, a major seaport and a historical city in southern Japan, became the next target.
The name, Nagasaki, means “long cape”. The city is located in the northwest corner of Kyushu with beautiful harbors. I would later introduce some amazing sites in the city, but the first day we arrived we took the city tram and then walked up to the Hypocenter from the Hamaguchimachi Station – where the “Fat Man” was dropped by the U.S. Air Forces at 11:02 am on 9th August 1945.
Compared to the Hiroshima Memorial Park, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, memorials, and peace park in Nagasaki is smaller in scale and much less crowded. Somehow the serenity gave me chills as we were walking through the green, knowing that it was the center where a bomb exploded mid-air over 70 years ago and killed tens of thousands of people.
Monuments in Nagasaki Peace Park and the Hypocenter:
- Hypocenter Cenotaph
- Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
- Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims
- Nagasaki Peace Park
- Peace Statue and Fountain of Peace
- Peace Memorial Hall
I do hope the exhibit and horrific photos in the museums would remind people of the importance of lasting peace and the abolition of such weapons.