Dark tourism at Hiroshima

August, 6, 1945. A day that will live in infamy. The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan during the final stages of World War 2 – one in Hiroshima and one in Nagasaki – and thus guaranteed the surrender of Japan, which all but won the war in favour of the Allied Powers.

The nuclear bomb exploding over Hiroshima in 1945
The nuclear bomb exploding over Hiroshima in 1945

It took many decades for Hiroshima to recover from this atomic brutality, but in its own way it is now a hotspot for those wishing to engage in some dark tourism and pay their respects to the fallen from that fateful day during World War 2.

The A-Bomb Dome
The A-Bomb Dome

Probably the main thing you will want to see when in Hiroshima is the eerie A-Bomb Dome, situated just south of the Peace Park. This is a structure that is still in its decrepit state from that fateful day when the nuclear pulse beamed through the city. Only the skeleton of the cathedral remains and it has been preserved that way as a timely reminder to all visitors of the potential devastation of nuclear war. There was something very peaceful but at the same time very disturbing as I wandered around taking photos and examining the exterior of the A-Bomb Dome. I am glad I made the effort to reach Hiroshima just to experience this sight.

The Peace Park
The Peace Park

The Hiroshima Peace Park is a very sombre public park standing thoughtfully in the shadow of the skeletal A-Bomb Dome. It is the complete contrast with its green lawns and trees to the rest of the city. Inside the park is the Peace Memorial Museum which serves to remind us of the little personal details of the war. Every year on August 6, here at the Peace Park, there is a ceremony and wreath-laying on the anniversary of the dropping of the bomb.

shukkeien3

The Shukkeien Gardens (shrunken gardens) were said to be completed around 1620 and are probably the best manicured public gardens I have seen in Japan – and maybe anywhere else for that matter. Around the main pond there are quaint Japanese tea houses which offer visitors great views of the waterways. I walked here from Hiroshima Castle and it only took me 10 minutes, and both attractions are close to Hiroshima Station.

Hiroshima Castle
Hiroshima Castle in its restored form

Japan has some amazing castles, most of which are restored and now authentic, and Hiroshima Castle fits both of those descriptions: amazing and restored. It was of course obliterated by the atomic bomb but has since been rebuilt and now stands proudly surrounded by a moat. The castle is only a 10 minute walk from the beautiful Shukkeien Gardens and also contains a Shinto shrine and a museum chronicling its history, as well as the history of Hiroshima as a city. It was 360 Yen well spent.

It may not be easy to visit Hiroshima from other areas of Japan, and usually a trip here will involve doubling back on yourself and returning to Osaka, which can be time-consuming and not the best use of your JR Rail Pass on the Shinkansen. However, if you did make the effort to come to Hiroshima, you will surely leave enlightened and happy that you paid respect to those who perished.

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