Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is situated in the city of Hiroshima, which happens to be the largest Island in Japan. The city is popularly known as the first city to be targeted by a nuclear weapon when USA dropped an atomic bomb on it during the end of World War 2. The park was built on an open field, which was created by the explosion in the center of Hiroshima, Japan. The Park is dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima’s horrific past of being bombed. Every year, a million visitors get attracted to the park that houses a number of museums, monuments, lecture halls and memorials. Apart from memorializing the victims and the memory of the horrific blasts, the park is also dedicated to advocate the abolishing of nuclear weapons and spreading world peace.
The notable features of the Park include:
- The Bomb Dome– also called Genbaku (atomic bomb) Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial, is a part of the park and has been enjoying the UNESCO World Heritage Site status since 1996. The ruins serve as a token of memory to the thousands that were killed in atomic bombing on 6th of August 1945. Over, 70,000 lives were taken instantly, while another 70,000 suffered fatal injuries. Even now, there is no growth of plants or even grass on the parts where the bomb had exploded. The building is the product of the imagination of Jan Letzel , who is a Czech architect. The construction work ended in 1915 and the building was christened Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition hall. It opened its arms to the public in the same year in August. Since, it was nestled in the largest business district next to Aioi Bridge; it was a primary home for art and educational exhibitions. The name of the memorial was changed twice, in 1921 it was changed to Hiroshima Prefectural Products Exhibition hall and in 1933 it was changed to Hiroshima Prefectural Promotional hall.
When the nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the building now called Genbaku Dome, was the only structure standing near the bomb’s hypocenter. Since, a major part of the building was still intact, the idea of demolishing the dome, just like all the other damaged buildings, was dropped. The existence of the dome flared a controversy, one group of locals wanted the building to be torn down while the other group pleaded for its preservation as a memorial of the devastating nuclear attack and as a symbol of world peace. As an end result the skeletal remains of the building stood proud amidst the reconstruction work of Hiroshima. A resolution to permanently preserve the dome was adopted by the Hiroshima City Council in 1966.
- Children’s Peace Monument- the peace monument is a statue dedicated to the children who died as a result of the bombing. The statue is in the shape of a girl with outstretched arms, with a folded paper crane rising above her. The statue is based on a true story of a little girl, Sadako Sasaki, who believed that if she folded a thousand paper cranes, she could be cured, but unfortunately died of leukaemia which her mother referred to as the ’the bomb disease’. Till date, children from all over the world send folded paper cranes to Hiroshima , which are later placed near the statue.
- The Rest House- another bombed building in the park’s premises, the Hiroshima Rest House, was built as the Taishoya Kimono shop in 1929. The shop was later used as fuel distribution station when there was a shortage of fuel in 1944. When the bomb exploded the roof was crushed, the interior was destroyed and everything consumable was burned, except the basement.
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum- is the primary museum in the park, built with the motive of educating the visitors about the atomic bomb. The museum covers information relating to the build up to the war, the role played by Hiroshima in the war up to the bombing and extensive information and numerous pictures of the atomic bombing and its effects. The museum has the International Conference Centre Hiroshima to its west.
The monuments in the park include:
- The Memorial Cenotaph- the cenotaph is near the center of the park and it’s covered with a saddle shape building. The arch shaped the cenotaph built in 1952, represents the shelter for the souls of the victims. The Cenotaph consists of an inscription written in Japanese, which means “Please rest in peace, for we/they shall not repeat the error”.
- The Peace Flame- another monument in memory of the victims. The catching point of the flame is that it has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964 and will continue to burn until the whole world is embraced by peace.
- Peace Bells- the park consists of 3 peace bells. One is situated in the East building of the museum. The more prominent one hangs near the Children’s Peace Monument, visitors are encouraged to ring the bell for world peace. The bell carries an inscription, written in Sanskrit, Greek and Japanese, which means ‘ Know Yourself’, a quote by the famous Greek philosopher Socretes. The bell was donated to the park by the Greek Embassy.
- Gates of Peace- were added in 2005 and consists of ten gates with ‘Peace’ written in 49 languages from around the world. They represent 9 circles of hell, plus one: ‘The Living Hell of Hiroshima caused by atomic bombing’.
There are numerous other monuments situated in the park.
The two major festivals held at the park are-
- Hiroshima Flower Festival- the festival is celebrated from the 3rd of May to the 5th of May and includes multiple platforms for entertainment; there are several small little shops, also a small zoo and various other attractions. There are a lot of concerts, dance shows; fashion shows etc. that take place during the flower festival.
- Hiroshima Dreamination- is held during winters and is an electric light festival. The word ‘Dreamination’ is a product of the combination of two words, ‘Dream’ and ‘Illumination’. The festival began in the year 2002.
The ceremonies held in the park include-
- The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony- held on the 6th of August every year. During the ceremony 1 minute silence is observed to honor the victims and pray for peace.
- The Lantern Ceremony- on the same day as the peace memorial ceremony in the evening the Lantern Ceremony is held. The purpose of this ceremony is to send off spirits of the victims on lanterns with peace messages floating on the Motoyasu River.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a tribute to the victims of the atomic bombing, so do make a trip to the park and send a message to the souls of the unfortunate victims of war, it will make a difference for sure.