Reconstructed, modern downtown Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan, viewed from the bridge on the Motoyasu River leading from the ruins of Genbaku Dome (on the right) to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Hiroshima, a modern city on Japan’s Honshu Island, was largely destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II. Today, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park commemorates the detonation of the first atomic bomb in world history on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. In the center of Hiroshima, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima as the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack, and to the memories of the bomb’s direct and indirect victims. In the park are the ruins of Genbaku Dome, one of the few buildings that was left standing near ground zero and named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996; a Children’s Peace Monument; the Cenotaph; the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum; and the National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. [At the end of this blog is a summary of the history of the events during World War II that led up to the detonation of two atomic bombs in Japan on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, 1945, respectively.]
We spent a very sobering morning walking from the center of town to the Genbaku Dome and then the Children’s Peace Monument, the Cenotaph and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Most of our time was spent inside the Museum. The introductory exhibit presents images of Hiroshima before and after the detonation of the atomic bomb, setting the stage for the main building’s exhibition “Reality of the Atomic Bombing”. In the latter there are sections of the exhibition focused on understanding the devastation on August 6, 1945, the damage from radiation, “Cries of the soul” which tells personal stories (with artifacts and photographs) of victims and survivors of the bombing, and a section “To Live” that documents the hardships and suffering of survivors. The rest of the museum has exhibitions on “The Dangers of Nuclear Weapons” and “Hiroshima History”. We were extremely moved by the special temporary exhibition of quite a few of the several thousand drawings of recollections of August 6th and the days immediately following by survivors, many of whom found solace in creating the artwork, where they had been verbally silent for years about their experience. The work by the citizens and leaders of the city of Hiroshima and the staff of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in promoting nuclear disarmament and educating the world on the dangers of atomic bombs is commendable.
The ruins of Genbaku Dome, one of the few buildings that was left standing near ground zero of the August 6, 1945 atomic bomb detonation over Hiroshima, named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996; Honshu Island, Japan
“The building now known as the A-bomb dome was designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel. Completed in April 1915, the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall soon became a beloved Hiroshima landmark with its distinctive green dome. While its business functions included commercial research and consulting services and the display and sale of prefectural products, the hall was also used for art exhibitions, fairs, and cultural events. Through the years, it took on new functions and was renamed the Hiroshima Prefectural Products Exhibition Hall, then the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. As the war intensified, however, the hall was taken over by the Chugoku-Shikoku Public Works Office and the Interior Ministry, the Hiroshima District Lumber Control Corporation, and other government agencies.
“At 8:15 a.m., August 5, 1945, an American B29 bomber carried out the world’s first atomic bombing. The bomb exploded approximately 600 meters (1,969 feet) above and 160 meters (525 feet) southeast of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, ripping through and igniting the building, instantly killing everyone in it. Because the blast struck from almost above, some of the center walls remained standing, leaving enough of the building and iron frame to be recognized as a dome. After the war, these dramatic remains came to be known as the A-bomb dome.” – signage in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
The Children’s Peace Monument is the first memorial visitors see in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park after crossing the bridge from Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan
“Children’s Peace Monument – Sponsor: Hiroshima Children and Students Association for the Creation of Peace; Design: Kazuo Kikuchi, Professor, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. This monument stands in memory of all children who died as a result of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The monument was originally inspired by the death of Sadako Sasaki, who was exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb at the age of two. Ten years later Sadako developed leukemia that ultimately ended her life. Sadako’s untimely death compelled her classmates to begin to call for the construction of a monument for all children who died due to the atomic bomb. Built with contributions from more than 3,200 schools in Japan and donors in nine countries, the Children’s Peace Monument was unveiled on May 5, 1958. [There is a detailed photographic and textual account of her illness, death, and the inspiration her struggling gave to her fellow students to create the memorial in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum main building.]
“At the top of the nine-meter (20 feet) monument, a bronze statue of a young girl lifts a golden crane entrusted with dreams for a peaceful future. Figures of a boy and girl are located on the sides of the monument.
“The inscription on the stone block under the monument reads: ‘This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.’ On the surface of the bell hung inside the monument, the phrases ‘A thousand Paper Cranes’ and ‘Peace on the Earth and in the heavens’ are carved in the handwriting of Dr. Hideki Yukawa, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics. The bell and golden crane suspended inside the monument are replicas produced in 2003.” – The City of Hiroshima
Children’s artwork is displayed all around the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park;, Honshu Island, Japan
From the foreground: the memorial flame, the Cenotaph [an empty tomb or a monument erected in honor of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere], and the main building (long and horizontal) of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum; Honshu Island, Japan
The Cenotaph and reflecting pool in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park; Honshu Island, Japan
“‘No one else should ever suffer as we have.’ This heartrending message of hibakusha, forged in a cauldron of suffering and sorrow, transcends hatred and rejection. Its spirit is generosity and love for humanity; its focus is the future of humankind.
“As a response to the hibakusha’s appeal, the epitaph on the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims reads: ‘Let all the souls here rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil.’ These works express the spirit of Hiroshima – pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.” – The City of Hiroshima
The Cenotaph with the ruins of Genbaku Dome in the distance, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park; Honshu Island, Japan
“MEMORIAL MONUMENT FOR HIROSHIMA, CITY OF PEACE
(MEMORIAL CENOTAPH FOR THE A-BOMB VICTIMS)
Erected 6 August 1952
LET ALL THE SOULS HERE REST IN PEACE
FOR WE SHALL NOT REPEAT THE EVIL
“This monument embodies the hope that Hiroshima, devastated on 6 August 1945 by the world’s first atomic bombing, will stand forever as a city of peace. This stone chamber in the center contains the Register of Deceased A-bomb Victims. The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer for the peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima – enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.” – The City of Hiroshima
“No one else should ever suffer as we have” (the ruins of Genbaku Dome), Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Honshu Island, Japan
Background on the atomic bombing of Japan by the United States of America to end World War II in the Pacific:
“The United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively, with the consent of the United Kingdom, as required by the Quebec Agreement. The two bombings killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians, and remain the only use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.
“In the final year of the war, the Allies prepared for a very costly invasion of the Japanese mainland. This undertaking was preceded by a conventional and firebombing campaign which devastated 67 Japanese cities. The war in Europe had concluded when Germany signed its instrument of surrender on May 8, 1945, and the Allies turned their full attention to the Pacific theater. The Allies called for the unconditional surrender of the Imperial Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945, the alternative being “prompt and utter destruction”. Japan ignored the ultimatum and the war continued.
“By August 1945, the Allies’ Manhattan Project had produced two types of atomic bombs, and the 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) was equipped with the specialized Silverplate version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress that could deliver them from Tinian in the Mariana Islands. The Allies issued orders for atomic bombs to be used on four Japanese cities on July 25. On August 6, one of the modified B-29s dropped a uranium gun-type bomb (“Little Boy“) on Hiroshima. Another B-29 dropped a plutonium implosion bomb (“Fat Man“) on Nagasaki three days later. The bombs immediately devastated their targets. Over the next two to four months, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000 and 80,000 people in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. Large numbers of people continued to die for months afterward from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison.
“Japan surrendered to the Allies on August 15, six days after the Soviet Union‘s declaration of war and the bombing of Nagasaki. The Japanese government signed the instrument of surrender on September 2 in Tokyo Bay, which effectively ended World War II. Scholars have extensively studied the effects of the bombings on the social and political character of subsequent world history and popular culture, and there is still much debate concerning the ethical and legal justification for the bombings.” — Wikipedia
For the full Wikipedia article with considerable details, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki
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