There wasn’t all that much on my must-see list in Hiroshima, but what there was meant a lot: the Peace Park and Peace Museum. I also wanted to see Hiroshima Castle, but it’s a simple fact that all pales beside the remembrances of the dropping of the A-bomb on this city.
The park is an easy walk from our hotel, the Japanese business hotel Daiwa Roynet Hiroshima which is part of the Daiwa Roynet chain. It was super-conveniently located to the #1 tram from the train station (a 1-minute walk from the nearest stop), and an easy walk to the Peace Park. It was also just what I had I mind to complement our other Japanese lodgings: We’d done an upscale American chain, a Japanese apartment…now it was time for a typical Japanese hotel.
The Daiwa Roynet Hiroshima did not disappoint: Our welcome could not have been friendlier, although English was minimal. Since the skies had opened up yet again just as we arrived, we were offered two small towels at check-in in addition to those in the room; very handy for drying off ourselves and our luggage. We were also give our choice from a box of amenities including bath salts, a body sponge and various hair bands and clips for women. More amenities awaited–of course–in the room: toothbrush and toothpaste, foldable brushes, pressed night shirts that reach demurely to mid-shins on me, but are much more interesting on David’s 6’3″ frame. Our room is a compact, but well-equipped double-bed space with a fridge and Japanese satellite t.v. (I’m despondent that the sumo tournament has just come to an end! I love following sumo when in Japan and had been watching avidly in Kyoto.)
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum spans the entrance to the Hiroshima Peace Park. It’s a simple, but deeply moving memorial to what the dropping of a nuclear weapon means in human terms. [The museum is 200 yen/adult (appx. $2). The park is free.] Viewing clothing and other personal effects of the victims, along with twisted metal girders and roof tiles; fused glass; preserved biological specimens of scarred tissue, hair and even the finger skin and fingernail of a boy saved by his mother to show his father who had been away; and photo after photo of destruction and horribly burned human bodies left me feeling sick to my stomach. As it should.
When you buy your ticket to the museum, you’re given post cards made from recycled paper cranes that people gift to the museum. You can buy stamps at the museum shop and you’re encouraged to write and share your thoughts after visiting the museum.
Outside the museum, we wandered the park with its many memorials: to children, to Koreans pressed into service by the Japanese, to the tens and tens of thousands of victims. There’s the mound where bodies were cremated as they began to stink in that hot August, and the peace bell, and the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, popularly known as the A-Bomb Dome which was 600m below and 170m to the southeast of the detonation. Everyone inside died and the building is preserved just as it was immediately after the explosion.
Chains of origami cranes at the Childrens’ Memorial
There’s also a Memorial Hall to the dead on the park grounds. Entry is free and there are videos and photos to memorialize the dead. Fountains grace the inside and downstairs of the Hall because so many of the vicims plead for water before they died. Much of the park is intended to offer peace and rest to the souls of the dead.
After the Peace Park, we made our way to Hiroshima Castle. Destroyed in by the A-Bomb, of course, the medieval castle has been charmingly restored and was a fun break from the somberness of the morning. The long defensive building outside the inner moat is free to explore and offers models of the castle as well as photos depicting how a Japanese castle is built. It’s 360 yen to enter the castle itself, but the exhibits of samurai swords, videos, the tower view, and the opportunity to try on samurai armor are all fun and well worth it.