Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

One of the top sites to see in Hiroshima is the Peace Memorial Museum. As an American, it was a very interesting experience.

First, the logistics. It’s open most days from 8:30 am until 6:00 pm, which is somewhat surprising since most places in Japan don’t open until at least 10 am. There are audio guides for rental at ¥300, but I passed since I read earlier that most explanations were in English as well. What surprised me though is the extremely cheap admission: ¥50 or 50 cents! I don’t think I’ve ever been in a museum that was this cheap that wasn’t free. I suppose they don’t want to turn anyone away for paying too much.

IMG_0534

The museum is separated into two buildings and the first room you enter describes the events leading up until the bombing. There are displays along the perimeter describing Hiroshima’s history, from the early 1600s leading up until World War II. The room being dimly lit seemed to add to the somber mood.

IMG_0575

From my education growing up, the descriptions didn’t seem to be skewed towards Japan or anti-American. The reasons given for why the United States dropped the bomb was to cause a quick end to the war. With a topic that could very easily be subtly described in one country’s favor, the Hiroshima Peace Museum was pretty neutral and didn’t place excessive blame on the United States.

IMG_0555

There were also some artifacts in small display cases, including a watch that stopped right when the bomb detonated. Pretty incredible to look at.

IMG_0564

Another display showed the difference of Hiroshima before and after the explosion. Virtually all the buildings within one mile were destroyed. The only ones that survived were heavily reinforced concrete buildings, mainly to guard against earthquake shocks.

IMG_0550

IMG_0552

The target for dropping the bomb was a T-shaped bridge at the connection of two rivers – used because it was very easy to identify from high altitudes. The actual bomb exploded 800 feet to the south-east due to crosswinds.

AtomicEffects-p7b

The museum is located 1/3 of a mile south of the bridge so I got the chance to walk across it a few times while in Hiroshima.

Hiroshima - Google Maps

This before-and-after highlights the A-Bomb dome, the remains of which are still standing almost 70 years later. Prior to 1945 it was used primarily for art and educational exhibitions.

IMG_0548

IMG_0547

Another prominent feature of the museum is the letters from the mayor of Hiroshima. For every nuclear test that is carried out in the world, the mayor sends a letter of protest and displays a copy in the museum. Each time a protest letter is sent, the mayor hopes it will be the last.

IMG_0577

Center-left: copies of the letters

IMG_0568

Continuing on to the second building shows more artifacts from the atomic bombing.

These were really powerful because you could touch them

These were really powerful since you could touch them

The radiation caused a 'reverse shadow'. Places that were covered during the explosion appear darker than exposed areas. On the steps is the outline of a man who was sitting.

The radiation caused a ‘reverse shadow‘. Places that were covered during the explosion appear darker than exposed areas. The outline of a man sitting down was recorded on these steps.

Finally, there were paper cranes folded from Sadako Sasaki – a Japanese girl who was diagnosed with Leukemia due to the bombing and set out to fold 1000 paper cranes for good luck. She died at the age of 12.

IMG_0605

A museum volunteer saw me reading her story and approached me with some origami paper. With basic English, he taught me how to fold a paper crane. It remains one of my best travel experiences from Japan. I still have the crane and it will go into my box of prized possessions.

IMG_0602

The museum was very well done. It’s strongly conveys a message of peace and eliminating nuclear weapons rather than placing blame. It was a little strange at first, but I didn’t feel unwelcome at all for being an American. The museum and surrounding memorial park is the main reason people visit Hiroshima and for good reason – it was incredible.