At 8:15 a.m. on August 6th, 1945, Hiroshima was engulfed by the world’s first nuclear bombing. Six-hundred meters above the city, a 280 meter miniature sun burned with a core temperature of over a million degrees Celsius, raining down radiation, heat, and a shock wave that was so powerful that it leveled buildings within two kilometers of the hypocenter. The damage was catastrophic. Between the blast itself and the radiation that followed, over 140,000 lives were lost. Hiroshima has since been rebuilt and a Peace Museum stands within sight of the hypocenter. The museum tells the story of Hiroshima before, during, and after the A-bomb was dropped, as well as educating visitors of the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effects, all the while standing as a memorial for the victims of this horrifying event.
Today, we visited the museum after walking around the memorial park, which covers a large area near the hypocenter of the explosion. One of the first things we saw was the A-bomb Dome, the closest surviving building to the hypocenter. It has been preserved and made into one of the many memorial sights within the park. Much of the building was destroyed but some of the walls and part of the dome itself still survives today.
The A-bomb Dome.
Walking around the park, we also saw the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students. It was built for the 10,000 youths who gave up their schooling to perform labor services and were killed throughout WWII. 6,000 of these students were killed by the atom bomb alone.
Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students. The Goddess of Peace and eight doves adorn this memorial.
Walking towards the museum itself, we came across the Cenotaph for the A-bomb victims. Between the A-bomb Dome and the Cenotaph burns the Flame of Peace. All three of these memorials are directly in line with the museum. The Cenotaph holds a registry of all the victims of the bomb, regardless of nationality. On it, words are carved that say, “Let All the Souls Here Rest in Peace; For We Shall Not Repeat the Evil.” Many travel from all over the world to pray here and say these words, joining in on the promise to never let this happen again.
A woman prays in front of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims.
We entered the museum and began our long silent walk through the exhibits, stopping at each one to read them, watch them, or listen. The museum is comprised of two buildings, the main building and the east building, which has three floors. When we began, we were in the 1st floor of the east building which has an overview of the event which includes Hiroshima before the bomb, the development of the Atom-bomb, and the drop. All of this is done with film, photos, documents, models, and some artifacts including a watch stopped at 8:15, the time of the bombing. I had learned about Hiroshima in school before, but this visit really put it all into perspective. The very first video played upon entering brought a tear to my eye as it explained the need to destroy nuclear weapons so that this kind of catastrophe against humanity could never be repeated.
The first floor ended with the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. In the center of the room were two models, one showed the hypocenter and the area around it before the bomb fell, and the other was an exact duplicate which showed the after effects. I learned that the target of the bomb was the T-shaped Aioi bridge, a bridge I had walked earlier that day.
A watch that stopped when the bomb dropped.
Before and after models of Hiroshima from when the bomb was dropped.
Moving up to the second floor, we found more photos and models, but this time they were focused on Hiroshima after the bomb and the victims’ suffering from burns and all the side-effects of the radiation. The problems of housing, medical treatment, and black markets also were brought up here. The bomb was only the start of the damage. But the citizens of Hiroshima remained strong. This part of the museum then goes into the rebuilding of Hiroshima and the change that turned the city into a symbol of peace.
The third floor goes on to talk about the current state of the nuclear age, which includes the hydrogen bomb, which is exponentially more powerful than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. After seeing the effects of the bomb here, I get sick thinking of what else has been made since then, all in the name of war. In 1961, a hydrogen bomb was tested by the Soviets and was said to be 3,100 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The citizens of Hiroshima know that humans cannot survive alongside nuclear weapons and now share their declaration of peace with the world. The third floor of the museum also shares the story of the Mayors of Peace, a group started in 1982 by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to begin a worldwide peace movement. Their major mission is to abolish the use of nuclear weapons and ultimately to physically destroy all nuclear weapons. The “2020 Vision” plan is to have this done by the year 2020. They also have two petitions in order, one of which is for elected officials, and the other is for citizens like you and I called the “CANT” project. CANT stands for “Cities are Not Targets” and demands for nuclear states to make assurances that they will not target cities with their weapons. You can sign the CANT petition by going to this website:
The Mayors of Peace also run exhibitions within the United States to make its citizens aware of the current nuclear state as well as the need for immediate nuclear disarmament around the world. If you can go to one of these exhibitions, I highly highly encourage you to do so. They contain a lot of information as well as stories from the survivors of Hiroshima that will really bring into perspective, just how real, and just how dangerous the threat of nuclear war is. Which brings us to the next topic brought up by the museum, nuclear winter. In a nutshell, if enough nuclear weapons are fired off and the direct damage of the blast doesn’t kill us, the effects on the world will. Radioactive dust and soot would cover the skies, blocking out the sun, kill most of the creatures of the world, and eventually lead to global starvation. We are not safe as long as these weapons exist.
The next part of the museum is the main building which consists of belongings of the victims of Hiroshima, and also gives us more details about what happened that day of August 6th, 1945. The rooms are full of burnt and torn clothing. Most were worn by the victims on the day the bomb dropped. There are also video recordings of statements made by survivors of the bombing sharing their stories. Numerous drawings line the walls depicting events as seen and drawn by the survivors. Due to the graphic nature of what was all shown in this part of the museum, I am only sharing one of these drawings on this blog, as I am trying to keep it pg. But I assure you, you will most likely walk out of this museum feeling queasy, crying, or both. At the end of the museum, there are signatures and messages from world leaders and other important persons sharing their opinions on how they felt about the museum. You may also share your comments and thoughts in notebooks as well as leave your signature.
A survivor’s drawing of the devastation of the bomb.
Young students on a field trip to the museum.
This visit was a real eye-opener for me. I plan on doing my part in paving the road for world peace and I hope you will follow. Even the small steps count. I encourage you to find one of the exhibitions brought to you by the Mayors of Peace, or if you find yourself in Japan, visit this museum or even the one in Nagasaki. If you want to help the Mayors of Peace in their mission to save the world, then please visit their website to learn more and maybe even sign the CANT petition if you’d like. The information I’ve shared with you today is only a brief overview of what is to be said on the matter and also what is to be learned. We as inhabitants of the Earth, must work together to unite ourselves in world peace so that we may learn from our differences and enjoy each others’ cultures. Thank you for reading.
The A-bomb Dome seen through the Cenotaph.