On the morning of August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber named Enola Gay flew over Hiroshima. On board was one of the deadliest weapons ever produced by mankind: Little Boy. This nuclear bomb was discharged a little after 8 a.m. and detonated over Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m. The result: more than 80,000 people were killed and not much was left of the city.
Tourists go to Hiroshima to learn more about the background story and especially the question: why? And, of course, the Atomic Bomb Dome (see photo) is key to all the misery that was caused here. In this travel guide to Hiroshima, you’ll find out the answers to these questions and know exactly what you can see and do in this pleasant city in Japan…
Hiroshima or Nagasaki? Most tourists choose Hiroshima as the westernmost point and slowly return towards Kyoto and Tokyo. But if you have more time, do not skip Nagasaki. This city has much to offer, including an interesting walk along the sights of the atomic bomb. Read more about it in the article The Atomic Bomb Route, Nagasaki | 7 places that tell the story.
What would you like to know about Hiroshima, Japan?
- History Hiroshima- A journey back in time
- Sightseeing – 5 historical sites in Hiroshima
- Accommodation – Where to stay?
- Transport – How to get there?
History – A brief history of Hiroshima
The history of Hiroshima begins with the construction of a castle in the late sixteenth century on the present site of Hiroshima Castle. There is no village or settlement yet, at most an area called Gokamura consisting of a few houses and the castle. The name of Hiroshima soon came up and from the castle 9 surrounding provinces were governed.
In 1619, Asano Nagaakira (1586-1632) becomes the new leader of Hiroshima Castle. His family will rule this region for over 200 years. During those 200 years, things are quiet, little happens and there is good contact with the rulers in Edo (Tokyo).
Hiroshima really starts to play an important role around 1880 when the city decides to build Ujina Harbor. This harbor is a symbol of the progress Japan is experiencing at that time. Also, a railroad is built from the city of Kobe and a railroad line from the center of the city to the harbor is built. Reason for this is also to use it for military transportation, such as during the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894. During this war, the Japanese government and the emperor stayed in Hiroshima Castle for a short period of time. It was also this city where representatives of both countries met for solutions.
In 1915, a trade center was established to be called the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Later we will know it as the Atomic Bomb Dome (see photo at top). During World War I, Japan decides to help the Allies defeat the Germans. Hiroshima becomes an important military center.
Because Hiroshima had a strategically important position, this led to the decision to drop an atomic bomb on the city. The Americans did not want to use soldiers, as this cost many lives at the battle of Okinawa. On August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a nuclear bomb detonated over the city. 80,000 people were killed instantly. Except for a few ruins, the city was one big empty plain.
Hiroshima was declared a City of Peace by the Japanese government in 1949. The Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall became the symbol of the city. We now know it mainly by the name Atomic Bomb Dome. The reconstruction of the city was successful. In 1955 the Peace Memorial Museum opened its doors and by the end of the 1950s Hiroshima was rebuilt. As if nothing had ever happened….
On May 27, 2016, Barack Obama was the first American president to visit Hiroshima. He folded 2 cranes that you can see in the Atomic Bomb Museum. But what is actually the story of the crane?
The story of Sadako Sasaki: 1000 cranes for world peace
Young, athletic and a bright future lay ahead of her. Sadako Sasaki was 2 years old when she lived 1.5 kilometers from the epicenter and survived the atomic bomb. Until, at the age of 11, she became unwell while running. The doctors diagnosed leukemia.
Whoever makes 1,000 cranes gets to make a wish, according to a Japanese legend. In the hospital, Sadako set to work. She had the fervent wish to compete in running races again someday. And she prayed for world peace. But alas! Sadako Sasaki died at the age of 12 on October 25, 1955 from the effects of leukemia caused by radiation from the atomic bomb.
Sightseeing – 5 historical sites in Hiroshima
To see Hiroshima properly you need at least one whole day to inform yourself extensively about the misery caused by the atomic bomb. But also the surroundings are quite interesting to visit. Below are a number of interesting places in and around this fascinating city.
1. Genbaku Dome: Atomic Bomb Dome
How miraculous is it that in 1945 the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall had remained partially intact? Fairly unique indeed, but it is symbolic of the explosion that took place on that particular August 6. The name Atomic Bomb Dome is derived from the shape of the building. After all, doesn’t it look a bit like a bomb?
History: In 1939, the scientist Albert Einstein warned the U.S. government that Germany was making an “all-destructive” bomb. US President Roosevelt therefore decided to speed up the Manhattan Project, the development of the atomic bomb. Einstein advocated only threatening the weapon, but not ever actually using it
2. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
It is one of the most impressive museums in Japan, the Peace Memorial Museum. It opened in 1955 and has a number of striking objects in its collection, including a charred tricycle. A visit to the museum will leave you with the immediate conclusion that such a bomb will never have to be used again. The museum is open every day from 08.30 to 18.00.
History: The BBC makes very nice documentaries when it comes to historical events. So also about the moment when the bomb was actually dropped from the plane. An impression of this event (4 minutes) -> BBC – Hiroshima: Dropping the Bomb
3. Peace Memorial Park
The Peace Memorial Park is as impressive as the previous two places. Among other things, this park contains a Memorial Hall, a memorial to the Korean victims and a monument of a girl with a crane. This is a reference to Sadako Sasaki, the girl who got leukemia and died at the age of 12….
4. Explore the historic island of Miyajima
A few kilometers southwest of Hiroshima is the small island of Miyajima. It is a beautiful place with a number of ancient temples. For example, there is a temple complex dating back to 1168. And in the water there is also an important torii. At low tide it is even possible to take a walk to this torii. Finally, a walk (45 minutes) to the top of Mount Misen should not be missed. From here you have a beautiful view over Hiroshima and the surrounding islands.
5. Visit the Castle of Hiroshima
North of the Peace Memorial Park is the Hiroshima Castle. It is, of course, a replica (1958) of what it looked like before the atomic bomb exploded. Construction of the castle began around 1600 and for centuries this was the heart of the city. During World War II, Japan used it as a military depot. After the reconstruction of the new castle, it became a museum of the city’s history before World War II.
Accommodation – Where to stay in Hiroshima?
Hiroshima is a city of about 1 million people. Compared to Tokyo, Hiroshima is a fairly quiet city with, of course, a lot of tourists. And also very many good options for cheap accommodation and in the more expensive segment. Generally, most people stay near Hiroshima Station or near the Peace Memorial Park.
Tip Hostel: Santiago Guesthouse (budget) is within walking distance of the Peace Memorial Park and the Atomic Bomb Dome. Friendly staff, a cozy common living room, good bedrooms and a roof terrace. A bunk bed is available from 20 euros per person.
Transportation – How to get to Hiroshima?
By Air: Hiroshima has an airport, but it is located 50 kilometers east of the city. Flights to China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore also depart from Hiroshima Airport.
Train: The best way to reach Hiroshima is via the Shinkansen. Hiroshima Station is located just northeast of the city center. The Sightseeing Loop bus takes you from the train station easily into the center and to the main attractions. For people with a JR pass, this bus can be used for free.
Bus: The Hiroshima Bus Center is the city’s bus station. Here you will find mainly the long distance buses to all corners of Japan. This bus station is located 200 meters east of the Atomic Bomb Dome.
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