The only place in Japan’s Setouchi region that will be familiar to most is Hiroshima, the city destroyed by the first atomic bomb in WW2. It’s a destination in its own right but makes a great base for exploring the Seto Inland Sea, containing more than 350 islands. You’ll find Shinto shrines, archetypal Japanese landscapes and delicious food and drink including the deadly Fugo fish.
Hiroshima is a five hour bullet train ride west of Tokyo and of course where the first atom bomb was dropped on 6th August 1945. It was almost completely flattened but since then it’s been entirely rebuilt. It’s an attractive vibrant city, but of course it’s hard to ignore its terrible history.
It’s dusk as I make my way down to the Motoyasu River to see the iconic Genbaku Dome, the shell of the Industrial Promotion Hall, preserved exactly as it was left after the blast. This area was the commercial and political heart of the city, so it was an obvious target for the American bombers. The Dome was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 and it’s hard not to feel moved by the tragedy.
I walk over to the opposite bank which has been dedicated as Peace Memorial Park. The msuem details the history of Hiroshima, particularly the dropping of the bomb and its aftermath. The main building deals with the events of August 6, through scientific explanation and there are rather grisly exhibits of items belonging to the victims. The east building tells the story of Hiroshima before and after the bombing and describes the city’s nuclear disarmament efforts.
The focal point of the Park is the Memorial Cenotaph, inscribed with over 220,000 names of those who lost their lives, with new names added every year. Nearby is the Peace Flame which will burn until all nuclear weapons are decommissioned. Every year there’s a memorial service on August 6th, when wreathes are laid at the Cenotaph. A moment’s silence is observed at 8:15 am, the precise moment of detonation, temple bells ring, sirens wail and white doves are released.