Memorial Cenotaph at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Peace Memorial Park

To the Peace Memorial Park

The U.S. dropped an nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945. Japan refused to respond to Allied communications, and the U.S. dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki three days later. Six days after that, on August 15, Japan finally surrendered.

Cryptanalysis and the Atomic Bombs The Allies were reading Japan's military and diplomatic communications. The country's leadership planned a suicidal defense of the Home Islands that they estimated would lead to 20 million Japanese deaths. And, they expected Japan's eventual defeat to be followed by a famine that would kill another 10 million. Japan's military leadership was just fine with that plan, as was the Emperor. A projected 30 million dead, to protect the Emperor.

The Allies knew all this through the decrypted military and Foreign Ministry traffic. But it was kept secret for about 50 years, to protect the cryptanalysis secrets.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were awful, and racism certainly made them much more acceptable to the Allies. But one overnight incendiary bombing raid on Tōkyō had killed almost as many people, with a higher percentage of civilian deaths, and destroyed a significantly larger area than both nuclear bombs combined. And, the Allies' planned invasion would have devastated the entire nation and people of Japan.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the Aioi Bridge.

I'm walking from where I stayed at the J-Hoppers hostel to the Peace Memorial Park. The city is built on a delta in the Ōta River. We're looking upstream. The bomb aiming point was where the Aioi Bridge crosses near the tip of the island on our right.

The main building is a museum and conference center.

Main building of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Japan was terrified that the Emperor would be tried for war crimes. The German leadership, at least those who hadn't committed suicide or fled to South America, had already been arrested and were scheduled to be tried.

The identify and existence of the nation of Japan was embodied in the Emperor. He was the direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu and her brother the storm god Susano-o. They had created the universe.

Amaterasu had given the Sacred Mirror, the Sacred Jewel, and the Sacred Sword, Japan's Imperial Regalia, to her grandson Ninigi. He then gave them to his great-grandson, Jimmu, who became the first Emperor of Japan.

Hall of Remembrance of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The current Emperor, Hirohito, like all Emperors before and after him, was believed to be an Akitsumikami, a deity in human form.

If the Allies executed him, it would bring about the end of Japan, and with it, the Universe.

So, within a month of the Hiroshima bombing, Japan was pushing the narrative that the nuclear bombings were war crimes, atrocities, to trade those against the many war crimes of which Japan had been accused.

To keep their cryptanalytic successes secret, the Allies went along with Japan's claims that the bombings had been unnecessary.

Hall of Remembrance of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Memorial Cenotaph, Peace Pond, and Peace Flame

The Memorial Cenotaph provides a view down the Pond of Peace, over the Peace Flame, to the A-Bomb Dome.

The cenotaph holds the names of all the people killed by the bomb. It was the first memorial built here, in 1952. The epitaph says "Please rest in peace for [we/they] shall not repeat the error."

Memorial Cenotaph of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The subject is omitted, as polite Japanese speech usually requires lexical ambiguity. This was intended to memorialize the victims without politicizing the memorial. A plaque in English uses the word "we", explaining that the intent is to refer to all humanity, not just the Japanese or the Americans, and "the error" refers to the evil of war.

Right-wing groups in Japan have interpreted the epitaph as an admission of guilt by Japan, and they have vandalized the cenotaph.

Pond of Peace at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The Peace Flame was added in 1964. Its intent is to remain lit until all nuclear warheads have been destroyed.

Peace Flame at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Children's Peace Monument

The Children's Peace Monument commemorates the young victims. There were 8,387 students in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing who had been mobilized into military support operations, doing factory work, sewing, or working in food production. 6,907 of them were killed in the bombing.

Children's Peace Monument at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Memorial Mound

The Memorial Mound contains ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims.

Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

It's a form of a stupa, a Buddhist memorial.

Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Cenotaph for Korean Victims

In 1939 the Japanese government introduced its National Mobilization Law and began conscripting Koreans to make up for the labor shortages due to the war.

5,400,000 Korean citizens were forced to work for Japan, and about 670,000 were taken to Japan and forced to work in factories and in mines. About 60,000 are estimated to have died in Japan between 1939 and 1945. At least 45,000 out of the 60,000 died in Hiroshima, but only 5,000 to 8,000 of those were killed in the nuclear bombing.

The Cenotaph for Korean Victims honors the Korean people killed in the bombing. After the war, 300,000 survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki returned to Korea. This marker reads "Souls of the dead ride to heaven on the backs of turtles."

Memorial to the Korean victims at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Memorial to the Korean victims at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Memorial to the Korean victims at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Hypocenter and the Atomic Bomb Dome

The Aioi Bridge was the bombing target. It had a distinctive T shape, spanning the river right above where it split around this island. That would make it easier to spot.

Aioi Bridge and the Atomic Bomb Dome.

A cross wind drifted the bomb about 240 meters to the south-east. The hypocenter, the point directly below the explosion, was just out of this picture to the right.

Aioi Bridge and the Atomic Bomb Dome.

This ruined domed building was only about 150 meters from the hypocenter. With the bomb exploding at an altitude of about 600 meters, the blast on this building was close to straight down. Its roofs and interior were destroyed, but its walls stood.

Aioi Bridge and the Atomic Bomb Dome.

This was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall. It was built in 1915.

Aioi Bridge and the Atomic Bomb Dome.

This was the only thing left standing near the hypocenter. In 1966 the Hiroshima City Council decided to indefinitely preserve the structure.

The Atomic Bomb Dome.
The Atomic Bomb Dome.

Preservation work has kept it standing. Supports are added inside the structure, to preserve its appearance.

The Atomic Bomb Dome.

The government of Japan funded a large public relations effort to portray the bombings as U.S. atrocities, spending heavily through the 1980s.

It was successful. Many foreign visitors come to Hiroshima just to visit the Peace Memorial Park.

The Atomic Bomb Dome.
The Atomic Bomb Dome.

I found that the analogous peace memorial park in Nagasaki provides a much more historically accurate and balanced experience. But not nearly as many foreign visitors make it all the way down to the southwest end of the four largest Home Islands.

The above is specific to Hiroshima. Or maybe you want to explore other places in Japan.

International Travel Recommendations