Western Honshū’s largest city needs little introduction. Since August 6, 1945, HIROSHIMA (広島) has become a byword for the devastating effects of the atomic bomb, and for this reason alone millions visit the city every year to pay their respects at the Peace Park and museum. But more than either of these formal monuments, the reconstructed city – bigger, brighter and more vibrant than ever – is an eloquent testimony to the power of life over destruction. Where once there was nothing but ashes as far as the eye could see, there now stands a modern city that still retains an old-world feel with its trundling trams and sunny disposition.
Poised on the coast at the western end of the Inland Sea, Hiroshima is also the jumping-off point for several islands, including Miyajima, home of the beautiful shrine Itsukushima-jinja. The view out to the red torii gate standing in the shallows in front of the shrine is rightly one of Japan’s most celebrated, and although the island is often swamped by day-trippers it’s a delightful place to spend the night.
Many of Hiroshima’s top attractions – the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, the A-bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Museum of Art – are all within walking distance of the Genbaku Dōmu-mae tram stop. Hiroshima-jō, Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art and Shukkei-en lie north of the Hondōri Arcade and Shintenchi district, where there is a high concentration of hotels, restaurants and bars. The Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, the most far-flung point of interest, is best explored on foot from the station or by public transportation.Read More
I saw, or rather felt, an enormous bluish white flash of light, as when a photographer lights a dish of magnesium. Off to my right, the sky split open over the city of Hiroshima.
-Ogura Toyofumi, Letters from the End of the World
As of March 2009 there were 235,000 hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) in Japan who, like Ogura, lived through the A-bomb, including some 73,000 still living in Hiroshima. Ogura’s poignant account – a series of letters penned to his dead wife in the immediate aftermath of the war – stands alongside many others, including the videotaped testimonies of survivors, which can be viewed at the Peace Museum.
Through the museum it’s also possible to meet a hibakusha. To do this you need to make a request in writing to the Heiwa Bunka Centre (t 082/241-4004, w www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/hpcf), stating the dates you’d prefer and whether you’ll need an interpreter. You’ll be asked to cover their taxi costs. The World Friendship Centre also arranges meetings and occasionally hosts discussions with experts and visiting scholars.