Thursday morning, we checked out of our hotel and got ready to catch the shinkansen for Hiroshima. Once again, with lots of help from the information desk and random strangers, we were able to purchase reserve tickets and make our way to the train platform. Here Jennifer gives Mom a call while we wait for the train. Usually, all public phones in Japan are bright green, gray or pink. Only the green phones seemed to work for us to call overseas using a couple of international phone cards we purchased to save money.

When we arrived in Hiroshima, we discovered we had a major problem. After checking with the information desk, we found that our hotel was outside town and, in fact, would require several transfers including taking a ferry to an island. And even then, our hotel was on the far side of the island. It was clear that we would never be able to make it to the hotel, check in, drop off our luggage and then return to Hiroshima to see the Peace Park. By this time, we had two backpacks, two overnight bags, the big box that we were planning to mail and those darn flag staffs in a mailing tube. It was definitely the low point of our entire trip. We sat down amid all our stuff in the train station waiting room to figure out what to do. I had actually decided to give up on the Peace Park and just head for the hotel, but Jennifer rallied and said we just had to come up with a way to make this work. There was no way we could come all this way and not visit Hiroshima. Then the inspiration came. I checked with the information desk and it turns out that you are allowed to use the lockers at the station for three days. 600 yen a day and it was the best 1200 yen I spent the whole trip. We were able to pack everything in the locker except for, you guessed it, those Mt Fuji flagstaffs. So I stuffed them behind the lockers up against the wall. By this time, if they disappeared before we returned, I wouldn't mourn their passing. Now down to just one overnight bag each, we were ready for our first stop.

On August 6th, 1945, the world's first atomic bomb exploded about 580 meters (almost 2000 feet) above Hiroshima. The effects were devastating and far reaching. The hypocenter of the explosion is marked by the red dot.

Our bus stopped at the top-center of the map. From there we visited the Atomic Bomb Dome, walked across the Motoyasu Bridge and made our way down to the Peace Memorial Museum.

The mouse over picture was the first thing we saw upon leaving the bus; a shrine covered with messages, gifts and paper cranes.


Originally built in 1915, this building, now called the Atomic Bomb Dome, was left in its devastated condition as a stark reminder of the destruction of nuclear weaponry.

As an American visiting Hiroshima, I was filled with mixed emotions. It was heartening to see that there was no condemnation of America or the actions taken. Rather, this park is dedicated to peace and the avoidance of any future  nuclear wars.

There is an ancient Origami legend in Japan that says that folding 1000 paper cranes (senbazuru) will so please the gods that they will grant that person  a wish. 

Sadako Sasaki was only 2 at the time of the bombing. 10 years later, she was dying from leukemia. She started folding paper cranes in the hope that if she completed 1000 of them, she would be cured. 

She died with only about two-thirds of the cranes completed. In tribute, her classmates folded the rest and the Children's Monument was raised to her memory in the Peace Park.

The center of the monument is a young girl at the top of a dome holding a paper crane.

Since that time, children from all over Japan have brought paper cranes to be offered in the name of peace. It was our good fortune that we arrived at the beginning of one such presentation.

In the picture above, three of the children stood at the front of their class and said a few words each for the dedication. One young girl stood off the the side holding the bundle of paper cranes that her class had folded.

Surrounding the monument were a dozen enclosures designed to hold and safeguard the paper cranes offered by the children.

This is a close-up of one of the enclosures. The cranes are strung together so that they can be hung on hooks from the ceiling. After the children made their prayer offering, their bundle was added to the enclosure above that has the little sign and stepstool.

After our stop at the Children's Monument, we continued on our way to the museum. Here you can see first the Flame of Peace, shaped as hands with the palms held upwards. This is not really an eternal flame, but rather, it will burn until there are no more nuclear weapons in existence. Past the Flame, you can see the Memorial Cenotaph and in the far distance, the museum itself.

This is the Memorial Cenotaph which contains a register of all who have died as a result of exposure to the atomic bomb. It now lists more than 180,000 people. School children gather in front to burn incense and offer prayers. To the side is a plaque in both English and Japanese with a  pledge for peace.

After viewing the Cenotaph, we entered the Memorial Museum itself for the final part of our tour.

We came up from the stairs on the left and then into the exhibit. This part of the exhibit used models, films and photos to describe Hiroshima before the bombing and the resulting ruins immediately after. As was common with such exhibits, photography was forbidden. However, you can visit the official Peace Memorial web site for a virtual tour.

From the first floor, we continued through the 2nd floor and up to the third. The model of the A-bomb Dome extended up through the center of all three floors. Here, the displays are dedicated to the current status of the nuclear age and the Hiroshima peace efforts.

On to the west building, we saw actual artifacts and displays meant to depict events and conditions of Hiroshima following the blast. Following the purple line, we went through the lobby. There Jennifer stood in line with the students in order to ink stamp a sheet of paper to mark our visit. It was a sobering experience and not one that I'm likely to soon forget.