Hiroshima is the first place in the world with a civilian population where an atomic bomb was dropped and one of only two (the other being Nagasaki) places in the world where this has ever happened. The bomb, dropped by the Americans during World War II, killed somewhere between 90,000 and 200,000 in Hiroshima alone, about 70,000 of which died at the moment of impact and tens of thousands more died in the following months and years (thus the varying number, as it can be hard to pinpoint exactly who died as a result of the bomb) due to horrific injuries and the effects of radiation. The city has largely recovered since then, but there are still monuments and tributes to this vital event in global history, so Hiroshima makes an excellent tourist destination if you’re headed to Japan.

Hiroshima is about a 4 to 5 hours’ journey west of Tokyo (depending on whether or not you take the bullet train). Once you arrive in Hiroshima, you may want to head to Peace Memorial Park and the Genbaku Dome-Mae (A-Bomb Dome), which is just 15 minutes south of the JR station by trolley. This Genbaku Dome, which was built in 1915, was one of the last remaining buildings to survive the bombing—almost everything else you see was built after the war.

The Genbaku Dome remains largely as it was left after the bombing, with minor construction done occasionally to keep the dome from falling down. It is a World Heritage Site that is supposed to be preserved indefinitely.

Around the dome is the Peace Memorial Park, where you can see memorials dedicated to the victims and to the ideal of world peace. The entire park is about a mile in length and at the opposite end of the Genbaku Dome is the Peace Memorial Museum, where you can see artifacts, photographs and interviews of the attack and its victims. It can be a disturbing but educational experience.

Besides memorials to the attack, Hiroshima has a number of other sites of interest, including the Hiroshima Castle, which was actually destroyed during the bombing but was rebuilt to be virtually identical to the original 1589 castle during the reconstruction efforts. Not only is the castle visually stunning, but you can find a museum dedicated to the history of the city within.

Have you ever been to Hiroshima? What were some of your favorite stops? If you visit Japan, would you like to visit one of the sites of the atomic bombings? Why or why not?

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Tags: hiroshima, japan, japanese culture, japanese history, japanese places, nuclear bomb, politics, usa