Peace Memorial Park 広島平和記念公園
Genbaku Dome since the Ota River.
Cranes Park Peace Memorial.
The memorial in Hiroshima Peace Park
Lanterns August 6 before the dome Genbaku.
Genbaku Dome in Hiroshima.
Monument to the child victims of the bomb.
Ganbarimasu! We will persist!
Although the symbol of a national tragedy, the Peace Memorial Park doesn't invite sadness but rather encourages us to look to a brighter future.
The Japanese aren't the type to dwell on disasters, but rather to recover immediately, heads high. On the 6th of August, 1945, Hiroshima was changed forever. Yet rather than an end, the bombing instead triggered a new era. Suddenly and dramatically presented with destruction, the city adopted a new philosophy of pacifism.
A committed city
Certainly a place of memories, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is first and foremost a place of peace. The infamous atomic dome structure is strangely reminiscent of playground equipment for youngsters. Its pastel pink color fits surprisingly with the shades of green lawns and surrounding trees, sometimes with crows perching on top of it.
So we never forget the resilience of the human spirit, the dome remains unchanged, located at the northeast end of the park across the Motoyasu River. In 1996, Unesco named the genbaku dome a World Heritage Site, and other than a few additions for structural integrity it remains unchanged, in the same condition as after that fateful day in August, 1945. The dome was a former industrial exhibition hall for Hiroshima Prefecture, and a reflection of the flourishing activity in the region. It was the only building to survive the huge explosion.
Today, passing travelers of all races and backgrounds gather in front of the ruins, closed off by gates, to pray for the more than one hundred and forty thousand casualties of the bombing. It is indeed difficult to suppress feelings of sadness. Multiple bottles of water are placed on the ground in offering to the thousands of severely injured people who wandered the streets of the city a few hours after the explosion, unable to drink because of the "black rain" or ash that constantly fell.
Symbols of peace
Yet sadness does not prevail in the park. As long as the sky is blue, there's nothing to disturb the tranquility of open grasses where families and couples stop to enjoy the park. Across the park from the dome stands a cenotaph memorial, or empty grave, with the names of the victims.
Sheltered by an arch that takes symbolism from Shinto to protect the souls of the dead, it aligns with the flame of peace, burning since 1964, when it was first turned on. The inscription "Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil" appears on the monument, calling on all humanity to never forget the horrors of Hiroshima so this evil will not be repeated. The poignant perspective of these three strong symbols of the disaster finishes with the Peace Memorial Museum, where the alignment of the ark, flame, and dome come together.
Northeast of the cenotaph, the memorial of the victims lists all the missing people in the weeks and months after August 6th. Just south of the memorial lie the "Phoenix Trees". These trees, transplanted from different places around the city, were the only surviving plant life and still bear traces of burns.
In the center of the park, between the bridges of the Honkawa and Motoyasu River, not far from the memorial tower to the mobilized students, is a memorial dedicated to children. Probably the most moving place in the park, this monument honors the hundreds of young people taken from us too early. The story of Sadako Sasaki (1943-1955) and her perseverance and hope resonates with this monument. This little girl, a survivor of the disaster, lived until 1955 when leukemia took her life.
According to Japanese legend, anyone who makes a thousand origami cranes can get their wish granted; it was in this hope that Sadako began to tirelessly fold sheets of colored paper. Unfortunately, she died before completing the task, having crafted six hundred and forty-four cranes. Hundreds of other children were inspired, and origami cranes became a peace symbol at the monument which at the top features a little girl, overlooking a bronze bell.
Whether through small daily tributes left at each memorial, or at large gatherings, such as the Remembrance ceremony, visitors to this memorial park humbly show their respect for the victims and their hope for the future prevention of such a tragedy. With compassion, these atrocities can be opposed by people, and now a whole city.