Hiroshima City of Peace
PEACE MEMORIAL CEREMONY
Every year on the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, on 06 August, the City of Hiroshima holds the Peace Memorial Ceremony to console the victims of the WWII atomic bomb and pray for lasting world peace. The ceremony has been held since 1947, two years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The ceremony is held in front of the Memorial Cenotaph situated in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. At 8:15am, marking the exact moment when the atomic bomb was dropped, bells ring out at temples, sirens wail throughout Hiroshima City and the citizens of Hiroshima observe a solemn moment of silence in remembrance. The Mayor of Hiroshima delivers a Peace Declaration that is then sent to all countries around the world in the hope for the abolition of nuclear weapons and for everlasting world peace.
LANTERN FLOATING CEREMONY
On the evening of 06 August, Lantern Floating ceremonies take place on Hiroshima’s major rivers. The most popular Lantern Floating Ceremony takes place on the banks of the Motoyasu River in the Peace Memorial Park. Approximately 10,000 beautiful lanterns are lit and floated down Hiroshima’s rivers to remember those who lost their lives and to carry prayers and words of peace.
Everyone can take part by purchasing a lantern for ¥600 from one of the tents set up in the Peace Park. Write your message on the paper provided and then line up to be escorted to your position on the river in order to light and float your lantern. This may take quite a while as there is usually a long line of people wanting to float the lanterns. You can also leave your lantern with staff to float the lantern on the river for you. These lanterns are collected and are floated from a boat on the river. The Lantern Floating event starts at 6pm and finishes at 9pm. Access is via streetcar or bus from JR Hiroshima Station to the A-Bomb Dome Station.
HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL MUSEUM
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is situated in Hiroshima Peace Park. The atomic bomb that was dropped over Hiroshima from an American B-29 bomber was named “Little Boy”. The original explosion obliterated everything within 10kms of the drop zone and immediately killed approximately 80,000 people. Radiation poisoning eventually killed a further 192,000 people. The museum building was designed by Japan’s famous architect, Kenzō Tange, and was inaugurated in 1955. The museum displays artefacts, photos, letters and videos all depicting the horror of aromic warfare and the suffering of Hiroshima. However the museum’s message is not one of war but one of peace “No more Hiroshimas”. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is now both a national and international symbol for peace.
The museum is open daily from 8:30am – closed December 30 and 31. Admission fees are ¥200 for adults, ¥100 for high school students (free for groups of 20 or more) and free for junior high school and primary school students. Best access is to take a bus or via streetcar to the Genbaku Domu-Mae Stop. From here you can easily walk to the Genbaku Dome (Hiroshima Peace Memorial) and through the Peace Park to the Peace Memorial Museum.
In conjunction with Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Saizen Tours can organise school groups to have a testimonial talk delivered by an A-bomb survivor (known as hibakusha). The hibakusha survivors have taken their anger and suffering and instead have changed this into the fight for no more nuclear wars. There are only a handful of survivors remaining and their stories provide a true and emotional record of history with time also allocated for students to ask questions. As only two remaining survivors speak English we can also provide a translator if required.
HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL PARK
The Peace Park is nestled on a narrow strip of land situated between two rivers, Ota River and Motoyasu River. The park is free to enter and extends southwards from the A-Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome) to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. In 1949, as Hiroshima was recovering, the city decided the area should become a place of remembrance and reflection, rather than being re-built. Over the subsequent years many monuments have been built in the park. These include the Peace Memorial Museum, the Cenotaph of the A-Bomb Victims, Peace Bell, Sadako’s Statue plus many other poignant statues and memorials.
The Cenotaph for Bomb Victims was built in 1952, also designed by Kenzo Tange, in the shape of a clay figure of an ancient Japanese dwelling (haniwa) to offer shelter for the souls of the deceased. Inscribed inside the central stone vault are the names of all those who were killed. When new victims are discovered, they are added to the list of names in the cenotaph. On the chest is an inscription “Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil”. There was much controversy for many years with citizens proclaiming that the Japanese did not drop the bomb. However Professor Saika from Hiroshima University, who wrote the words, explained that the “we” in the inscription is for all of humanity.
A signboard was erected in 1983 to explain that the pledge is “on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war”. The Flame of Peace was lit in 1964 with a vow to keep the flame burning until all nuclear weapons have been dismantled worldwide.
The A-Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome) was the only building left standing in the area and has been preserved as a ruin. The original building, the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Hall, was built in 1914. It was the bomb’s epicentre and remains as a stark reminder of the most destructive force ever created by mankind.
Saizen Tours organises a memorable student interaction activity with students from Yasuda Women’s University. School groups are met at the Peace Park or Peace Museum and given a one-on-one tour with the Hiroshima students. Lunch or dinner at a nearby okonomiyaki restaurant can also be included. This has been very popular with school groups and is a perfect interaction activity for Australian and Japanese students in the City of Peace.
PAPER CRANES AND SADAKO'S STATUE
Origami paper folding is a popular craft taught in schools in Japan. It has become popular throughout the world, particularly the origami crane (orizuru). In Hiroshima the crane has become a symbol of healing and hope for the future. Situated in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is Sadako’s Statue. She is seen holding in the air a massive origami crane.
Sadako survived the atomic bomb when she was only two years old. However five years later she developed leukaemia as a result of the radiation. She became gravely ill and set to work folding paper cranes. Sadako recalled the legend that, if a sick person folds one thousand cranes, the gods will make her healthy again. Legend has it that she never finished the 1,000 cranes and her classmates finished them for her. However Sadako’s brother has said that she did in fact finish the cranes however sadly she passed away in 1955.
The statue is visited daily by both Japanese and international school groups. Many groups arrive with 1,000 paper cranes to leave at Sadako’s statue. It is also possible to fold a crane when visiting the Peace Museum. Information is usually posted in the museum and takes place in the Basement Level of the museum.
The museum also receives millions of paper cranes sent from around the world.
To send a thousand cranes to the Children's Monument (Sadako’s statue) in Hiroshima's Peace Park, string them on garlands of 100 cranes each, and mail them to: Office of the Mayor, City of Hiroshima, 6-34 Kokutaiji-Machi, 1 Chome Naka-ku, Hiroshima 730 Japan.
Interestingly COVID-19 has had an impact on companies in Hiroshima that rely on the paper cranes for recycled paper. Previously the accumulated paper cranes were incinerated. From 2002 the cranes were stored and then in 2012 the current mayor allowed the cranes to be distributed free of charge to individuals and groups. Some are used for further peace displays whilst others are reprocessed into recycled paper to make commercial products such as business cards, origami paper, and postcards.
However, the operation has been halted this fiscal year due to the decreased supply due to the sharp decline in the number of students and visitors coming to Hiroshima.
Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) is a Japanese savoury pancake that contains a variety of ingredients. “Okonomi” in Japanese means “as you like it”, therefore it is a savoury pancake that contains whatever ingredients you want to include in the pancake. Hiroshima is famous for okonomiyaki, sometimes described as being Hiroshima’s “soul food”. Its popularity first began to soar in the early 1950's, after WWII, when food was scarce and people had to feed their families with whatever basic ingredients they had at hand.
Okonomiyaki is popular all over Japan, particularly in two major areas – firstly in the Kansai region which includes Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, and secondly in Hiroshima. The Hiroshima region holds a distinctive claim to fame, having more okonomiyaki restaurants per population than any other region in Japan - there are over 2,000 restaurants in Hiroshima City alone!
Osaka-style okonomiyaki is cooked by mixing all the ingredients together - eggs, shredded cabbage and flour are mixed to form a batter. Then your choice of filling is added to the batter, such as pork belly, seafood or prawns. Osaka-style okonomiyaki restaurants have hot-plates on each table, and the customers make their own okonomiyaki.
Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki uses similar ingredients as the Osaka-style however the biggest difference is that the Osaka-style mixes all the ingredients together whilst the Hiroshima-style layers each ingredient. Also the Hiroshima-style always includes noodles (either yakisoba or udon) and a fried egg. Unlike the Osaka-style where the customers make the okonomiyaki themselves in Hiroshima the okonomiyaki is made by the chefs and served to you on a plate.
Okonomiyaki restaurants are often small restaurants therefore we strongly recommend school groups make a booking in advance. Saizen Tours can book restaurants in a number of convenient locations in Hiroshima – at Hiroshima Station, close to the Peace Park and at Okonomimura (Okonomi Village), a famous four-story building of more than 25 okonomiyaki restaurants situated at the end of Hondori Street shopping mall.
SOKOIKO CYCLING TOURS
Looking for something new in Hiroshima? Students will love this 2-hour cycling tour seeing Hiroshima with a local guide. You will visit famous sites such as the Atomic Bomb Dome, Peace Memorial Park plus the tour will take you to hidden spots that only locals know. The guides are all from Hiroshima and know Hiroshima City inside and out. They will show you areas that are not in the guide books! There is a set cycle tour available to book or we can fully customise a privately guided tour to suit your requirements. Prices for group bookings vary depending on the size of your group. Bicycles are available to suit various heights and bicycle insurance plus bicycle helmets are included in the cost.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Sadako's Statue and the Atomic Bomb Genbaku Dome are important landmarks for visiting school groups. However Hiroshima has many places of interest and one of my favourites is the Mazda Museum and Mazda Factory.
The Mazda tour begins with a short video presentation and then visitors board a bus for the short trip to the Mazda Plant and assembly line. A walk through the Mazda Museum with a tour guide to explain the vehicles and history of Mazda culminates in a viewing of the actual car assembly line. It is fascinating to watch as the cars move on conveyor belts through the factory assembly line. The tour takes a total of ninety minutes. Access is easy by taking the local train from Hiroshima to Mukainada Station (5 minutes, ¥190 for adults) and then a 5-minute walk to the Mazda Head Office. Reservations are compulsory, tours are free of charge and since daily tours are limited the tours book out quickly. Contact us for bookings as Saizen Tours can make all group arrangements in advance.
HIROSHIMA MUSEUM OF ART
Another of my most favourite places to visit in Hiroshima is the Hiroshima Museum of Art. The museum is set in a beautiful circular building with a central domed skylight that floods the building and showcases the artwork that is on display. The main building was built in order to pay homage to the Atomic Bomb Dome. The museum’s motto, “For Love and Peace,” raises a prayer for the many precious lives lost in the atomic bombing of 6 August 1945, seeking peace for their souls and expressing a longing for world peace.
The collection includes a large range of art styles, periods and artists. Cezzane, Van Gogh,
Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Modigliani, Signac to name a few.
Open hours: 9am~5pm, closed Mondays and New Year.
Access: From JR Hiroshima Station take the South Exit to the streetcar. Take Line 1 bound for Hiroshima Port or Line 2 bound for Hiroden Miyajima-guchi or Line 6 bound for Eba (approximately 15 minutes and ¥180 for adults). Get off at Kamiyacho-higashi Station and walk 5 minutes to the museum.
Admission fees: ¥600 for adults, ¥300 for high school students, ¥120 for junior high school and primary school students. Discounts apply for groups of 20 or more.
MEIPURU-PU SIGHTSEEING BUS AND SIGHTSEEING TOUR BUSES
The Hiroshima Meipuru-pu Sightseeing Bus is a loop bus that operates from Hiroshima Station. The bus has four routes (Orange, Green, Lemon and Blue Route) which covers major sightseeing spots in Hiroshima. The fare is ¥330 however a big bonus is that you can use a Japan Rail Pass or JR West Rail Pass for this hop-on-hop-off bus. The loop bus is free if your JR Pass is valid (you simply need to show the driver as you board the bus for date verification).
If you wish to have an audio guided hop-on-hop-off bus then there are various guided sightseeing buses available starting from ¥1,500 per person. Half price for primary school students. For larger groups we can also organise a chartered coach with an English-speaking tour guide.
Of course no visit to Hiroshima would be complete without visiting Miyajima Island and the beautiful Itsukushima Shrine but this will have to wait until a future blog ......... stay tuned!