Children's Peace Monument and Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall | Japan Solo Travel

April 25, 2017

Took my time and strolled around Peace Memorial Park, relishing the experience and enjoying the cold. I roamed the area for a while before I found directions to Children's Peace Monument, a statue to commemorate Sadako Sasaki.

Sadako Sasaki was only two years old at the time of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. Living about 2km away, she was thrown out of the window when the atomic bomb exploded. Sadako was a miracle child since young and she miraculously survived the blast. However, tragedy struck Sadako at age 11 — she fainted while training for a sports meet and was subsequently diagnosed with leukemia, a common type of cancer caused by radiation exposure after the calamity.

Recalling the Japanese belief that if you fold a thousand paper cranes, your will be granted a wish, Sadako began folding paper cranes within the four walls of the hospital she was confined to. Soon, Sadako ran out of paper and used any material she could find, including medicine wrappings and candy wrappers.

Sadako was freed from her sufferings and passed away on 25 October 1955, at age 12. The consensus is that Sadako folded a thousand paper cranes before passing away, although some recounts suggests that Sadako only folded 644 paper cranes.

Paper cranes since became a symbol of peace, and a statue of Sadako holding a giant paper crane was erected in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in remembrance of the strong-willed girl.

Children's Peace Monument was a place I only ever dared to dream about visiting as a kid. I Googled incessantly for photos of Children's Peace Monument because I was so desperate to catch a glimpse of that place that inspired me to be a stronger person, to believe in peace, to fight my demons, to live. It was this exact Children's Peace Monument that began my love for war history.

I silently wiped away a tear that flowed down my cheeks as I realised that words aren't — will never be — adequate to describe the initial overwhelming feelings of seeing Children's Peace Monument upclose and personal.

Children's Peace Monument

Children's Peace Monument

1 Nakajimacho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture 730-0811, Japan

これはぼくらの叫びです これは私たちの祈りです 世界に平和をきずくための
This is our cry, this is our prayer — peace in the world

The word "Peace" in English and Kanji formed by paper cranes

Art works made of paper crane

It started raining again shortly; although a slight drizzle, I wasn't going to take any chances of ruining my camera so I hastily packed up after a few shots. To put "packing up" into perspective, I had my backpack, umbrella, plastic bag to keep umbrella, tripod, camera, and the Michael Kors bag pictured above. Never will I pack so much when I travel solo again.

The Flame of Peace, an anti-nuclear war symbol that has been burning since 1964, and will continue burning until all nuclear bombs on Earth are destroyed. 

Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims

Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims

1-6 Nakajimacho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture 730-0811, Japan

Opening Hours
Opens daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm

+81 82-543-6271

Admission Fee

Near the entrance: items retrieved from A-bomb Dome surrounds the clock

Almost every bit of the Peace Memorial Park is occupied with monuments related to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

The clock shows 8:15 am, the time the world's first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima

Opened in 2002, Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall mourns the lives lost to the atomic bomb, and paper cranes — the symbol of peace — peppered the entrance of the memorial hall.

The memorial hall was eerily quiet as I was the only visitor, and I began feeling slightly claustophobic as I walked on due to the large walls that surrounded the heart of the memorial hall, where the Hall of Remembrance is located.

The Hall of Remembrance boasts 360 degree panorama view of Hiroshima right after the atomic bombing. The destroyed Hiroshima is constructed by 140 000 tiles, the number of victims estimated to have died from the atomic bomb.

I didn't take too many photographs out of respect — it is, after all, a memorial hall. After the hall of remembrance, there was a room to commorate victims of atomic bombing. Families of victims of the atomic bombings can register to submit the victim's names and photographs.

The victims eligible are those who died due to direct exposure to atomic bombs either in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, exposure to radiation visiting either cities within two weeks of the atomic bombings, radiation affection during relief work or exposure to radiation in their mothers' womb.

Seeing the names and photographs flash across the screen made everything more real. Of course, I read about these atomic bombings and we're taught about the terrible the after-effects of atomic bombs in school, but to see with my own eyes that every victim had a name was different. The thousands that died all had a story to tell, and these stories ceased to exist because some never survived to tell theirs. A kid lost his parents. A mother lost her firstborn. An entire family perished. That was heartbreaking.

Burdened with the knowledge of human cruelty, I truged on to the special exhibitions area, where a short clip — Memoirs of the Atomic Bombing: The Earliest Accounts of the Hiroshima A-bomb Part 2 — was being screened. The clip narrated 17 personal recounts of the atomic bombings written within five years of the bombings, when the victims' memories of the unfortunate incident were still raw and fresh.

The personal recounts were meant to be published in a book, Memoirs of the Atomic Bombing, to be distributed around Japan so that the world will remember the horrors of atomic bombs and never repeat the mistake. Memoirs of the Atomic Bombing was evetually published but never distributed because of the Cold War that followed War World II.

One of the most memorable recounts featured a boy who was in school during the atomic bombing. He was only 7 or 8, an age of innocence. What captivated my attention was one of the final words in his short narration — that he was upset Japan has lost the war. He was so sure Japan would win that he refused to believe it at first.

Firstly, I was shocked by the different lives we live. National pride swelled this young heart; on the other hand, there I was, attempting to leave Singapore whenver I could because I feel like I don't belong despite staying here for 21 years.

Secondly, I was perplexed by how clueless he was about the entire situation. I wonder if he ever grew up to know what the nation he was proud of did in other cities. I.e. The rape of Nanking, and other horrifying events. I hope he grew up to realise that there's no winning in wars, and the biggest losers are us, the mere citizens.

Another recount that left an impression on me was by a mother in her late 30s or early 40s. She wrote about how her skin tore off, how desperately in need of water she was, how much pain she was in, yet when she closed her eyes to rest, all she thought of was her family. She crawled, she picked herself up, she did everything she could to get home to her kids. I started sobbing uncontrollably here.

It was day 5 of my travels, the longest I've ever been away alone. I guss I was feeling a little homesick and I missed my mom, the most precious person to me on the planet. I could relate; knew my mom would have done the same for my brother and me if she — touch wood — was placed in that situation. I was so thankful I was born in a peaceful country, and I had a home and family to return to everyday. I tend to take these blessings for granted, and I felt so ashamed.

I was also ashamed of bawling. The security guards shot me questioning looks and I was afraid of getting thrown out of Peace Memorial Hall with no way to explain myself since I can't speak Japanese. In hindsight, I reckon tears are pretty common in a heart-rending place as such.

Memoirs of the Atomic Bombing: The Earliest Accounts of the Hiroshima A-bomb Part 2 will be screened from 2 January 2017 to 29 December 2017.


Japan Solo Travel (January 2017)

Tokyo Summary and Getting Around Tokyo | Tokyo Imano Hostel Review | Tokyo Pokemon Centre & Shibuya Crossing | Tokyo Lockers and Shinjuku Gyoen Garden | Tokyo Harajuku (Shopping, Food, Daiso) | Tokyo bills Omotesando (Tokyu Plaza)

Hakone One Day Itinerary | Hakone Tozan Railway and Cable Car | Seeing Mt Fuji at Owakudani | Hakone Ropeway and Sightseeing Cruise | Trekking to see Hakone Shrine and Mt Fuji

9 Hours Narita Capsule Hotel Review | Tokyo Narita Airport

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