Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park | Japan Solo Travel 2017April 22, 2017
Growing up a history buff, Hiroshima was the part of my solo travel that I looked most forward. I first learnt about Hiroshima when my primary school teacher introduced my class the story of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Immensely touched by Sadako's strong will to live, I vowed to visit Hiroshima some day. It took me 13 years, but I knew the wait was worth it the moment I laid my eyes on the A-Bomb Dome. It was surreal, very very surreal, to know that my dream came true — all because of my own hard work, no less.
Hiroshima was never in my itinerary and was an extremely last minute stop. My itinerary initially consisted of the mainstream tourist spots, going Osaka – Kyoto – Tokyo. Making the last minute stop at Hiroshima meant I travelled back and forth Japan, and I was shot curious glances when I told people aout my itinerary but Hiroshima is worth it. So worth it.
|7 hours on Willer Express from Kyoto to Hiroshima|
Being my chatty self, I made friends with a backpacker from Paris and shared travel stories. I guess that's the best part about travelling solo — you open up easier compared to travelling with a companion. In turn, you tend to make more friends, often of different cultures.
By then, I was halfway through my solo travel and thoroughly exhausted. I removed my make up on the overnight bus and zonked out almost immediately. Tip 1: Bring make up removal wipes as they are much more compact to bring around. Or just abandon make up completely, which was what happened nearing the end of my travels.
Tip 2: if you're travelling on overnight buses like Willer Express, bring an eyemask so the lights switched on and off randomly throughout the bus ride will not affect your sleep. I had my earpiece on because I listened to music to sleep, but you might want to bring noise-cancelling earpugs.
My bus was originally scheduled to arrive at Hiroshima at 5:55am but as with Japan's efficiency, we arrived a little ahead of schedule, right before daybreak. Since my pick up point later that night was also going to be at Hiroshima South Exit, I took photos of my surrounding area in case I can't find that place at night.
|Hiroshima Station South Exit (in front of 7-11 'Hiroshima matsubaracho-ten'), where Willer Express overnight buses stop|
My phone was running out of battery at this point because I stupidly placed my travel adapter on the floor in Kyoto Station and walked away without it. Walked into a Seven Eleven expecting to find a travel adapter because have you visited Seven Elevens overseas? They have everything — except travel adapters and earrings.
By now, I learnt to show photos instead of hoping for someone who can understand English or Chinese. Unfortunately, the shopkeepers didn't recognise the travel adapter photos I found on Google for some reason, and I had a hard time explaining what I needed. I kept repeating, "Japan, Singapore, different. *plugging in socket hand gesture*"
A Japanese lady saw me strruggling at the counter and she was kind enough to download a translation app for me to type in what I wanted so she could give me directions! My heart :'))) Japanese are sooooo amazingly nice; they really go beyond everything to make sure you get the help you need even if it doesn't benefit them in any way. Thank you Japan, for reminding me what kindness is all about.
|Bought cheese tart in 7-11 in case I got hungry|
Because Hiroshima Station was under renovation, I sturggled with finding the lockers in a bit. The lockers located right opposite the taxi bay, near a police station.
I bought the 1 Day Streetcar and Ferry Pass for ¥840 (approx SGD $10.50) and it gives me access to all lines on the Streetcar (Hiroshima's version of the tram which gets you to virtually all the tourists spots), and Ferryboat from Miyajima-guchi to Miyajima and back.
Hiroshima was slightly different from Osaka and Kyoto — I bought my 1 Day Streetcar and Ferry Pass after boarding the streetcar, while you typically purchase your transport passes from the stations itself in other cities. The early hours probably contributed to this change as well; I read online that tourists usually can buy the 1 Day Streetcar Pass at Hiroshima Station Streetcar Information Desk (in front of the departure platform).
When all that was over and done with, I travelled on the streetcar to Genbaku-Domu Mae Station, and I found myself facing the A-Bomb Dome. It was glorious, magnificent and breathtaking... But my face wasn't. I darted into a toilet nearby to put on some make up because I looked exhausted — not that I expected any otherwise from a overnight bus ride. And that was when my earrings fell out again -___- Told myself to relax this time, and just enjoy Hiroshima first so that's what I did.
I took a short stroll around A-Bomb Dome, making sure I've taken in every bit of what it has to offer. The solemn atmosphere. That one action which changed history. The fact that I'm a Singaporean, how the fate of A-Bomb Dome — the death of thousands of mere Japanese — directly impacted the lives of my ancestors and in a way, me. It was intense and overwhelming, and I was glad I was there alone because no one in the world would have understood how much this meant to me.
Atomic Bomb Dome
1-10 Otemachi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture 730-0051, Japan
Nearest Streetcar Station
Genbaku-Domu Mae (原爆ドーム前) Station, tram line 2 or line 6
Free (visitors are not allowed to enter the A-bomb Dome)
|The photos and drawings in history textbooks can never compare to seeing this piece of history in person.|
|Reality of taking pictures while travelling solo: photobombed by strangers|
I stopped to take some photos, and photos of all the signs around A-Bomb Dome so I could show my mom back home. Then I caught a rising yolk at the corner of my eyes. Sunrise!
I took so long in the toilet, struggling with my piercing, that I thought I missed the sunrise in Japan again but Hiroshima surprised me by being the first Japanese city I managed to witness a sunset in. I always knew Hiroshima was magical :')
|Sunset along Aioi Bridge|
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
Opens daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm
|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. On 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.
|Hiroshima's clear skies after the rain|
Witnessed the clear blue skies of Hiroshima when I walked out of Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall — a sight impossible in Singapore due to our constant pollution. Sigh, Mother Nature sure is beautiful.
|Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims|
Built in 1951, the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims was one of first memorial monuments of the atomic bomb. The Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims holds the names of all victims of the atomic bomb.
|Hiroshima Pond of Peace encircles the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victim|
安らかに眠って下さい 過ちは 繰返しませぬから
Let all souls here rest in peace, for the error will not be repeated.
Stood around Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park for a while, considering whether I should enter the Paece Memorial Museum because only the main building was opened to visitors since the entire museum is under complete renovation till 2018. Besides, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum's entrance fee costed ¥200 but there was a hig probability tht I would run out of yen before even reaching Tokyo. Damn my inability to do proper budgeting!
In the end, I decided to go ahead anyway because I wasn't sure of the next time I'd be in Hiroshima and I thought the museum would be an essential highlight of my trip considering how much I enjoy war history. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park actually have a student price and I had my student card with me, but Japan's student fares usually only apply to individuals below 16 years old so I couldn't enjoy that discount.
|View from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum|
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
1-2 Nakajimacho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture 730-0811, Japan
Opens daily from 8:30am to 6pm
Students, elderly aged 65 and above: ¥100
East building closed from September 2014 to April 15 2017 for renovation.
Main building closed from April 15 2017 to July 2018 for renovation.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum spared no mercy in showing visitors the horrors of nuclear weapons. Destruction was the first sight that greeted me upon setting foot in the museum. Every exhibit provided detailed explanation in Japanese and English, with some exhibits also having international language like Chinese, French, Italian etc.
|How victims closest to ground zero look like immediately after the atomic bomb set off|
|Clothes were torn right off the victims|
|Most victims even lost their skin and developed huge blisters|
|Area of Hiroshima directly affected by the atomic bomb|
|Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum displays keepsakes of the aftermath of the atomic bombing|
|Life sized replica of Little Boy, the atomic bomb that hit Hiroshima. Little Boy, ironically, turned out bigger than expected.|
|To prove the point that most objects near ground zero were destroyed beyond recognition, we were allowed to touch some exhibits|
|Hands-on exhibit for visitors to calculate radiation|
There was an entire section dedicated to Sadako Sasaki, where I expectedly spent most of my time in.
|The book on the left was the Sadako Sasaki book I read that left me a deep impression of Hiroshima|
|When standing at the correct angle, you'll be able to see all major landmarks of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park|
|The perfect view of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (save for the Flame of Peace that I accidentally missed ugh)|
|A message left by Mr Obama during his visit to Hiroshima in 2016|
Mr Obama was the first standing US president to pay Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park a visit. During his visit, he addressed the horrors of nuclear weapons, donated paper cranes and wrote a letter promising to spread peace.
|Ended my visit by signing in the signature boo|
|My handwriting got ugly after secondary school T_T|
I bought a pair of paper cranes earrings made with real pearls at the souvenir shop for about SGD $30 — an exorbitant amount for a frugal person like me but paper cranes mean a lot to me so I splurged. I got the shop keepers to put in the earrings for me because I'm a #noob. Being typical excitable and hospitable Japanese, the shop keepers started exclaiming kawaii kawaii. I thought their declaration further reaffirmed that I made the right decision to spend.
Except that I dropped one side of the earrings within an hour when I fell asleep on the Hiroshima Streetcar and woke up to one side of my earrings missing -_- I could write an entire storybook on the (mis)adventures of my pierced ears -____-
Earrings aside, I loved that you the souvenir store — named Rest House of Hiroshima Peace Park — was opened to public, even if you didn't pay a visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I darted in and out of the rest house for a comforting burst of warmth during Japan's bitter winter. Thank god for warmers!
Unfortunately, it started raining again. I was slightly disappointed for a brief moment but thankfully, I've already taken all of my touristy shots that needed a tripod (and potentially leaving my camera in the rain).
On second thoughts, I guess a clear and sunny day wouldn't have felt right in a solemn place like Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
|The pedestal of the Flame of Peace was designed to look like two opened hands with palms facing up|
Took a stroll walk along one of the quieter corners of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park while digesting everything I've saw, read and learnt. Much as I want to believe that people are good at heart despite all the evil in the world, those around me keep proving otherwise. That's life, huh. People keep disappointing, but you just accept it and go on your merry way.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a heritage center in its entirety. Every corner of the park is filled with history and stories, as proven by the numerous signs erected around to explain the significance of every nook and cranny.
|Some paper cranes made by students and donated by tourists|
|Bell of Peace|
Wanted to take a photo with the Bell of Peace but there aren't anyone around and I couldn't utilise my tripod due to the rain. Usually, I would have been frustrated that things didn't go my way but the aura of a calmness around Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park chased my anxiety away. Thank you, Hiroshima, for teaching me a lesson that day: life isn't always about looking great for Instagram.
So grateful that I reached Hiroshima in the wee hours of the morning and started exploring early because tourists started streaming in around early afternoon, breaking the tranquility of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Just as I was leaving Peace Memorial Park, I caught a rainbow, and the rainbow after the rain was a perfect ending to Hiroshima travel. My first Japanese sunrise and first rainbow, both witnessed in Hiroshima.
I wanted a photo with the rainbow but it was still drizzling and I didn't dare to risk ruining my friend's leather jacket so I could only admire the rainbow from afar. That didn't make the rainbow any less magical though :') In fact Hiroshima taught me aother valuable lesson: you can't always have what you want.
I turned around, and caught this magnificent sight. The stillness of Motoyasu River captures how serene Hiroshima is — a stark contrast to its violent past.
|The bridge I witnessed my Hiroshima rainbow on|
I spent a total of five hours in Peace Memorial Park and it was about 12pm when I was done. The slower pace of life in Hiroshima allowed me to relax and I quite enjoyed the change so I decided to travel to Miyajima instead of rushing to Hiroshima Castle like I originally planned on my Japan itinerary.
Thank you, Hiroshima, for being everything I imagined you to be — and beyond. I can't wait to be back.
JAPAN SOLO TRAVEL