The city of Hiroshima in Japan has the sad honour of playing testament to the horrors of a nuclear war. Hiroshima has created a memorial park where the atomic bomb was dropped during World War II, appropriately called the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. It is one of the main Hiroshima things to do when you visit this city. In one corner of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park there is the Children’s Peace Monument dedicated to the thousands of children who lost their lives on the site.
The area that covers the Peace Memorial Park was a densely populated area prior to the bomb. It had over 1700 households and almost 6000 residents. The city of Hiroshima itself had about 350,000 residents, including Korean and Chinese nationals and American prisoners of war.
In addition to the residents, there were thousands of others who were unfortunate enough to be in the area – citizen volunteers and junior high school students who were demolishing buildings. They were creating a fire wall with the expectation of future bombings on the city and the ensuing fires the bombs would cause.
It’s hard to know how many people died in that atomic blast because the city’s records were also decimated. It’s estimated that 140,000 people died between the bomb exploding in August 1945 and the end of the year.
The Sadako Sasaki peace monument is the more well known of the children’s monuments because of its colorful cranes. Another children’s monument is dedicated to the school children who lost their lives in the blast.
Children’s Peace Monument
The Children’s Peace Monument commemorates the life of Sadako Sasaki who died of leukaemia after being subjected to radiation poisoning at the age of 2 when the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima.
She wished to create a 1000 paper cranes which in Japanese folklore meant she would have one wish granted. Her wish was for a world without nuclear weapons. People the world over have brought paper cranes to honour Sadako Sasaki’s wish.
The School Children Who Died
Approximately 8200 students from local junior high schools were mobilised to create fire breaks by demolishing buildings. Approximately 6000 of these students died in the atomic bomb blast.
The Hiroshima Memorial Hall has a short documentary paying tribute to some of these students by family members left behind. For example, one boy talks of running to the blast area to find his 12 year old brother and finding only his brother’s bento (lunch) box still filled with the warm rice that their mother had packed. There was nothing left of his brother. That bento box was taken to their family altar at home in memory of their lost family member.
Many of the parents of these junior high school students could not find their children’s bodies. The young bodies were incinerated in the heat which ranged from 3000-4000 degrees Centigrade. One of the parents spoke of how proud she had been of her son when he had gotten into his junior high school. Weeks into his new school year which had just started, her 12 year old son vanished into thin air – never to be seen again, but never forgotten.
Getting to Hiroshima
Getting to Hiroshima is relatively easy. You can visit for a day trip from the Shinkansen (bullet train) station Shin Osaka to Hiroshima by Shinkansen. The bullet train from Osaka to Hiroshima takes anywhere from 2.5 to 3 hours. From Tokyo the trip is 4-5 hours, each way making a day trip not very feasible.