- World Heritage: Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) (360° Panorama)
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At 8:15 in the morning on August 6, 1945, “Little Boy,” the world’s first atomic bomb, was dropped on the center of Hiroshima. Around 90% of the 76,000 buildings in the old center of the city were destroyed. The civilian and military population of the city at the time was around 350,000; it is estimated that 140,000 died by the end of the year. Many more continued to suffer from the effects of radiation for many years.
The Genbaku Dome as it originally looked. (Photo courtesy of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)
Today, almost 70 years later, Hiroshima has been reborn. Nearly 1.2 million people now live in the rebuilt city. Following a special law promulgated on August 6, 1949, the area around the hypocenter is now a public place of parkland in the center of the city. A popular destination for visitors, the area contains the Peace Memorial Park, the Peace Memorial Museum, and various memorials to those who died. In 2012, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome finished in top place in a list on the travel site TripAdvisor of the most popular destinations among foreign visitors to Japan.
A memorial ceremony is held on August 6 every year. As well as commemorating the dead, the ceremony is held to pray for the abolition of nuclear weapons and for lasting world peace. We visited the city and took these 360° panoramic images of this solemn and moving day this year—including a rare glimpse inside the Genbaku Dome, which is not normally open to the public.
Genbaku Dome (Hiroshima Peace Memorial)
One of the few structures in central Hiroshima to survive the blast, the building became known as the “A-Bomb Dome” after the war. Originally built as the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall in 1915, the building served as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall at the time of the bombing.
The building is located close to the Aioi Bridge, which was used as the target when the bomb was dropped. Located just 160 meters to the northwest of the epicenter, the building sustained the atomic blast and heat rays from almost directly above. As a result, the steel frame of the dome and the shell of the outer walls survived miraculously intact.
After the war, the structure was in a precarious condition and in danger of collapsing. Some local people wanted to tear the building down, regarding it as an unwelcome reminder of the city’s destruction. But as Hiroshima began to rebuild and visible signs of the bombing disappeared, a decision was taken to preserve the dome as a memorial. Work to strengthen the building has been carried out several times; in December 1996 the dome was included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage properties.
Peace Memorial Ceremony and Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims
The Peace Memorial Ceremony is held every August 6 in front of the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims to commemorate the souls of the dead and pray for lasting peace. In 2013, some 50,000 people attended. Alongside survivors and descendants of those who lost their lives were Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō, US Ambassador John V. Roos, and movie director Oliver Stone. A solemn silence was marked at 8:15 a.m. to commemorate the moment the bomb fell. Every year, the mayor of Hiroshima issues a Peace Declaration to the world, calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of lasting peace.
Children’s Peace Monument
This monument is dedicated to world peace and the souls of the children who died in the bombing. It was prompted by the death of Sasaki Sadako, who died of leukemia at the age of 12 in 1955. Two years old at the time of the bomb, Sadako escaped without any visible injuries or burns. But when she was in sixth grade, she suddenly developed leukemia caused by exposure to the radiation-soaked “black rain” that fell as she and her mother ran to escape the fires engulfing the city. The Children’s Peace Monument was built with proceeds donated from all over the country to a fund started by Sadako’s classmates. The sculpture is also known as the Tower of a Thousand Cranes; some 10 million paper cranes are sent to Hiroshima every year from around Japan and all over the world.
The T-shaped Aioi Bridge was the site used as the target for the atomic bomb. The bridge’s unusual shape made it easily visible from the air. During the war, numerous military facilities were located along the river in the area around Hiroshima Castle.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Located at the southern end of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the museum was built to pass on knowledge about the atomic bombing to future generations. Local civic groups helped to collect materials relating to the bombing and contributed items that had survived the blast. The displays focus on the aim of bringing about a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons. They include materials relating to the history of the city, photographs of Hiroshima before and after the war, large-scale dioramas and models, and facts about the world in the nuclear age. The building was designed by Tange Kenzō. Consisting of a main wing and an east wing, it has been designated an Important Cultural Property. Major renovations will be carried out between 2013 and 2018.
Many people died near the Aioi Bridge, where they had gathered, desperate for water. From the banks of the Motoyasu River opposite the A-Bomb Dome, people float brightly colored lanterns to commemorate the dead and to pray for world peace. Normally, lantern festivals of this kind take place on the final day of the Obon festival in midsummer, to escort the souls of the dead back to the other world. But in Hiroshima it takes place on the evening of August 6. The lanterns are lit from an “eternal flame” that is now preserved in Yame, Fukuoka Prefecture. The flame dates to around a month after the bombing, when a former solider named Yamamoto Tatsuo visited Hiroshima in search of his uncle, who ran a bookshop in the city. Finding a flame still burning in the ruined city, he lit a pocket warmer from the flame and took it home with him. The lanterns are made from paper recycled from origami cranes donated to the Children’s Peace Monument.
(Photos courtesy of the Hiroshima Film Commission, Hiroshima City Hall, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and Chūgoku Shimbun.)
Photographer. Born in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture in 1964. Graduated from the Department of Photography in the College of Art, Nihon University. Specializes in portrait photography. His portfolio includes work for numerous magazines as well as several photograph collections. Currently an enthusiast of 360° panorama photography.