Question: Where in the world is this monument to peace, which honors 140,000 souls lost to violence?
Answer: Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima, Japan
On the morning of August 6, 1945, the world was changed forever when the city of Hiroshima, Japan became the target of the first atomic bomb attack on an inhabited city. The large blast and intense heat rays leveled the city, destroyed nearly all of the buildings within a two-mile radius, and resulted in about 140,000 deaths within the first six months following the attack.
Four years following the fateful day, the people of Hiroshima decided that instead of redeveloping the former city-center which was hit the hardest, they would create a memorial honoring the city’s legacy. The result was Peace Memorial Park, a 360,000 square-foot public park with multiple memorials, museums, and monuments all serving as a reminder that peace should not be taken for granted.
At the center of the park is the Memorial Cenotaph, designed by Kenzo Tange to represent the small clay saddle figurines found in ancient Japanese tombs. Underneath this concrete archway is a chest containing the names of those who perished and an inscription which reads, “Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil.” Nearby, the park’s Peace Flame burns continually and will remain ignited until all nuclear bombs are decommissioned and the threat of another tragedy like Hiroshima is gone forever.
Aligned within view of the Memorial Cenotaph stands the other most prominent feature of the park, a former building now known as the A-Bomb Dome. Once home to national and municipal government offices, most of the building’s walls were destroyed upon the blast, yet it remained upright—one of the few structures in the area to do so. In 1996, the A-Bomb Dome was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a symbol of the devastation following the most destructive manmade force in history.
7 More Monuments at Peace Memorial Park:
- Children’s Peace Monument: Honoring the children who died, this monument features a statue of a young girl with outstretched arms towards a folded crane above her—the Japanese symbol for longevity and happiness. The monument is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died from radiation caused by the bomb. Today, people from all around the world leave folded paper cranes at the site as an offering for harmony across the planet.
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum: Opened in 1955, the Peace Memorial Museum displays photographs and documentation from the bombing, possessions from the victims, and the history of the war leading up to the bombing.
- The Peace Bell: Inside the park you may hear a bell ringing occasionally—a toll that comes from the park’s Peace Bell. This large traditional Japanese bell hangs inscribed with a world map on its surface. The map has no national borders, symbolizing a unified world. Visitors are encouraged to ring the bell as a prayer for world peace.
- Gates of Peace: Added to the park in 2005, ten glass gates stand back to back with the word “peace” written in 49 different languages across them. Donated by a French artist and architect for the 60th anniversary of the attack, the gates symbolize a bridge connecting past hurtful memories with a hopeful future.
- Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound: After the atomic bombing, thousands of unidentified and unclaimed victims were found among the debris. Today, the cremated ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims are buried within a vault under this traditional grass-covered mound.
- Cenotaph for Korean Victims: Inscribed with Korean symbols, this turtle-shaped monument stands in honor of the Korean victims of the attack and of those affected by Japanese colonialism. During World War II, many Koreans were forced to provide labor for the war effort, and accounted for one in 10 of those killed by the bomb. This monument honors those individuals with an inscription that reads, “souls of the dead ride to heaven on the backs of turtles.”
- Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students: During World War II, students ranging in age from 13-18 were ordered to work for the war effort as “mobilized students,” in factories, farms, or other emergency efforts. When the atomic bomb struck Hiroshima, there were many casualties among these young students. This 36-foot tall tower honors the 10,000 students who died in both atomic bombings, as well as students killed in other bombings during the Pacific War.