It was a sunny morning in Hiroshima on August 6th 1945, when the Atomic bomb dropped out of the sky, obliterated the city, and changed the course of world history forever. The atomic flash and the eventual loss of over 200,000 lives have forever linked the city of Hiroshima with the utter ferocity and ultimate tragedy of nuclear holocaust. Today this beautiful city of nearly 3 million, located in Japan's southwestern Chugoku region, offers some of the most somber and moving sightseeing in Japan.
Though the event will no doubt be seared on the Japanese consciousness forever, the Heiwa Kinen-koen (Peace Memorial Park) located at ground zero of the Atomic bomb's explosion is a reminder and moving memorial to those who lost their lives. The Peace Memorial Park is southwest of the Hiroshima Castle between the Motoyasu and Ota rivers. Across from the Peace Memorial Park is the Genbaku Domu (Atomic Dome).
Ironically, this structure once housed the Industrial Promotional Hall. Today its crumbled façade, and the skeletal remains of its main dome, are among the only vertical structures that withstood the bomb's initial shock wave. The Atomic Dome and Peace Memorial Park combine to form some of the most reflective and moving sightseeing in Japan.
Hiroshima was the target of US aggression in WWII because of its military importance as a munitions depot and industrial center. Long before the 20th century, however, Hiroshima was recognized as a military bastion. A relic of this ancient military history is the Hiroshima-jo (Hiroshima Castle). The original Hiroshima Castle was built in 1589 by the Mori Clan but completely destroyed by the atomic bomb. The present day Hiroshima Castle was rebuilt in 1958 and houses a museum of Hiroshima's pre-WWII history.
Another stop during a tour of Hiroshima is the Prefectural Art Musuem. The museum is divided into three main themes: Art Works of Hiroshima; Japan and Asian Crafts; and Fine Arts in the 1920s and 1930s. There is also a "People's Gallery" where local artists showcase their work. The highlights of the 3,400 works of art housed in the Prefectural Art Museum include Salvador Dali's Dream of Venus, and one of Dali's famous "melting watch" paintings. The Prefectural Art Museum of Hiroshima is constantly hosting new exhibits, so check the museum's web page for up-to-date shows. The museum is opposite the Shukkeien-mae tram stop, near the Shukkeien Gardens.
As you can see, Hiroshima offers sightseeing in Japan that is historic (e.g. the Hiroshima Castle), as well as the contemporary and local art at the Prefectural Art Museum. But the focal point of any trip to Hiroshima is the documentation of the horrors of Atomic War. Bearing witness to Atomic warfare is as important for the same reasons as visiting a concentration camp: we must witness both the beauty and horror of life and human nature if we are to fully rejoice in the former, and fully renounce the latter. Hiroshima, then, is not a recommended stop on your tour of Japan—it is a mandatory one.