On 6 August 1945, 8:15 AM – Tokyo Time, Enola Gay released Little Boy and came straight to Shima Hospital in the Prefecture of Hiroshima. Little Boy is a kid but ironically, a powerful young boy whose audacity paved the way for almost 300,000 Japanese casualties. Years after Little Boy’s fall, thousands of Japanese continued to suffer, leading to a start of a new era in both Japanese history and the history of humankind.
Enola Gay is an American military airplane. Little Boy is the alias given by the United States to the first atomic bomb in the history of humankind. Little Boy almost wiped away the entire city of Hiroshima. The detonation of Little Boy signaled the end of World War II.
A few meters away from the hypocenter (ground zero in the American context) is the Genbuku Dome or the Atomic Bomb Dome, which despite its location avoided a complete destruction. The remains of the building still stand today. Hiroshima decided to keep the ruins as a reminder of how senseless the engagement of war. In a sense, it proposes that war is about the annihilation of everything. The memorial was inscribed a World Heritage Site in 1996 and the entire complex its buffer zone, which for the Japanese a symbol of the true value of peace.
At the time of the detonation, the building was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The blast exerted about 35 tons of pressure per square meter and created a fierce wind speed of 440 meters per second. According to visithiroshima.net, “the building absorbed the powerful explosion and heat and burst into flames. Because the impact of the blast came almost directly overhead, curiously the thick outer walls and the steel dome escaped complete destruction.” Nonetheless, the impact and radiation from Little Boy killed instantaneously the people inside the building. The hall’s interior was completely gutted.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) was awarded the status of a World Heritage Site using “criteria (vi)” (or to be directly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance) as the basis for its inscription. According to the dossier found at the WHS Website, The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) “is a stark and powerful symbol of the achievement of world peace for more than half a century following the unleashing of the most destructive force ever created by humankind.”
The inscription process was controversial. Representatives of State Parties from China and the United States found the nomination unsatisfactory. China, for instance, cited that the monument could be used to downplay the aggressive role of Japan during World War II. The United States, on the other hand, was convinced that having a memorial to a war site might throw away the necessary historical contexts of the Pacific War/World War II. In the end, the United States dissociated itself from the election process.
Today, the complex includes the Peace Bell Monument, which according to visithiroshima.net was “installed with the aim of abolishing nuclear weapons and bringing about world peace.”
Few yeards from the dome is the Children’s Peace Monument, honoring Sadako Sasaki and other innocent children who became casualties of the atomic bomb. Sasaki survived the bombing but suffered leukemia as a consequence of the radiation caused by the detonation. She died ten years later.
The monument is a poignant sculpture of the young Sasaki with an origami of a crane above her. According to a popular story, Chizuko, Sasaki’s best friend visited her one day in the hospital and told her about the legend of the 1,000 cranes: should an ill child produce 1,000 cranes from folding papers (origami), the illness will go away. Sasaki then folded several papers and created 1,000 cranes. For more information on Sadako Sasaki, visit here.
Somewhere in the center of the memorial complex is the Flame of Peace, which was lit on 1 August 1964 in hope of a world without nuclear weapons. According to the brochure of the complex, the flame will continue to burn until nuclear weapons are abolished worldwide. The sculpture/monument is an image of two hands pressed together with the palms facing the sky.
Other buildings and monuments that are worth visiting are the historic Aioi Bridge, the War Memorial Museum, and the National Memorial Hall.
It was August 2011, when I had a chance to visit the peace complex. I was happy, feeling fortunate to be in this historic site; but at the same time, it felt awkward knowing hundreds of thousands of people became sacrificial lambs to the nonsensical experiment of World War II – the Atomic Bomb.
Today, Hiroshima remains a reminder that war and absurdity are ontologically linked. With the inscription of The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) as a WHS, Hiroshima has become synonymous with peace.