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Marking history in Hiroshima: First A-bomb dropped 69 years ago

A-Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall)
A-Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall)
Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

At 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on a city, giving Hiroshima a dubious distinction in the annals of history. The blast produced a mushroom cloud and killed 140,000 people and left thousands more homeless. Three days later, the U.S. dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki, which killed an estimated 80,000 people, closing the chapter on the second World War.

Today, the city remains known for its role at the end of World War II, but it has also grown into a major tourist attraction. Each year, thousands of visitors from Japan and around the world flock to this western Japanese city to learn about what happened here and how Hiroshima has helped shape history.

While atomic weapons no doubt remain a controversial subject, it is possible – and worthwhile – to take in Hiroshima and understand the historical significance of the city without spending too much time discussing the pros and cons of nuclear warfare.

A-Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall)
A-Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall) Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

A-Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall)

Formerly the Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall, this building was completed in April 1915, and was located near the bomb’s hypocenter. It is one of the few buildings to survive the blast. Historic photographs of the city show a landscape flattened by the blast, with just a few structures still standing – one being the shell of the Industrial Promotion Hall. But, the building, which has not changed significantly since the bombing, is just one of a few important landmarks dedicated to Aug. 6, 1945.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum Junko Kimura/Getty Images

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Built after World War II, the museum is dedicated to the atomic bombing of the city and to the war. Though the museum presents history from a Japanese perspective, it includes exhibits and information detailing Japanese aggression throughout Asia leading up to World War II. The museum also includes copies of letters the city’s mayors have written to leaders of various countries, opposing their successful tests of an atomic weapon. The mayors are advocates for an atomic bomb-free world.

Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims
Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims

Built on Aug. 6, 1952, this memorial dedicated to those who died in the bombing is the centerpiece of the city’s mission: Peace. The memorial includes a stone chest with the names of everyone who was killed in the bombing, and an inscription on it generally is translated to mean, “Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.”

Peace Memorial Park
Peace Memorial Park Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Peace Memorial Park

While atomic weapons no doubt remain a controversial subject, it is possible – and worthwhile – to take in Hiroshima and understand the historical significance of the city without spending too much time discussing the pros and cons of nuclear warfare. For history buffs and travelers looking to see and understand what happened here, to Japan and to the whole world on that day 69 years ago, there are several memorials to the bombing, all located in Peace Memorial Park in the center of the city and near the bomb’s hypocenter.

Peace Flame
Peace Flame Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Peace Flame

Located in Peace Memorial Park, the Peace Flame will not be extinguished until all atomic bombs are eliminated from the Earth. Over the past 60 years, Hiroshima has rebuilt itself as a modern, cosmopolitan city, though it’s nowhere near as large as Tokyo.