If you are ever in Hiroshima, Japan, you’ll find plenty to do, like visit the beautiful Shukkei-en Garden or see a baseball game at the Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium. But there is one thing that’s a must-do. Experience the Atomic Dome, the only remaining building near the epicenter from the atomic bombing on August 6th 1945.
Awesome is an overused word but in this case, the Atomic Dome is undoubtedly awe-inspiring. It stands along the Motoyasu River that flows under the Aioi Bridge, which was the original target of the Enola Gay and the 141-pound atomic bomb that annihilated the city. Due to a cross breeze, the bomb, codenamed “Little Boy,” missed the bridge and detonated directly above the Shima Surgical Clinic. The distance between the bridge, Dome and where the clinic stood is no more than 500 yards. Today there is a plaque, only slightly larger than an average headstone that denotes the exact location from where the explosion emanated.
The skeletal remains of the Dome can be seen from the bridge and induces goose bumps at a mere glimpse. Not much larger than a typical church, the Dome was originally an exhibition hall designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel. The peak of the building was designed to be distinctive. It couldn’t be more so now, the bare framing stands ominously as a reminder of the potential devastation of war. The Dome and the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii are stark recollections of the price paid on both sides.
It is a testament to the people of Hiroshima and Japan that the Atomic Dome still stands today. After the war ended and restoration of the damaged city well underway, a fierce debate was waged over whether or not to preserve the Dome. Understandably, some saw the dome as an ugly reminder of the horrors of death and destruction that occurred that day; others argued it should be kept for that exact reason, a memorial and remembrance of the consequences of war. Thankfully, in 1966 the Hiroshima City Council announced their intention to preserve the Atomic Dome and in 1996 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The battle of the Pacific began with Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941 and effectively ended almost four years later with the bombing of Hiroshima. In the more than 70 years since, the United States and Japan have become vital allies and proof that any grievance, no matter the size, can be overcome.