Before we went to Japan, we spent some time thinking about whether or not we were going to take our kids to Hiroshima. We knew that our eleven-year-old daughter would be very moved, and very interested in learning the history of what happened, but we weren’t sure if our nine-year-old son could handle it without nightmares.
We decided to explain what happened in Hiroshima – as simply and directly as we could – to our kids, and ask them if they wanted to go; both of them said yes. So we went.
I’m really glad we did.
It was an emotional experience, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Instead it felt as if we were learning and trying to participate in healing. While we were there, we felt a sense of this is up to all of us, and we are all in this together.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial is a very peaceful and serene place, and everything is set up so that you can take in as much – or as little – as you want. Nothing is ever set up to shock or scare.
I think the thing that made the greatest impact on my kids were the real objects that belonged to other children – clothing, toys, school stuff. One particularly heartbreaking piece is a tattered summer uniform, partially burned and shredded by the heat ray of the bomb. Nobika Ohshita, the 13-year-old girl wearing the uniform, had sewn it herself that summer. We all teared up silently when we saw this.
My kids were really concerned, sad and curious about how all the kids who had been at school when the bomb hit made it back to their families (or if they did). This was the worst thing they could imagine.
The bird’s-eye models of the city before and after the bombing also made a big impact on my kids.
After we visited the Peace Museum, we walked through the park. My kids rang the peace bell underneath the Children’s Peace Monument, which is dedicated to the memory of children who died as a result of the bomb. Visitors are encouraged to ring this bell for world peace. It is a lovely sound to hear.
The peace monument features a statue of a girl with a folded paper crane rising above her. The statue was created in honor of Sadako Sasaki, a little girl who got died as a result of radiation from the bomb. She believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes, she would be cured.
Right next to the bell are thousands and thousands of paper cranes, which were folded by people from around the world.
Near the center of the peace park is an arch called the Memorial Centograph, which is meant to be a shelter for the souls of all the victims. The monument frames the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome in the distance.
We all appreciated our trip to Hiroshima. It wasn’t “too much” for my kids. It was perfect: they each got what they could handle and digest.
In fact, our visit here was one of the highlights of our trip. If you are considering a visit yourself (or with your kids), I would encourage you to go. There are many different levels of interaction available here; you can find the level that is right for you and have a very rewarding and memorable experience.
Have you been to Hiroshima? What did you think?