Visiting Hiroshima with kids.

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.

hiroshima cranes 2

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.

nobuko ohshita uniform

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.

hiroshima birds eye view before

hiroshima birds eye view after

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.

hiroshima peace bell

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.

hiroshima cranes

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.

hiroshima arch

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?

Comments

  1. Thank you Kendra for sharing your experiences at Hiroshima with kids. It has inspired me to take my kids there on our hopeful next trip to Japan.

  2. I’m curious whether you and your kids have gone to the 9/11 memorial yet and whether the decision/feelings are similar.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Joey – My daughter and I are going to NYC this fall, and we will visit the 9/11 memorial.

      • On the eve of 9/11, at the end of a spectacularly beautiful NY fall day, just like 9/11 was, I was glad to read your post, Kendra. I think there’s a legitimate feeling that 9/11 happened to the whole country, but I would gently ask that anyone who wasn’t in one of the cities remember that it was a very personal attack for many of us. I haven’t and probably won’t ever go to the memorial. I remember too well what the city smelled like as the burning buildings continued to simmer, what the sound was like when the buildings fell. I don’t like that people are selling key chains and plastic Made in China replicas of the buildings. I beg you not to buy them. I make myself listen to the calling of the names every year. And I hope that some beautiful blue sky fall day, I will be able, just for that one day, to avoid thinking about the horror of That Day. Not that I can forget– I can’t and won’t, but the New York with surveillance cameras and cops with machine guns in the subways and undercover cops in mosques is not the New York I fell in love with, and among my anger about the attack is anger at how my city changed and became more suspecting of foreigners. And how much personal privacy has been taken from all of us in the name of the fight against terrorism. I wish so much for cranes and healing, and for peace, and for a tempering of the anger that got dissipated far beyond where it should have been focused.

  3. Thank you, Joey, that needed to be said.

  4. Glad you listened to me! I knew you would have a memorable experience in Hiroshima.

  5. Great piece. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I’ve been to the Hiroshima Peace Museum twice now. Both times I left the museum with a massive headache due to trying not to cry.

    The last time I went was in 2010 during the August Anniversary when Ban Ki-Moon gave a speech to thousands of people which sounded amazing in theory but in reality it was incredibly hot and muggy, his speech was hard to hear, and there were people everywhere. I think it was more overwhelming than anything else. I don’t regret the decision to go but I don’t think I’d repeat it.

    As the day wore on my friends and I bought and lit little paper lanterns to place on the river with notes of peace on them. It was a good photo opportunity watching these lanterns bob up and down on the river beside the decimated dome as a beautiful sunset washed everything in pinks and yellows. That was moving in a more quieter way.

    One thing I DO recommend if you make it down to Hiroshima is go to Miyajima Island, known as the “Island of the Gods”. It is very close by and just gorgeous. You can see this beautiful torii (red gate) off in the ocean and a lovely 5-storied pagoda. It’s a great spot to take a breather and see all these sacred deer sunning themselves. As a warning: the deer will come up to you and try to steal things out of your hands. Be careful that they don’t try to eat a plastic bag or something else non-edible. (same advice for Nara’s deer)

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