“Japan knows the horror of war and has suffered as no other nation under the cloud of nuclear disaster. Certainly Japan can stand strong for a world of peace.”

Visiting the Atomic Bomb Museum is not the kind of thing I was eager to do, but I am very glad I did. It’s a difficult visit, and indeed, some of the photos here are graphic. But I wanted to know and see for myself what happened here. I don’t think I made it past the first exhibition room before the tears started: tears for the mother who never found her daughter’s body but found the sandal she made for her; tears for the mother who tried to nurse her badly burned daughter and could only keep a sample of her ash-streaked hair after the girl died; tears for the 139,998 other people who lost their lives that day and in the days that followed, tears for the world that the reality of nuclear war is even a possibility.

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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
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The entrance to the museum is at the end of this hallway
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Epicenter of the blast
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Epicentre of the blast
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Model of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima

It seems to me this museum serves three important functions: to document the events and aftermath of August 6, 1945; to memorialise the dead; and to advocate for peace. It’s this final function that is so carefully woven into the exhibits without having to say a word. As you enter the final part of the museum: the hall where you can sign a petition to reduce nuclear proliferation, you are then able to watch videos of survivors sharing their stories. They have done so for the world to see the horrible impacts of war and of nuclear war particularly. Only two cities have ever been the victims of nuclear attacks like this, and they are telling the story.

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Miyoko was 13 when the bomb fell. Her body was never recovered, but her mother recognised this sandal she had made for her daughter.
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Teruko Aotani was 13 when the bomb destroyed Hiroshima. She was doing demolition work in the city and was severely burned. She made it home to her family but died the next morning. Her mother kept this lock of her hair.
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Nobuko Oshita made this school uniform herself. She was 13 when the bomb fell and had been detailed to demolition work in the city. Many teenagers were near the epicentre because of this demolition work. Nobuko died the night of August 6 from her injuries.
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This watch belonged to Kengo Nakawa, who sustained burns during the blast and died on August 22. The watch was a gift from his son, and he carried it with him everywhere.
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Images of the mushroom cloud of the blast
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Examples of what people may have looked like fleeing the blast
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Examples of what people may have looked like fleeing the blast

Before I visited Hiroshima, I understood the politics and history of the U.S.’s decision to drop the atomic bomb here and in Nagasaki. But I don’t think I truly understood the cost and can’t claim such an understanding today, not really. But if there is one place on the Earth that makes me want to become a pacifist, Hiroshima is it for me.

Title quote: Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project

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Trapped in a fallen house, this mother and child were calling for help drawn by Kazuo Matsumuro
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People fleeing the fire drawn by Masao Matsumoto
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Images of the destruction of Hiroshima in the wake of the blast
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Heat rays from the blast burned the kimono pattern into this woman’s skin
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Items damaged by the blast
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Some of the objects damaged by the blast, including the fused needles in the center of this picture
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Items damaged by the blast
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Items damaged by the blast
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Items damaged by the blast
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These steps show a shadow of the person who huddled there during the blast. No other remains were found of this person.
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Closeup of the damage inflicted by the blast on roof tiles
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White wall damaged by radioactive, black rain that fell after the explosion
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Downtown Hiroshima drawn by Gizo Shimomura
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Dead mother in running position, still holding her baby, drawn by Yasuko Yamagata
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“That autumn in Hiroshima, where it was said, ‘For seventy-five years, nothing will grow,’ new buds sprouted. In the green that came back to life among the charred remains. People recovered their living hopes and courage”
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Within the museum is an area where you can watch videos of survivors talk about their experience, sign the petition for a nuclear conference and share your own thoughts about your visit
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Work continues below the museum
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Work continues below the museum
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Work continues below the museum
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“Caravan of Peace: East (Sun)” by Ikuo Hirayama, donated by the Joint United Nations Information Committee

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