In the fateful 1945, Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced the most inhumane nuclear explosion in the history of mankind! The aftermath showed the harrowing condition of the victims, which served as a stark reminder of how peace must always be prioritized! But, the current scenario has gone through a major transformation.
In fact, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are Japan’s trending tourist hotspots now!! Whether you call it dark tourism, or battlefield tourism, these cities are on the travel bucket lists of adventure seekers! Among these, Hiroshima became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Unlike regular travel spots, these places gained some unexpected popularity over time!
Whether summer study tours or full fam-jam trips, traveling to Hiroshima and Nagasaki is quite a casual thing! But how these attacked areas have become holiday places overnight? Did Japan make a strong comeback in the tourism industry or luck was in favor? Let’s figure it out!
Re-emergence of Japan’s Tourism: A Post-Nuclear Journey
After the devastating nuclear attacks in August 1945, what prompted Japan to rebuild its tourism industry? Well, not immediately but Japan took almost a decade for the comeback! The first initiative was opening The Peace Memorial Park and Museum. It was built in an area of Hiroshima that used to be busy with shops and homes. Since then, more and more people have been visiting as tourists. Some people are interested in “dark tourism,” which means visiting places where bad things like disasters, violence, or wars happen. Every year, many curious people come to Hiroshima for this reason. In 2016, almost two million people visited, and it was assumed that even more people would visit in 2017. For a more recent reference, the post-pandemic travel data shows that around 1.13 million people visited the Hiroshima Peace Museum in 2022.
Apart from this, the city has different plans that cost around 107 million yen, which is approximately $861 million. These plans aim to keep the memories of the people who survived the bomb and make the city more attractive and comfortable for tourists.
Some of the projects involve making improvements to the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, which is located in the center of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. They also include renovating the Rest House, which is one of the few buildings that managed to survive the explosion.
To embrace these two places as tourist spots, Japan actively reached out to the international community, inviting dignitaries and scholars to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This helped change global perceptions and raised awareness about the consequences of nuclear warfare. Visitors were encouraged to learn about the tragedies and pay their respects.
On top of that, Japan leveraged its unique cultural heritage to attract tourists. Traditional arts, festivals, and historical landmarks were showcased. Temples, shrines, and historical sites were well-maintained and became popular tourist destinations. For example, Shukkeien Garden, Itsukushima Shrine, Kofukuji Temple, and many more!
As Japan’s economy grew, investments were made in transportation and infrastructure. Improved transportation networks, such as the Shinkansen (bullet train) system, made it easier for travelers to explore the country. Hotels and services were upgraded to provide better experiences for tourists. Through determination, and a focus on peace, Japan successfully emerged Hiroshima and Nagasaki as major tourist spots of the country. The transformation from a war-torn nation to a thriving tourism destination shows how resilient the Japanese government is!
Tragedy to Triumph: Nuclear Tourism Boom!
Hiroshima City has made a great recovery since the atomic bomb was dropped, according to Abe from the Hiroshima Convention and Visitors Bureau. As stated by CNN, People who visit Hiroshima feel a strong sense of hope and understand the importance of peace even more.
Abe says that visitors’ impression of Hiroshima is influenced by whether they meet and talk to local people. Peter Kuznick, a professor at American University, has been taking students to Hiroshima for over 20 years. He believes that being there in person is more powerful compared to just reading or learning about it.
Keni Sabbath, whose grandparents survived the bomb, felt a connection to her family’s past when she visited Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Museum. She saw realistic figures and pictures showing the terrible destruction caused by the bomb.
A true event described by National Geographic is, that Sadako and her little brother, Masahiro, were very close to the atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshima. They went through a lot of difficulties after the bomb. Sadako got sick with leukemia, a type of cancer, because of the radiation. But despite her pain, she made a lot of paper cranes because she believed it would make her wish come true. Now, there is a statue of Sadako in Hiroshima Peace Park, where people leave paper cranes for peace. Masahiro and his son, Yuji, want to share Sadako’s story and spread a message of peace. They have given Sadako’s cranes to places like Pearl Harbor and Austria.
There’s no denying that, these cities provide a meaningful travel experience that helps visitors learn about the past and remember its significance.
Hyped Spots: Things To Do in Atomic Bomb Site
Apart from the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, what are the other places to visit? Well, Miyajima Island is a beautiful island near Hiroshima known for its famous Torii gate and shrine. Also, Okonomimura is a building with many restaurants where you can try Hiroshima’s famous Okonomiyaki. And most importantly, if one visits Hiroshima on August 6th, the traveler can attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony to honor the victims of the atomic bomb.
On the other hand, when it comes to Nagasaki, Nagasaki Peace Park & Atomic Bomb Museum are the must-visited spots! Despite this, you can also visit, Glover Garden for the touch of the 19th century, Dejima to enjoy the artificial island, and Penguin Aquarium for exploring marine life. To try authentic Nagasaki cuisine, missing Chinatown won’t be a good idea!
Hiroshima and Nagasaki have emerged as popular tourist destinations, attracting visitors interested in dark tourism and promoting peace. Japan’s efforts to rebuild and improve infrastructure, preserve cultural sites, and invite visitors have led to the success of its tourism industry. These cities offer a meaningful travel experience, allowing tourists to learn about the past while enjoying diverse attractions and local cuisine.
Despite these two spots, the country’s rich cultural heritage, with its traditional customs, arts, and festivals, captivates tourists seeking unique experiences. Japan’s reputation for safety and cleanliness, as one of the safest nations globally, offers a comforting environment for travelers. Additionally, Japan’s technological advancements, showcased through high-speed trains and futuristic cityscapes, provide a glimpse into the future.
To wrap it all, Japan has marked its place in the dark tourism industry! And, people around the world want to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, especially those who are crazy about dark tourism.