Hiroshima introduces interactive map to get tourists to visit A-bomb sites off the beaten path

Kyodo, Staff Report

Hiroshima has unveiled the Hiroshima Peace Tourism project, which includes an interactive map showing routes intended to help visitors view the city’s many memorial sites beyond just the Atomic Bomb Dome in the Peace Memorial Park, the main and only destination for about half of tourists.

“We want visitors to understand and appreciate the city’s commitment to peace,” a city official said.

The Fukuromachi Elementary School Peace Museum, for example, is only a 10-minute walk from the Atomic Bomb Dome. It became a relief station after the bomb was dropped, and a wall inscribed with the words of those asking about the fate of their loved ones remains preserved and on display.

But it receives few visitors. According to Masatoshi Yamamoto, 72, a graduate of the elementary school and now part of the museum’s management, only about 10 people come each day. On some days, he said, nobody shows up before noon.

Many buildings that survived the atomic blast remain preserved and on display throughout the city. These include several museums with no admission fee.

Visitors to Hiroshima, mainly from other countries, increased after 2016, when then-U.S. President Barack Obama visited the city.

But many visitors just go to the Peace Memorial Park and then head for Itsukushima Shrine, a world heritage site in the city of Hatsukaichi. Visitors don’t spend much time and money in the city of Hiroshima, officials say.

As part of the Peace Tourism project, the city has released recommended routes online.

A walking route around the Atomic Bomb Dome includes surviving buildings such as the Fukuromachi Elementary School Peace Museum, the former Bank of Japan Hiroshima branch and Honkawa Elementary School Peace Museum.

Other routes take in memorial spots, including ruins of the Chugoku Regional Military Headquarters, which is said to be the first to have reported about the atomic bombing.

Fukuya Department Store, which survived the blast and remains in business to this day, is also a recommended spot. The building was forced to close during the war as it was used by the army and state-owned companies, but in 1951 the building’s prewar store space was re-established.

Tourists will be able to see photos and learn about these sites as they follow the city’s routes, which use GPS tracking to show their location.

Hiroshi Harada, 79, former director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and now the head of a panel for the Peace Tourism project, said communication between the city’s numerous facilities had been disconnected.

“Setting these routes will serve as a pillar of the city’s tourism on the theme of peace,” he said. “We want visitors to feel that, above all else, Hiroshima seeks peace.”

Hiroshima Peace Tourism routes can be seen at peace-tourism.com/en/top.html