Honkawa Elementary School Peace Museum

  
  - darkometer rating:  8 -

A small museum in a preserved section of the original Honkawa school building, which, having been built of sturdy reinforced concrete, was one of the few structures to remain standing as burned-out empty shells after the A-bombing of Hiroshima. The school is located less than 400 yards (350m) from the hypocentre (it was the closest school to the blast) and over 400 pupils and staff were killed in it – only two children miraculously survived the disaster. 

>What there is to see

>Location

>Access and costs

>Time required

>Combinations with other dark destinations

>Combinations with non-dark destinations

>Photos

   
What there is to see: Most of the original building that "survived" the A-bombing of Hiroshima, standing as an empty shell, was later demolished to make way for a new school building. But one section was preserved and turned into a museum in 1988; it's partly ground floor and partly basement.
 
In the basement there's a large diorama of the destroyed city with a red ball hanging over it to indicate the spot where the bomb went off above the hypocentre. This diorama is even bigger than those at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in the Peace Park! And the gloomy light and atmosphere make it in a way even more gripping. Also, you don't get anything like the crowds of the main museum here – when I visited in April 2009 there was no one else about.
 
Apart from the diorama there are a few photos, including one of the mushroom cloud, and a room with artefacts such as melted glass bottles and such like. Labels and descriptive texts are partly translated into English, partly in Japanese only. But many artefacts speak for themselves sufficiently.
 
Outside the exhibition rooms as such the place is filled with paper cranes and other peace symbolism in the typical rainbow colours. The museum is unstaffed but at the entrance there's a small desk with (in addition to more colourful paper cranes) a box with leaflets in English, which help understanding the significance of the place. The main thing though is the atmosphere – actually being inside a building that was so close to the hypocentre.
 
Compared to Fukuro-machi Elementary School Peace Museum, this museum has a darker feel to it overall, although it's less informative and less modern in design. Both places, however, are well worth visiting as an add-on to a visit to the main Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.    
 
 
Location: in central Hiroshima, just west of the northern end of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the A-Bomb Dome.
 
Google maps locator:[34.39625,132.4508]
  
 
Access and costs: may appear tricky to find, but easy once you know where to go, and free (when open).
 
Details: a little tricky to find if you just follow the local rough directions. When crossing the Aioi Bridge in a western direction (i.e. away from the A-Bomb Dome), turn left immediately when reaching the opposite bank of the river and head down one block. The building on the opposite corner is the new Honkawa school building. If you continue further downriver you find a small metal plaque by a fence overlooking the school grounds. This plaque (in Japanese and English) provides a little information about the school, including a photograph taken shortly after the bombing, but does not give any indication as to the whereabouts of the associated museum. If however you turn back and walk down the first small side street parallel to the road extending beyond Aioi Bridge you'll pass the museum building. Only, there's no access from here. At least here it is indicated that you have to continue further to the end of this street and turn left to get to the school ground's main entrance. Then head back in the direction you've come from, now within the school's grounds and you'll find the museum building.
 
When I visited there was no one else there, and no signs indicated any entrance fee charged, so I just picked up one of the leaflets provided in a box on a desk by the entrance, walked in and explored. Back outside several of the school's pupils greeted my shyly, practising their "hellos" (not such an easy word for the Japanese to pronounce).
 
I later read (on arch-hiroshima.net) that apparently you're actually supposed to go to the school office first to ask for permission to visit – but at the site there was no (intelligible) indication of that (or where that office would be), nor did anyone make any effort to stop me, neither did the schoolchildren show any surprise at me just walking around. So I'm not sure about the validity of such a restriction.
 
It was, however, obvious that there would only be access to the museum as long as the school premises were open. Neither signs, nor the leaflet nor any other Peace-Park-related resource stated exact opening times. But normal school hours should be the best time to visit, then.
 
 
Time required: not much: about 20 minutes will probably do, unless you can read Japanese in which case you can probably spend an extra 10-15 minutes here. The exhibition may be small, but is, as I'd like to stress again, wholly worthwhile the detour.
 
 
Combinations with other dark destinations: see Hiroshima – the closest other sight would be the A-Bomb Dome and the northern end of the Peace Memorial Park.
 
 
Combinations with non-dark destinations: see Hiroshima.
   
    
 
  • Honkawa 1 - elementary school Peace MuseumHonkawa 1 - elementary school Peace Museum
  • Honkawa 2 - new school buildingHonkawa 2 - new school building
  • Honkawa 3 - memorial museum in old buildingHonkawa 3 - memorial museum in old building
  • Honkawa 4 - at the entrance to the museumHonkawa 4 - at the entrance to the museum
  • Honkawa 5 - stairs down to the basementHonkawa 5 - stairs down to the basement
  • Honkawa 6 - Hiroshima dioramaHonkawa 6 - Hiroshima diorama
  • Honkawa 6 - relicsHonkawa 6 - relics

  

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