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.
>What there is to see
>Access and costs
>Combinations with other dark destinations
>Combinations with non-dark destinations
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. [Update 2019: on my return visit I found the dioramas at the Peace Museum had disappeared, but here at this school this even better one was still in place; yet another reason to make the detour to this place now! And there were still no other visitors 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.
Google maps locators:
Access and costs: may appear tricky to find, but easy once you know where to go, and free (when open).
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 me 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. [UPDATE 2019: on my return visit I found that indeed you have to register at the office to the right of the entrance gate. A sign now clearly spells this out. It didn't involve anything more than entering my name and country of origin into a list. No fee was charged.]
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.
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 non-dark destinations:
- Honkawa 01
- Honkawa 02 - new school building
- Honkawa 03 - memorial museum in old building, back in 2009 with flower bed
- Honkawa 04 - exhibits
- Honkawa 05 - main exhibition room
- Honkawa 06 - more exhibits
- Honkawa 07 - old stairs down to the vasement
- Honkawa 08 - large diorama in the basement
- Honkawa 09 - previously on display in the Peace Memorial Museum
- Honkawa 10 - great detail and red fireball
- Honkawa 11 - more exhibits in the basement
- Honkawa 12 - tree stump
- Honkawa 13 - scorched switchboard
- Honkawa 14 - back on the ground floor
- Honkawa 15 - palm trees in the school garden