Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, Nagasaki

Opening in 2003, the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb victims commemorates those that died as a result of the atomic bomb being dropped on Nagasaki, August 9th 1945. Three days following the detonation of the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima (August 6th), a second order was issued to drop another atomic bomb, colloquially known as ‘Fat Man’, over the city of Kokura in the Fukuoka Prefecture. Due to cloud cover, the aircraft was forced to fly onto its secondary target Nagasaki and release the bomb over the Mitsubishi munitions and industrial plants. Unfortunately the detonation missed the military target and instead exploded over the Urukami Cathedral, the largest church in Japan. In total, the second atomic bomb killed an approximate 73,884 people and injured another 74,909 – an estimation that accounts for almost 62% of Nagasaki’s population at that point in time.

Comprising of three levels, the memorial hall was designed by local architect Akira Kuryu. Viewed from the outside, the upper level of the memorial consists of a large basin of water surrounded by trees. The use of water here, and in other parts of the memorial, symbolises the begging for water and ultimate thirst many of the victims experienced in the aftermath of the detonation. After dark, 70,000 fiber optic lights shine across the surface of the water in memory of those who died.

Entering the memorial hall, visitors are provided with a brief explanation as to the purpose of the facility and its mission to engage and cooperate with international peace projects. On the underground level below, the exhibition space features a large collection of survivor testimonies written in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. Each of the memoirs outlines the day of the attack, the immediate response following the impact and the way their lives changed following the bomb, including for many, the years of necessary medical treatment. As of 2015, there were at least 47,868 survivors still living in Nagasaki – a number that is rapidly decreasing each year.

On the next floor below, a large atrium features a prayer room for visitors to pay their respects to those who perished. Inside the space, a registry of names of those who died in the impact and those who passed away in the years after is available for viewing. Further along, visitors are able to browse through the library and learn more about the bombing of Nagasaki, the treatment of radiation illness, the efforts of the organisation to promote global peace, as well as view testimonials, photographs, computer graphics and diaries.

Also present on this floor is the main remembrance hall. First entering a small anteroom to observe the names and photographs of the victims on six large monitors, visitors are subsequently led into the large reflection space. Interspersed through the hall are 12 glass pillars that reach all the way through to the external upper level water basin. The light shining through the pillars points to the sky to symbolise the survivors’ hope for everlasting peace.

On average, almost 670,000 people visit the memorial hall each year, including large numbers of people from Korea and China. To further promote the message of global peace, the organisation tours internationally, highlighting through the use of displays the push for worldwide nuclear disarmament.