The building now known as the A-bomb Dome was designed by Czech architect Jen Letzel. Completed in April 1915, the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall soon became a beloved Hiroshima landmark with is distinctive green dome.
While its business functions included commercial research, consulting services and the display and sale of prefectural products, the hall was also used for art exhibitions, fairs and cultural events. Through the years, it took on new functions and was renamed the Hiroshima Prefectural Products Exhibition Hall, and later the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall. As the war intensified the hall was taken over by thehe Chugoku-Shikoku Public Works Office of the Interior Ministry, the Hiroshima District Lumber Control Cooperation, and other government agencies.
On the 6th of August 1945 the world’s first atomic bomb exploded approximately 600 metres from the building, ripping through and igniting the Promotional Hall, instantly killing everyone in it.
Because the blast struck from almost directly above, some of the centre walls remained standing, leaving enough of the building and iron frame to be recognisable as a dome. After the war, the dramatic remains came to be known as the A-bomb Dome.
For many years, public opinions about the dome remained divided. Some felt it should be preserved as a memorial to the bombing, while others thought that the dangerously dilapidated structure should be destroyed, as it evoked painful memories.
As the city was rebuilt and other A-bombed buildings vanished, the voices calling for its preservation gathered strength. In 1966, Hiroshima City Council passed a resolution to preserve the A-bomb Dome, which led to a public fundraising campaign to finance the preservation work. Donations poured in, along with wishes for peace from around Japan and overseas, making the first preservation project possible in 1967.
Several preservation projects have since been carried out to ensure that the dome will always look as it did immediately after the bombing.
In December 1996, the A-bomb Dome was registered on the World Heritage List as a historical witness conveying the horror of the first use of a nuclear weapon, and as a world peace monument appealing continually for lasting peace and the abolition of such weapons.
To help protect the dome, the national government designated the area around it as a historical site under the Cultural Properties Protection Act, with a larger area in and around the Peace Memorial Park set aside as a buffer zone.
Today the propped-up ruins of the A-bomb Dome, which are floodlit in the evenings, are a haunting reminder of the destructive forces that were unleashed on the city.
- Information signs at the A-bomb Dome
- DK Eyewitness Travel: Japan