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10 000 Lanterns At The Peace Memorial Ceremony – Hiroshima Japan

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We had even before we went to Japan decided that Hiroshima would be on our itinerary on our Japan journey. Hiroshima is famous all over the world for its sad history of being the first city in the world that got hit by an atomic bomb.

When we found out that we would be in Japan on the annual anniversary of the atomic bombing, the Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony & the Peace Memorial Ceremony, we decided to schedule our Japan itinerary so that we would be in Hiroshima on the 6th of August.

And we did not regret it! The Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony with over 10 000 colorful paper lanterns floating peacefully down the river in the dark was breathtakingly stunning! ♥ It is a memory that I will remember for the rest of my life.

We came from Kyoto by train late in the late afternoon (after a 1 hour and 35 min train ride). We worried that we were too late for the Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony, but the guy in our hotel reception said that it did not start until after dark (around 7 p.m.), and lasted till around 9/10 p.m. So we put our bags into our room and rushed down to the Atomic Bomb Dome.

The Peace Memorial & Lantern Floating Ceremony takes place in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The Peace Memorial Ceremony & Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony In Hiroshima

Here we give you our guide and experience of participating at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony and the beautiful Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony.


A Brief History Of The Atomic Bombing Of Hiroshima

In December 1941, the Japanese Navy attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was a surprise military strike that led to the USA`s entry into World War II, and the start of the Pacific War.

On the early morning of the 6th of August 1945, the USA dropped the fatal atomic bomb over Hiroshima, as well as Nagasaki three days later. These two bombings were the first and remain the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare. Let`s hope it stays that way.

Within the first two to four months of the bombings, 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki died. Roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians.

On August 15, 1945, just days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan announced its surrender.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony

Each year, on the 6th of August, the Peace Memorial Ceremony & Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony is held in Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima.

Once we entered the park around the Atomic Bomb Dome, just after dark, we were met by thousands of lanterns beautifully decorated by the children of Hiroshima.

Lanterns Hiroshima
The park that surrounds the Atomic Bomb Dome was full of beautiful lanterns decorated by the children of Hiroshima

Walking around the Atomic Bomb Dome among all these Japanese people who probably had lost family members in the atomic bombing, we felt a sense of calm and humbleness. The atmosphere was dignified, sort of sad but at the same time filled with hope for the future.

Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony Hiroshima
Lots of locals and tourists have gathered to participate in the Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony

It was like mother nature also wanted to participate and show her respect to the anniversary, showing us the full moon just above the Atomic Bomb Dome. It was the perfect setting, making the atmosphere even more special.

Atomic Peace Dome Hiroshima
The majestic Atomic Bomb Dome, the only building that was left after the atomic bombing

There were people everywhere, young and old, mostly Japanese but also a few Western. Even though it was crowded and we were walking in a stream of people, everybody was calm, walked slowly, and spoke with a low-toned voice. It really was a respectful and dignified atmosphere.

When we got to the Kyuota-gawa river, which runs through Hiroshima, we were met by a beautiful sight. Thousands of paper lanterns were floating peacefully down the river, for the souls of the dead. It was stunning!

Lanterns Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony
10 000 colorful lanterns floating peacefully down the Motoyasu River in Hiroshima
Floating lanterns Hiroshima
Lots of locals and tourists gathering around the river to see the floating lanterns

You can even send off your own lantern if you want. You can buy a paper lantern (600 Yen = US$ 5) at the reception tent in the Peace Memorial Park from 6:00 am and write a message on it. Then show up at the riverbank of the Motoyasu River (on the other side of the river from the Atomic Bomb Dome) between 6 pm and 9 pm and send off your lantern.

Floating lanterns Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony
A magical view of the lanterns floating down the river
Lanterns Hiroshima peace memorial ceremony
The lanterns are beautifully decorated with messages for peace and love

It really was breathtaking! All those colorful lanterns with writing and drawings on them gliding calmly down the river while the moon was shining on the sky in all its glory. The atmosphere was kind of magical.

Hiroshima Floating Lantern Peace Ceremony
The moon showed up to pay its respect for the many victims of the atomic bomb
Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony Hiroshima
Anyone can participate in the Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony
Lantern Ceremony Hiroshima
You can buy a lantern from the reception by the river from 6 pm and send off your own lantern
Hiroshima Japan
The Floating Lantern Ceremony in the evening of the 6th of August is popular among the locals of Hiroshima
Atomic Bomb Dome Hiroshima
The lanterns float by the Atomic Bomb Dome

We are so happy that we scheduled our Japan trip so that we could join the Peace Memorial Ceremony. It truly was an unforgettable evening, that will stay with us forever. Hiroshima and its sad history will always be in our hearts, and we wish that no other city in the world will experience the same heartbreaking destiny.

♥ Peace & Love! ♥


Where To Stay In Hiroshima

Top End

Sheraton Grand Hotel Hiroshima

Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel
Our fantastic room at Sheraton Grand Hotel Hiroshima

We stayed at Sheraton Grand Hotel in Hiroshima and had a fantastic stay. It is a modern high-end hotel situated in a great location just opposite Hiroshima train station with plenty of transport, shopping, and dining options nearby.
The rooms are large, bright, and well furnished with comfortable beds and all modern comforts. Breakfast has a good selection of both Japanese and Western food. The Wi-fi is free and fast. We would definitely stay here again.
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Mid Range

Rihga Royal Hotel Hiroshima
Rihga Royal hotel offers excellent value for money, and its location is fantastic for exploring Hiroshima. The Peace Memorial Park and the city’s buses are both within easy walking distance, and the views overlooking the beautiful Hiroshima Castle are spectacular. Rooms are spacious, well furnished, and comfortable with every modern amenities including free Wi-fi. Breakfast is excellent, and there is even a swimming pool!
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Candeo Hotels Hiroshima Hatchobori
Candeo Hotels is a new fresh hotel centrally located within walking distance of the Atomic Bomb Dome, Peace Memorial Park, and public transportation. Rooms are relatively small but tidy, clean, and comfortable. The staff speaks English and there is a lovely Onsen/hot bath on the roof perfect after a long day sightseeing.
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Budget

K’s House
K’s House operates hostels in a few cities across Japan, and we’ve always found them to be quite excellent, with friendly and helpful staff and clean and comfortable rooms. This one is thankfully no exception. The JR train station and a tram station are just a short walk away making it a great base from which to explore the city. There are both dormitory-style rooms, as well as western-style private rooms with bathrooms available.
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Further Reading

What To Do In Hiroshima – A 1-Day Hiroshima Itinerary

Where To Stay In Hiroshima – Our Favorite Hotels & Areas

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum & Park

Autumn Colors At The 400 Years Old Shukkeien Garden, Hiroshima

I would recommend that you do a trip to Miyajima from Hiroshima. Read our articles about Miyajima Island:

What To Do In Miyajima – A 1-Day Miyajima Itinerary

A Journey To The Sacred Mount Misen – Miyajima Ropeway

Hiroshima is also a part of our recommended two-week Japan Itinerary.


FAQ About The Peace Memorial Ceremony

How To Get To Hiroshima

  • Train: You can take the train practically from all over Japan to Hiroshima. For instance from Tokyo (4 hours, 17540 JPY = 163 us$), Osaka (1,5 hour, 9440 JPY = 88 us$) and Hakata (1,5 hour, 8190 JPY = 76 us$).
  • Bus: Long-distance buses connect Hiroshima with all major cities in Japan.
  • Air: Hiroshima Airport is 40 km east of the city. From here there are flights to all major cities in Japan.

Where Is The Peace Memorial & Lantern Floating Ceremony
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony is held at the Peace Memorial Park in downtown Hiroshima.

How To Get To The Peace Memorial Ceremony
From Hiroshima Station, take the Hiroshima electric tram and get off at Genbaku Dome-mae Station or Hon-Dori Station.

Or take the Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus “Hiroshima Meipuru~pu” and get off at the “Peace Memorial Park (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)” bus stop.

How Much Does It Cost To Attend The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony & Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony
The ceremony is free.

When Is The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony & Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony is held every year on the 6th of August from 8:00 am to 8:45 am.

The Hiroshima Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony is held every year on the 6th of August from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm on the Motoyasu River (near the Atomic Bomb Dome).

Both ceremonies are free and open to the public so anyone can attend.

Travel Guides

We used Lonely Planet`s Japan Travel Guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below which will take you to Amazon.com (affiliate links):


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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony      Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony

Have you ever been to a ceremony that made an impact on you? Please leave a comment in the comment area below. If you like this article and find it useful, please share it on social media. Thank you! 🙂

 

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Written by Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.

14 Comments

  1. the lanterns are a wonderful idea for this ceremony – and that they’re created by children just heightens the poignancy of the moment. Wow!

    Reply
    • Yeah Maria, it was so moving and beautiful with all the hand-made lanterns with children`s drawings and writings. I think this ceremony is the perfect way to remind the young generation of the terrible thing that happened to their city in 1945.

      Reply
  2. What a powerful ceremony to be a part of and witness. The photos are really interesting, beautiful and peaceful. While a difficult time in history, it’s good the children are involved in the ceremonies.

    Reply
    • Thank you Rhonda! It really was one of the memorable highlights of our trip to Japan. I agree, it is important that the children learn and become aware of the tragedy that happened to their ancestors.

      Reply
  3. I went to the Peace Memorial a couple of times when I lived in Japan, but wow, what a lovely ceremony! Your photos captured it beautifully.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Silvia! It truly is a beautiful ceremony! Where in Japan did you live, and for how long? We loved Japan! It must have been great living there!

      Reply
  4. I always love all your night shots – do you use a tripod? Mine always turn out blurry! I really love that one of the lanterns on the river… so pretty!

    Reply
    • A million thanks Katie! 🙂 We bought a new camera (Sony) in Bangkok, just before we went to Japan, and it is brilliant in low light! Just love that camera! 🙂 This is our first blog post where all the pictures are taken with our new camera. It is also amazing for video, but we have just started to play with the video function.

      We travel with a Gorilla Pod (http://joby.com/gorillapod) which we used for some of these shots. It is very handy and small, and can be wrapped around things like railings.

      Reply
  5. How lucky for you to experience such a wonderful ceremony and anniversary. Those lanterns are beautiful and even more special for what they stand for. It really was a devastating tragedy and it’s nice to know there is a ceremony to honor the thousands who perished. You’re right, let’s hope and pray that it doesn’t happen again. Beautiful post and photos.

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot Mary! It was a very special and atmospheric ceremony.

      We did not know that much about the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima before we came there. We also visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which was heartbreaking but very educational to learn what really happened.

      Reply
  6. Wow, what a ceremony and what serendipitous timing for you. I have seen quite a few of these lantern ceremonies in Asia, but with the historically tragic background of this one it has to easily be the most moving I have ever read about. Making notes for our trip next year Thanks for posting and great images.

    Reply
    • Hi Distance,

      Thanks for commenting! The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony was such a beautiful and moving ceremony. Highly recommend to attend it if you are in the area at the beginning of August.

      Have a great trip to Japan next year! I`m sure you will love the country just a much as we did.

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply

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