Seven decades after the U.S. military dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, effectively ending World War II, the site of the devastation remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.
And it appears to be getting more popular.
According to local media, visits to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum by foreign tourists hit a record high of 234,360 visitors in 2014.
That’s more than a 100% increase from just three years ago.
Visitors come to bear witness to preserved burnt wreckage, painful survivor testimonies and human shadows left permanently visible after the atomic bomb explosion’s incandescent destruction.
A number of factors lay behind the site’s continuing hold on travelers.
Some describe Hiroshima as a gripping, educational and emotional example of “dark tourism,” “grief tourism” or “battlefield tourism,” which includes Nazi concentration camps in Europe, Cambodia’s torture prison and killing fields, and West African slave ports, as well as the Nagasaki Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum.
The latter site memorializes the events and devastation surrounding the second atomic bomb dropped on that Japanese city three days after the Hiroshima bombing.
Most tourists gaze in mute awe at Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb Genbaku Dome, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
The now-iconic structure, designed in 1915 by a Czech architect, was the city’s Industrial Promotion Hall.
When the United States dropped the bomb on August 6, 1945, it exploded just above the building, but didn’t totally destroy it because the immediate blast and heat buffered the air at ground zero.