One of the first things people notice when they arrive in Hiroshima on the shinkansen bullet train is the bulbous silver stupa that sits on top of 139m Mt Futaba-yama, just to the north of Hiroshima Station.
The “Peace Pagoda”, or busshari-tou as it it called in Japanese, was built at the instigation of a Buddhist monk named Nichidatsu Fujii. Fuji was the founder of the Nipponzan Myōhōji sect of Nichiren Buddhism and was inspired to devote his life to promoting non-violence after a meeting with Mahatma Gandhi. His Peace Pagodas in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first of some 80 “shrines to world peace” that can now be found around the world.
An information sign at the pagoda explains,
The Peace Pagoda was erected in 1966 as a prayer for everlasting world peace and the repose of those souls sacrificed in the atomic bombing. The pagoda houses two gifts containing ashes of the Buddha, one presented by a group of Mongolian Buddhists. It also contains tens of thousands of memorial stones, each stone representing a prayer for peace offered by a resident of Hiroshima Prefecture.
It may be because of its association with a small Buddhist sect, but it is interesting that very few locals have ever made the trip up to the pagoda. This is a shame because, as much the pagoda itself, the views from the top of Mt Futaba-yama over the city and out to the islands of the Inland Sea are fantastic, especially at dusk as the lights come on across the city. The walk up the mountain from historic Tōshōgu Shrine, through the 100 or so vermilion torii shrine gates connected to Kinkou Inari Shrine along the steep forest path to the summit, also makes for a good (if somewhat strenuous) hike with plenty of photo opportunities along the way.
Kids will enjoy scrambling over the huge rocks (though it may make the hearts of their parents race) on the summit and the open area in front of the pagoda is ringed by large cherry trees, making it a very pleasant place to picnic, especially during the cherry blossom season.
View Peace Pagoda in a larger map