Number 6 – Live in Tokyo (the 6 of Clubs) – Part 3
My god I missed being on the road. For those who have read my Tokyo post, you’ll know I was getting itchy feet, so on Sunday 19th March, I boarded a night bus bound for Hiroshima. This is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a long time; it is steeped in so much history for obvious reasons, and I wanted to pay my respects. I only had two days here, but I packed in everything I wanted to do in this time.
My first day was spent in Hiroshima city centre, exploring the grim history, but heart-warming recovery surrounding what happened here. My hostel was on the west side of Hiroshima and instead of getting the tram back into the centre, I decided to walk the 2km journey and just enjoy my surroundings. It was around halfway that I was suddenly hit with the realisation of where I was. I was walking along a street that 70 years ago was completely destroyed in one of the most severe attacks the world has ever experienced. It was a really sobering realisation and gave me an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I made my way along the peace boulevard, eventually arriving at the peace memorial park, which houses the peace museum and various structures devoted to Hiroshima’s message of worldwide peace. After a few photo stops, I made my way into the Peace museum. It’s remarkably cheap and there is a lot of information on offer in various languages about the events of August 6th 1945. Before visiting, a few friends asked about whether it was actually safe to visit Hiroshima because of radiation etc. The bomb actually exploded 600m above ground, meaning a lot of the radiation was airborne. Because of this, the radiation had disappeared within a few months and the city was safe in terms of radiation. However, the destruction caused by the bomb was unparalleled. Within seconds, the entire city was completely levelled, and fires burned for days. The museum goes into great detail about how the bomb worked, the effect it had on the landscape and about the 140,000 victims. There is a separate building where the victims are all named, and a mosaic adorns the walls with 140,000 tiles, one for each victim. The whole museum was extremely well set out, and is a must for any visitor to Hiroshima. From there I spent some time in the park, checking out the shrines and the Genbaku dome, which is one of the few buildings that survived complete destruction. As I said earlier, it was a very sobering experience, and whilst you feel quite negative about the events, when you look around and see how resilient the people here are, how they have rebuilt an entire city and culture in 70 years, and how they have used such a negative event in order to spread such a positive message, it’s hard not to feel inspired.
From here I wandered into the shopping district for a treat. Those of you who have been following the blog know that I have a little bit of an obsession with Okonomi Yaki. It’s just incredible, and Hiroshima has a complex dedicated to this crazy Japanese pancake. Okonomimura is a building with three floors of restaurants selling nothing but Okonomi yaki. It is heaven! Every restaurant was full to bursting, and when I finally decided which restaurant I wanted, I had to wait for a space. The portion sizes were huge, which meant I had leftovers for dinner as well! Budget win! Another must for your trip.
This was meant to be the end of my first day, but I was feeling energised and it wasn’t very late so I decided to head to Hiroshima castle. Obviously the castle was destroyed when the bomb hit, but they have rebuilt it according to the original specifications and it really is an incredible structure. I will be honest, I am getting a little templed/castled/shrined out now though. They are fantastic to see, but once you’ve seen the first 50, they kind of lose their appeal slightly. That’s not to take away from their brilliance, just a feeling I’m sure many of you have had. In Europe it was the same with churches.
In the evening I spent some time in the hostel and was able to meet a few other travellers and exchange stories. You’ll know from my previous posts that I was feeling slightly isolated in Tokyo, so to be meeting other travellers again was just great. So thank you to Felix, Jack, Mairi and Kako for a great night!
Day two began nice and early, with Felix and I getting up and heading towards Miya Jima island. Before leaving, Nigel and Carol bought me an awesome book called 101 coolest things to do in Japan, and whilst I’ve been working my way through the entire book, the Itsukushima shrine on Miya Jima Island was the cover image of the book and one that I knew I wouldn’t be able to miss out. It is the quintessential Instagram image that people take with them from Japan, and as I’m writing this I’ve just realised that I haven’t actually posted a picture of it myself! Schoolboy error! Anyway, the day started pretty overcast but during the tram ride down to the ferry crossing it cleared up a bit. If you are visiting, I would consider getting the tram day pass. It costs 840 yen, but includes unlimited travel on the trams and the ferry crossing to the island. Upon arrival we headed along the coast to the shrine, being harassed by myriad deer along the way and having to push through the crowds a little bit. That’s the only problem with tourist spots. However, after getting the obligatory photo’s we headed on towards our main purpose of our trip – climb Mt Misen. There are three routes up to the summit, each of which takes around 2 hours. We decided to take the Daishoin route as it gave us a chance to visit the Daishoin temple which was just beautiful. I know I said I was a bit bored of temples, but this is definitely one of the better ones I have visited. Probably because it isn’t in the city, but set in the hillside at the foot of the mountain, it just felt a lot more serene. From there we headed up the mountain. As I said, it took around 2 hours and was quite demanding at times, but more than doable for anyone of a decent fitness level. If you feel uncomfortable at the thought of actual exercise, you can take the cable car for 1800 yen return. Because you really need to see the views from the top. The viewpoint is just spectacular; you can look west and north towards the mainland and the overwhelming cityscapes stereotypical of Japan, or east and south towards a serene seascape with islands bursting from the ocean. Be prepared though – Its cold!
After the descent, we spent some time in the town of Miya Jima and ate a little food, although the prices here are grossly inflated due to tourism. The rest of the day was a little nondescript – I bought my ticket to Osaka, ate some more great food, then chilled in the hostel again in the evening. Hiroshima is great, but I do think two days is enough, as long as you are prepared and on it. Otherwise you could split the first day into two days and spend three relaxing days here easily. There are also other destinations around Hiroshima that you could visit, including Onomichi and Iwakuni, as well as Fukuoka and Nagasaki, although you might want more time for the latter two.
As I said at the start of this post, I’m super happy to be on the road again; I’m actually writing this from Osaka, which I think might be my favourite destination so far in Japan, but more on that next time!
Carpe that Diem!