Hey to all my readers.! (I think there’s 20 of you now, as opposed to the 10 that were around last time :P). How’s it going for all of you?
My miku post was a huge failure *sad face*, I guess either no one likes her, my post sucked, or there are too many identical ones around. In any case, I’m going to fix the parts of that post that wordpress decided to eat, so please check it again soon. Or maybe, somehow I have attracted too many normal people and not enough otaku.
But on to the main subject! Hiroshima! None of you probably know much about Hiroshima other than the fact that it was the city where a nuclear weapon was used on humanity for the first time. But ever since finding that out in primary school, I’ve always wanted to visit either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. This trip, to me, is the fulfillment of at least one reason why I am in Japan :P. So anyways, hit the jump to find out about dun dun dun The Nuked City (Gosh, that was cheesy.)
Hiroshima for the Japan uninitiated is located southern corner of the main Japanese island of Honshu, and was and still is one of Japan’s most important southern ports. It’s also an important cultural hub for Southern Japan.
Fortunately, being such an important place one also has a number of options on how to get there. The two main options from if you are travelling from Northern and Central Japan (probably most tourists) are the Shinkansen and the highway buses. Hiroshima is roughly 900 km away from Tokyo and 420 km away from Nagoya, Japan. A roundtrip bus ticket cost the equivalent of a one way Shinkansen ticket, but, seriously, if you want to spend 10 hours on an extremely full and small bus, be my guest. The buses are also not at all accessible to those who cannot speak any Japanese.
The shinkansen on the otherhand is a little less than a 5 hour trip from Tokyo, and I cannot urge you enough, USE THE JR SHINKANSEN PACKAGES. By staying at JR designated hotels, you can save more than 5,000 yen on your Shinkansen tickets. This makes the Shinkansen + hotel price competitive with the bus + hotel price (the difference is around 2,000-3,000yen). If 2,000 yen is worth 5 more hours of travel, the use the bus. Though, the packages are only available in Japanese as far as I know. However, if you use a JR tour booth, I’m sure they would be quite happy to help you as long as you ask about the packages.
Alright onto trip material, I only spent 1 day in Hiroshima, so I’m only going to cover three places this time: Miyajima, the Atomic Dome, and the associated museum. With great regret, I missed out on the Castle, the mazda factory and a number of other places due to a lack of funds :(.
When exiting the station, I was honestly not sure what to expect. I have only ever heard about the destruction Hiroshima, but little about reconstruction, but I was quite surprised to see this.
Travel inside Hiroshima is accomplished through use of street trams. If you are intending to travel to Miyajima as well, you MUST buy the all day pass that includes the ropeway, the ferry to Miyajima, and the tram. It’s is a huge value compared to if you paid for them all independently. The trams branch off in a number of directions, so make sure you get on the right color line. First stop, atomic dome 原爆ドーム genbaku doomu! Of all the buildings that survived the bomb, this one was the closest to the epicenter of the explosion. It’s been perfectly preserved so the way it looks now, is how it looked in 1945. It also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site, the first one I’ve ever visited. Surprisingly enough, when this building was nominated as a World Heritage Site, only one country vehemently protested on the grounds that honoring the atomic dome would mean taking away the world’s focus on all the WWII in that country. Guess the country :P, cookies if you do it without Google. I hate my own ethnicity so much sometimes.
The whole mood in these peace memorials seem to portray Hiroshima and its residents as innocent victims of war who did not warrant being nuked. I’m not sure I agree with this whole national victim attitude, but I’ll leave my political views out of this. Next up is the peace memorial park! The park itself is erected on the portion of the city most seriously damaged by the bomb. I thought it was kind of creepy and a bit surreal to be standing on ground where tens of thousands of people had died. It’s not really necessary to have a guide for the park, as all the signs are in English and simply following the path will show you everything that you should see.
I’m sure you have all seen this next picture in one place or another. A monument in the peace park in rememberance of Sasaki Sadako. For those of you who don’t know her, she was a girl who was exposed to the atomic bomb at the age of 2, surviving due to being a mile away from ground zero. However, by 1954 at the age of 11 she was diagnosed with leukemia like so many other bomb survivors and was given immediate hospitalization. Unfortunately, at the time there was no such thing as a bone marrow transplant, and all the doctors could do was take her white blood cell count and hope for the best. Her friend Chizuko Hanamoto, told her of the urban legend that if one folds 1,000 paper cranes one could be granted one wish. Apparently, she managed to do so, but as expected she wasn’t cured. Sadako finally died from leukemia after suffering intense swelling on October 25, 1955 with her family around her. Her last words were reportedly “It’s good” after eating tea on rice, even though she had lost her sense of taste. Somewhere along the line a reporter got ahold of the story and spread it enough such that Sadako and her paper cranes are probably the most recognizable symbol of Hiroshima’s wish for peace after the bombing.
The inscription on the block where the boy is standing reads “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.” The custom is that you should carry your wish and ring the bell in order for it to come true. The girl on the top of the monument holds a paper crane above her head symbolizing her carrying wishes for a peaceful future. Does kind of suck that even with stories like Sadako’s, people are still more than willing to kill each other.
Alright time to insert a bit of cyncism into this to lighten the mood :P. Apparently, there were a large number of Koreans undergoing forced labour in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped. If there is anything the South Korean government is really good at, it’s QQ’ing about reparations from the Japanese. So after much crying and whining, the Koreans now have their own monument in the park even though technically it wasn’t the Japanese who caused the explosion. Funny how they didn’t raise a single complaint to the Americans…. huh…
The Peace Park Memorial is right in the center of the park, you can’t possibly miss it. Someone explained the symbolism to me here, but I totally forgot. But this place is also the main venue for the Hiroshima Peace Day celebrations on August 6th, bomb explosion anniversary, which attracts 50,000 people annually.
The Hiroshima Bomb memorial is a building on the Eastern portion of the park. There are signs in Japanese that say no photography, but in English they read no FLASH photography. I took the English message to be true and here we have pictures :P. The walls display the wreckage of Hiroshima, and list all the neighborhoods that were literally vaporized or completely wrecked by the bomb.
Onwards to the museum at the south end of the park! There really isn’t much point to summarizing the museum, but I’ll point out a few things that really stood out to me. The museum does put out a more neutral point of view on why it happened, but place far more focus on the actual horrors of the bomb.
There’s a hall filled with anecdotal evidence that was extremely touching, at least it was for me. In one story, a mother and her daughter were off on doing their seperate jobs at the time of the bombing. Apparently, the daughter was too close to the hypocenter of the explosion and her body was never found. The only thing her mother did find was this sandal belonging to her daughter. She recognized it as such because the straps were made from cloth torn from her kimono.
In another story, a 3 year old little boy was outside riding his tricycle while his parents were watching him from inside the house when the bomb was dropped. The parents survived, the boy… not quite. The father in his grief buried the tricycle with the boy so he would not be lonely in the afterlife. After resting with the boy for more than 40 years, the bike was dug up and donated to the Hiroshima Memorial museum where it is today. The bike is in pretty rough shape, I really don’t want to imagine what happend to the boy.
And finally we have Sasaki Sadako’s exhibit in the museum. They have numerous relics from her life including her health records. I think her story is the thing that moves me the most in the museum, even though I’ve heard the story a number of times.
O before the next stop I decided to get some munchies. If there is anything you MUST eat in Hiroshima, it is their okonomiyaki. Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is different from anywhere else in Japan in that the okonomiyaki is laid out in layers with clearly defined ingredients, instead of the mixed mass of stuff you get with Osaka style. There’s even a building in Hiroshima called the Okonomiyaki village, make sure you go there.
Finally, I headed to Miyajima before it was too late. Miyajima is a seperate island in the middle of the Hiroshima harbour, accessible only by boat and ferry from an area in western Hiroshima. There is a tram and JR station called Miyajima entrance, quite self explanatory. If you bought the all-day pass, make sure you take the tram and the ferry covered by the pass, as more than one company runs ferries to and from the island. A long time ago, Miyajima used to be a holy shrine island accessible only nobles. Now, most of it is a national park and the developed areas sell a lot of traditional goods and contain a lot of older temples and buildings. It is a real treat for anyone looking for a real taste of Japan. It also happens to be one of Japan’s most famous sight seeing spots.
Do please mind the deer. They look cute but they are in fact wild. They will not hesitate to attack your bags and you if you have bought food from a store. I saw two poor girls lose half their pack of manjuu snacks due to a deer sneaking up on them and biting the bag in half. O and as JR kindly reminds you, make SURE you hide your JR passes. These deer are notorious for eating them and JR passes cannot be replaced.
There are a number of spots available on the island and could easily take up your entire day. It’s best to allocate 1 day for Hiroshima and 1 whole day for Miyajima. Also, do watch the 6 hour tide chances in the region, or you may end up with a Torii gate and no water :P.
If you travel North behind the temple you can find the ropeway that is also included in the day pass. Without the pass, the ride alone is 1,800 yen. This takes you up to the top of the tallest mountain of Miyajima for some stunning views. Well the scenery on the way there is great too.
Alright enough scenery, back to the town for some refreshments.
Make sure you stop by this for their meat buns. They’re ridiculous expensive at 400 yen each, but they are the best meat buns I’ve ever had in my life.
At last, Sunset! I’ve been waiting for hours till sunset so I could get some truly dramatic shots of the Torii gate.
And to end with some night shots! Took these on the way to check in and hunker down for the night at my hotel. I went to Onomichi the next day, but I ended up posting that one first :P.
And thus concludes my one day trip in Hiroshima. I took a LOT of pictures and ended up making this post far longer than I thought it would be. Hopefully, you’ll all read it and comment! I’m really not quite sure what my readership is looking for and the view counts are all over the place. In any case, if I have even made 1 person more interested in visiting Hiroshima I think my mission is accomplished.
That’s it for now! Any suggestions on where I should head next? I look forward to everyone’s comments!