Hiroshima and Miyajima

Location MapHiroshima, the home of one of the most deadly events in human history. Rainy weather made for a fairly solemn visit to the place where the first atomic bomb was used in angst. We stood with several Japanese at the hypocentre and paid our respects.

Hiroshima is actually further out of the way than I thought, but I’m glad I’ve been once. We missed our train from Kyoto the first time and as a result for some reason our shinkansen trip went from 2.5 to 3 hours. I guess it was late, but we decided to make the most of Kyoto.

The hypocentre is the point above which the atomic bomb exploded, showering Hiroshima’s citizens with a 4000C burst of superheated air, a blast wave, radiation and finally black rain. Those who didn’t die instantly died of horrible radiation poisoning or developed related illnesses.

Within a few hundred metres a dilapidated building still stands from that day. Too dangerous to demolish initially, it has now become part of the memorials next to the Peace Park.

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The A-bomb dome next to Peace Park

Thousands of tiny paper cranes were strung at the memorial. The crane is a symbol of peace, hope and love. In Japan, it is popular to make a thousand paper cranes as an act of hope called senbazuru.

There once was a Japanese girl suffering from leukaemia. She attempted senbazuru, but unfortunately lost her battle with cancer before completing the cranes. Her classmates banded together and finished the thousand cranes.

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Thousands of paper cranes at the memorial

The cherry blossoms in the Peace Park were at their peak, but there wasn’t much they could do to lift the darkness from the day.

Japan and the United States have a history with cherry blossoms. In 1912, Japan gifted cherry blossoms to the US to be planted in Washington D.C. to bolster their growing relations.

Washington D.C. now holds an annual Cherry Blossom Festival. After the bombing of Pearl Harbour in World War II though, it is suspected that four of those cherry trees were chopped down in an act of misguided retaliation.

Following the war, in 1952, Japan requested assistance regrowing cherry blossoms in Tokyo using the Washington D.C. stock and the US obliged. Finally, in 1965, Japan gifted a further 3,800 cherry trees from Yoshino and they re-enacted the original 1912 planting ceremony.

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Plenty of cherry blossoms

Hiroshima Castle which was levelled by the atomic bomb was rebuilt in 1956. Surrounded by cherry blossoms it certainly satisfied my Japanese castle quota though not nearly as massive as Matsumoto-jo. The castle is now a samurai museum, but unfortunately we had no time to see it.

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Hiroshima Castle

We also squeezed in a half day trip to Miyajima island. It’s a short train ride from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi and then a 10 minute ferry to the island (all included in the JR rail pass). Just make sure you check the tide times depending on whether you want the ocean in or out during your visit. I’d definitely recommend being there at high tide.

It’s quite scenic pulling into the Miyajima ferry terminal as you pass the giant torii gate that seems to guard the temple, but I don’t think it’s necessary to climb to the top of the mountains. Unless the far side of the mountains is nice, across the water you just see a city and all the cherry blossom trees were down low around the Miyajima settlement.

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Low tide rising at Miyajima

The strip along the water was loaded with shops, many of them aimed at tourists, but for some reason I didn’t really find it offensive. There is loads of food to check out including a local cake called momiji manju. Normally it’s filled with red bean paste, but it can have other fillings like custard. I just wish they were served hot.

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One of many shops selling food and sake

We bought some souvenirs, enjoyed some Japanese curry and had a fairly lazy walk around. The tide was out so we didn’t bother with the floating temple (nothing but sand and sea sludge underneath), but we did see a samurai on the beach.

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Samurai beach walk

Lastly, we ventured out in the rain using the free umbrellas from out hostel that we wish we knew about earlier (K’s Guesthouse – ¥2,600 for 6 bed dorms) in search of sushi. We ended up going to a place in town recommend by the helpful hostel staff and had a great feast. There were a few things I hadn’t tried before like Bonito (a red fish meat), Anago (local conger eel) and baby sardines.

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L to R: Bonito, Anago, baby sardines and salmon

So a very short stay in the end, but we have to leave early to try and make it to Yoshino on the way to Kanazawa. Not exactly the most practical trip, but with cherry blossoms in bloom Yoshino is meant to be one of the top places in Japan to view them.

Read more about this trip here

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