Hiroshima: a pictorial with lots of words

03Dec12
For our first wedding anniversary Lisa and I visited Hiroshima Nov. 23-25 (Our anniversary is Nov. 22). We visited the Peace Park, Miyajima and Shukkeien Garden.

For our first wedding anniversary Lisa and I visited Hiroshima Nov. 23-25 (Our anniversary is Nov. 22). We visited the Peace Park, Miyajima and Shukkeien Garden. A rainbow greeted us in Miyajima.

A colleague who has lived in Japan for quite a while recently told me that of his two favorite places to visit in this country, Fukuoka is number 1 and Hiroshima is number 2.

I have never been to Fukuoka, but last weekend Lisa and I visited Hiroshima.

I will say this – the place was amazing. Was it better than Kyoto? I don’t know. You can’t really compare. Kyoto is the cultural and historical capital of Japan. Hiroshima is serene, surreal, beautiful and grotesque.

It is one of the prettiest places in Japan to witness the fall foliage. Last Friday was ‘Thanks Day’ in Japan and most people had a holiday from work, including Lisa. So everybody and their mother was on the train to Hiroshima to look at the damn momiji (maple) trees.

It was a four hour train ride. We took the shinkansen, or bullet train, that travels up to 200 miles an hour. Lisa and I bought non-reserved tickets. There are three cars on the train reserved for non-reserved travelers. The seats are first come, first serve. Luckily Tokyo Station is the first stop along the way so Lisa and I had our pick of seats. However, all of the seats on the non-reserved cars (which cost about $50 cheaper than reserved seats) were full before we left Tokyo.

So the poor saps who boarded at each subsequent stop had to stand in the aisle. With their luggage. Did I mention this was a 4-hour train ride?

That is why if you ever visit Japan, make sure it isn’t during one of the work holidays. Most Japanese salarymen don’t take vacations except during the national holidays. So on these 3-day weekends every tourist area is ridiculously crowded.

Unfortunately, we don’t have much of a choice since Lisa herself is a salaryman.

Me, I’m just a friter/gaijin/freelance writer who can go where ever the hell I please whenever I want. Anyway, I somehow got distracted.

Of course as you know, Hiroshima was the site of one of the A-bomb drops that ended World War II. Over 200,000 people died as a result, of which about 120,000 were killed instantly. A large swath of the city is dedicated in memoriam to this tragic event, and as an American I couldn’t but help feel awkward and ashamed for the duration of the trip.

However, the people of Hiroshima were delightful and welcoming. But still, history wears in the bones.

We arrived in Hiroshima on Friday and after a lunch of okonomiyaki our first stop was the Peace Memorial Park. I’m not going to describe to in depth about my feelings or give you long boring descriptions of statues, monuments and fountains because there is a series of pictures coming up, but I will share this anecdote.

The Children’s Peace Monument is dedicated to Sadako Sasaki, the girl who was exposed to the radiation when she was 2 and contracted leukemia when she was 10 and died. She is the girl that folded 1,000 paper cranes and started a worldwide peace movement.

The monument is a statue of a large atomic bomb with a girl holding a crane perched atop the nose. There is a bell underneath the statue that people can ring. Ringing the bell is a prayer for peace.

Before we went in to the Peace Museum, Lisa asked me if I wanted to ring the bell. I refused. I told her that I didn’t want to be one of the stupid Americans naively ringing the peace bell for a photo op even though you aren’t aware of its significance.

However, after touring the Peace Museum and witnessing relics from the destruction of that day in 1945 – seeing the pictures and the tattered, bloody clothes worn by children, children who lived in agony for as long as 10 days after the bombing – I was compelled to ring that bell.

I  haven’t been moved like that in quite some time.

The Peace Museum is worth a visit – once.

Friday night we explored the shopping district, which was nice, and found a decent restaurant on tripadvisor that served oysters and anago (an eel-like fish), both delicacies local to the area.

Saturday we took a ferry ride to Miyajima island. The island is supposed to be one of the top 3 most beautiful places in Japan, especially during the fall season, and it also houses Itsukushima shrine, the orange torii that during high tide is supposed to look like it is floating on water.

This was a great place to soothe the psyche after the trip to the Peace Museum, which felt like your soul was scraped to the bone by an over-aggressive dental assistant.

After another nice dinner of oysters, steak and okonomiyaki (Hiroshima has a special style of okonomiyaki filled with soba noodles) we walked along the river.

On Sunday, a little hungover and weary, we toured through the Shukkeien Garden, which was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel. This is a tea garden built in the 1600s and is one of the few gardens left in Japan that replicates the ancient cultivation style.

It was a nice half-hour stroll and then we headed back to the train station. Once again, we were able to take a shinkansen that started from Hiroshima so we were able to sit, while other forlorn travelers were forced to shuffle from foot to foot in the aisle. Once again, it was a four hour trip.

Enough talk. Here are the pictures:

As I mentioned, our first stop was at an okonomiyaki restaurant at the Hiroshima train station. Okonomiyaki originated in Osaka and most people like to call it a Japanese pancake. It does have dashi (fish) flavored batter that is mixed with cabbage and other vegetables as well as different meat, usually pork or shrimp. It is then topped with mayonaise, okonomiyaki sauce and fish flakes. Hiroshima okonomiyaki, or Hiroshimayaki, is also fried with soba noodles. I admit I prefer the Hiroshimayaki.

As I mentioned, our first stop was at an okonomiyaki restaurant at the Hiroshima train station. Okonomiyaki originated in Osaka and most people like to call it a Japanese pancake. It has dashi (fish) flavored batter that is mixed with cabbage and other vegetables as well as different meat, usually pork or shrimp. It is then topped with mayonaise, okonomiyaki sauce and fish flakes. Hiroshima okonomiyaki, or Hiroshimayaki, is also fried with soba noodles. I admit I prefer the Hiroshimayaki.

The fall foliage was vibrant in Hiroshima, as you can see from these momiji (maple) trees located across the river from the Peace Park.

The fall foliage was vibrant in Hiroshima, as you can see from these momiji (maple) trees located across the river from the Peace Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This shelled structure located at the entrance of the Peace Park is known as the A-Bomb Dome. Once upon a time it was the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. This was one of the few buildings left standing, even though the bomb detonated virtually 600 meters overhead of the building.

This monument is called a cenotaph. I have never heard the word and didn't bother to look it up. However, the arched structure provides and amazing view of the peace pond, the peace flame and the A-Bomb Dome. The center of the cenotaph contains a registry of every person that died as a of the bombing. To date the registry contains 221,893 names.

This monument is called a cenotaph. I have never heard the word and didn’t bother to look it up. However, the arched structure provides an amazing view of the peace pond, the peace flame and the A-Bomb Dome. The center of the cenotaph contains a registry of every person that died as a result of the bombing. To date the registry contains 221,893 names.

This is the Children's Peace Monument devoted to the memory of Sadako Sasaki. Sasaki folded 664 paper cranes herself and her friends helped her reach her goal of 1,000. The Peace Museum contains a few of her cranes, and also has the folding paper that was sitting next to her bed, that she had prepared in order to make more cranes. The sight of those little square pieces of paper nearly brought me to tears.

This is the Children’s Peace Monument devoted to the memory of Sadako Sasaki. Sasaki folded 664 paper cranes herself and her friends helped her reach her goal of 1,000. The Peace Museum contains a few of her cranes, and also has the folding paper that was sitting next to her bed when she died. The sight of those square pieces of paper nearly brought me to tears.

What was nice about the Peace Museum was that it was not over-critical of the U.S. In fact, it was much more accusatory to the warmongering nature of WWII era Japanese government. Hiroshima was a military site, where soldiers were trained and weapons and ships were built and stockpiled. Soldiers were preparing for an endless battle and were instructed to take 100 million lives.

Children were also involved in the war movement and worked in rather stark conditions in the factories. In fact, many of the children died while they were walking from school to the factories.

Still, after meandering agape through the Peace Museum, it is impossible to justify the use of the A-bomb. In fact, it seems atrocious that nuclear bombs still exist in the world. I wish that everyone had a chance to tour this spectacle in order to truly understand the immense destruction and agony caused by this single manmade action.

Anyway, moving on to brighter things:

After the soul-draining visit to the Peace Museum Lisa and I needed some Hiroshima sake and anago to soothe the sorrow.

After the soul-draining visit to the Peace Museum Lisa and I needed some Hiroshima sake and anago to soothe our melancholy mood.

For lunch on Sturdy we went to a local udon restaurant. Udon is a thick noodle that is popular on western Japan.

For lunch/breakfast on Saturday we went to a local udon restaurant. Udon is a thick noodle that is popular on western Japan.

Saturday afternoon Lisa and I took the 30-minute  ferry ride to Miyajima island, home of the Itsukushima shrine.

Saturday afternoon Lisa and I took the 30-minute ferry ride to Miyajima island, home of the Itsukushima shrine.

There are small docile deer on Miyajima island that prey on tourists for food. Similar to the deer, only with a little more sheen to their coat, the deer are considered a sacred animal.

There are small docile deer on Miyajima that prey on tourists for food. Similar to the deer in Nara, only with a little more sheen to their coat, they are considered a sacred animal.

This is the actual Itsukushima shrine, even though the orange torii built in the water is the most famous symbol. The line to get in to the shrine was obscenely long. So, one of the many reasons I love my wife, Lisa and I both decided the wait wasn't worth the while and we would be able to get just as good of a view from the beach.

This is the actual Itsukushima shrine, even though the orange torii built in the water is the most famous symbol. The line to get in to the shrine was obscenely long. So – one of the many reasons I love my wife – Lisa and I both decided the wait wasn’t worth the while and we would be able to get just as good of a view from the beach.

The view of the torii from the beach.

The view from the beach.

The torii was originally built in 1168 and the current gate dates back to 1875. The torii is built of camphor wood and it was designed to look like it is floating in the sea during high tide.

The torii was originally built in 1168 and the current gate dates back to 1875. The torii is built of camphor wood and it was designed to look like it is floating in the sea during high tide.

After visiting the torii we hiked through Momijidani Park. This was a nice surprise. The only thing I knew about Miyajima was there was this torii out in the water. I assumed you took a boat ride, looked at the shrine and went back home. However, the park was gorgeous. There were some nice walking trails, splendid views and some nice surprises.

After visiting the torii we hiked through Momijidani Park. This was a nice surprise. The only thing I knew about Miyajima was there was this torii out in the water. I assumed you took a boat ride, looked at the shrine and went back home. However, the park was gorgeous. There were some nice walking trails, splendid views and some nice surprises.

For instance, this rainbow. When we arrived on the island it was drizzling slightly, but it quickly cleared up. As we rounded a corner on the path we were greeted by this rainbow that stretched from the coastline to the mountains. It was brilliant, and we took a ton of pictures (Lisa took this one).

For instance, this rainbow. When we arrived on the island it was drizzling slightly, but it quickly cleared up. As we rounded a corner on the path we were greeted by this rainbow that stretched from the coastline to the mountains. It was brilliant, and we took a ton of pictures (Lisa took this one).

After returning to the mainland Lisa's relatives took us out to dinner to a wonderful restaurant. The oysters were delicious. While these were served grilled, I preferred them raw.

After returning to the mainland Lisa’s relatives took us out to dinner to a wonderful restaurant. The oysters were delicious. While these were served grilled, I preferred them raw.

Sunday was our last day in Hiroshima and we made a short visit to Shukkei-en Garden. It was built in 1620 by the leading architects from Kyoto.

Sunday was our last day in Hiroshima and we made a short visit to Shukkei-en Garden. It was built in 1620 by the leading architects from Kyoto.

The girl on the rainbow bridge holding a parasol is a bride having her wedding pictures taken. The day we were there we saw three different wedding parties have their photographs done.

The girl on the rainbow bridge holding a parasol is a bride having her wedding pictures taken. The day we were there we saw three different wedding parties get their photographs done.

The park was completely wiped out by the atomic bomb and has since been rebuilt. On the day of the bombing several victims came to the park for refuge.

The park was completely wiped out by the atomic bomb and has since been rebuilt. On the day of the bombing several victims came to the park for refuge.

So that's it. We arrived on Friday afternoon and left on Sunday afternoon. We were able to see everything we wanted and based on tripadvisor's list of "things to see in Hiroshima" we didn't miss much.

So that’s it. We arrived on Friday afternoon and left on Sunday afternoon. We were able to see everything we wanted and based on tripadvisor’s list of “things to see in Hiroshima” we didn’t miss much.

Advertisements


No Responses Yet to “Hiroshima: a pictorial with lots of words”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: