It was an early rise for our journey to Hiroshima. We were up and out by 8:15 to catch the tram to the station. Nearly 3 hours and 2 trains later we arrived in Hiroshima.
The sun was shining and it was just a short walk over the river from Hiroshima station to our hostel, K’s Backpackers. We knew we had to be super efficient with our time in Hiroshima so we dropped our bags at the hostel and headed straight out. The tram line was just round the corner from our hostel, and for ¥160 (approx. 87p) we travelled the short distance from our hostel to our first destination, Genbaku Dome (A-Bomb Dome).
You’ve probably read about Hiroshima or, if you are like me, have heard all about it from Grandparents, but seeing the Dome in person is a whole different story. The skeletal remains of the dome demonstrates in the least romantic way possible the destruction that was caused by the A Bomb, but also serves as a symbol for nuclear weapon abolition.
We then ventured over Aioi Bridge to the Memorial Peace Park. Rebuilt in 1983, the original bridge was a distinctive “T” shape and was believed to have been the intended target for the bomb.
The first thing we saw when we entered the park is the Peace Clock Tower. At quarter past eight every morning the clock chimes; a prayer for perpetual peace.
There is a silence that permeates the park and you get the impression that everybody there is trying to absorb what it all represents. It is near impossible to fully appreciate what it must have been like on that day, but this park is not about showing the chaos but instead highlighting the need for peace.
The silence is broken by the sound of the Bell of Peace. The bell was dedicated as a symbol of Hiroshima Aspiration and visitors are encouraged to ring the bell twice for world peace (You ring it once and let the sound reverberate, once this stops you strike the bell a second time)
Another key monument is the Children’s Peace Monument. This stands in memory of all the children who died as result of the atomic bombing. The inspiration for the monument came after the death of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who dies from leukaemia after being exposed to atomic radiation at the age of 2. She started folding hundreds of cranes while she was ill, in the hope that if she made it to 1000, she might live. Unfortunately, Sadako died before she made it to 1000 but her friends and classmates finished it for her. She is represented at the top of this monument.
Further along the park is the Peace Flame. The flame has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964, and will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation.
The last monument we saw in the park was Memorial Cenotaph. The monument is aligned with the Peace Flame and the Bomb Dome and represents a shelter for the souls of the victims. There was stillness here with many taking their time to say prayers and bow.
At the back of the park is Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It costs ¥50 to enter, which felt far too cheap. We were unlucky enough to choose the same day as a school trip so there was a lot of noise and overcrowding thus lessening the impact the museum intended. There were a lot of similarities with the Nagasaki Museum, which may have contributed to the lessened impact, but as with Nagasaki it is the personal items that hit home the most.
After the museum we went to find the Hypocenter. It is tucked away in a side street and hasn’t been given the same prominence as the one in Nagasaki, probably because the Bomb Dome is signal enough.
Hiroshima Castle was next on the list. We only viewed this from afar as our time in Hiroshima was very limited and we still had more to cram in before the end of the day. The building is stunning though.
After a long walk back to the train station to catch the ferry to Miyajima (we weren’t lost, we were just in a place we’d never been before) we needed some sugary goodness and found The Little Mermaid bakery. They had quite the selection so it would have been rude to buy fewer than 3 each! We knew where we coming for breakfast!
The ferry port to Miyajima is a short, 30 minute train ride away from Hiroshima at Miyajimaguchi station. The ferry is covered by the JR Pass, but it’s only ¥180 each way if you don’t have one. (Pack a scarf, it gets chilly on the water).
Miyajima is a small island best know for the Itsukushima Shrine and deer. The most iconic part of the shrine is the “floating gate”, so called because of its position in the water. It was dark when we got there, and the tide was out so we had missed the ideal time to see it in all its glory, but it still looked pretty spectacular!
After taking as many photos as possible in the bracing cold we were chilled to the bone and knew we had to warm ourselves up. Luckily there’s a great little restaurant called Koumitie run by a husband and wife team that serve up various types of Okonomiyaki. We had ours Hiroshima style where it was cooked for us, but you can also have Kansai style (cook it yourself). Prices were very reasonable; Laura stuck with the classic (¥810) and I went for Octopus (¥940).
It was dark and cold when our time on Miyajima had ended so we headed straight back to the hostel to warm ourselves up. The vending machine filled with booze was also beckoning us and would have been rude to ignore it.
And with that, our time in Hiroshima had come to an end. It would have been great to spend some more time there and I would recommend booking a stay on Miyajima so you can take the time to appreciate it. Alas, we did not have the luxury of time and Nara was calling…
Alex and Laura