25/03/2015 to 27/03/2015
Wednesday 25th March 2015
I arrived early morning, in the port city of Shiminoseki, Japan, on an overnight ferry from Busan, South Korea. I felt good after a refreshing night’s sleep on the ferry, as it was quite empty. I had arrived in Japan, with no knowledge of the language, or a travel guide book to guide me the way. Sometimes this has a small adrenaline rush to it, however that can depend on how much luggage that you are carrying. Unfortunately, I was currently carrying quite a substantial amount of luggage after souvenir shopping in Asia, and buying a suit. Just trying to find an ATM was my first challenge, I was advised that 7/11 has one, which it indeed it did have, and I could then break any large notes on a snack for breakfast.
I caught a commuter train from Shiminoseki to Nishi-Hiroshima, this wasn’t as flash as the images you get of the bullet trains in Japan. It did take me at a reasonable pace through the countryside, and on to Hiroshima.
I arrived at my hostel, which was a transformed house. I got a welcome of nice warm tea, and chocolate biscuits, and sat around the table with staff and having an English lesson. I had a short conversation to help them practice, while I waited to check in. The lounge had low level tables, sitting on mats, and with paper walls. It felt very traditional, and put a smile on my face after the travelling, overland from Busan, South Korea.
I caught a tram into the city centre, to visit Shukkei-en gardens. Shukkei-en are historical gardens in the city of Hiroshima, it is a very serene environment to walk around. The curving ponds, filled with hundreds of white and orange koi carp fish, again gave me a very typical Japanese feeling. I walked over arching bridges, and stepping stones, as I strolled the parameter of the main lake. There are bamboo shoots wider than my hand. A relaxing afternoon and introduction to Japan.
I walked towards the downtown area of Hiroshima, to find some okonomiyaki for dinner. Okonomiyaki is Japanese savoury pancake. There are two different styles, known in different cities, Osaka and Hiroshima. They both have similar ingredients, in Osaka they are mixed together, in Hiroshima, they are prepared in layers. There is a specific area where there are multiple floors, full of restaurants, all selling this dish. I chose one, took a seat, and chose the chef’s recommendation. These restaurants, are of the style where the chef is at the centre of attention, and the customers sit around the table which is a large hot-plate. I was surrounded by Japanese post-work businessmen. The food was delicious, and was a new experience for me.
Thursday 26th March 2015
I dedicated today to exploring the sites of the unfortunate history of Hiroshima. In August 1945, the U.S.A. dropped the first Atomic Bomb on the city of Hiroshima. It landed in the centre of the city, and killed an unknown amount of people, though thought to be around 100,000. The city was almost completely flattened, and those that did not die instantly, suffered and died in the following months or years.
My first port of call for today was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The museum was very informative, and very sobering. Some of the articles seem to surpass the capabilities of my imagination. An example of this is how the shadow of people, got burned onto the ground due to the brightness of the explosion. There are examples of burned clothing, clocks that stopped at the moment of explosion amongst others. The display that shocked me the most, was a shard of glass, which travelled so quickly, that it pierced a concrete (photo below). This museum, like the War Remnants Museum in Vietnam, makes you leave with a slight hatred towards Americans. Civilians of both nations not only harmed, but left with continuous ailments and injuries.
I then explored the Hiroshima Peace Park. The area has lots of pretty statues, and memorials, to those who lost their lives. One memorial is of the young girl, Sadako Sasaki. She was diagnosed with leukaemia several years after the bomb, due to effects from the bomb. When she was in hospital, she heard that a Japanese tradition suggests that if you make 1000 origami paper cranes, you will be granted a wish. One version of the story says that she did not complete the 1000 before her death, and her classmates made 1000 and buried them with her. Now, the paper crane can be seen placed everywhere around Hiroshima Peace Park as a symbol.
The bomb dropped directly above a nearby building. Due to the nature of the bomb, the explosion went outwards, and therefore the building beneath nearly survived intact. I decided to use my selfie stick to take a photo of myself in front of it. When I did this, an inquisitive elderly Japanese man, saw my camera, and walk towards it. I have three photos as he got closer and closer to the lens. He spoke no English, I did try to show him the photos, but he ignored it.
I had some sushi for lunch, before heading to Hiroshima Castle. I explored the surroundings grounds, and took a slow, explorative walk back to my hostel.
Friday 27th March 2015
I was recommended by a friend to visit Miyajima whilst I am in Hiroshima. Miyajima is an island that is voted one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. I took a tram out to the port, and caught ferry across to the island.
Upon arrival on the island, the first thing that you notice, is the numerous deer walking around. They are inquisitive of the tourists, probably with the hope of food. I thought it would be funny to try and get a selfie with a deer intruding the photo, I had a slight success.
I walked through the old town, which is full of souvenir shops, and food stalls selling the islands specialties. I tried a Momiji manju stuffed with cheese, a local food shaped like the local maple leaf found on the island. I continued walking to Itsukushima Shrine, which is a red monument in the sea, and a symbol of not just the island, but also the country of Japan. I explored the rest of the shrine that is on land. Being a poor and cheap backpacker, I entered through the exit to easily avoid the entrance fee.
I started my planned walk to the summit. For a while I saw nothing but deer. This was pleasant, to be away from the hordes of tourists. There was a slight fear though, being somewhere where nobody knew me, or knew where I was, and I was hiking on a hot day. I saw some Western tourists closer to the top, which gave me comfort of going the correct way. Close to the top, I found a big rock, that over looked the sea. I took this opportunity to have a break, and admire the view, with some solitude. I continued to the summit, where I decided to have my lunch of whatever I could pick up from a convenience store on my way to the island. My lunch spot was not idyllic, the views were good, but not brilliant, and I was once again amongst the groups of noisy tourists.
I walked briskly to the bottom, and back towards the town. I spotted a deer trying to get into a shop, which made me chuckle, before catching a ferry back.
Tonight, I caught an overnight bus from Hiroshima to Kyoto. The thought of catching a bullet train in japan was tempting. However, a bus was a lot cheaper, and as it was overnight, I saved money on a night’s accommodation too. The bus was high quality, with every seat having a hood to cover your head from the lights.