We started the day at the Hiroshima Toyoko Inn and after checking out and leaving our bags at reception we walked to the train station to buy a special Hiroshima / Miyajima 2 day pass. This cost 2000¥ and covers tram rides around Hiroshima, Miyajima ferry and cable car for 2 days.
We caught the tram at the station and noticed there were several other westerners on it as well. We assumed they were also going to the Peace memorial too, so we decided to follow them. It turns out we didn’t need to worry as the tram had a pre-recorded announcement in English for the Peace park stop.
As we arrived at the park the first thing you see is the atom bomb dome. This used to be one of the main buildings used by government and industry in the city. The Hiroshima explosion was an aerial blast around 600m above the city and the dome was very close to the hypocentre of the explosion. Because it was nearly directly underneath the blast the shockwave destroyed all the horizontal surfaces such as the roof, but left all the vertical walls still standing. Everyone inside the building was killed instantly by the intense heat from the explosion.
This still standing building has become a symbol of the explosion and the destructive force of the nuclear bomb. As we walked towards the peace museum there was a arch constructed which lines up with the dome and an eternally lit flame.
One of the monuments is dedicated to the children and students who died during or as a result of the explosion. School groups that visit the area usually stop here and leave a chain of origami cranes. As we approached it we were overtaken by a school group of middle-schoolers and got to see them all in front of the statue, presenting their paper cranes. The monument was created following a 12yo girl who died many years after the explosion due to leukaemia. She believed that folding 1000 cranes would grant her a wish that she may live. After her death her classmates petitioned and fundraised to build the children’s monument.
Inside the museum we found a coin locker for our backpacks and started looking through the museum. The first room is about the history of Hiroshima, mentioning the castle, and strong industry. It then discusses its gradually increasing military role for training, command and manufacture.
The next room focuses on the day of the explosion; it has 2 big dioramas showing before and after views of Hiroshima, and videos playing showing the view from Hiroshima and from the US air force.
We then go upstairs and it talks about rebuilding after the explosion and a few artefacts that were affected by the blast. After rebuilding there is a display discussing nuclear weapon development, nuclear testing by different countries and Hiroshima’s efforts to promote test ban treaties and nuclear non-proliferation pacts.
The next wing is much more powerful and focuses on the personal stories of those affected by the blast, mainly families where children or parents died. One interesting thing we found out was all the high school students had been conscripted to the “volunteer corps” and were demolishing buildings to create fire breaks for the expected US bombing. This meant many of the victims of the bombing were 12-16 year old students who were on the street at the time of the blast. Many of the items on display here were things the students had with them, such as uniforms, sandals and notes. This area was very emotionally powerful and I think everyone going though was saddened and moved by it.
The next area was on the effects of the bomb, and discussed the different levels of radiation exposure, the radioactive black rain that followed the explosion and long term effects such as different cancers and cataracts.
There was an interesting exhibit of items affected by the blast, roof tiles that had bubbled, glass ink jars and coins that had melted together, statues that were blackened on one side and concrete walls that had been perforated by flying glass. Overall different items trying to show the shear heat and force that the explosion produced.
After the main exhibits we moved into the basement for 2 exhibition galleries, one was drawings by people who survived that blast and remembered certain things from the day. The collection was primarily about people wanting water, and finding dead bodies in the wells and troughs, and being told not to give water to victims as it would kill them, and then regretting not giving them any when they still died.
The second area was about the volunteer corps and what it did, as we were running short on time we only skimmed this area.
After leaving the museum we were off to try to find Joel’s must have food for Hiroshima, Okonomi-yaki. Luckily as we were leaving the peace park we saw a big sign saying “Hiroshima style Okonomi-yaki” and it was just around the corner. Unfortunately it was closed and had a sign up saying it was open every day of the month except today and yesterday.
This led us on a long walk down the shopping avenue to try to find somewhere selling it. After a fruitless search and walking half way back to the hotel we asked a policeman were we could get some. He pointed us in a vague go forward then right gesture which we followed. After a bit more searching in that area we finally found a place selling it. We decided to order the special one that had most of the toppings and would share it between the two of us. This turned out to be a very wise decision as we could each barely finish our half.
After finishing lunch we caught a train back to the hotel, picked up our luggage and lugged it over to the JR station to catch a local train to Miyjimaguchi. The train arrived quickly and apart from usual problems with photos on trains we had a nice journey.
Arriving at Miyjimaguchi we just missed the ferry our 2 day pass covered us for. It turns out JR also run a ferry service that we can catch for free with our Rail passes. This was due next so rather than use our 2 day pass we just used our JR ones to get to Miyajima sooner.
As the ferry approaches the island it deliberately goes wide to give a better view of the Itsukushima Tori gate. This is a massive Tori gate standing in the water with a top 27M long, 17M tall and the supports have a 10M circumference.
Arriving at the wharf the first thing I noticed was there were more Deer on the island. We could see them lounging around and chasing after any tourist that think may have food. Also we see tourists stopping to take pictures of any deer they think look cute or photogenic.
We had a brief uphill walk to our hotel and what a difference. Previously we have been staying in budget business hostels. This is our first upmarket Ryokan and the difference is amazing. While waiting at reception we had cold towels and iced tea. They had my name already on the list of guests outside the hotel. A person from reception personally showed us to our room. We have yukata robes that actually fit. The room provides tea bags not just a kettle. The bathroom has a double sink, separate toilet and shower rooms and bottles of After shave and mysterious “Hair Tonic” and “Hair Liquid – For professionals”.
Our room has a great view over the island, we are on the 5th floor and can see over the neighbouring buildings right across the bay and can see the lit up Tori gate. Only thing lacking is there is no internet access in the rooms, so I will try to post this using the shared PC later tonight.
After dropping of our bags it was only 4:30pm so we decided to explore the area for a bit as we had arranged for dinner at 7:30pm. We walked over to the Itsukushima Shrine and wondered though it. It was low tide so we didn’t get to see the great effect of the building appearing to float on the water that you get at high tide. We then wondered up to some of the hill paths to try to get a good view of the area and the hotel. The view from along the paths was amazing, but due to the low sun most of the photos we took ended up being badly exposed, with too much light behind the subject, or too many shadows on it. I haven’t had a chance to review the photos yet, so I will just have to wait and see.
After returning from our walk we decided to try out the public bath. This was a first for either of us and we were a bit unsure what to do. Luckily there was a step by step guide in the change room, you undress there and place you clothes in the basket, you then rinse yourself using the bucket and shower, soak in the bath, get out and wash yourself again then go back in and soak for longer. Unfortunately there were no instructions on what to do with your towel. Do you take it in with you or leave it in your basket? We left ours in the basket after seeing there was no real place to put it in the bath room. We washed and rinsed then had a nice and relaxing bath, before rushing out paranoid we were going to be late for dinner.
For dinner tonight we had a full Japanese Ryokan banquet. As we are in a sea port the majority of it was seafood of some description. It tasted amazing and had a huge variety of textures and flavours. It also had some sort of alcohol with it, not sure if it was sake or liquor, but it was the first drink I’ve had that I actually enjoyed.
We began with a number of things in front of us and had no idea what to eat / drink first so we just randomly picked things and started eating. After a few minutes the attendant came in to ask for drinks and light the burners under our fish and noodle dish. She came back again a little while later with some more dishes and to add the egg to the cooking dish.
I managed to eat pretty much everything I was given, but was so full at the end I didn’t touch my rice. Joel skipped several things (eel, dried prawns, cucumber, some unknown things) but did have some rice. Some course items were new to me, I had my first whole dried prawn (has head and shell) which was crunchy but tasty, some weird jelly that I couldn’t place the flavour of, a custard dish with pieces of fish and scallop in it. There were lots of sashimi (raw fish) dishes that were very nice.
For desert we had a very light peach custard that tasted wonderful.
After dinner we had another nice, relaxing soak in the bath to end the day.