The visit to Hiroshima included my favourite single day of the whole trip! The city itself is a stunning set of contrasts, and a complete change of pace from Tokyo. The roads aren’t busy, there’s very little noise, but it’s still an incredibly urban place to be.
I have to admit that my initial expectations were totally different to what I found. As a city which was completely and utterly dessimated by the nuclear bomb in 1945, which, let’s be realistic, was pretty recent, it’s entirely rebuilt itself. Because of the story we all associate with Hiroshima, I think I just expected it to have a sadder ambience… but it’s so vibrant! It’s a place which actively promotes happiness and peace, which you feel just from walking its streets.
The Peace Memorial Museum
This is ofcourse a fundamental part of any visit to Hiroshima. Just a few hundred metres from the epicentre, this interactive museum tells the heartbreaking story of the 6th August 1945. You learn about the United States’ nuclear programme, their criteria for choosing Hiroshima (its valleys meant that the bomb could obliterate the area), the Japanese peace talks which were infact ongoing during the time of the attack, and then the almost unfathomable aftermath. The information is all presented in a subjective manner, you see that the Japanese committed atrocities during the war just like all other countries involved, but I still find it bewildering that a nuclear bomb was ever considered a solution. However, what is then completely incomprehensible was that, after seeing the effects of the attack, another was carried out just three days later in Nagasaki…
That said, this museum’s overarching message was one of peace and moving forward. It’s not about pointing fingers or retaining that resent. Thousands of origami cranes are made each year as a symbol for peace, which are then recycled and used to make products sold in the shop, such as postcards. There was also a handwritten message from Obama and two paper cranes that he had made, as well as an urge for visitors to sign the petition for nuclear disarmament.
We then took a walk through the memorial gardens… Albeit a short one because of the fiery heatwave which awaited us once we stepped out of the blissful airconditioned building.
Another must if you’re in Hiroshima, Miyajima Island is a small haven just off the coast with a stunning and world-famous ‘floating’ Torii gate. We went in the evening, just before sunset and it was the ideal time because the view was absolutely breathtaking. We took a short boat ride over to the island then took a stroll filled with curious deer and adorable souvenir shops. We got to the Torii gate at sunset and it was an amazing sight! It’s in shallow water, which makes it look as if it’s floating.I do need a moan though… While we were all standing there in awe at the view, some tourists decided it would be a good idea to get into bikinis and swim underneath the gate for their instagrams… Aside from people complaining that these people had now ruined everyone else’s photos, I couldn’t believe how ignorant it was. In the whole time I was in Japan I didn’t even see any Japanese people in spaghetti straps (which is something you absolutely notice when you’re in 42 Celsius heat), and these people decided to swim, half naked, under a sacred monument. It’s like the equivalent of sitting in just swimwear in the Vatican… everyone would be outraged. So why do these tourists feel so almighty that they can claim this gate for their holiday photos, irregardless of any cultural sensitivity. I was just amazed that they either hadn’t thought of that, or worse, knew what they were doing and did it anyway!
Anyway, rant over, Miyajima was magical.
Experiencing Cultural Traditions
Another two Japanese traditions which we were lucky enough to experience while we were in Hiroshima were to eat in a restaurant with private tatami rooms (an experience which I totally want to repeat!) and visit a small neighbourhood’s shrine festival. We came across it by chance, stumbling through some events on Facebook and so went to go and find it. The had plenty of food stalls with delicious-looking skewers, some possibly more questionable ingredient choices too.. and we got to see a perfomance of Kagura, a story-telling dance to the strong beat of drums and other instruments. It was incredible experience to see something completely local and void of any tourist influence.
Walking back to the hotel was so peaceful and beautiful with trees lining the river. I’d love to come back and spend more time here in Hiroshima. It’s definitely a place of positivity and you can feel that; it makes you feel good in yourself too.