Hi from Hiroshima

Trip Start Oct 03, 2011
1
5
28
Trip End Dec 25, 2011


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What I did
Tried not to get too wet, and discovered the nuclear past of Hiroshima

Flag of Japan  , Chugoku,
Thursday, October 13, 2011

After 5 hours of trains (2 of which are the ever fun Shinkansen) to Hiroshima, we are now the furthest west that we will go in our time in Japan. It's hard to tell from the train, as much of the country is continually veiled in haze, but generally it seems to be huge, flat built up areas with steep mountains covered in trees from top to bottom continually looming in the background.

It's nice to be back in a bustling city again, after the relatively small Takayama & Nikko. We head to the hostel, then as it's now mid afternoon, straight out to the Peace Memorial Museum which is all about the infamous Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. The museum is harrowing and overwhelming, but is by no means an overly sentimentalised view. Much of it is dedicated to discussing the nuclear weapons that abound in the world today, and we emerge surprised that more bombs haven't been used, either by accident or design. Since the bombing, Russia has tested a nuclear bomb 3100 times more powerful than that which was used at Hiroshima, and containing 10 times the combined power of all the weapons used in World War II. Frightening stuff. The museum's aim is to abolish all nuclear weapons in the world, and whilst it is inspiring to see the hundreds upon hundreds of people flooding through the peace park and the huge numbers of nationalities there, we can't help but think the aspiration may be a long time in becoming reality.

After the museum, it is hard to go straight back to normality, however, we head out to a local restaurant with that aim. Hiroshima has a different feel in the city centre, as the reconstruction after the total devastation of the city has kept it much more open with wider streets than most Japanese cities we have experienced. The residents have obviously invested so much in their city, and it must be hard to be viewed continually by the world for its one 'claim to fame' when it has worked so hard to grow and progress.

Amy is delighted that she will be getting a good tea this evening, as after a couple of poor picture recognition decisions, Michael has been doing rather well out of her being a veggie and getting double portions of meatiness! Tonight, after a chat with the lovely Tom on reception at the hostel, she is armed with a piece of paper that says something in Japanese along the lines of "your most popular meal, but with no meat!" Hooray! We have okonomiyaka which we reckon is the same thing Michael had at the fair in Nikko, but with the Hiroshima special twist - noodles in the middle. It is SO good, we are definitely going to recreate it at home!

The next day, boo, it's raining, properly chucking it down! We have a quick change of plans and head to the Peace Memorial Hall which we didn't have time for yesterday and is full of survivors testimonies from the A-Bomb as it is known. Again, very traumatic, but an overriding wish for it never to happen again anywhere in the world prevails. Every time a nuclear weapon is tested the mayor of Hiroshima writes to the president of that country to protest - there are hundreds of the letters on display.

It's still pouring with rain as we emerge, and none of the museums grab our fancy so we decide to partake in the popular Japanese pastime of shopping as they are all underground or under covered walkways. Amy is keen to emulate the Japanese girls who are always extremely well dressed (also very modestly, it's rare to see any leg on show, and she hasn't worn any strappy tops here as no-one seems to have their shoulders on display either). Our favourite 'finds' are a vintage look jumper with a British flag on, sporting the phrase Bradford with Merseyside Campus written underneath, and a knock off Adidas t-shirt that says aides instead. However, neither of us like shopping that much, and when you know you will have to lug your purchase around for the next 3 months on your back, it's really not an incentive to splurge.

However, another thing that we're pleased to report the Japanese handle very well is wet weather. All the hostels have free umbrellas to borrow, and some places have stands outside where you can lock up your brolly while you head inside (I'll attach a picture if I can find the photo card it's on within the depths of my rucksack!) or clever gadgets that bag your brolly up so it doesn't drip on the floor. We love their practicality!

It's still throwing it down when we head home, so we have every travelers favourite activity - a clothes washing session! We both put on the only random clothes we have left (Michael - swimming trunks, Amy - ninja outfit... kidding, black shorts and top though) and chuck everything in the machine, then the dryer. Having not checked if any of her clothes are tumble dryable (very necessary when you need stuff to be dry by the next day) Amy is relieved that most of her clothes seem to still be the right size.

The next day dawns without rain, hooray, so we head off to Miyajima, a nearby island with a 'floating' shrine gate, meant to be one of the three best views in Japan - also extremely touristy, and as we all know, Japan does do touristy very well indeed.

The shrine is beautiful, as for once we get our timing spot on and hit high tide, but there are annoying deer everywhere, and they clearly don't understand English as when we tell them to "go away" while we eat our lunch, they take it as an opportunity to chase us. Amy tried to get them to just follow Michael, but the lure of her sandwich (despite her hiding it behind her back) was just too much for them to leave her be.

We decide to head for the heights of the island and definitely reckon we are fit enough for the longest (2 hour) route - how hard can it be?! Five minutes in and we're already feeling a bit hot, but are not ones to turn back. A few more minutes and it's feeling increasingly muggy, the sweat is pouring off Michael & Amy is bright pink as we head up the never-ending steps with no idea how long the path is (what's the point in research!). Increasingly bedraggled, we reach the top and after a quick sit down, head into a temple which hosts an everlasting flame which was lit over 1200 years ago. At least now we smell of smoke and not sweat. Privately, Amy can't help feeling that the fire must have gone out at least once in all that time, but Michael reckons they'll have had a back up torch somewhere like the Olympic flame.

Amy, who much admired the poise of the beautiful Japanese girls as we shopped yesterday, is now getting increasingly annoyed as they still appear beautiful and poised at the top of the mountain, and in high heels! Who wears high heels up a mountain?! She very enthusiastically greets all the sweating and panting people that we see who have walked up rather than caught the cable car, usually managing to pick the correct phrase from the two that we actually know (konnichiha pronounced "ka-nee-chee-waa" meaning 'hello' and arigatou pronounced "harry-gateaux" - at least the way we say it - meaning 'thank you.') Clearly sweating and panting need no translation as they all smile and nod sympathetically back. We get the cable car back down, with our excuse being that we wouldn't want to get stuck on the mountain in the dark, especially with the deer, and the signs we see helpfully post-climb warning of poisonous snakes and dangerous monkeys. Looks like the deer were the least of our worries!

We treat ourselves to the other local delicacy at the bottom, some grilled oysters. Delicious (especially with soy sauce, everything tastes so much better with that on), then some cakes that must have some significance to the island as every shop is teeming with them. Amy has the traditional filling of red bean curd, and Michael has his traditional filling of chocolate!

It begins to spit rain lightly as we head back to the hostel at dusk, and we really begin to appreciate just how lucky we have been with the weather so far.

Fingers crossed for sunshine tomorrow!

Much love & thanks for all the kind comments and messages,

Amy & Michael
 
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Comments

Sue Ashworth on

Fabulous, I don't know how you two have any time to write!! x

Helen Chhokar on

"harry-gateaux" has given me the giggles for a good 10 minutes!

Sarah Hughes on

Amy and Michael, your blogs are providing great entertainment, very funny indeed! x

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