Day 3: Hiroshima
I had wanted to include Hiroshima in my travel itinerary because I felt that it was one of the places I wanted to visit in Japan, remembering its history as one of the two only cities in the world where the atomic bomb was ever dropped. The other being Nagasaki. My day started early morning at the Kyoto hostel I was staying in the night before after a tiring and fruitful day exploring Kyoto and Nara. Kenix and others had boarded the overnight bus back to Tokyo as it was a working day for them. I took the local train to Kyoto station where I boarded the Kodomi Shinkansen bullet train to the city of Hiroshima. It was a 4-hour journey.
Upon arrival, I noticed the Hiroshima station was very busy and huge. My plan was to spend a day here visiting the memorial park and museum, or the A-bomb Dome as the locals call it. I was equipped with not much information because I was too tired to do much survey when in Kyoto. Plus, I was assured by Ryan that a one day trip was more than enough in that city. I was relieved to find a tourist information centre with English speaking attendants at the Hiroshima station. So after a little chat and being provided with city map and tram route, I was ready to go.
The first stop was the A-bomb Dome, the remains of the tragic bombing in 1945 during World War 1. It was a tram ride away. As if to add a sense of sadness to the memory of the bombing, it was drizzling the whole day I was there in Hiroshima. I had to purchase an umbrella at a nearby 7-11 shop for 399yen.
The A-bomb dome was the only original damaged building structure at the memorial park still left standing until today to commemorate the fateful day.
The memorial park houses numerous monuments built in remembrance of the innocent people of Hiroshima who died and affected in any way by the horrible bombings. I did not get to take a lot of pictures of the monuments because of the rain and it was a little difficult balancing the umbrella using my chin and shoulder while my handbag hung from my other shoulder, one hand holding the camera with my feet hurting from the blisters due to too much walking in Kyoto and Nara the past 2 days…..well, you get the picture! I decided to save my energy in enjoying my moment sight-seeing in the park.
I met Luisa, a young solo traveller from Germany and we decided to walk together as we both speak no Japanese! We paid 50 yen each admission fees each to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. We were greeted by an introductory 10-minute video about the background of the bombing and then a section about the history of Hiroshima city before the bombing. I liked the layout of the whole museum where it traced the whole story right from the days when Hiroshima was at its peak, to its lowest point during the bombings in its first section. A replica of the A-bomb Dome was placed right in the middle.
There were also some very very interesting “facts” about the reasons behind the bombings by the Americans. There were original confidential documents depicting that the bombing of Hiroshima was already in the planning, even before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour by the Japanese. See, I’ve always learnt in history books that the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima was a respond to the surprise attack on the Americans in Pearl Harbour…..? Ah well, the Japanese insisted otherwise. And the ambience within the memorial museum was indeed very sombre. The videos and posters in the museum sends a very strong message that the Japanese is all for peace and against any form of nuclear weapons.
My personal favorite artifact from the atomic bombing was a pocket watch collected from the bombing area. It was stopped at 8.15am, the exact time the atomic bombs were dropped onto Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.
Now that all visitors were well informed of the background and history of the bombings, the next section focused on the science and aftermath of the bombings. There were videos explaining the science and mechanics behind the atomic bombs, how it works with a lot of numbers on temperatures, impacts, circumference of the “fblast” etc. A number of case studies were summarised on posters, pictures and videos showing documentaries of some of the medical conditions suffered by some survivors due to exposure to radioactive irradiation from the bombings….very heart wrenching stories. Tumors, internal bleedings, deformed babies, cancers…….just heart-wrenching. The after effects are still suffered by survivors up until today. You may find more information here.
I was informed that when in Hiroshima, the Okonomiyaki is a must try. Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake with fillings like beansprouts, cabbage, noodles, meat, eggs and sometimes even cheese. Sometimes, its known as Japanese pizza. Its specialty lies in the Okonomiyaki sauce topping, a thick brownish dark sauce….reminds me of oyster sauce.
Luisa and I settled for this cute little stall, a bar-like layout with stools seated round a large frying pan, somewhat like the teppanyaki pan for the grilling of okonomiyaki right under our noses. We sat there dumbfounded staring at the Japanese menu written on a wooden board right above us. We spoke no Japanese, the chef spoke no English!
I ended up pointing to what the girl beside us was eating and signalled to the chef for one piece. The chef was understood that we meant to share that piece and took the liberty to cut it in half for us. It was a vegetarian okonomiyaki with noodles and lots of sauce……not very impressive but worth a try!
After lunch Luisa and I found a place to sit down and chatted since it was still raining. Plus, my feet was really hurting and I did not feel like walking anymore! We parted and exchanged e-mails an hour before my Shinkansen was due to arrive at about 6.00pm. Took a tram back to the Hiroshima station and bought bento for dinner on board the train. The journey back to Tokyo took more than 5 hours or so. I was literally exhausted and had a nice nap on the train. I was missing Kenix already…..
Next up: Tokyo
- Autumn in Japan (V): Kawaguchiko (Mt Fuji)
- Autumn in Japan (VI): Disneyland
- Autumn in Japan (VII): Shinjuku and Shibuya & Okutama and Machida
- Autumn in Japan (VIII): Harajuku