Thanks to our Japan Rail Pass we could just hop on a Shinkansen in Kyoto in the morning and arrive in Hiroshima less than two hours later – albeit the 300 km distance. We were greeted with blue skies and hot temperatures. Hiroshima feels a lot smaller and greener than Kyoto or Osaka, the streets are wider and less crowded, there are parks along the river and even cafés and restaurants where you can sit outside (more on that later…).
We loved the old tramways that were giving a stark contrast to the modern buildings.
Cafés, on the river shore, where you can sit outside !! Something that we have missed in a lot of places in Japan, also on Miyajima Island….
While we Westerners would enjoy the sun and soak up every ray, the Japanese typically cover up and use umbrellas for protection.
A-Bomb dome – the only surviving building after the atomic bombing in 1945. While literally all other buildings collapsed or were blown to pieces when the bomb detonated, this building, due to its close location to the epicenter and its structure partly survived the blow. It has been conserved as a memorial of the horrific events in 1945. In a country like Japan, we were surprised that there was very little official English information on the site, no audioguides or tours. Someone, in a mission to educate about the happenings, has placed folders with information and pictures of the bombing, Japan’s role in WWII and the final capitulation around the A-bomb dome. We were looking through those paper folders that this guy had placed on the ground all around the building in different languages with a strange feeling. I thought I would feel more connected, more touched and troubled but the words on those pages and the feel of the actual place did not really connect. Somehow, the cruelty of the bombing and all the consequences were not fully reflected in the place, at least to me.
Paper cranes – thousands of paper cranes folded by school children all over Japan and other countries in memory of a young girl that died of leukemia secondary to the atomic irradiation. Here statue is erected on the grounds close to the A-bomb dome and this place felt a lot more emotional and real than the dome itself.
School children visiting the grounds.
Afterwards we headed south to Miyajima Island, one of the three most scenic landscapes of all Japan. Eh what? Scenic? Landscape? Nature? With buildings and hotels lining the coast line, a little town crammed with tourist shops selling the worst kitsch souvenirs of all times and a place flooded by tourists, we could not really see the draw. Sure, the torí surely looks nice when swimming in the sea at sunset, but at low tide, with the masses standing between its pillars, it just becomes another torí, unfortunately. The little town is also roamed by deer which may add the “nature” aspect to the place. They are mostly interested in your food though.
However, I was still happy to be at the sea, take my shoes off and walk along the shore. Something only the Western tourists did. This seemed to be too much nature for the Japanese.
We walked around the little town, a little disappointed by all the cheap tourist shops and the annoyed by the big group tours. Although this little town was directly at the shore and a prime tourist destination at “one of the top three most scenic landscapes of Japan”, there was not a single café/bar/restaurant that offered outdoor seating at the beach, not even indoor seating overlooking the beach. What? We observed this pattern all over Japan, very little to no outdoor seating, especially along the shore and at really beautiful beach destinations. This, to us, who we relish to be outside, was a mystery.
Eventually we found a little oyster place recommended in our travel guide with a very stylish and modern design (in contrast to the kitsch tourist places) where we indulged in the most phenomenal oyster dish ever. Grilled oysters au gratin with parmesan cheese. With a glas of prosecco. Crisis averted. Back to smiling happiness. Perfect.