Stepping out onto the soil from Hiroshima station, the chatter of people surrounds you, the hustle and bustle of everyday life catches you almost by shock. The city, seeped in so much sorrow and death, brings pictures of a devastating past to the forefront of your mind with the death of over 100,000 people.
It isn’t a place I would have thought myself of visiting, with this tragic past. However, once you start looking into the city, the beautiful landscapes, the six rivers which give it the name the ‘city of water’ and its coastal landscape invites you in to look into the city and explore.
Hiroshima stands tall, as the largest city in the Choguku region, with a population over 1.1 million. Many parks and shopping centres, shops and arcades all shine around the buzzing city, which is now pulsating with life, making it hard to imagine a city which was ever overcome with such devastation.
We took a direct JR train from Kyoto station to Hiroshima (as in my previous post, don’t forget to use the Japan travel app! It was so useful!). A 2 hour journey and we were there, and ready to explore.
Although it is easy to go through the city without looking for its hypocentre, if you take a few moments to find the historical centre of the city, it will not disappoint.
The peace garden, is a large 120,000 square feet park found in central Hiroshima, built on the massive crater of the atomic bomb. Within the park there are many monuments dedicated to this event.
The cenotaph was originally constructed as an arch, like the roof of a house, in an attempt to shelter the victims from the rain. There is a stone at the centre of the monument which contains all the names of the victims that lost their lives, with an engraving that says ‘rest in peace, for this error shall not be repeated.’
It is quite emotionally difficult to see this, as there are so many names on the stone. Imagining people from far and wide that lost their lives here, whether it was a baby or a soldier, instantly grounds you. Me and vinny walked through this park, fairly silently, as it is quite a lot to take in. We went quite late, so the museums had closed, and the park was fairly empty. However, during the day we are told it is quite bustling and with the cherry blossom season, looks more beautiful than ever. Each day fresh flowers are placed around the site.
The peace flame
Just behind the cenotaph is the peace flame, which has been continuously burning since 1964, and will continue to burn till the day there is no more threat from nuclear weapons.
The children’s peace monument was built using funds which were raised by school children. The monument itself has millions of paper cranes inside. They cranes represent the story of a thousand cranes. This legend states that if a thousand paper cranes are folded and held together on a string, the gods will grant them one wish. Other versions of this include the gods offering them happiness and joy. The cranes are one of japan’s holy creatures and said to live 1000 years, hence why a thousand cranes are placed together.
At the base of the monument is a black marble slab which has the inscription:
これはぼくらの叫びです これは私たちの祈りです 世界に平和をきずくための
Translating to: This is our cry, this is our prayer: for building peace in the world
The atomic dome was originally the Hiroshima prefectural promotion hall. Now the ruins of the hall serve as a reminder of the events of the day, displaying the harrowing remains of the building. It has since become a UNESCO heritage site.
However, you don’t need to go far to find the peaceful joyous part of Hiroshima. Just off the coast Hiroshima and an extension of the city itself, is the island of Miyajima.
The JR ferry connects this to the mainland, and is a 10minute journey to the island.
On a sunny day this place is beautiful! The land is well known as the island of gods, where gods are said to have resided and is therefore a sacred island with one of the most scenic spots in the country.
The lively island instantly greets you with happy deer approaching you from left, right and centre. They’re not dangerous, so we went ahead and made friends with a few of them.
We named this one Dwayne, and vinny went on to have a lively chat about which mochis he liked best.
The streets here are littered with small shops selling things from souverneris to local delicacies.
One of these delicacies is the Momiji Manjyu.
All I can say is that my sweet tooth was spoilt when I was at miyajima. This dessert is a sweet steamed bun coming in soooo many different flavours, we were spoilt for choice! The local delicacy goes back to the meji era, and even has a romantic tale attached to it.
When an important aristocrat visited miyajima, he was looking at the hands of a beautiful girl who served at a tea house. As a joke he mentioned how amazing it would be if he could eat a dessert shaped as a Japanese maple leaf. 🍁 To encourage him, the girl made this dessert out of the maple leaves outside as her template. It was so well liked, that it has to this day remained as a staple local item.
There island is also known for its oysters and eels.
But I’m sorry to say, I couldn’t try the oysters (a mixture of how full I was from the food I’d already eaten and being a bit wimpy when it comes to oysters). However, the flavour, taste and texture are supposedly excellent! If you have tried them let me know!
However the best part of the island, and the most scenic part is Istukushima shrine.
The gigantic vermillion torii gate stands in the middle of the seto sea, giving a magical image of a floating doorway leading the way to its sacred shrine.
One of the most beautiful torii gates that I have seen to date, the beauty of the torii gate alone, has many faces. Changing daily, with tides, you can see the floating shrine surrounded by water in high tide, or walk up and stand under the mysterious gate when it is low tide.
With the earliest records of the shrine dating back to the 6th century, it is said to be erected in the year 593. However, it has since been burnt down and renovated many times, and today’s shrine is very different from the one which was originally made.
In high tide the temple is surrounded by water, and is said to look stunning. Unfortunately we didn’t come at high tide (so check these times before you get there and plan accordingly!). The beauty of the temple comes from its legends, with the ancient buddhist idea, that the dead can only cross over in a boat. This is thought to be one of the reasons this shrine was constructed in this way.
Other things to do on the island
There are so many other things to do at the island, including hiking, checking out the ryokan or just taking in the panoramic views of the island itself. We only had one day to do the whole of Hiroshima, but I would highly recommend spending a full day here or more if you can spare it!
We loved all of Hiroshima, from the horrifying history to the beautiful landmarks. Miyajima was my favourite part of this trip! It is a definite must see!