“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”. – George Santayana.
I think the above goes perfectly with this post. It’s not gonna be all gloomy and sad, but there are things we just need to be aware of and need to remember in order to avoid the same thing from happening in the future. Although there was a strong movement in support of erasing every evidence of atomic bombing on Hiroshima soon after it happened (as it was a painful memory), there was even a stronger voice from within and outside of Japan to maintain what was for the next generations to witness and remember. And here I witnessed. And I will remember. But first things first!
The distance between Tokyo and Hiroshima is about 600 miles and I have to say I was actually looking forward for the journey itself too! And that’s because I wanted to experience one of the very Japanese things – a ride on a Shinkansen! In a free translation Shinkansen means a new train line. And yes, as in many fields, Japanese have met my expectations. The trains (there were 2 as I had to change trains in Shin-Osaka, which I was worried about – turned out to be hassle-free transfer) departed and arrived on time. I mean exactly on time… like exactly to the minute!!! And the trains are as clean and fast as they say! The whole journey took 4.5 hours. Not bad huh! That’s way faster than planes with all them checks and waiting times. Although the train might be a bit more expensive. It’s a good moment to mention Japan Rail Pass. It’s a periodic ticket that allows you to take any Shinkansen (except for Nozomi and Mizuho) anywhere in Japan. It’s relatively expensive (£200 for a week), but it pays back if you plan on making multiple rides within that week (separate tickets can cost you way more – so do the calculations). If you plan on staying in or around Tokyo – the ticket will most likely not pay back.
Another benefit of travelling on the ground is that you can see how massive Tokyo and the surrounding cities are – it takes good half an hour on the express going out of the city to actually see some countryside! And the countryside is pretty as well! It’s exactly how I had pictured Japan. Rice fields, small mountains covered in a mist, classic Japanese houses and … Mt. Fuji! Famous, perfectly shaped volcano lurking above the horizon. An amazing and powerful sight!
One thing that stroke me when I arrived in Hiroshima was… how big the city was! It has been over 70 years since the attack so one could expect the city to be rebuilt. But you can hardly see any blisters from the past. The city and it’s people managed to make this a great place to visit and to live (so I’ve heard). The weather when I visited was roasting hot and I tried not to stay outside for too long. I was even very glad to find an underground passage with shops and coffees. I used the opportunity to eat some delicious food. I have a feeling that you cannot go wrong with food in Japan! As loon as it looks good – it should taste good too! 🙂
Time to see some more serious sights. Hiroshima – everyone that hears the name thinks of the Atomic Bomb. I wasn’t any different. The Peace Memorial Park and the A-Bomb Dome are in the middle of the city (as you would expect to be a target of the attack). It is not a huge area and we almost lost it to certain demands to erase every proof of this painful event. But luckily the opposition was stronger. It is important to remember what happened and the A-Bomb Dome does the job to remind us of the tragic history. Designed by Czech Architect Jan Letzel building with a characteristic dome was one of the few buildings that were not razed completely to the ground – even though the bomb exploded almost right above the building. It soon become the symbol of nuclear attack on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki…
This hostile attack by US Army costed life of nearly 140 000 people. Half of which died instantly and the other half suffered in pain only to die soon after from burns and radiation. Walking around the site you can’t really imagine the horror of the times as it’s mostly ruins. Therefore I highly recommend to visit nearby Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The exhibition (was downsized due to modernization works carried out at the time of my visit) helps to imagine the horrors people of Hiroshima went through. I decided not to take pictures in the area where kids ripped clothes were shown and stories were told – absolutely heartbreaking… It’s one of the places every person should go and see with their own eyes what it means to use a weapon of mass destruction.
After visiting the museum and wondering around the park for a bit I needed to take a break. It was a lot to take in. And the heat did not help. I decided to see something completely different – a beautiful island with a magnificent shrine and Torii. But before I did that I went to see a nearby castle. As you might have guessed – that one was also destroyed during the attack and rebuilt soon after. So even though not genuine and old, still quite impressive. It now serves as a museum of Hiroshima’s history.
To get to the island one needs to take a train (if you are located in the city centre) and then a ferry. If you are a holder of JP Rail pass the whole journey is covered (including the ferry). It is well worth the trip as the place is considered as one of the most beautiful sights in Japan and one of the Three Views of Japan – three most celebrated scenic sights in the country. Itsukushima (better known as Miyajima) means a shrine island. And so the shrine is the main attraction with a very characteristic Torii (gate) located in the sea (when the tide is high). The chances are you probably have seen it somewhere before.
The island has much more to offer though. Apart from the beautiful shrine I also visited Daiganji Temple dedicated to Goddess Benzaiten; five storied Pagoda and walked down some picturesque town streets. If you happen to visit the island earlier in the day it is also recommended to climb one of the surrounding mountains with fantastic views of the Bay of Hiroshima. I unfortunately got to the island a bit too late and had very limited time. But I still enjoyed it a lot!
That’s basically it. I only spent a day in Hiroshima – but it was a very intense and emotional day. I believe that if you do visit Japan make sure you venture down south and visit this city. It is 600 miles away from Tokyo but Shinkansen trains make it quite easy to reach. I left for Osaka in the morning, but before I did, I made a trip to a very surprising place. A car manufacturing company – Mazda! I happened to be there on Monday and that was the day they organize free tours of the factory and so I used the chance and made my way to the company’s Headquarters and car factory. Not too often you get to see a fully operational assembly line! Unfortunately I was not allowed to take any pictures inside the site, but trust me – it was a nice start to the day! 🙂
Have a look in the gallery below and enjoy! 🙂