HIROSHIMA - risen up from the ashes; and a side trip to MIYAJIMA

Hiroshima - one of the names inextricably connected to the first atomic attack in human history.


A Dove of Peace spreading its wings in front of the Atom Bomb Dome.

Visiting Hiroshima, I wasn't able to imagine an average Japanese city with a little over a million inhabitants plying their trades as if their city never had been practically erased and went down in history as one of the biggest humanitarian disasters.

What I found was a charming city - risen up from the atomic ashes of 1945.



Explanation of History
The Grand Tour 
The Peace Memorial Park
Hiroshima Castle 
Hiroshima Jail Wall Painting 
Shukkeien Garden
Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum 
Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary 
Art Day Trip to Miyajima 
Practical Information
How to Get There
How to Get Around
Good Place to Stay
Best Place to Eat 
Money
Language
Map 
Pinnable Pix


"If I'd hook up with a Japanese guy, in ten years I still wouldn't know what he's really like. Here, even couples and families don't really open up to each other. They are extremely discreet", says Lakshmi and laughs a little. It's not a giggle - although she's tiny and fine-boned, she doesn't have this East-Asian girlish coquetry.
That's because she's not East-Asian.
Lakshmi is from Delhi and came to Japan six years ago. First, she studied and eventually, after her Ph.D. in sciences, she got a job at the university.
But that's not what makes her seem intelligent. It's her attitude, her way of talking - and, most of all, what she says. She's a quick thinker.

 Faith and JR - Japanese Railways - made Lakshmi and I travel buddies: Two days before my trip from Osaka to Hiroshima, it was not possible to reserve one single seat on the Shinkansen anymore. "You can go on the unreserved cars - number one to three", explained the JR lady in her crisp uniform. And that's what I did. Me and what seemed to be thousands of other people. Survival of the fittest: Only the first few in line got a seat, the others had to spend the two hours standing. Therefore, the empty seat next to me was quickly filled - with Lakshmi.

Lakshmi was one of the very few ex-pats I saw in Japan. Actually, the street scenes even in the large cities are quite homogenous: What you see are Japanese - and Asian and western tourists. Hardly any ex-pats. And that's not surprising given that there are less than two percent foreign citizens in Japan; less than two percent!
Japan as a country has been an extremely closed shop.

No wonder the country got a bit stuck in traditions. For us visitors fascinatingly and charmingly, but how is it to live there? How much are you able and allowed to think out of the box? As I'd learned from the series Tokyo Girl and from books - and according to what I had observed, Japan seems to be a very conservative society and complying with the standards is crucial.
Japanese as a nation have been extremely conservative and obedient.

Japan is not only geographically an island.


Explanation of History


You know, I totally understand when people - normal people like you and me - tell history and historic events the way they see it. Personal. Subjective. Incomplete.

I cannot accept it when institutions whose goal it is to inform and educate people do so - for instance by leaving out important background facts.

I didn't understand how at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles they just skipped the entire history of antisemitism all over Europe - and the rest of the world, for that matter - and went straight to the beginning of the 20th century - as if antisemitism had been such a young phenomenon. No. It's sadly a very old phenomenon that has existed for centuries. As a museum, you cannot just ignore this fact because it doesn't fit into your narrative.

I rolled my eyes at the historically...flexible video on the Viet Nam War that was screened at the Cu Chi Tunnels: Happy Vietnamese ladies sashaying in silken Ao Dais across rice fields, smiling and humming.
All of a sudden, the sky turns dark, Americans bring war to this peaceful place.
Ya, well....nay: Before that, there was the French Indochine war and - like it or not - not all Vietnamese were opposed to the colonialists. After all, to this date, the country's southern part is packed with Catholic churches, remnants from those colonial times. Fact is, there was a civil war before the US got involved; which didn't make things better - but they did not come to a country full of happy sashaying.




At the museum in Hiroshima, they don't show you happy sashaying, but the exhibition starts on August 6, 1945 - the date the atomic bomb was dropped on the city.
No explanation of what was going on before, why Hiroshima, why the atomic bomb.
Still, many people believe it was vengeance for Pearl Harbour. That's nonsense, Pearl Harbour was attacked in 1941 - I don't think that particularly the US needed four years to make their mind up if they should bomb back.

I think it's because this atrocious atomic attack is rarely put into context with the terrible Pacific war by the Japanese themselves, some people tend to compare it to Auschwitz or, even worse, 9/11: An attack on a pacific people while having breakfast during a peaceful era.
Well, some people have the urge to compare everything to something - and they are clearly no political scientists or historians.

Fact is that in WWII, Japan was an ally of Nazi Germany, terrorizing the surrounding Asian countries, committing atrocious war crimes: They invaded i. a. Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, abducted women from these countries for forced prostitution, caused massacres like the one of Nanking, proceded experiments on humans i. a. in Manchuria and so on.
They were a very determined and sturdy opponent. Even after Nazi Germany surrendered in May 1945, Japan kept up the war, terror, and human rights violations in Southeast Asia. There was no hint of capitulation.


This is a monument in Malacca in Malaysia. It commemorates the Chinese victims of the Japanese occupation of Malaysia during World War II.

Does this in any way justify or even condone the US throwing around atomic bombs? Of course not! The effect was unimaginable horror - and the repercussions lasted for decades.

However, I missed information on Japan's role in WWII as well as an explanation of why Hiroshima was the chosen target.
It's nice that the Peace Memorial Park sheds a light on the atrocities caused by this attack - however, to this date, Japan's hesitant official apologies are widely considered inadequate and the fact how the country's role in the war is described in some of Japanese textbooks unbearable.

To understand the past and prevent events in the future, comprehensive information is indispensable and it certainly helps to look at the big picture.

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The Grand Tour


This being said, let's check out what Hiroshima holds in store for its visitors.

Although many people pay the city a short visit, mainly exploring the Peace Memorial Park, it's totally worth to spend the night. And yes, the next day, you can take a day trip to the dreamy island of Miyajima, but hold your horses, first we go around Hiroshima.

Since the good people of Hiroshima installed three bus lines that are circulating between eleven places of - tourists' - interest, it's really easy to get around and explore. If you are in possession of a JR pass, you can take this bus for free - you only have to hand your pass to the driver who takes a picture of it with his little compact camera - which is sort of hilarious. Passengers without a JR pass have to pay 200 Yen per ride - or they get a day pass for only 400 Yen and can get on and off as many times as they like.

If you have only a very limited amount of time, you can, of course, do the tour in one go which takes about 50 minutes.

Everyone else can make stops at....


...the Peace Memorial Park



As I explained above, I had mixed feelings regarding the nature of the Peace Memorial Park since it remembers exclusively the attack on Japan without even mentioning that it was a - nonetheless horrific and cruel - counterattack, meant to force the imperial forces to surrender and stop the war in the Pacific.

The Peace Memorial Park, which was set south of the Atomic Bomb Dome Genbaku between 1950 and 1964, is visited by about one million visitors every year.


The Memorial Cenotaph is a concrete, arch-shaped structure that covers a tomb holding the names of all those who were killed by the bomb. Built in 1952, it was one of the first memorial monuments.

Many different monuments dealing with future and hope, peace and freedom are assembled around the greeneries.


Monument of the Hiroshima Municipal Girls' High School. 

As we all know, Hiroshima was the first city in history being attacked with a nuclear weapon. Since in summer 1945 Japanese was still at war, most of the bomb's 140,000 direct and indirect victims were civilians.

Before the attack, the park's location was the Hiroshima’s busy downtown commercial and residential area.
Today's park was built on an open field the explosion had left behind.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was planned and designed by the Japanese architect Kenzō Tange. All over the lot, a vast number of statues, monuments, and memorials honor the victims. Especially the exhibitions at the Peace Memorial Museum are designated to remember the horror this nuclear weapon caused and to advocate world peace.

Hence, there is a Peace Flame, a Peace Bell, ten Peace Gates - a gift from France on the occasion of the bombing's 60s anniversary in 2005, a Peace Clocktower - commissioned by the members of the Lions Club in 1967, a Peace Fountain and many, many different statues and monuments.


I wonder if this poor kid is actually standing on top of an atomic bomb.
The most moving one is, obviously, the Children's Peace Monument.

It's the statue of a girl with a folded paper crane rising above her.

It was inspired by the true story of Sasaki Sadako who suffered from Leukemia as a late effect from the nuclear attack.

A Japanese legend promises anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes will be granted a wish by the gods.

Sadako folded more - but her humble wish of being alive was not granted.

To this day, people from around the world fold cranes, sending them to Hiroshima where they are placed in glass containers around the statue.










May Peace Prevail on Earth, written on the Pole in front of the Peace Kannon, one of the most important memorials around the park. May Peace Prevail on Earth - can't argue with that.





Since it was installed by the Lions Club in 1967, the Peace Clock Tower chimes every day at 8:15 a. m., the hour the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima.


Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum


On the southern end of the Peace Memorial Park is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, graphically explaining what happened on the morning of August 6, 1945, as the nuclear bomb cynically called Little Boy was dropped on the city and within seconds changed the faith of its citizens - for decades.

The museum was established in 1955 and is one of the most popular destinations for school field-trips from all over Japan and, of course, tourists.


Arashi no Naka no Boshi Statue in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

The exhibitions deal only with the aspect of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and unfortunately leave out the historical context. For instance, there is no explanation for why the city of Hiroshima was the chosen target; the - very cynical - reason is that Hiroshima was one of few strategically and military important bases that had not been bombed during the conventional air raids. Therefore, the effects of a nuclear bomb could have been seen more clearly and purely.

Anyway, while the exhibition leaks historical background, the pictures of the victims, their stories, and the displays of their belongings are heartwrenching.

There are items made of wood, metal, glass, and even stone showing the power of the destructive heat rays. However, the most shocking narratives are those of the immediate and also long-term effects of radiation.


Exhibition of clothes that once belonged to the victims of the attack.

Of course, even before visiting the museum, I was aware that nuclear power is no joke and that the consequences are far more destructive and severe than from conventional bombing - which I'm not a fan of, either. After all, we often don't visit museums to learn new things, but also to confirm what we already know; and that's fine. But even with the background knowledge, it is a whole different story seeing faces of people who painfully croaked from the unbearable drought in their throat, pain in their guts and bleeding from their skin. Toddlers, school kids, teenagers with their entire life before them.


So yes, it's very sad that humanity did not have these sights and stories in mind when bombing Aleppo, Baghdad....just to begin the alphabet.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
1-2 Nakajima-cho
Naka-ku
Hiroshima 730-0811
Phone : +81 - 82 - 241 40 04

The museum is open daily from 8.30 a. m. to between 5 p. m. and 7 p. m. - depending on the season.
The entrance fee is only 200 Yen.


Atomic Bomb Dome


What today is the Genbaku, the Atomic Bomb Dome, used to be an exhibition hall, designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel and completed in 1915 as the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition. It was located in the heart of Hiroshima's business district.


View of the dome from the other bank of the Motoyasu river - and a chart showing what the area looked like before the attack.

After the nuclear bombing, the building was the only structure left standing near the bomb’s epicenter.

In 1966, after some controversy if to tear the remnants down, the Hiroshima city council decided to preserve it as a memorial landmark. In 1996, the Atomic Bomb Dome was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List; yes, sadly a world's heritage it is.


The illuminated dome at night.

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...the Hiroshima Castle


Yap, another city, another castle.

The one in Hiroshima was constructed in 1589 and, obviously, destroyed in the atomic bombing. It was reconstructed in 1958, partly using original building methods and materials. There is the main keep, five storeys high from where you have a panoramic view of the city. And, of course, there is a moat on which you can take a boat tour around the castle. Yes, correct, an activity that you can enjoy in basically each and every Japanese city.


Boat trip around the castle grounds.

Within the castle's premises are a shrine and some reconstructed buildings. There is a museum focusing on the Samurai - wait a minute: what happened to may peace prevail? As far as I'm informed, the Samurai weren't the most peaceful bunch, were they?! And there are also Samurai shows taking place.


The Hiroshima Castle - goes also by the name Carp Castle.

Hiroshima Castle 
21-1 Motomachi
Naka Ward
Hiroshima, 730-0011
Phone: + 81 - 82  -221 75 12

The castle is open daily from 9 a. m. to between 5 p. m. and 6 p. m. - depending on the season.
The entrance fee is 370 Yen.

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...the Hiroshima Jail Wall Painting


So while there is a castle in each and every city, Hiroshima has a truly unique landmark: The wall of the Hiroshima Jail.

As a matter of fact, there is a connection to the castle since the wall painting was commissioned on the castle's 400 year anniversary in 1989.


Waves like painted by Hokusai.

Hiroshima-based painter Tadayoshi Irino created on 180 meters pleasant and serene scenes from the Edo period.


Obviously, some feudal enjoying their leisure time....

....while the good peasants are tilling a field. Oh dear, some things never change.

Clearly, people on the outside of the jail wall have the advantage to walk the 180 meters freely and admire the thorough work.

Actually, I'm afraid that's not the only advantage that we people on the outer side of the jail wall have.

As a matter of fact, the jail is not on the bus loop, but it's located about halfway between the castle and the Shukkeien Garden so if you walk that way, it's totally worth a short detour.

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...the Shukkeien Garden


Now, everybody knows about the beauty and perfection of a Japanese garden and at Shukkeien, all this is to be found.


Bridges crossing waters, tea houses offering scenic resting places.

Shukkeien translates to miniature garden, and it actually seems that vast greeneries were shrunk into a model of a landscape: There are mountains and valleys, forests and bushes, a pond and many scenic bridges. By thorough cultivation, the garden mimics a variety of scenic formations.

Shukkeien was commissioned in 1620 by Lord Asano Nagaakira.


I absolutely love this narrow, banister less stone bridge. However, I'm a coward and did not cross it: Later, I wanted to attend the Kagura performance, preferably in dry clothes.

In 1940, the Asano family donated Shukkeien to Hiroshima prefecture and the garden was open to the public.
During the nuclear raid, obviously, also Shukkeien was damaged. It then became a refuge for the war victims.


Forest en miniature.

It has then been restored and reopened in 1951.

The garden is adjacent to the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum.


Shukkeien
Yubinbango730-0014
Naka-ku,
Hiroshima
Phone: + 81 - 82 - 221 36 20

The garden is open daily from 9 a. m. to between 5 p. m. and 6 p. m. - depending on the season.
The entrance fee is 260 Yen.

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...the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum


The Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum was founded in 1968 and is one of the city's three important art museums.

Conveniently located next to the Shukkeien gardens, the museum owns about  4,800 pieces of art, mainly associated with the Hiroshima prefecture, but also Japanese and Asian art and craft in general.


The Masterpiece Exhibition Autumn of Fine Art celebrating the 50s anniversary of Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art.

So I visited the gardens in the afternoon, took a walk to the castle, had an early dinner and then I paced back to the museum since it was Saturday and in the evening, the English Kagura is on. Didn't wanna miss that!


Already the cloak tells a whole story.

Kagura is a dance performance accompanied by special music. As a matter of fact, the storyline is not very complex, it's basically always good against evil - and take a wild guess who wins in the end. Someone is always saved, conquered, or defeated.


Good against evil - a classic in performing arts.

Therefore, it's actually not really necessary to attend English Kagura, you'll get the story from the moves, the masks, and the costumes. However, a great extra to those visitors from foreign is the opportunity to ask the performers and musicians all the questions you have - after the show, as soon as they are able to catch their breath again.

As a matter of fact, the evening at the Kagura performance was one of the highlights of my entire Japan trip and therefore, I dedicated an entire post to this fantastic spectacle.

Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum 
2-22 Kaminoboricho
Naka Ward
Hiroshima, 730-0014
Phone: + 81 - 82 - 221 62 46

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a. m. to 5 p. m., Fridays till between 7 p. m. and 8 p. m. - depending on the season.
The entrance fee varies according to the exhibitions.

Note: Besides the Prefectural Art Museum at Shukkeien, there is also the Hiroshima Museum of Art - just a stone-throw west of the garden. Since I had a rather limited amount of time to explore the city, I preferred to visit the other two art museums since they introduced more Japanese art while the Hiroshima Museum of Art held an exhibition of impressionism - and I'm based in Europe where museums are packed with all those Manets, Monets, and Renoirs.

However, if you are interested in visiting - the loop bus stops there, too.

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...the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art


Interestingly, the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art was the first public museum in Japan to be devoted solely to contemporary art. Built in 1989, the gallery was designed by celebrated Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa.


Even at this building, there is a reference to the atomic bombing: The entrance's opening points towards the epicenter of the nuclear blast.

Located in Hijiyama Park, it is the last stop on the bus loop and served only by the orange line.
Since this service is quite limited, a better option might be taking a tram to the Hijiyamashita stop and then just walk uphill.

The indoor galleries feature an interesting collection of mostly Japanese artists but also international painters such as Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and Donald Judd.


David Nash's wooden sculpture Black Light : White Shadow - A Stream of Souls in front of his painting Larch Lying on a Slope.

Shigeo Toya Animal Track

I must say that I found the sculptures on the terrace around the main building even more impressive and enjoyed them a lot; by the way, these can also be seen for free.


Outdoor istallation by Magdalena Abakanowicz Space of Becalmed Beings

Talking 'bout peace: I was delighted to spot Fernando Botero's El Pajaro de la Paz, the bird of peace. To understand why this statue touches my heart every time I see it, read my post on Medellín.


Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art 
1-1 Hijiyama Koen
Minami-ku
Hiroshima 732-0815
Phone: + 81 - 82 - 264 11 21

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 5 p. m. and the general entrance fee is 370 Yen. The sculpture terrace can be visited for free.

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Day Trip to Miyajima


If I would tell you to go on an outing to Itsukushima, you would probably ask yourself why I'm sending you to this place nobody ever heard of, right? Wrong! Itsukushima is an island most people do visit once they are in Hiroshima - but it's far better known as Miyajima which translates to Shrine Island.


With the Torii in full sight, this view must be just breathtaking. But I find even with the xx packed in some semi-transparent wrapper, it's pretty...pretty.

And it actually was the famous Itsukushima Shrine with the famous 'floating' Torii that I wanted to see. Fortunately, already before coming to Japan, I had read that this glorious sight would be disturbed: The Torii is undergoing renovation since Summer 2019 for at least one year.

The giant Torii, that during high tide looks like floating on the water, is Miyajima's most important landmark - actually, one of the most famous landmarks in all of Japan and - besides the Pine-clad islands of Matsushima and the Sandbar of Amanohashidate - supposedly also one of Japan's three best views; whoever determines these things.


Yes, Itsukushima sure is beautiful. But if it's one of Japan's three best views? Who am I to judge - I haven't seen them all.

But even with the Torii wrapped in some semi-transparent foil, there is still a lot to see and to do on Miyajima; and to eat, this shouldn't be forgotten.

I got up quite early to beat the crowds - but this doesn't seem to be such an ingenious trick since it was packed. Everywhere. On the local train from Hiroshima station to Miyajimaguchi station. On the ferry. On the island itself.
Whereby, I must admit that it was Sunday so that not only international tourists were visiting but also many Japanese were on a weekend outing.


Father and son looking forward to a great outing.

Once on the island, I followed the crowds south, checking out the souvenir stands and snack booths: Maple leaves in abundance - no, not the real ones!


Maple leaves changing color. They are the model Miyajima's famous baked goods are being shaped after.

A delicious, tender pastry in the shape of a maple leaf called Momiji is the region's most iconic snack'n'souvenir. You get them to eat on the spot - either plain or stuffed with all sorts of more or less exotic fillings - or in lovely packages to take home to your loved ones.


Crispy Momiji on a stick.

At this small factory, you can witness how maple leaves emerge from the dough.

Other specialties - that should preferably be eaten asap - are oysters and squids.
I got both: Maple leaves for the loved ones and a nice squid on a stick in touch of self-love.


I'm rather into hearty snacks - even if this sounds fishy to you.

Not only the world is my oyster.

Walking and snacking, I tried to ignore the massive crowds - until I got to the first important landmark, the Itsukushima Shrine where about 300 people were waiting in line. It was noonish, it was hot, there was no shade, those patiently waiting crowds were literally frying in the sun.

No way, no Shrine for me.

I turned left, walking away from the shore and the crowds inland towards the mountains.

Actually, Miyajima is also a great place for hiking and since most people come here to visit the temples and eat themselves sick, you have the trails to yourself as soon as you engage in some sort of sportive activity; just a tip for those who don't mind hiking 1.5 to 2 hours up to Mount Misen.

Did I mention it was noonish and very hot?
I didn't feel like hiking uphill for two hours.
Nonetheless, I wanted to go up the mountain - to look down.
For visitors like me, the good people of Miyajima installed a ropeway that takes you to a mountain station from where you can continue to the summit.


View from above: The shadow of our car.

Did I mention it was Sunday?
Obviously, space in the ropeway cars is limited. Smart people had made reservation online. I was not one of them.
'Your time slot is at 2 p. m.' What? That's in two hours! What am I supposed to do for two hours? 'Can't you just squeeze me in? I'm by myself. Please! Pleasepleaseplease!?' Oh, who was I kidding, this was Japan, they don't ignore time slots supplied by machines, they don't disobey rules, they don't just squeeze one more person in. Okay, grumpily I took the small paper with the ugly 2 on it and turned.
'You! Wait!' 
Who, me? 
'Look', ordered the man who had handed me the small paper and pointed at the screen in front of him. I looked over his shoulder as commanded: There were two places available in half an hour - the very moment I had accepted the small paper with the ugly 2 on it, some people had canceled their reservation and I was on board. Figuratively. And only 30 short minutes later also literally - up I went to Mount Misen.


View of the islands scattered in the Hiroshima Bay.

I had spent maybe 45 minutes on Mount Misen. I did not hike to the summit - did I mention it was really hot? - but had enjoyed the grand views of the Hiroshima Bay.

However, as I came back down, there was only a handful of people waiting for the next car up, and in front of the Itsukushima Shrine a group of four people was buying tickets.
I was next in line.


Little Venice: The Shrine is completely built on steles and therefore seems to be floating on water.

This is not a miracle, that's something that happened a couple of times to me: The crowds often seem to come in waves.
So here's a recommendation I'd really like to share: If you get to a place and it's really, really packed and lines are really, really long, go and do something different and come back after let's say an hour. I'm one of the world's most impatient people and waiting in line for me is torture. But it happened to me more than once that when I came back to a spot after a while, the lines had dissolved and I was able to just walk in.
Of course, this doesn't work always and I wouldn't recommend it if you need to take a train. But at some spots, it really worked very well.


One of the places where you automatically take your shoes off.

Just a stone-throw from the shore is another pretty impressive structure, the Senjokaku which translates to Pavilion of Thousand Mats. This hall, constructed as a Buddhist library and actually never fully completed, is Miyajima's largest building.
There are many beautiful votive picture tablets hanging from the ceiling dividers.
Visitors use the special atmosphere for a short meditation - or just to rest.

Right next to Senjokaku is Gojunoto, better known to visitors as the Five-storey Pagoda, built in 1407 and therefore actually predating Senjokaku.


The Five Storey Pagoda of Miyajima seen behind the Sutra Registration Office.

About 200 years earlier, the Daiganji Temple, located east of the Itsukushima Shrine complex, was constructed. It is one of the three most famous Benzaiten Temples in Japan.


Entrance to the Daiganji Benzaiten Temple.

Especially these very touristy places that get many daytrippers are more enjoyable when you spend the night - on the other hand, my experience in Takayama and especially in Shirakawago was that as soon as the crowds are gone, the places close basically everything down and become a ghost town. Since I did not spend the night there, I cannot judge if Miyajima is the same.


'Good morning! Are you guys open yet?'
Just like in Nara, there is deer roaming freely on Miyajima - so beware of your edibles.

 I've heard that in the evening, it becomes quiet and peaceful - I wonder if this means dead. Anyway, I did not spend the night since I was not able to find an accommodation suiting my budget - all the guesthouses and Ryokans were super-expensive.


I bet he enjoys his home island more as soon as all those bipeds are gone.

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Practical Information


How to Get There


I've never heard of anybody flying into Hiroshima, albeit, there is an airport. It's located about 50 kilometers east of the city in Mihara. There are only a few international Asian airlines and, of course, Japanese companies flying to HIJ. To get downtown, there are two different buses going either to
Hiroshima Station or the Hiroshima Bus Center in under one hour. Either fare is 1,300 Yen one way or 2,360 Yen round trip - albeit the return ticket is valid only seven days.

Most visitors are coming from another Japanese city and mostly take a train or an overland bus. Public transportation in Japan is very reliable, safe, and clean. However, it is not cheap: A one way trip from Tokyo to Hiroshima on a regular Shinkansen is about 18,500 Yen one way; now you understand why a JR pass pays off so fast - for one week, it costs as much as this roundtrip. Read more about the JR pass on my main post on Japan.

A bus ride can set you back up to 8,000 Yen - although it's mostly a bit cheaper.

How to Get Around


Here we go again, using the good old JR pass: If you have one, you can take the loop buses for free. As you enter the bus, you hand your pass to the driver - who actually takes out his little compact camera and shoots a nice picture of your pass - and you're good to go.

If you don't have a JR pass, one ride costs you 200 Yen - but there are day passes for only 400 Yen - however, only valid on these loop buses which are great and free - but, unfortunately, not as frequent as regular city buses.

Of course, in Hiroshima, there is a great, reliable system of buses and streetcars for about 200 Yen per trip.


The JR pass quickly pays off.

Obviously, there are also day passes and the variety is as confusing as in any other Japanese city: There is a day pass for the tram for 600 Yen and one that's combined with the passage to Miyajima that's 840 Yen. These, however, are not valid on the JR lines and neither on the JR ferry or on city buses. Then there is the Astramline that sells day passes for 900 Yen and finally, there are the Tourist Passes that are valid on buses, trams, both ferries - only the JR trains and some long-distance connections like the airport buses are excluded. These passes start at 1,500 Yen for two days and go up to 6,500 Yen for four day - then again, this option does include the airport bus....I think it's best you check their site and decide what's most convenient for you.


On the ferry to Miyajima. Beware - there are two different kinds that require two different tickets. The island, however, remains the same.

If you need further information, go see the ladies at the tourist information at the main station. They speak really good English and can explain to you everything you need to know.


Good Place to Stay


If I was brutally honest, the headline would be an okay place to stay - or a bearable place to stay.


If you don't look too close, it actually looks quite nice.

Fact is that my room at the Kasuga Ryokan* was the shabbiest one of my entire trip to Japan - and by far not the cheapest one.

Yes, due to this living-on-the-floor-culture, I'm not the biggest Ryokan-fan, anyway, and when everything is a bit worn, it doesn't make it better. Also, the Wifi in the room was a mess and only slightly better at the entrance door right next to the router where in the evening all the guests assembled to check their emails; which at least had this communicative where are you from? and where are you heading next? travel-charm to it.

Anyway, like everywhere else, I had slippers and a Yukata in my room as well as a pot with hot water to make myself tea.

So was there no upside to this joint? Yes, my friends, there was: It is in a great location - a five minutes walk from the Peace Museum so even someone like me cannot get lost: You get to the museum and take it from there. Also, since all the loop buses are stopping at the museum, having a JR pass, I practically spent no money on public transportation.
So the location is definitely a big plus.

Here you can check the Kasuga Ryokan's rates and availability.*


Best Place to Eat


Another city - and again not enough time to try it all.


Not only aesthetically pleasing.

Especially around the Pacela shopping district, the Sun Mall, and the adjacent Hondori shopping street, the biggest problem you'll face is picking one of the fantastic restaurants.


Dinner can be an adventure: After having left my shoes at the restaurant's entrance, I took seat right across from the cook who blazingly fast put together what must have been a bazillion of ingredients....

....lacquered them with some exotic sauce....

....and combined them to a fantastic Okonomiyaki, also referred to as Japanese pizza - but far more work, ingredients, and fun.

Kuraya Otemachi
Otemachi, 3 Chome−8−4
Naka Ward
730-0051 Hiroshima
Phone: + 81 - 82 - 545 22 42

Open daily from 11:30 a. m. to 2 p. m. and again from 5 p. m. to 11:30 p. m.


....and eventually desert: The other man's ice cream is always greener.

Cash'n'Cards


The Japanese currency is called Yen and it's the third most traded currency after the US$ and the €uro. The exchange rate to these currencies is 1 US$ = 109 Yen and 1 €UR = 120 Yen (November 2019), but you can check the conversion on this page.

Contrary to all these legends how you hardly can pay with a credit card in Japan, you actually can at basically every hotel, most restaurants, many museums and landmarks, and large stores.

Japanese bills and coins laid out on the Haori I wrote about in my post on Nagoya.

Even though there are some small restaurants, shops, and minor train stations that accept only cash, there will be a convenience store like a 7/11 or a Family Mart within a radius of ten feet where you'll find an ATM; and at most of these convenience stores you can also pay with your credit card.

However, many guides claim that your trip will be much more complicated if you don't get a Suica or Pasmo card. Although I'm a sucker for local cards - I got loyalty cards on many of my travels since it made me feel so....local - I managed to spend three weeks in Japan and never found myself in a situation where I needed one. I either bought a day pass or paid by credit card - and I made sure to have enough small change which really was no biggy.

Advertising that you get a discount on your tickets is ridiculous as the amount you actually save is between €0.01 to around €0.08 on a trip in Tokyo. So how much do you need to travel to save a significant amount of money?!

However, at least they canceled the 500 Yen deposit for tourists: Since September 2019, there has been a deposit-free Welcome Suica card which is valid for 28 days. The card is available with different pre-loaded amounts ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 Yen.


Language


Japanese speak Japanese - fair enough. Since I've heard that they speak almost exclusively their mother tongue, I was completely freaked out before going to Japan, downloading language apps and trying to memorize some Japanese signs. I was afraid of losing my way and never make it back to Europe.

Just like this no credit card thing is basically a myth, there is no reason to be scared by the foreign language with these funny letters.

Fact is, while in other cities, most people really have a quite rudimentary knowledge of English, I found that in Hiroshima communication was a bit easier.
Anyway, you can always ask slowly and clearly for things or direction and people will probably get what you need and find a way to help - even if they cannot actually answer you. More complex matters and conversations, however, might be an issue.

But most importantly, most announcements at stations, in trains, etc. are also in English. Signs at airports, stations, trains, subways, hotels, and all touristy places are also in English. The only time I got a bit lost was on a city bus where the time table was only in Japanese and the translation app failed.

Of course, it is a friendly gesture when you are able to say good morning - ohayo gozaimasu, hello - konichiwa, good evening - konbanwa, thank you - arigato gozaimasu and maybe a couple more words in Japanese, but you won't get lost if your knowledge of the language is next to non existent.


You'll find all the wonderful places mentioned in this post on this map:







Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I've visited in Japan? Then go to the main post and take your pick! 


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Here are more pins from Japan for you  







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11 comments:

  1. Wow, Hiroshima looks incredible and those gardenssss! I cannot wait to visit some day. Thanks for such an in-depth article and I'll definitely be downloading some translation apps before visiting!

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  2. Hiroshima looks like a very beautiful city. There's no denying the brutality of the Axis powers in WWII. But many commentators/historians from all sides say that the first atomic bomb should have been dropped on an unpopulated area, rather than a city, to show the potential destruction.

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    1. Oh my gosh, with my remarks on Japan's role in WWII I never wanted to insinuate that dropping the bomb was okay! Also, I believe that it had been tested in some US desert and I don't think that the US thought the Japanese would just dust themselves off and that was it....plus, days after the horrific attack, they throw another one on Nagasaki.
      I simply didn't like that it wasn't mentioned at all that Japan had been very active in the war - to say the least. It was not like 'well, we were sitting at home, having breakfast, and the US started to drop bombs for no reason at all'....yeah, well, nope, it was not like that; and that's what I disliked and find disrespectful to all the victims on the other side.

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  3. What a great detailed post, I would love to visit Japan! Pinned it for later...

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  4. Oh my goodness - what a truly detailed and fascinating post. I love your writing style that hooks you in and keeps your reading with your narrative flow. Great balance of history, opinion and your experience. I hope to visit Japan next year so this will 100% be somewhere I'll visit. Thanks for posting :)

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  5. Thanks for the comprehensive post! There is so much to see in every part of Japan!

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  6. While I have yet to visit Japan, a visit to Hiroshima and the peace park would be at the top of my list. Not because they're a happy place to spend vacation, but because they are an important reminder of one of the worst disasters in one of the biggest wars in human history. And each year that we get farther and farther from 1945, the easier it is for us to forget and potentially repeat our past.

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  7. Like you, I found Hiroshima a charming city, with a sense of resilience, compassion and peace born of the horrific events if 1945. That said, I agree with you about the lack of context, the unpleasant history that culminated in the Hiroshima bomb being dropped. My favourite area was the Children's Peace Monument and all the crane garlands made and placed there. We also went to Miyajima for a night after our visit to Hiroshima and that was a great place to consider and to unwind.

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  8. After reading your post, I am convinced that staying 1-2 of nights in the city is the best way to explore the city at leisure.Visiting the Peace Memorial Park and Museum seems like a must and I'd love to visit the Hiroshima Castle as well - how impressive that they reconstructed the castle by partly utilizing original building materials. Shukkeien Garden seems like an oasis of tranquility. Beautiful post - will be referring to it when we plan our visit to this city.

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  9. Wow, I keep reading up things about Japan, the more I read the more it gets higher up my bucket list of places to visit. I love the look of the performing arts and the costumes used for this, I've seen live performance , theatre and dance all over Asia, which always surpasses the general standard anyhwhere else in the world. Thanks for a fab piece of reference material :)

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  10. This is a great detailed post and commentary on the history along with your observations. We are from India and these events had such impact on our colonial history. Thanks for this wonderful tour!

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