We took a fast Shinkansen train from Osaka to Hiroshima, where we would spend 2 nights. Before coming to Japan, Jeff and I purchased 7-Day JR Rail passes. Jeff did a lot of research, making sure that it was the most economical option for us. At well over $200 each, we wanted to make sure that we were going to get our money’s worth! We have been really happy with our decision to use them. The JR trains are on time, extremely clean, get us from place to place, and we have made an effort to get the most use out of all of the lines that the JR company has to offer in each city we visit (the local subways and trains can be confusing in Japan, there are multiple companies in each city and you have to buy tickets for them separately. It was nice to have one company we didn't have to get tickets for, at least for some of our stay). Below: bullet trains, snack cart, and how to use the trains politely!
Many of the places that we have visited in the past year have been spur of the moment, or a happy coincidence due to cheap plane tickets or friend’s vacations. However, when we started planning this trip, Japan was always on the list, and Hiroshima was a place that Jeff really wanted to visit.
After we dropped our bags at our Airbnb, we walked around the corner and grabbed lunch. I ordered Japanese curry, and Jeff had salmon. The place had set lunch menus with limited choices but you got a drink and soup too!
This curry (above, left) was very different from the curries I have been eating in the past few months. (Jeff disagrees- he says that all curries taste like curry). To me, this was more like a sweet beef stew with a mild curry flavor.
Hiroshima is an extremely walkable city, and nothing seemed very far apart. After we ate, we walked a few short blocks to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Peace Park. Entrance to the museum was only 200 Yen (less than $2 per person), and was completely worth it. We spent about 2 hours walking through the small displays in the museum. I thought that it was put together very well, and was surprised that each year, people bring thousands of items and heirlooms that were affected by the a-bomb to the museum that have been passed down in their families.
On the other side of the memorial park is the A-bomb dome. The hypocenter of the bomb was actually detonated over a hospital. Of all the information presented to us in Hiroshima about the A-bomb, I was really surprised that none of it was one-sided, and did not seem to infer any resentment towards America for completely decimating their city. I understand that it was war, but there seriously didn’t seem to be any hard feelings towards the US. Really the only mention to the US was this:
The overall message was more about the horrors of atomic warfare and the consequences, pushing the message of peace and ensuring that this doesn't happen again, rather than point fingers or complain.
We also walked around the Hiroshima Castle grounds, which were beautiful. And some plum blossoms were out!
The next day we went for a morning jog, and later that afternoon we used our JR rail passes to get out to Miyajima Island. For our Michigan friends: I would consider Miyajima Island to be pretty similar to Mackinaw Island. It was extremely touristy and we only walked around for about an hour before catching the ferry back to the mainland. I think there are probably many more people crawling around here during the summer, so I guess it’s a good thing that we had chilly weather and small crowds!
There is a large Torri Gate near the island, that at high tide looks like it is floating in the water. A special delicacy of the Hiroshima area, especially from Miyajima, are small maple cakes that have filling. Jeff tried a crème filled cake (good choice), and I tried the traditional red bean paste filled cake. I just can’t come around to considering beans a dessert option.
For dinner that night, we decided to go into a little local okonomiyaki place next to our Airbnb. The pictures below are of okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese pancake thing, usually stuffed or cooked with some sort of cabbage or vegetables and meat, sometimes topped with barbeque sauce or other condiment. We had quite a few different varieties of these during our stay! It was the kind of place where all heads turn and stare when you walk in the door if you aren’t a local. We quite obviously are not locals. We settled at a small table in the back (the bar stools were full of locals enjoying drinks), and were waited on by the friendly couple who seemed to run the place. While we were waiting for our food, one of the locals from the bar came over and sat with us. We enjoyed a fabulous conversation in broken English about everything from our jobs (or lack thereof), Trump (a popular topic with foreigners), and geography (mostly of the States). By the time we were done eating our meal (which was good-but not as good as the company), we felt like we were regulars, and we were asked to sign the restaurant wall on the way out. In permanent marker! I felt like a celebrity.
Before getting on our afternoon train to Kyoto the next day, we walked up to the Peace Pagoda. It had a beautiful view of the city. It’s amazing to think about what this city looked like after the bomb exploded. We had an amazing time in Hiroshima, and the city had a much slower pace than Osaka, which both Jeff and I appreciated.