After spending a month in Osaka, we took a several hours bus ride down to Hiroshima where we booked an Airbnb apartment for one week. It was a pretty small apartment, but bigger than the one in Tokyo, and was close to the city center. We had a tram stop right outside the front door so that was super helpful to get around.
Unlike most major Japanese cities, Hiroshima does not have a subway system. Instead it has an extensive system of streetcars (trams). Some are sleek and modern and some are fifty years old. Below is a photo of one of the older ones. It costs about $1.50 USD to ride them, and they come about every 10 minutes at each stop. It was a pretty efficient way to get around the city.
Our apartment was only a few stops away from Peace Memorial Park which is the main place most tourists want to see when visiting Hiroshima. It is where most of the memorials are related to the Atomic Bomb that was dropped on the City on August 6, 1945. It is a very big and beautiful park and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom when we were there so that was really nice.
The first thing you see when you get off the tram at the park is the skeletal remains of a building named the “Atomic Bomb Dome”. The bomb exploded almost directly over this building and the glass dome shattered and everyone inside was killed instantly. It’s a pretty eerie sight and a stark reminder of the past.
Continuing on through the park there are many memorials. Another one is the flame of peace which rests in the center of a sculpture meant to look like two hands pressed together at the wrists with the palms pointing towards the sky. The flame was first lit in 1964 and has been burning ever since. The mission is to have it remain lit until all the nuclear bombs in the world are destroyed.
Another memorial in the park is the Childrens Peace Monument. It was dedicated to all the children killed in the bombing as well as to a young girl named Sadako Sasaki who died of leukemia ten years after the atomic bombing. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by the gods. She did fold the one thousand paper cranes but she died at the age of 12 after an eight month struggle with the disease. Until this day people from all over the world send millions of paper cranes each year, many of which are displayed in the glass cases around the monument. The origami paper cranes are a symbol of peace.
The museum is the main point of interest in the park, as it contains a lot of information about the bombing. We rented audioguides which I would recommend if you visit, it will give you a lot more information about the artifacts you will see related to the bombing.
There were a lot of extremely graphic and disturbing photos, and items which were melted during the blast, like bicycles and glass jars. One thing at the museum which I found particularly interesting was a “nuclear shadow” which they removed from a building outside to preserve behind glass. These nuclear shadows occurred because the radiation bleached anything it came into contact with, especially concrete. If there was a person or any solid object in the way, it created a “shadow” on the background of that person or object. This museum was definitely informative and interesting but of course also very shocking and depressing. Knowing that these kind of bombs still exist today in many countries and may one day be used again is incomprehensible after seeing the devastation and suffering they caused not only at the moment it happened but for many years after.
A really nice day trip that we took from Hiroshima was to the island of Miyajima. I previously wrote about the deer at Miyajima in my post about all the animal experiences in Japan. Other than the deer, it’s a really beautiful island with an iconic torii gate in the water. The day we went unfortunately the tide was out so there were hundreds of people walking around the gate. I would have rather the tide been high to get a photo of the gate “floating” in the water, but oh well, next time! It was cool to walk around in the sand around the gate anyway I guess. We stayed at Miyajima Island all afternoon walking around feeding the deer and exploring smaller temples and taking photos. It was a very enjoyable day and very easy to get to as the tram took us directly from outside our house to the ferry terminal, I think it took a little over an hour and then the ferry ride was not very long.
Another day trip that can be easily done from Hiroshima is to “bunny island” which I previously wrote about here in my post about animal experiences in Japan.
Overall Hiroshima is a great place to visit. Many people just go there on a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto as you can get there in a couple hours on the bullet train, see everything in the park, and then leave. I’m glad we had a leisurely week there though and had time to see the park and do two big day trips and hang out in arcades and eat lots of good food.
I will try to make my last Japan post in the next few days about our final week in Japan in the beautiful Mt. Fuji area.