Our first few days in Japan started out in Hiroshima. We landed around 8 pm, It took no time at all to get through the airport, change money and find the bus to the city. Once in the city we only walked around for about an hour before we actually found our hostel. When we found it it was perfect and we were more than ready to crawl into our beds. It was a quiet little place near the central station which made it easy to hop on busses and street cars when we needed to get somewhere.
For the first day we walked all day. I would say that we probubly covered over 10 miles on day 1. We walked to the castle and through the gardens. We then ventured to the peace park and the atomic bomb site. We walked to the museum and then to lunch at a yummy Okinomiyaji place. Then back to the castle and all throughout the mall area which was quite crazy!
The castle and gardens-
The Hiroshima castle was originally built in 1592 but then later reconstructed in 1958 after the atomic bomb. Once inside the castle we thought it would have an original feel to it but when it was reconstructed the inside became a museum which resembles nothing similar to what it would have looked like in 1592. The grounds are beautiful and it has the most beautiful temple inside the walls as well as a few koi ponds. The entire castle is also surrounded by a Moat which I thought was really cool. While we were at the castle there was a really interesting reenactment going on with samurai warriors. Not sure what they were saying or doing because it was all in Japanese, but everyone wanted their autograph when they were done.
Atomic bomb site, museum, and the peace park
I have read the story of Sadako a few times but it was amazing to see the statue of her and to look at all the paper cranes that people had sent from around the world or brought to this peace park. The atomic bomb was such a tragic event that killed over 200,000 people In Hiroshima and more people in Nagasaki. After visiting the museum nearly in tears, it was hard not to be compassionate and feel for the victims and families that went through this and still survive today. We watched a number of survivor stories that made my heart sink listening to how they lost their children, husbands, and entire families. The whole thing was hard to believe.
Maybe the most happy part of my day as we were starving and looking for some good and authentic Japanese food to eat for lunch. We found a restaurant that was perfect. They made us Okinomiyaji right in front of us with something that looked like pancake batter and cabbage, lots of other stuff, and then noodles, egg, sauce and seaweed to top it off. It was so delicious I could eat one everyday! If you are ever in Hiroshima you must give it a try. From what I have discovered they are made different in other parts of Japan.
We ended the evening back at the hostel for a two hour rest before getting some Japanese ramen for dinner at a nearby ramen shop.
Our other adventure around Hiroshima was going to Miyajima island in Hiroshima Bay for the day. It was a beautiful sunny day so I’m glad we waited since the day before was a bit dreary. We got our streetcar pass and headed out the door at 6am (damn jet-lag). When we got to the island we were greeted by some adorably friendly deer that just wanted to be petted! Really they probably only care about food but I wanted to believe they just liked me! We immediately Went to the beautiful Grand Tori Gate that is partially submerged and the Itsukushima Shrine, which was first built in the 12th-century.
We also spent time walking around the town a little bit and then visited one of the most tranquil places on the island called Daisha-in temple. This temple was so quite and peaceful sitting in a lush forest at the base of the Misen Mountain! There were tons of tourists at the shrine below but only a handful at this magnificent temple on the hillside. There was even a traditional Japanese wedding going on at the temple that was a pleasure to watch! My other two favorite things about this temple that I have never seen before in a Buddhist temple was the spirit walk and the little knitted hat jizo statues. The spirit walk was a bit scary at first because it started off in total darkness under the temple. We would not have done it if there was not a Japanese couple that motioned for us to go down the stairs, they seemed Admit that it was going to be a good experience. So I peeked into the doorway of absolute darkness and started to feel the walls as I walked. The walls curved around and lead me through a maze until I began to see light from beautiful lit up mosaics. It was well worth it and a pleasure to experience. The little Jizo figures were probubly my favorites though. They were so adorable with little cute faces and knit hats. They seemed to be hiding everywhere. They are know as the guardians of children and have been know to be guardians of travelers as well.
After a stroll around the temple we took a hike to the top of Misen Mountain. The amount of stairs we climbed was uncountable to get to the top, but the view was worth every step. We were able to see far across the island and into Hiroshima. It was a great experience to view a place from such a different perspective.
After a long day and a very long hike, we made it back for a little nap before we went out to experience some nightlife in Japan. It was interesting to see the number of business men and business women in groups as they went out to dinner and socialized. I’m not sure if they ever go to sleep! The other thing that blew my mind was the number of arcade places there were! There were so many and so many different levels to each one! Crazy!