Hiroshima, Miyajima and Hashima

Hiya Folks,

I am skipping my first Tokyo update for now, as I head back for a few days at the end of my trip and I don’t want to duplicate posts. :P

I have found Hiroshima a fascinating place to visit. The peace park and A-dome were the first things on my agenda (although truth be told I had to reorganise my plan slightly after drinking a little too much with some new friends and losing the motivation to arrive at Miyajima as early as I wanted on my first proper day).

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The A-bomb dome is surreal in a way I can’t describe. I guess it’s something about the contrast between the high rise ultra modern, typical Japanese city towering above this single desolate but eternally (at least that is the plan) preserved building. I won’t get too into the detail of the event, you know it, or can look it up – but the dome is still standing because the hypocentre of the bomb was above it. It was one of the only buildings within over 2km radius that wasn’t flattened. When you look at the city today, it’s difficult to imagine that it ever happened, but the dedication and commitment that the city have placed in creating and maintaining the memorial and peace park, and promoting peace as a consequence is inspirational.

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The memorials in the park are designed beautifully, and from the bottom of the park, the major monuments are aligned so it is possible to see through the arch, to the dome, with the eternal flame burning in the middle. Clearly the museum is an emotional experience, where the upper floor highlights a series of items found in the wreckage, and explains who they belonged to, and their story (mostly children). The personal level made me see the story in a deeper light. The thing that really got to me here though, were the protest letters from the Mayor of Hiroshima to the leader of the country responsible, every single time a nuclear weapon has been detonated, since 1968. That is 606 letters to date. I don’t want to get involved in the politics of this here, but this just doesn’t make sense to me. To see such destruction, and for us to still be toying with these devices…. anyway. Each letter is attached to a replica of the a-dome (til they ran out of room), but to see and read them on this scale, was more upsetting to me than the rest of the museum. I guess it’s the point where past and and present collide.

I also did some of the Shrine hike up to the Hiroshima memorial / statue on the hill. I don’t even know the proper name for this. It isn’t something people seem to do, it is a difficult uphill walk, and it isn’t well signposted (and the maps available are cartoon style only, and all in Japanese). That aside, the view from the top made it entirely worth doing, and some of the shrines along the way were just incredible (in particular, the opportunity to walk through over 100 torii gates), and to walk through a graveyard set into an almost vertical hill.

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My other main motivation for the visit here was to see Miyajima (Itsukushima), an island just off the coast of Hiroshima. It is supposed to be one of the three most beautiful islands in Japan, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. The island is sacred, and features the typical Japanese red torii gate at the entrance. This is like no other I have seen at the temples I have visited so far though. My motivation for arriving so early was to see the torii and Itsukushima shrine at high tide (and while the island was quiet!). The shrine is built above the water, so the torii and temple both appear to float.

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I then decided to hike the long way to the top of Mount Misen, through the Omoto Park. They do warn you that this route is challenging… they are right. After nearly 2 hours of walking up almost vertical stairs I reached the observatory at the top, but it is definitely worth the hike (and clearly it felt a lot more rewarding taking the peaceful route, than taking the ropeway / cable car like the rest of the tourists there).

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And you know…. when in Rome ;)

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I had intentionally timed the hike so when I next saw the torii it would be low tide. Obviously I knew it was going to happen… but I still wasn’t prepared for new view. The contrast in the pictures tell it better than I can!

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My final day in Hiroshima, wasn’t spent in Hiroshima (and shouldn’t really be included in this post, but it is). I made the (somewhat crazy) decision to visit Nagasaki for the day (over 800km round trip – THANK YOU SHINKANSEN!), although Nagasaki itself wasn’t the purpose of my visit, and I didn’t even have time to visit the peace park / memorials. I did walk through the “Seaside Park” though, which was beautiful.

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Instead, I visited Hashima Island (also known as Gunkanjima / Battleship Island). I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually know the history of the island before visiting. It turns out it was the location of an undersea mine for over 100 years (owned by Mitsubishi for the most part), the miners and their families lived on the island (along with many forced Korean and Chinese labourers). When the coal market was replaced with oil in the 1970’s, the island was left deserted and until 2009 remained unvisited. It is now a total ruin, and tourist access to the island is very restricted for safety reasons.

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When you see this photo, it makes sense that it is nicknamed Battleship Island (apologies for the through wet glass blur….).

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It’s website is pretty amazing, http://www.hashima-island.co.uk/ and it served a inspiration for the villains lair in the Bond movie Skyfall (although they never filmed there).

It wasn’t the most typical place to visit, but I did really enjoy it. Not great if you don’t deal well with sea sickness though, the waters are extremely choppy and I was told that regularly the conditions make docking impossible.

The final thing I really have to note here is Okonomiyaki, the speciality food of Hiroshima. Its basically pancakes, filled with pork, noodles and vegetables and some epic bbq sauce, mixed with a variety of your own additional ingredients (and always better with hot sauce!). I have had it a few different places now (and was taught to cook it on my first night!) and it is most excellent. Pretty different to the rest of the Japanese cuisine I’ve been eating since I arrived, but it’s nice to experience something different. If you’re down here, you can’t avoid it…

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It isn’t until this trip that I have ever considered taking photos of food… and I don’t understand how you instagram people do it. When someone delivers an incredible looking and smelling tray of amazing, the first thing I do is not to pick up my camera – but to eat it! This means that I haven’t remembered to take a photo of food until it is half consumed, and by then, it doesn’t look so great. So my apologies – I will try to do better in the next week! All I can report so far is that it has been amazing!

Hope all is well in England, I hope it is still a decent spring when I return. :)
x

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~ by pandaclaire on March 20, 2014.

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