Today we’re kicking off our very first series of the month with our trip to Hiroshima. This trip started our spring vacation after a few months of teaching non-stop, and we were more than ready to take a break.
Because we only had five days of vacation time, we were only able to spend one full day in Hiroshima. This is what we did:
We decided to change things up a bit, and instead of taking the Shinkansen, flew on Ibex Airlines from Sendai to Hiroshima. Bullet trains are one of the most expensive modes of transportation here in Japan, and surprisingly, flying to Hiroshima turned out to be cheaper. Overall, we were really happy with Ibex, and had plenty of leg room and even a free drink – which is pretty rare for smaller airlines.
From the airport we took a 45 minute bus ride to Hiroshima City, the hub of the most well-known historical sites. We had originally planned on checking into our Airbnb first, but decided to explore the city before it got too late.
Sites We Visited:
Peace Memorial Park:
The Peace Memorial Park lived up to its name, and even though there were other tourists around us, it still felt quiet and serene. The park is pretty large, and has a lot of beautiful and meaningful statues throughout.
At one time, the park was the hub of Hiroshima’s commercial and residential district. After the explosion, it became an empty open field, and eventually, the memorial.
Genbaku Dome (A-Bomb Dome):
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find the right words to describe how it felt to see the Genbaku Dome (Atomic Bomb Dome) in person.
Only 71 years prior to our visit, an atomic bomb had been dropped on the city of Hiroshima, wiping out 90 percent of the city and killing over 80,000 people; not counting the men, women, and children that survived, but were affected mentally and physically for years to come.
The Genbaku Dome was the only remaining structure near the hypocenter of the atomic bomb explosion, and remains protected as a memorial for those who died in the attack and stands as a cry for world peace.
We had both learned about Hiroshima and the bombing throughout our high school and college years, but to see the memorial in person was something I didn’t really expect to do in my lifetime. To see a structure that had survived such a devastating attack made the event seem more palpable – something more than just empty words in a textbook.
Children’s Peace Monument:
This part of the park was extremely moving. It’s easy to forget that war affects more than just those fighting – but children as well. The Children’s Peace Monument is a statue that is dedicated to Sadako Sasaki, a girl I remember reading about in elementary school. (Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes)
Sadako survived the explosion, but experienced health problems due to radiation. She believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes, she would be cured. Sadly, she died, but her memory lives on through the hundreds of thousands of cranes folded by children all around the world.
The Peace Flame:
This was also an incredible monument to see. Since being lit in 1964, the Peace Flame has not gone out once. It burns continuously, and will forever be lit until all the nuclear bombs in the world are destroyed.
Peace Memorial Museum:
Our first attempt at visiting the museum was a bit of a bust. We thought that going to the museum in the early afternoon would help us escape from the crowds, but apparently everyone else had the same idea as we did.
The museum was going through some renovations, so we only had access to one of the buildings. Renovations should be finished by July 2018, and the entirety of the museum will be open to the public.
The part that we walked through was filled with tons of information and relics from the bombing, but the building itself was extremely narrow and cramped. The museum was packed with people, and we couldn’t really take our time to see everything. They don’t punch your ticket when you enter, so we left and then came back later in the evening.
When we made it back to the museum for the second time, the crowd had died down, so we walked slowly through each section of the museum, taking in the seriousness of it all.
There were scorched school uniforms from people who had died on impact, pieces of burnt hair and nails, dented lunchboxes, and worn leather boots. In one display case, there was a piece of stone that had been stained with the shadow of a bomb victim.
Despite the somber tones of the museum, this is a must-see in Hiroshima.
National Peace Memorial Hall for the A-Bomb Victims:
From the museum, we continued to explore the city and stumbled across the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the A-Bomb Victims.
We got there just in time (the hall closes at 6 p.m.), and once we were inside, found the Hall of Remembrance, a beautifully done memorial for the A-Bomb victims. In this room is a panoramic wall with a recreation of the city after the bombing occurred, and is comprised of 140,000 tiles – the number of victims that are said to have died by the end of 1945.
There’s also a basin of water in the center of the room, which symbolizes those that died craving water on that day.
Along with the Hall of Remembrance, the Memorial Hall also has about 100,000 memoirs, a theater, and different artifacts and belongings from some of the A-Bomb victims.
Food We Ate:
After a long day of traveling and exploring the city, we were more than ready to eat. Hiroshima is well-known for their oysters and okonomiyaki, so we decided to try both that night since we were leaving the very next morning.
I’m sad to say I don’t remember the name of the restaurant we went to for oysters, but here’s a shot of the outside of the building. There are plenty of places that sell oysters, and we just picked the first one that looked good to us.
The nice thing about this place was that they did have an English menu.
They’re a bit pricier, but oh so good. If we had gone to Hiroshima with a larger food budget, we would have eaten like kings, but we settled for a small plate of deep fried oyster cakes and a pot of steamed oysters in the shell.
Both were incredibly delicious, and definitely worth visiting Hiroshima for.
Okonomiyaki literally means, “Grilled how you like it,” and is a conglomeration of grilled noodles, meat, and vegetables. We shared an okonomiyaki with udon noodles, pork, cabbage, mushrooms, green onions, other vegetables I can’t recall, and of course, the traditional sweet okonomiyaki sauce.
Okonomiyaki is very unique, but because you can order it however you want, it can appeal to even the pickiest of eaters. Unless you don’t like your food to touch, which in that case, you’re out of luck.
Saying Goodbye to Hiroshima:
After dinner, we headed back to our Airbnb for the night – and stopped by the dome for one last look.
Hiroshima has done an incredible job of rebuilding itself. I’ve come to admire the Japanese people for their resilience and determination to move forward. If the city had not designated a specific memorial to the attack, you wouldn’t have thought that a devastating bomb had ravaged the city less than 100 years ago. Even so, they understand the need to reflect on the past, and use that to impact future generations.
Peace Memorial Museum:
|8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.||200 yen||December 30 – 31|
National Peace Memorial Hall:
|March – July||August||September – November||December – February|
|8:30 – 6:00||8:30 – 7:00||8:30 – 6:00||8:30 – 5:00|