Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hot Historic Hiroshima


Japan has endured a scorching heat wave that seems to have lasted for all of August. Temperatures are regularly above 35C with stifling humidity. Hiroshima was no different for the five days I was there so I didn't spend much time outside other than at the ballpark. I did still take in a couple sights, one of which is world renowned and another that is not.

Gembaku Dome and Peace Museum

Hiroshima is sadly famous for being the first of two Japanese cities to be destroyed by the atomic bomb. The most famous reminder of this event is the Gembaku Dome (A-Bomb Dome) which is the remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Located just a few hundred meters from the hypocenter, it looks the same as it did back on August 6th, 1945, although naturally some preservation work has been necessary.


Just a few minutes away is the Peace Museum, located in the Peace Memorial Park. The park itself has a number of small memorials that are worth seeing, but the museum is where you will spend most of your time. The photo below is of the Memorial Cenotaph which contains the names of all those killed by the bomb.


On a previous visit to the museum I felt that they glossed over Japanese involvement in the war, but they've added new displays that bring more attention to the fact. It presents a more balanced look at the events preceding the bombing and then dozens of stories from those who survived and burnt clothes and other possessions from those who didn't. There are also some models of the city before and after that give you a real understanding of just how much damage was done. I can't imagine visiting Hiroshima and not going here; it's just 50 yen and you'll never forget it.

One other place to go is the hypocenter, the precise spot on the ground below which the bomb exploded. I found standing right at the hypocenter to be quite powerful as it is just a small marker on a nondescript side street without any tourists. It is hard to believe that just 600 m above this point was where the bomb ended 70,000 lives instantly. That's the marker below, next to a hospital.


As you walk around the city, you might find some similar markers that show how that area looked after the bomb.

Just across the street from the Gembaku Dome is the old baseball stadium. It was permanently shut as of September 1st, so I am not sure what is going to happen to it. I'd guess that they'll tear it down eventually and develop something there as the land is too valuable to just keep an unused stadium there.


Shukkeien

A few minutes west of Hiroshima Station is a beautiful Japanese garden known as Shukkeien. It was built in 1620 and contains a large pond with several small islets. There is a long walking path that takes you around the garden, with many shaded areas that offer respite from the heat.


The straddling rainbow bridge (below) marks the center of the garden. Being so close to Ground Zero, the garden was completely destroyed in 1945 but has been rebuilt to the previous situation. A nice place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. There is a small 250 yen entry fee but it is well worth it.


Miyajima

One place I didn't visit this time is Miyajima. It's about 30 minutes by train from Hiroshima Station or you can take a slower and cheaper tram to Miyajima-guchi, from where you catch the ferry over. Miyajima is considered one of Japan's 3 best views so if you are in Hiroshima for more than a day or two, you should definitely head out there.

Getting Around

Central Hiroshima is quite small and I walked everywhere despite the heat. But there are plenty of trams that go from Hiroshima Station to the Gembaku Dome and other tourist attractions. A one-day pass is 600 yen and a single ride is 150 yen that you pay when you disembark. Note that the passes are not sold on the streetcars but you should be able to get one at your hotel. There are also passes that include the ferry to Miyajima for 840 yen.

Eating

I found one great restaurant a couple of blocks south of the Kanayama-cho tram stop. Known as Kawasou, it serves okonomiyaki and teppanyaki, which is fried on a grill in front of you. Excellent service and reasonably priced, it's open well past 4 am and has English menus that are not that well translated. Below are the manager and one of his staff who have no idea that they are now on the internet.


Other Sights

Given that I was at the stadium or a bar for most of my time in Hiroshima, I didn't see as much as I could have. But this guide is extremely comprehensive and lists a lot of restaurants and bars as well.

Hiroshima is definitely one of Japan's best cities for tourism; if you visit Japan, make sure to include a couple of days here on any itinerary.

Best,

Sean

1 comment:

  1. The Hiroshima Peace Park/Museum was a very hard visit for me but well worth it.

    I did see Miyajima and wish I had more time to visit the island.

    It was very good seeing you on this trip. Hope to meet up some time in the future.

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