Miyajima Island

Following our sober, reflective time at the Peace Park we jumped on a Green route bus and made our way to the station. There we boarded a train for Miyajima-Guchi station. On our arrival we just followed the crowd down to the wharf only to see a JR boat heading off towards the island. However it wasn’t that long before another returned and we were on our way. Sadly it was a really misty grey sky, one of the rare days like it we had experienced in Japan.

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As we approached the island we noticed not only the famous orange tori gate in the water but to our dismay some grey scaffolding around one of its pillars, as if it had a broken leg.

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On leaving the boat hundreds of us grouped towards the town. However when many took the turn towards the commercial centre of the town we kept to the waterfront promenade. Here we encountered the first of many deer, just like we had in Nara previously.

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At the point we had a good view to the tori gate. Quite a few stand up paddle boarders were there and the occasional boat ferrying tourists around the nearby waters.

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We passed by the main temple as it was being cleaned and there was already a huge queue.  Perhaps we would have a better view of the tori gate from the other side of the little inlet in which it was positioned. Around we walked. Very few people had come this way so I was even able to set up our camera on timer and take an old fashioned version of the ‘selfie’ with the tori gate in the background.

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Our travel mascot, Kirby, also posed for a photo. You can see how mournful he was about the weather and the scaffolding too.

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At one point Karen had thought we might even take a ropeway (cable car) up one of the mountains above the main town but due to the misty, cloudy weather it would have been a waste of money only to see clouds. So we headed back towards the commercial centre to look for some lunch. Along the way we came to the back of the temple complex so I leant over the wall to take a photo with the five level pagoda in the background.

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After I took it Karen pointed out a huge spider web and a rather large colourful spider in it.

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Nearer to town a surprise sighting of a wedding couple being transported in a rickshaw took our eye.

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Once in town we browsed around the cafes and food stalls. In the end we purchased a few skewers of grilled chicken, prawns and vegetables. Karen was also delighted to find this huge soft toy version of Totoro from Gibli movie, My Neighbour Totoro.

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We also spotted this huge wooden spoon, a symbol of the island, on display.

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Given the cloudy weather it was no use waiting for a sunset that wasn’t going to happen so we headed back to the wharf. As it turned out a few hundred others had the same idea as you can see from this queue.

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The good news was that the ships were able to carry hundreds at a time and we returned via the next train to Hiroshima.

Once again we were very pleased at how useful our JR Rail Pass had been. If you want to travel independently in Japan we highly recommend purchasing one.

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Return to Hiroshima’s Peace Park

The following morning after breakfast we joined the Orange route hop on hop off bus near our hotel and travelled around to the Peace Park again.

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Our first stop was the National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims.

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We made our way down to a large circular room with a pictorial representation of Hiroshima at the time of the bombing. Below this the wall was composed of over 140000 tiles representing the people who were killed. Upstairs another room had photos and details of those who were known. This is a small percentage of the victims but the vast majority were blank as the victims were never identified.

Once outside we passed the Peace Flame again. It is cupped in two large ‘hands’.

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From there we went up to the Children’s Peace Memorial. It is here that thousands upon thousands of paper origami cranes are encased in display cabinets. Stemming from bombing victim Sadako Sasakiho who was two when the bombing occurred. At 11 years of age she developed leukaemia. She decided to fold 1000 origami cranes. The crane is a Japanese symbol of longevity and happiness. She died before completing her aim but her classmates finished the rest. Thousands of children from all over the world have folded and sent cranes here.

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Whilst there we witnessed a school peace ceremony by some older students patiently watched on by a much younger group of students.

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Also a crane delivery by some very young students, who would be flat out understanding the symbolism of what they have done in making their cranes. Perhaps I am underestimating the message they receive in their class. It was very moving watching the two ceremonies.

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It is such a tragedy that WW2 ended in this way with so many civilians being bombed. At the time, clearly America believed in what they were doing in bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki but hopefully there is a lot of regret now for their role in history just as Japan acknowledges and regrets their role of wrongdoing as an aggressor.

“All we are saying is Give Peace a Chance.” – John Lennon

Hello from Hiroshima

After our first Shinkansen trip we arrived mid afternoon in Hiroshima. Once we had settled in we took off for a walk to see some of the sights. First stop was Hiroshima castle in the middle of a beautiful park. Th original castle dated back to 1589 but needless to say after being bombed this one is a reconstruction completed in 1958.

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From there we jumped onto one of the hop on hop off buses that tours the city. The good news was our Japan Rail passes covered it. We left the bus at the A bomb dome just as the sun was fading.

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Built in 1915 as a hall it was one of the few things that partly survived. Lots of school students were checking it out too.

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It was quite eerie being there as the sun set and the floodlighting came on.

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From there we walked down into the Peace Park past the Children’s Peace Monument which wasn’t lit, down to the cenotaph and the Flame of Peace. At the cenotaph a few wreaths had recently been laid. We could read in English the one from Denmark and one from the USA. We would return here the following day to see more.

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As we left the area we moved into a well lit shopping and restaurant sector of the city. Karen had read about the famous local pancake, Okonomiyaki, which sounded similar but different to what we had tried in Osaka. My cousin Andrew had recommended a whole building where lots of little food stalls with attached bars made Okonomiyaki. After a bit of looking we found it. We started on one floor but it was crowded with groups of school students. The same on the next floor but the third floor was fine. We looked around for a stall with an English menu. A husband and wife team welcomed us to their stall, Hirochan. We read the menu and soon made our choices. On a huge hot griddle in front of us they were cooking up orders.

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Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake with layers of noodles, cabbage and whatever you order with it.

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When our orders were cooked they partly chopped it up, but like in Osaka give you a cutting tool along with chopsticks to eat it with. It was really good.

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We chatted with a young Swiiss couple as we ate and drank. We were joined around the bar by quite a few locals/Japanese travellers trying Okonomiyaki too. The whole place had a lovely friendly atmosphere and we really enjoyed the evening.