Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hiroshima and Miyajima

So Vietnam wasn't the only place I traveled to this spring vacation. I also ended up taking a weekend trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima with my neighbor, Vanessa, and her friend visiting from the States, Sarah. I'd been to Miyajima before last year when my parents were in Japan but we had skipped the nearby Hiroshima and its Peace Park because we had limited time and Dad decided he would rather see Himeji Castle (thanks to a childhood spent watching samurai movies.)

Miyajima was just a beautiful as I had remembered and was well worth the second look and Hiroshima turned out to be both sad and vibrant at the same time.


Both the tori gate and the temple are in the water because the island was once considered too sacred for human feet to touch.

We got to Miyajima in the late afternoon, just in time to watch the sunset. We ate dinner at a small Italian restaurant on the mainland across from the island. It had a wall of windows with binoculars that you could use to peer across the water to find the famous orange tori gate. Then we caught the ferry over to take a look a closer look in the dark. Unfortunately none of those pictures came out very well. The next morning we headed back again and spent the first half of the day taking pictures, touring the temple, and meandering the streets browsing the many tourist trap shops. I ran off for a bit to find a geocache hidden under a 500 hundred year old tree. Then we caught the train to Hiroshima and spent the rest of the day exploring the Peace Park.

The A-bomb dome. One of the few buildings left standing after the bomb.

Thousands of paper cranes are hung at the Children's Memorial - honoring the children who died in the bomb or from after effects later.

The Peace Memorial. You can see the A-bomb dome in the background.

The park was beautiful, especially because the cherry blossoms were still in bloom. The museum was hard to process and I went through it quickly. I didn't know it but the mayor of Hiroshima writes a letter to every government who conducts nuclear testing, begging them to reconsider. Everyone from the US, Russia, France, India, China, and Iran and North Korea has received a letter asking them to keep history from repeating itself. I had to hold back tears after reading some of them.

I was surprised to notice that the museum acknowledged that the Japanese army had forced Chinese and Koreans into slave labor, some of them working in Hiroshima. But then I wondered after it kept getting mentioned if that wasn't just a way to emphasize just how many innocents had died in the attack, a "hey it wasn't just Japanese that died but people the Americans were trying to help!" I don't mind America being called to task on that point, I just wish the Japanese would more openly acknowledge their own atrocities, not just when it's convenient. I'm hyper-critical of museums due to my background in history, but overall I would say this one was pretty well done.

After the museum and the park (and a few more geocaches for me) the three of us headed back to the hotel where we ordered Pizza Hut. You don't know just how good a greasy piece American style pizza tastes until you live in the middle of nowhere and can't get it. And then of course stuffed full of pizza we went out to meet Vanessa's friend Shoko who took us to one of the hundreds of okonomiyaki restaurants, famous in Hiroshima. It was delicious but I didn't want to look at food for a very long time afterward.

This building was full of nothing but okinomiyaki restaurants!

Our food being prepared.

Okonomiyaki is a sort of pancake with lots of cabbage and then other things mixed in like egg and squid with a sweet sauce and fish flakes on top. It tastes really good, I promise.


The next morning I split from Vanessa and Sarah in order to do some more geocaching. They were leaving early to head onto Osaka so I wandered around, checking out the castle and doing some shopping before I caught the train back to Tahara. All in all it was a great trip and a nice end to an exciting spring break.


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