Japan: Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Museum

This morning saw us checking out of the Aranvert Hotel in Kyoto after another much needed sleep-in and our last breakfast.  We ran into Julie and Liz from our tour group one more time at the breakfast table and bid them farewell fondly.

I really liked the members of our tour group.  They were a great mix of younger and older, experienced and inexperienced travellers.  It was also great being guided where to go and have some activities sorted out for us. I will look back on the tour really fondly.

But today, Nick and I were striking off on our own again. Once we were checked out of the hotel we headed to Kyoto station on foot to catch the Shinkansen to Hiroshima which took us just under 2 hours.

Once in Hiroshima, we stashed our larger bags in a station coin locker and made our way into Hiroshima city to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park via the tram car.

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The first thing we saw was the Atomic Bomb Dome.  Originally this building was called the Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall and it was the only structure still standing after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th 1945.  The site was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1996. The dome was 160m from the atomic bomb’s hypocentre.  It was probably the fact that the blast was almost directly overhead that the structure even nominally survived.

After visiting this site, we headed over to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  The park space leading up to the museum was teeming with school children waiting to visit the museum.  Some children, on school assignment asked if they could interview Nick and I which we were only too happy to help with.  The children also gave us each a bookmark they had made after they had practised their English speaking skills on us and written down the answers to the questions they asked us. They also asked us to write a message of peace to Japan.

The Museum was very well laid out and easy enough to navigate despite the crowds and it helped that we had some audio guides (in English) so we didn’t have to press all the way to front to know what each exhibit was about. The exhibits were surprisingly purely factual rather then emotional, with the information provided not shying away from Japan’s involvement in the war which resulted in the USA’s decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima.

As with other similar war exhibits in other countries, I was very deeply affected by the stark depictions of the horrors of war.  The pictures of those who survived the initial blast and the descriptions of the affects of fallout on the human body were bad enough.  I couldn’t quite keep my calm aplomb once I started reading journal entries from family of survivors who very shortly died after the blast.  Especially when it was journal entries from parents or siblings describing the horrific and painful ways their children or siblings died.

This was towards the end of the exhibits at the museum and I am not too proud to admit that I left the building with tears clouding my vision.  It was a very sombre and draining experience though I felt that I learned a lot about the war from the Japanese perspective. The most amazing thing about the museum was the heartfelt plea for world peace and for there to never be a nuclear weapon used on humans again. That at least left the visit on an uplifting note of hope for the future.

After this visit, we returned to Hiroshima station to make our way to Nishi-hiroshima station, where our Airbnb host, Junichi picked us up from the station.  Junichi was already there and waiting for us, despite us arriving slightly earlier than the scheduled meeting time.

Junichi was so very lovely to us on our way to his home.  He stopped at a couple of scenic points so that he could take some lovely pictures of us (which he says he will email later) and show us the best vantage points so that we could see all of Hiroshima.

We arrived at his home at about 5pm and he settled us into one of the guest rooms on the ground floor.  There is an exquisite lacquerwork table in our room which we need to move aside to lay our futons later to sleep on.  The room is a traditional tatami mat floor and is very comfortably laid out.

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His home is quite large, and there are another couple of guest rooms.  Sharing our stay is a father and daughter travelling from Vancouver, Canada, Walter and Lilian. We dined with them, together with Junichi and his wife Makino for a home made yakisoba dinner.

Dinner was a lavish affair and in honour of our honeymoon, Junichi popped a bottle of (Chilean) champagne for everyone tonight. Dinner was advertised as a “small free meal” when in fact, it turned out to be a home cooked feast.  There was yakisoba, a wonderful vegetable and fish medley and tuna sashimi followed by copious amounts of wine and cheese.  I have never felt so welcome in a stranger’s house and we discussed many things, including the beauty of ichi-go ichi-e (for those of you following the blog, this means “for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a lifetime”) all of our recent travel stories and after dinner, Junichi and Makino asked to see our wedding photos and they gleefully exclaimed over them in a way I have only been accustomed to family reacting.

Junichi, and all of us actually, may have had a few too many wines (but it was Australian wine even!!) and even though we were all full to bursting, he decided that we had to try natto, which is a very traditional Japanese fermented soybean dish which has been described to me before as an “acquired taste”.  I am happy to say that reports of this have been greatly exaggerated.  The natto we had was delicious and I would certainly eat it again.

With full bellies, having made a few new friends and feeling extremely happy (potentially a little tipsy) we turned in for the night.

Tomorrow we will go on to Miyajima Island and explore more of wonderful Hiroshima. Hope you’re enjoying the trip as much as we are.

 

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