Article & photos : Nicolle Shepherd / Loverlybones © Photos taken 31/03/2016-01/04/2016
Hiroshima is a much quieter place. There isn't as much hustle and bustle as the other cities, but more-so an atmosphere of solemnity. In its entirety, one can understand why, as the memories of the atomic bomb that destroyed their community still loom across the city. There is a gentle sense of mourning in the air, even to this day, which is what makes the city beautiful in its own way. There's still shopping and great food don't worry, but it is just important to keep in mind there is a history that needs to be respected in this town. I feel like this post will be a bit of a history lesson, so let's get to it!
We stayed at the Hotel Park Side Hotel, which had a decent view of the upside of town and the big intersection. Nothing too fancy, but it was nice and clean, which did the job as we were only in Hiroshima for 2 days. It's about a 15min drive from Hiroshima Station, or you can take the train from Hiroshima Station to Hondori Station and walk for about 5min.
Walking for just over 5 minutes from the hotel over the Motoyasu River, is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (Heiwa Kinen Kōen).
On 6th of August 1945, during World War II, Hiroshima suffered it's most tragic day when an atomic bomb was dropped right on the very same spot that is now this park, killing thousands of people. The area hasn't been redeveloped, but has rather been devoted to all the lives lost that day through all of the peace memorial facilities you can now find here. I felt incredibly moved and of course quite sad to be standing here thinking of all the beautiful people that lost their lives, but it was also so amazing to see how much they won't be forgotten and how much the city and its tourists pay homage at the site.
Above is the A-Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dōmu), which is all that remains of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall of Hiroshima built in 1915. It is one of the few structures that remained standing after the bomb, and is now the heart of the Memorial Park, and a key link to Hiroshima's history. It is interesting to know, that after much debate between the locals on whether to keep or demolish the site, a decision to permanently preserve the Dome was made in 1966 and it is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was both amazing and saddening looking at this Dome, as it shows strength in its resilience to stay standing, but also reflects the sad reality of what happened there.
The Aioi Bridge (Aioi Hashi) was originally constructed in 1932, and replaced in 1983 due to significant damage from the war. It is a really lovely area to take some photos of the park and some little boats even cruise through the river now and again.
If you walk further down the side of the park (across the river), you will find the Peace Bell. It was constructed in September of 1964 to symbolise 'One World', as if you look closer to one of the sides of the bell, there is a world map with no border lines carved into it. (Should've taken a photo of the map, sorry).
The Children's Peace Monument (Genbaku no Ko no Zō), is a memorial created (through school fund-raising campaigns) in May of 1958 to commemorate the spirits of all the children victims of the atomic bomb. It was initially inspired by a young girl named Sadako Sasaki, who survived the bomb, but soon after died from Leukemia caused by the radiation. Now, people come from all over the world to lay down folded paper cranes around the statue.
The Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students was established in May of 1967. It is dedicated to the souls of all the thousands of students that died during the Pacific War period. There are doves around the tower, as well as plaques of students' work, and a plaque that narrates the back-ground of the monument. This was the hardest monument to visit, as it makes you think of all the kids lost on that tragic day.
The Hiroshima Peace Clock Tower is a spherical clock built in October of 1967 to mark the hope for endless peace. The clock chimes at exactly 8:15am every morning to mark the time the A-bomb hit Hiroshima. We didn't hear the clock as we arrived at the Park much later than 8:15am, and in a way, I'm glad, as it would be quite sad and distressing to hear it and to imagine the 8:15am of the day it happened.
The National Peace Memorial Hall for the A-Bomb Victims was established in August of 2002. The Hall holds collections of stories and photographs of the victims. Prayers for peace are also held in this hall, and it is a gentle reminder of how much Hiroshima values a sense of harmony in their community.
If you continue walking down the park, you will come across the Peace Memorial Museum and the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims. The Peace Museum is the long building in the back of the image below. We didn't have time to explore inside unfortunately, but at least we were able to walk by and to also pay respects at the Cenotaph (the arched monument).
The Peace Memorial Museum was established in 1955 and renovated in 1991. It is dedicated to documenting the A-Bomb disaster and the story of Hiroshima as a whole, as well as aiming to promote the importance of world peace. After the renovation, there are now two sections of the museum. The East Wing focuses on the timeline of Hiroshima; it tells the story of its beginnings, when the War began, and the after-effects on the community after the War. The West Wing focuses on the actual damage of the A-Bomb, and even exhibits belongings of some of the victims and other things pulled from the rubble.
The Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims was built in August of 1952, and holds all of the names of the victims of the A-bomb. It is saddle-shaped, to symbolise protection. In-scripted on the Cenotaph is an epitaph in Japanese, which I found out translates to "rest in peace, for the error shall not be repeated". It was very moving spot, as the Cenotaph was covered in flowers and letters, as well as having several people praying in front of it. I think it's so amazing that they've put so much dedication into remembering the names of every single person who lost their life that day.
All in all, the Peace Memorial Park, including the area where the Peace Memorial Museum is, has quite a bit to see, so I would reserve about 2 hours of your day for this activity if you were just walking through. If you wanted to do it thoroughly and also go inside the museum and hall, 4 hours would be a safe bet.
The Hiroshima Museum of Art (Hiroshima Bijutsukan) was established in 1978 and holds collections of modern European and Japanese paintings. It isn't as big as your average art museum, but has some really nice paintings and portraits up (I thought they were more old fashioned than 'modern', but anyway), spanning the small footage below. These are the only photos I have of the museum, as I was told by one of the guards to stop (haha). This was the first museum I've been to where you can't take photos! So yes, FYI in case you decide to visit.
I would say the museum took about an hour to go through if you are interested in checking it out. We scanned it rather quick though, so I'd say 2 hours to be safe.
Hiroshima Castle (Hiroshima-jō) (below) was initially constructed around the 1590's, but was destroyed by the A-Bomb, so a replica was rebuilt in 1958. It is now a museum showcasing Hiroshima's history prior to WWII.
Unfortunately, once we made our way to the Castle and even when we got in, it didn't stop pouring the entire time, so we didn't even get to go outside into the garden (above). There were little windows in the Castle so this is all I could manage to see of the castle grounds. :(
Inside the castle were quite a few dioramas of Hiroshima, spanning many years into their timeline. It is such a great experience if you are interested in history, although some narrations/plaques are in Japanese which is the only bummer if you can't read it. It is still fascinating looking around though, and seeing the meditation rooms, ornaments, and 3D models. P.s. Make sure to step outside in easy-to-wear shoes, as they make everyone take their shoes off before entering.
If you too, want to check out the castle, I would reserve about 3 hours to do it (assuming you get some sun and can visit the grounds too. Jelly if you do, just sayin'). But if you're like us and got nice and drenched, I'd say 2 hours.
My boyfriend was craving steak (as usual) so we stumbled upon this restaurant not too far from the hotel called Ikinari Standing Steak Restaurant. I wasn't really a fan of the idea of standing up the whole meal (first world problems I know), and not gonna lie, it was a bit weird. But the food was worth it. You can watch the chefs cooking up, and then it's served straight to you, red hot and tasty! Make sure to wear the bib they give you, because if you're like me, you'll spill everything...everywhere.
If you're looking for some KBBQ (Korean BBQ), Gyu Kaku was pretty good. I didn't order my usual kimchi stew that I order everywhere in Sydney haha (thought I'd try something different), so instead we ordered a whole range of meats to grill (the kobe was the bomb), and ended with some popcorn ice-cream, affogatos, and beers. In between though, we had some cassava chips and some grilled camembert on sticks; I could've eaten that grilled cheese on a stick forever, it was sooo good. I don't know how it all fit, but it did! We're fat arses, tell me something I don't know hehe. So make sure to get some Kobe beef at least once if you visit Japan; be prepared to spend a bit but believe me, it's worth it. There are way fancier Kobe beef places all over Japan, so take your pick.
Right outside the hotel, there is a little bike rental company and cafe (wish we got a chance to ride the bikessss). The cafe is Bistro Wine Bonum which we had some lunch at; I got the seafood pasta, it was really tasty. The complimentary soup was a life-saver as it was pretty freezing that day; and the cheesecake was perfect (when is cheesecake ever bad right?)
The last place we 'ate' at in Hiroshima was just at this really busy cafe at Hiroshima Station. We stayed here for a few hours waiting for our bullet train to Nara and having some icecream; it was a really nice spot to relax after a busy 2 days. There's also a book store in the cafe, which is a good way to pass some time.
Aaand just ending with one of my fave pics from the trip (in a cab in Hiroshima) :) x