Japan: Hiroshima Part I

Of all the places I have been to Hiroshima is by far my most favorite place to visit in Japan! We took a bullet-train from our Hakone Trip to Hiroshima, spent a few days sightseeing and had a wonderful time. When traveling to Japan for the first time most people, including myself, usually skip over traveling here and focus most of their attention on Tokyo and Kyoto. Now, there is nothing wrong with that but Hiroshima should not be overlooked, it offers its guests a lot of historical value that will definitely leave you with a strong impression of the harsh reality that occurred during WWII. If you are planning a trip to Japan, I recommend not to miss out on Hiroshima!

Traveling around Japan can either be an intuitive or a daunting task, a lot of that is determined by your ability to adapt. When traveling around Japan you will notice that each city uses a different form of public transport. You will encounter the Hiroshima Electric Railway (Hiroden) when traveling within the city. The street cars and city buses will be your main form of transportation around the city. Grab a map and familiarize yourself with the routes to move about with ease.

I recommend picking up the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass. You will have to choose between the Small Area/City Pass (1,000円) or Wide Area/Prefecture Pass (3,000円) tourist pass. Either pass will offer you unlimited bus and street car rides within the city and ferries to Miyajima for up to three days. The Prefecture Pass will get you access to the highway buses on top of city buses which reach outside the inner city. There is also a guidebook with discount coupons you can pick up when buying either pass.

Upon arriving to Hiroshima we decided to first go to Okunoshima/Usagi Shima (Rabbit Island) as it’s a bit far away and we wanted to insure that we wouldn’t miss out on a single activity from our busy itinerary. The ferries have a set schedule so arrive early and plan accordingly. You will be forced to spend the night at a hotel on the island if you fail to catch one of the last ferries out. So plan accordingly!

Who doesn’t love cute and cuddly rabbits?!I was super excited to finally visit this place in person and firsthand see how awesome it really is. A couple pieces of advice I can lend when visiting Rabbit Island is to be sure to set aside a sufficient amount of time and bring your own carrots or lettuce. You can buy feeding pellets at the ferry station but they seem to much rather like eating the tasty veggies. The super friendly rabbits are everywhere!

After spending a good amount of time feeding and playing with the many rabbits, I walked around to see the dark side of Rabbit Island. Okunoshima housed a large poison gas factory for chemical warfare. Some of these buildings can still be seen and they now serve as a reminder of the destruction that struck Japan during WWII. The most noteworthy building was the large mustard and tear gas facility that stands in ruins. I left the island feeling much different than how I came which helped to mentally prepare me for the next day’s itinerary.

I waited many years to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and it was every bit worth the wait.  The significance of the Peace Park is to preserve a memory of the devastation the world’s first nuclear bomb caused, but more importantly it is dedicated to the many victims that were affected. There are several monuments and a great museum that commemorate the  fallen. It’s free to walk around and only 50円to enter the memorial museum. The exhibits and displays will surely tug at your heartstrings. The devastation of August 6th, 1945 will never be forgotten.

One of the major highlights is of course the Genbaku Domu (Hiroshima Dome), also known as the A-Bomb Dome. The A-Bomb Dome has not been tampered with since the day of the bombing. Now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and a symbol of chaos and peace. The other park highlights include: The Memorial Cenotaph, The Flame of Peace and The Children’s Peace Monument.

The Memorial Cenotaph is a tomb archway that holds the remains of some of the bombs victims. If you look closely you can see the A-Bomb Dome and Flame of Peace align through the archway. The Flame of Peace has been burning since August 1st, 1964. It will be extinguished once all nuclear weapons are abolished. The Children’s Peace Monument commemorates the many children who lost their precious lives and a very touching story of a young girl who died of leukemia due to  radiation poisoning. She made many origami cranes in hopes of appeasing to the gods to allow her a longer life. Her monument and story live on. The whole peace park experience will definitely leave you feeling much different than you would if leaving places like Tokyo and Kyoto. I think it’s important to see all sides of Japan, not just the pretty ones.

After leaving Peace Park we headed for the Hiroshima Castle. The original castle was destroyed during the atomic bombing, so what we see today is a reconstruction. Still, it is a beautiful castle worth the 10 minute walk from Peace Park. Our final stop was to the famous Okonomi-Mura (Okonomiyaki Village), which is conveniently located in the busy downtown area of Hondori Street near Peace Park. There are a total of 24 okonomiyaki restaurants to choose from each offering slight topping variations. If traveling to Hiroshima don’t leave this place out of your itinerary. It’s totally worth the visit, the hardest part will be choosing which restaurant to try. Happy Travels!

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