GUEST ARTICLE: We had a rather wet welcome on our first day in Hiroshima. After a short flight from Tokyo we caught an airport limousine bus to the Hiroshima Bus Station located downtown. The 50 minute ride only cost us about AUD$13 each, a good deal cheaper than taking a taxi all that way. And with the dollar on our side it made the visit even better!
We had booked ourselves into the Crowne Plaza located just a hop skip and a jump away from all the main tourist attractions. We didn’t waste too much time since it was getting late in the day and decided to head out for a little explore (even though it was raining).
We headed to the nearby river where we had seen heaps of cherry blossom trees on the way in. The whole purpose of this trip was specifically for the cherry blossoms but we really had no idea of just how amazing they actually would be. The trees were in full bloom and were sensational and who knew there were so many different types!
Later that night we found a massive shopping arcade called Hiroshima Hindori Street. It was a cool looking arcade that went on for blocks sporting a high domed roof bustling with patrons and filled with all kinds of shops and eateries. That’s where we usually had our dinners. Though I have to say it wasn’t easy with so many appealing places to choose from!
The next morning we awoke to clear blue skies and lucky for us it stayed that way for the remainder of our 3-night stint. The first place we went to see was the Shukkeien Garden. It only cost us a couple of bucks to get in to see one of the most amazing gardens we’ve ever seen! The assortment of cherry blossom trees was breathtaking. They were in full bloom and varied in colors from white, pale pinks and deep fuchsias.
The garden wasn’t at all crowded and only a few happy locals either sat under the trees enjoying their beauty or like us meandered throughout also having spectacular “Kodak moments”. The grounds were massive and meticulously manicured with lovely tranquil ponds that were home to giant coy fish (very Zen!).
We were very lucky to witness a few local newlyweds all decked out in their exquisite traditional garb. They just added to the scenery and I could have easily stayed there all day taking pictures – it was amazing! It truly was a photographers dream, my dream!
For lunch we walked to the Hiroshima Train Station and found a restaurant area that specialized in making traditional Japanese savory pancakes called Okonomi-Yaki. There were quite a few places to choose from but there was something endearing about this one little café that had two happy pint-sized old ladies (who had obviously been there for quite some time) bent over a hot grill making these pancakes with much care and attention.
We saddled up on barstool seats around their grill and watched them create these delicious layered pancakes. They are made out of shredded cabbage, meat, noodles, sprouts, crepe and egg, topped with a special in-house sauce. We chose the shrimp and udon noodle pancake and loved it so much we made it our mission to go back there for lunch every day ~ yes they were that good!
Our next and most important visit during our stay was to pay homage to one of the world’s most devastating calamities. We headed over to what is now known as the “A-Bomb Dome” a skeleton of a building once known as a Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall situated along the Motoyasu-gawa River. The building represents a horrific event that took place during WWII when on August 6th, 1945 at 8:15am an American B29 bomber dropped the world’s first atomic bomb that instantly reduced Hiroshima to rubble.
The bomb caused heat waves that reached 3000 to 4000OC resulting in a blast wind and radiation that completely devastated the area. It instantly wiped out two thirds of Hiroshima’s buildings and killed tens of thousands of people. Many suffered severe burns and radiation. By year’s end it was estimated around 140,000 people had lost their lives. Just down the street from the dome is the actual Hypocenter where the A Bomb exploded (600m in the air).
It’s hard to fathom what took place on that fateful day. So to help us better understand we headed over to the Peace Memorial Park area and then went into the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. We really liked the museum it was very informative about what exactly happened on that dreadful day and was definitely worthwhile. It really cemented the need for total abolition of nuclear weapons.
During the nights we would walk along the beautiful lit up Motoyasu-gawa River’s pathways. We were surprised to see large groups of locals happily sitting on tarps under the cherry blossom trees having drinks and dinner. It was a really wonderful sight to see. Strangely enough even with that many people the atmosphere still oozed blissful tranquility (I can’t even imagine that happening back home without it turning into some loud, out of control party).
On our last day we decided to check out a little Shingon Buddhist temple situated on the side of a mountain called Mitaki–Dera that was founded in the year 809. It only took a short train trip to get to the Mitaki area. Once there we made our way up through a most beautiful neighborhood. It had gorgeous little Japanese homes along a lovely street lined thick with clusters of cherry blossom trees.
At the end of the road was Mitaki-Dera. Stone steps wove in and around moss covered gardens accented with hundreds of little Buddhist statues placed throughout. The area was really beautiful with little cascading waterfalls surrounded by manicured Zen gardens. It was a gorgeous spot for cherry blossoms season but we heard the best time is autumn when the leaves are ablaze with color.
We continued up more steps until we found a marked off forest trail that did a loop around the side of the mountain. It was a bit challenging at times but doable and it had some beautiful scenery. I especially liked a massive bamboo forest we walked through. I didn’t even know bamboo could grow that big! After about an hour we found ourselves at the top of the mountain where we got a fantastic view of Hiroshima.
That walk was totally worth it! We got some great exercise but it was also very peaceful. We only passed two people on the whole walk. Mitaki has a lot to offer and it is definitely one of Hiroshima’s hidden gems.
We covered a lot of ground while we were in Hiroshima but it was easy to do with its lovely laidback atmosphere and efficient transportation system. We give Hiroshima two big thumbs up and look forward to returning for its autumn season one day ~ this place is a must see!
This travel diary has been written by Machalle Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!