Shinkansen travel continues – this time first thing in the morning we went to a city 360 kilometers from Kyoto. Hiroshima, as it is referred to, is a city that was almost wiped off the face of the earth after the atomic bomb attack.
We will remember this day for a long time. And it is by no means about some funny or chilling adventures and stories. Several times that day, shivers went through us and tears came to our eyes as we delved into the tragic events that took place in 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We had the opportunity to look at history from a completely different point of view, not only from the messages of history textbooks, which focus strongly only on what concerns Poland, but also from the point of view of people whose culture, way of life and way of dealing with problems is so completely different from ours.
But before we talk about Hiroshima itself, we’ll show you one more place: a piece away is a shinto chram and the famous giant Torii on Miyajima Island (also known as Itsukushima).
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Shinkanen trip to Hiroshima
Waking up early in the morning was standard on this trip. It was even necessary that day to catch the train that would take us from Kyoto to Hiroshima.
It was another ride within which he had the opportunity to get decent. Contrary to the legends, it doesn’t press into the seats, but the ride is very comfortable and smooth. As for speed, you don’t feel the 300 km/h at all, especially when driving among open spaces.
After a journey of 2.5 hours, we arrived in Hiroshima, where we immediately changed to a local train that took us to Miyajimaguchi from where ferries go straight to Miyajima Island. After a short walk, we arrived at the port and stood in line to board the ferry. Of course, both the trains and the ferry are included in the price of the JR Pass, which you can read about here.
Ferries circulate to Miyajima Island every now and then, so we didn’t have to wait long for another one to come up. With the Shinkansen trip still on our minds, we expected a modern vessel that was saturated with technology. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. An old, worn-out ferry approached, not distinguished in any way from the ones we had sailed on so far. Since there were no attractions on board, we could fully focus on looking out the gate to Itsukushima chram.
Traditionally, the red gate is visible from afar and guards the chram – it was high tide, so water flooded it from below.
Miyajima Island and the chram with the great torii gate
After descending from the sleeper, our hearts were immediately captured by the fallow deer that live here and freely surround the arriving tourists. The animals, although wild, are friendly to travelers, who are happy to feed them. Caution, fallow deer are quite clever animals, so you need to be careful that they do not take out of your pockets maps, papers, which are immediately consumed by them (clothes also can eat) :) Of course, you must not tease them, accost them, because like any wild animal they can defend themselves, which can be painful for humans.
We made no secret that for a long time we were more interested in them than in the torii in the background, but after several attempts to eat everything we had with us we decided to say sayonara to them.
Along the coast is a road that leads directly to Itsukushima Chram (Japanese: Itsukushima Jinja). On the way, we met a young couple going to a Japanese wedding, along with their family.
There is an additional fee to enter the chram, but there are plenty of opportunities to take nice photos of the torii along the way, so entering the chram is recommended for those who are interested in the temple itself and seeing the torii centrally in front.
We, of course, went in :) We passed a lot of time inside and we don’t even know when the water began to recede. We walked around the main buildings of the chram, which are raised on stilts so that when the tide comes in, the water doesn’t get in. Building the chram right on the shore was related to the sacred status of the place – those arriving had to pass under the torii by boat, and on leaving they could not touch land with their feet, so they had to swim directly to the chram.
When we returned, you could almost stand under the torii – only then could we see it in all its glory, and there is much to admire, as it is the largest torii gate in the world (16 meters). Ok, we should add here that torii are only found in Japan, so when someone says it’s the biggest in Japan, it’s obvious that you won’t find a bigger one outside the cherry blossom country.
At low tide, you can approach the torii themselves, so it’s a good idea to figure out in advance what times the tides are.
On the way back from the chram there are quite a few stores where you can buy something to eat and souvenirs. Other temples and buildings can be seen from here, including. 5-story pagoda.
Since we had a rather tight schedule for the day, we decided to move quickly towards the small port and return to the mainland by ferry, and then took the train to Hiroshima.
Hiroshima city destroyed in atomic attack
From the train station, we went directly to the Peace Park (Japanese: Heiwa Kinen Kōen, English: Peace Memorial Park), a huge area commemorating the events of the 6. August 1945. It was this area that was the target of the dropped atomic bomb, more specifically, the Aioi Bridge, which we used to cross from the station to the park area (road 183 on the Ota River).
It was (and still is) a distinctive T-mark – a combination of bridges, where exactly the pilot Paul Tibbets was supposed to aim, but the bomb flew slightly to the east. It should also be noted that the bomb did not reach land, but exploded 580 meters above the ground (this is to dispel the myth that the explosion occurs after hitting the ground).
In the photo below, you can see a mock-up showing the bridge that was targeted.
Previously, before the attack, the site was the political center of the city and was therefore designated as a target for dropping the bomb. The attacks (remember, there were two: Hiroshima and Nagasaki) were meant to intimidate Japan and force surrender. The aftermath was tragic, with 140,000 people killed in the attacks, although the number of victims is very hard to estimate, as these are not only people who died from the explosion but also from radioactive contamination and radiation later on (tens of thousands of people).
We walked through the park from the north towards the memorial to the victims of the attack, which is located in the central part of the park.
First our attention was drawn to the Peace Monument, also known as the Atomic Bomb Dome (Japanese. Genbaku Dōmu, English. Hiroshima Peace Memorial/A-Bomb Dome), a UNESCO World Heritage Site . It is one of the few buildings in Hiroshima right next to the bomb site that survived the blast and became a symbol of the attacks (it’s a wonder the dome didn’t collapse). Structural work is currently underway to prevent the building from collapsing during frequent earthquakes.
In the northern part of the park is a giant bell that anyone can walk up to and strike if they are against such acts of violence in the world.
Continuing south, we passed the Children’s Peace Monument (Genbaku no Ko no Zō in Japanese), another symbolic landmark in the park. From a distance, the shape resembles a cross, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is a bronze statue topped by a sculpture of a girl with a crane resting on her hands.
The impetus for this sculpture was the story of a girl, Sadako Sasaki, who was 2 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped. Like many other children, she was diagnosed with a disease – leukemia – that resulted from the attack and ultimately led to the girl’s death. Before she died, the girl wanted to make 1,000 origami cranes – she believed that the cranes, which are a symbol of longevity and happiness, would help her recover.
Unfortunately, it did not work and the girl died without achieving her goal. Her classmates continued her work and raised funds to create the sculpture. Surrounding the monument are glass containers in which paper cranes can be seen.
Continuing south, we come to another monument, this time a larger, substantial one that may symbolize the magnitude of the tragedy and is a focal point in the park. It is an oblong pond, with a Peace Flame on one side and a Memorial Cenotaph on the other. It is here that annual ceremonies are held to commemorate the victims of the attack.
The flame of peace is another symbol in the park – it is meant to burn until all the world’s nuclear bombs are destroyed. The cenotaph, on the other hand, a symbolic tomb, symbolizes protection for the souls of the fallen. It contains the names of those who were victims of the atomic attack and who died from the aftermath of the bomb (to date, many victims are unidentified, as the documents of Hiroshima residents have been completely destroyed).
We also recommend going to the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims – this is an often overlooked place by tourists, and it’s really worth a look, especially since entry is free! Going down we learn about the history, the reasons for the attack and at the very end we find ourselves in a circular room showing the landscape just after the attack.
A special place is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum next door, which is also a must-see and…. swoon. Shocking, shocking, thought-provoking.
It shows history, facts, exhibits and mock-ups. Here we can watch videos of the atomic bomb dropping action itself, compare mock-ups of Hiroshima ‘before’ and ‘after’, read about the history and reasons for the dropping of the bomb (in a very decent and neutral (!) way it is described who dropped the bomb and why), learn why Hiroshima and not another, larger city was attacked, see original letters as well as horrifying exhibits: destroyed, burned clothes, teeth, hair of victims, etc.
Shadows of people were depicted – the only thing left of them. A large part is devoted to the effects of the attack, diseases that were felt even for several decades (and one could even say that they are still felt today).
This is one of those museums where, once you cross the threshold, you are swallowed up by history, tragic events, full of casualties and losses, and the question in your mind is how such a thing could have been allowed to happen. We walked through the various halls almost with tears in our eyes, and the atmosphere inside was also conducive to this: people passed and stopped at every single exhibit in silence and reverie. Entrance to the museum costs a symbolic 50 cents, but even if you were to pay much more it is still worth it.
After this rather sad and depressing tour, we headed to the city center to see how it was rebuilt almost from scratch. Although Hiroshima is mainly associated with the attack, it should also be noted, the rapid development of this city. Walking down the streets we passed a lot of office buildings, skyscrapers.
Finally, we went to Hiroshima Castle (Hiroshimajō, Japan), which is a very good example of a Japanese castle built in the heart of the city. The castle dates back to the 16th century, but like most buildings it was destroyed in 1945 during an attack. After 30 years, however, it was rebuilt.
The castle grounds are surrounded by a moat, and in addition to the main building there are a chram and ruins. The five-story castle towers above the trees, and the top floor offers views of the entire area.
Although the hour was still young, we decided to head toward the station to catch the train back to Kyoto. We were at the train station much earlier, so we still managed to eat something on the way, something local, of course. We didn’t have enough time to look, so we went into a nearby pub to try a local delicacy -.
, which is Japanese pancakes, pancakes with vegetables. Quite tasty but still the hit of the trip remains the delicious ramen soup.
We were still in Kyoto before sunset. So we headed to the terrace located at the station. We managed to see such a nice view of the Kyoto Tower TV tower:
Although we covered more than 700 kilometers, we were not tired. The weather has already definitely improved, so there was a glimmer of hope that maybe tomorrow we will see a little more of Kyoto.