Two Days in Hiroshima and Miyajima, Japan
Blog Tour: Traveling Back to the Future in Japan
I hope you all are enjoying my journey through Japan. After spending two wonderful days immersing myself in traditional Japanese culture in Hakone, we hopped on a 200mph train to the historical city of Hiroshima.
Hiroshima is the largest city in western Japan and it will always be associated with the devastation of the first and only atomic bombing in 1945. Nowadays, Hiroshima is a vibrant and culturally rich city with some pretty amazing food, nature, shopping and sacred sites.
Today, read all about my two days exploring the city of Hiroshima and the nearby island of Miyajima.
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Getting to Hiroshima in a Blink of an Eye:
From Odawara, we hopped on board Japan’s famous Shinkansen train. Also known as the bullet train, the Shinkansen operates on a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan. It is the best way to travel to Japan’s major cities.
We took the Tokaido Shinkansen to Hiroshima, making only one stop in the city of Nagoya where we transferred to the Sanyo Shinkansen. Within a few hours, we made our way over to the opposite side of the country. I remember looking at Google Maps on my phone and actually seeing how fast the blue dot was moving! While you are on the train, it is a smooth and relaxing ride.
When we finally arrived in Hiroshima, we checked into the beautiful Grand Prince Hotel. This lovely four-star hotel is located 15-20 minutes from downtown Hiroshima in Moto-Ujina Park on Hiroshima Bay. Right next to the hotel is Setonaikai National Park. The views from the hotel rooms and restaurants were out of this world!
In addition, Grand Prince Hotel has it’s own private beach on Hiroshima Bay and even offers a public bathhouse (think of it as a large hot tub), pool, gym and spa services.
The food in Hiroshima was some of the best I had during my time in Japan. Located in Hiroshima Station, you could find some amazing Japanese restaurants. In addition, there are wonderful places to eat in the downtown area and local markets, which are only a short walk from the train station.
Otafuku: A major staple in Hiroshima is okonomiyaki. This delicious Japanese specialty is also popular in the major city of Osaka, but you could usually find it at a street market in any town in Japan.
After we got off of the Shinkansen at Hiroshima Station, we went to an amazing okonomiyaki food stand called Otafuku (located right in the station). Made right in front of us, the Hiroshima version of okonomiyaki consists of batter (similar to a crepe), shredded cabbage, pork belly (which could be substituted for seafood), yakisoba noddles, a fried egg, the famous okonomi sauce (which is a sweet and sour sauce) and it is topped with chopped green onion and sometimes drizzled with a spicy mayo.
If you go to Hiroshima, or Japan in general, you HAVE to get okonomiyaki. It is AMAZING!
Hisahi Nabeyaki Ramen: Located in downtown Hiroshima (about a 10-15 minute walk from Hiroshima Station), is Hisahi Nabeyaki Ramen. This small, authentic and rather quaint ramen house offered some of the best ramen I had during my time in Japan.
If you are looking for an amazing place to indulge in ramen, then I highly recommend Hisahi Nabeyaki Ramen. Our waiter served us some iced Japanese tea and I got the ramen with soy broth. It was so yummy! We also enjoyed some Asahi beer on the side.
You could find many other amazing restaurants in Hiroshima on TripAdvisor.
Day 1: Hiroshima City
Traveling back to August 6, 1945:
Towards the end of World War II, Hiroshima, Japan was attacked on the morning of August 6, 1945. At 8:15 am, an American B29 bomber was dropped on Hiroshima, leaving the city to devastation. Almost everyone in the area died instantly and many were left severely injured and sick. (A second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan a few days later on August 9.)
Atomic Bomb Dome:
I remember learning about Hiroshima in both high school and college history classes, it was easier for me to feel the pain of what happened that day by actually being in the hypocenter (also known as Ground Zero) of where the bomb hit. The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall is the only remaining building that shows the devastation and destruction from that day. The bomb exploded 1,969 feet above and 525 feet southeast of this building, ripping through the structure and instantly killing the 30 individuals working there that morning.
Since the bomb exploded almost directly above the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, some of the center walls remained standing, leaving a good portion of the building and iron frame to be recognizable as a dome. There were discussions over whether the building should be demolished after the attack because it brought back a lot of pain and sadness from that horrible day. They decided to keep it as a memorial and it quickly became known as the A-bomb Dome.
Old Bank of Japan Hiroshima Branch:
In addition, the former Hiroshima branch of the Bank of Japan was built in 1936 and shows some scars from the atomic bomb. This bank was strong enough to remain intact when Hiroshima was attacked.
Throughout the city, you will find numerous monuments in remembrance of the bombing victims. One of the first monuments we saw that day was the Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace. Most commonly known as the Memorial Cenotaph, it is here where you could find all of the names of the victims whose lives were lost to the bomb.
The Children’s Peace Monument was built to commemorate Sadako Sasaki (along with the other children who died due to the atomic bomb). Sadako Sasaki was a young girl who was exposed to the radiation of the blast at only two years old. She ended up dying of leukemia at the age of 10. While she was sick, she would fold paper cranes. Today, you could view the monument of a young girl holding a wire crane above her head. These paper cranes symbolize the pursuit of peace. I actually ended up buying a colorful crane during my time in Hiroshima.
On August 1, 1964, the Flame of Peace was lit in hope of a world without nuclear weapons. The flame will continue to burn until nuclear weapons are abolished everywhere. This monument was designed to show two hands pressed together with the palms facing the sky.
Another monument to visit is the Peace Bell. The bell was made with the aim of abolishing nuclear weapons and bringing about world peace. During my time here, I took the opportunity to strike the bell while praying for world peace.
In addition to the devastation, it was predicted that no tree, grass or plant would grow in Hiroshima for 75 years due to high levels of radiation. Due to a bad typhoon that hit the area, the levels of radiation decreased immensely. Nowadays, there is no radiation in the air and the city now shines with green.
Overall, there were so many feelings I experienced during my time in Hiroshima. I believe it is so important for everyone to visit this city and learn about the events that happened on August 6, 1945. What happened in Hiroshima is proof that nuclear weapons should be abolished immediately.
Castles in Hiroshima:
There are two castles in Hiroshima that are great to visit. The famous Hiroshima Castle was built in 1931, but was later destroyed by the atomic bomb. The exterior of the castle was later renovated in 1958 and the interior was restored in 1989. Currently, it is a museum that showcases the Samurai culture.
Feudal lord Mizuno Katsunari, on the other hand, built Fukuyama Castle, in 1619. He was a cousin of Tokugawa leyasu, the shogun who unified Japan and established the Edo Shogunate that lasted 200 years until 1868. Only parts of the castle were destroyed by the atomic bomb, but the watchtower and iron gate survived. The castle was reconstructed in 1966.
Day 2: Miyajima
Experience the Beauty of Miyajima:
Located in Hiroshima Prefecture, less than an hour from the city of Hiroshima itself, is the small island of Miyajima. The island is absolutely beautiful and it was ranked as one of Japan’s best views in the country.
Some fun facts about Miyajima are that it has a population of only 2,000, there are no cities, cars or public shops (everything is private). If you want to stay on the island, there are ryokans where you can spend the night since there are very few hotels. In addition, deer and monkeys roam freely, so watch out if you are eating; these little guys are definitely not afraid of tourists!
Since the islanders work hard to keep the island clean and pure, funeral services are prohibited as well as childbirth. If a person dies or a woman is ready to give birth, they would need to leave the island immediately. The locals work hard to preserve the forests and respect the nature on Miyajima.
You could get to the island of Miyajima by driving to Hiroshima Port, which is a half hour from downtown Hiroshima, and take the ferry from there. You could also catch a boat that will take you directly from Hiroshima Peace Park downtown.
Experiencing the Peace of Shrine Island:
Originally named Itsukushima, this beautiful place is known as “Shrine Island”. It is here where you could find the beautiful Itsukushima Shrine with the iconic floating torii gate in the water. It is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The shrine itself is also built on water and is a beautiful orange color. I absolutely loved walking around this shrine!
The floating torii gate can be viewed from different perspectives. When it is low tide, you could actually walk up to the torii gate and then when it is high tide, like the day I was there, you can see it from the shrine or take a boat cruise on the sea. The torii gate is only considered floating when it is high tide. If you are looking to get a picture of the floating torii gate, then it is important to know that you may be waiting in long lines to get that photograph.
From the Itsukushima Shrine, you could also view Miyajima’s five-storied Pagoda called Gojunoto. It stands beautifully in the forest and is the same orange color as the shrine. If I had to choose a favorite Japanese Pagoda, this one would be it!
Miyajima has a long history of Shintoism. In addition to visiting Itsukushima Shrine, you could also hike up to Mount Misen, which is the island’s highest peak that has been worshipped by the Japanese since the 6th century. You could either hike up to the top, which takes 30 minutes, or there is a cable car that will transport you there in a shorter time frame.
Visit a Buddhist Temple:
Situated next to the Itsukushima Shrine is the Daiganji Temple, dedicated to the Goddess Benzaiten (Goddess of eloquence, music, arts, wealth and knowledge) along with the three Buddhas that are important to Shingon Buddhism.
In addition to Daiganji Temple, you could also visit Daishō-in Temple on Mount Misen.
Go on a Japanese Street Food Binge:
If you are reading this and are currently hungry, then get ready for your mouth to water even more because I am going to go over everything I consumed while I was in the street food paradise of Miyajima.
1. Fruit Smoothies: Since it was a boiling hot day in Miyajima, the first thing I got to quench my thirst and cool me down was a delicious pineapple smoothie. Just like in Thailand, the fruit in Japan was fresh and sweet. Made with fresh pineapple, the smoothie I had was gone within seconds. It was so good!
2. Meat on a Stick: As I made my way through the endless amount of food vendors, I eventually stopped to get a delicious grilled chicken teriyaki on a stick. This mouth-watering kabob came fresh off the grill and a deer even chased me for this. (I don’t blame the deer for going after me though. This chicken on a stick was the best I had in Japan.)
3: Oysters: Another popular staple in Hiroshima Prefecture is oysters! Since I am a big seafood lover, I just had to get them! These oysters were HUGE and oh-so-delicious. I also enjoyed them with fresh soy sauce, which I had never done before. I highly recommend getting them when you are in Miyajima or just Hiroshima in general.
4. Momiji Manju: Momiji are Japanese maple leaves that have long been a symbol of Hiroshima Prefecture. These beautiful maple leaves have appeared in traditional artwork and they are often depicted with Miyajima’s deer. If you visit Miyajima during the fall, you could catch the gorgeous leaves bursting with gold, yellow, red and orange colors.
The momiji manju cake takes the shape of the maple leave and is a MUST to try when you are in Hiroshima. As I continued to stroll through the popular foodie street of Miyajima, I found a delicious shop that was freshly baking these delicious treats. Momiji manju consists of sugary buckwheat and rice cake with a red bean paste as the filling. It literally melted in my mouth and was my favorite Japanese dessert.
5: Deer Beer: The moment when you first step foot on Miyajima island, you will immediately spot deer! Since these awesome guys are located all around the island, Miyajima Brewery created the deer beer! Since I am a beer lover, this deer beer was the perfect drink to enjoy as I relaxed with a beautiful view of the sea.
6: Other Foodie Staples: Some other popular food items that Hiroshima is known for (that you could enjoy in Miyajima) are eel, steamed pork buns, okonomiyaki, deep fried fish cakes and so much more!
I hope you all learned something about the history of Hiroshima and that you enjoyed reading about my time exploring the city as well as the island of Miyajima.
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