I booked an early morning Shinkansen from Tokyo station to Hiroshima, and after a bit of last minute packing and 20 minutes of dragging my suitcase through the streets I arrived at the station comfortably ahead of the trains departure. While my original plan had been to head north and use my JR East pass, traveling south meant the train ticket was on me – miss it, and my money is gone. Having only been able to use my JR East pass for a single day, I’d already lost that investment so was not interested in a repeat.
The Shinkansen, while not full, was for the most part populated by women, children, babies, and gaijin (foreigners). The popular media likes to talk about people fleeing Tokyo, but in reality it’s business as usual for most people. I can understand that given the option, sending your wife and kids into the countryside to stay with relatives is a reasonable thing to do while Tokyo sorts itself out – it’s not the radiation people are fleeing from, it’s the lack of food in the combini and grocery stores, closed businesses, and impacted transit system.
As for the gaijin, myself included, I was not “fleeing” Tokyo, but rather was making new plans. I’ve been in Tokyo for four or five weeks now over two trips, and while I have plans to spend a bit of time there at the end of my trip, it’s mostly for shopping. And buying stuff now to cart around for 6 weeks just doesn’t make sense.
So with that in mind, and my schedule somewhat mixed up, I decided to do Hiroshima earlier than planned, and then spend some time on Shikoku (fourth largest main island in Japan), a place I’d not yet set foot on. I booked three nights figuring that’d be enough, and arrived just before lunch (about three hours by high speed train). The hotel I had chosen was inexpensive, yet quite comfortable and right across the river from the Peach Memorial Park and Museum. I’m getting pretty good at booking hotels on the internet, it seems.
With most of the afternoon left, I decided to walk over to the park and visit the A-Bomb Dome, a monument serving to remind everyone of the horrors of war, and in particular nuclear war. I didn’t want to short change the museum, so decided to leave that until the next day, and instead focused my attention on the park and dome.
Later that evening, I returned with tripod in hand to take some night shots of the dome. Dinner would follow, with okonomiyaki on the menu, a popular dish in Hiroshima, the local variety being made with noodles and lots of cabbage. I wandered around for a while looking for two places in particular – the first was full with a long wait, and the second one I never found. Instead, ended up in a “regular” okonomiyaki restaurant. I say regular, as I don’t think the quality was quite up to Hiroshima standards – it was ok, but not great. And way too much for one person (I didn’t see anyway to do a half order). I ate what I could and away I went.
The next day I spent some time at the museum. Upon entering, a large crowd of school kids arrived, and I felt like I was being swarmed. Standing to the side, I let them move on so I could have some time to read the displays and take it all in. Fortunately the school group moved fairly quickly through the museum, so it really wasn’t an issue.
Existing the museum, I visited the Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims and then decided to head over to Shukkei-en, a famous garden rated one of the top three in all of Japan. It was a bit of a walk, so I grabbed some Ramen (chicken, this time) on the way over. While in between seasons, the garden was still quite a site. I can only imagine what it would be like when the cherry blossoms are all out, or in the fall colours, or even covered in snow.
It was here, though, that I got my
first real glimpse of the cherry blossoms second look at what I now know to be japanese apricot (plum) blossoms. I must assume these trees are supposed to bloom earlier than the rest. Normally they are in bloom from January to mid-March, so I was thankfully able to catch some late bloomers. There were four different colours in bloom – white, cream (almost yellow), pink, and deep red. I hadn’t brought my macro lens with me, so did the best I could with what I had.
Tonight I had decided to search out a yakiniku restaurant, and found one not too far from the hotel. Wandering around town for a couple of days I had noticed a lot of okonomiyaki and sukiyaki (shabu shabu) restaurants, but when it came to grilled meat there was definitely a shortage. Izakaya and yakitori places were, of course, all around – but I wanted to grill something over an open flame.
The restaurant was on the back side of an office building, and if you hadn’t stumbled upon it you’d never know it was there. The place wasn’t that busy, and seemed geared to serving office workers – the staff was friendly and the chef curious about where I was from. I grilled up a variety of items – chicken skin, cubes of bacon, beef “galbi”, and some cow tongue. Not the same experience as a previous place in Fukuoka, but great nonetheless and it served to satisfy my craving.
The one thing I will say for Hiroshima, is that women are obviously very concerned with their hair. I wandered by so many hair salons, you’d think there were more of them than restaurants. Open late, too. I guess while the guys are drinking, the girls are getting their hair done.