The morning started with another planned event cancelled – the Tokyo International Anime Festival had decided to cancel their event due to the earthquakes and potential for rolling blackouts. This was the second event, next to the sake festival, Sake no jin, in Niigata that I had planned my trip around and would not be able to attend. Thus, my planned return to Tokyo on March 26/27th was no longer needed – and thus began another rework of my plans. On the plus side, I wouldn’t be lugging around a bunch of anime purchases… I’d just need to make them at the end of the trip instead.
Spending a bit more time in Shikoku seemed a reasonable thing to do, and another day in Hiroshima wouldn’t hurt – it’d allow me to fit both Iwakuni and Miyajima in. I began the morning by asking at the front desk if I could extend my stay another night – and after finding out that it’d cost me 2.5 times more than my current nightly rate to do so decided to seek a roof somewhere else. It’s a nice hotel, but the difference in expense would cover my travel and meals the next day.
With an extra day in Hiroshima arranged, I had time to visit Iwakuni. I hadn’t really done any reading yet of “day trips” from Hiroshima, but near Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima I had noticed the high speed ferry service to Miyajima and Iwakuni. The attraction at Iwakuni was an attractive bridge with a lot of history to it, and the photo of it lit up made me do a bit of research. It’s about an hour to get to by train from Hiroshima, and is considered a day trip from Hiroshima in the travel books.
Arriving at Iwakuni, my first mission was to check out the five-arched Kintai-kyo bridge. Like many things in Japan, it’s a reconstruction – the original had lasted upwards of 300 years before being washed away, so the current version is rebuilt to the exacting standards of the original.
There were no cherry blossoms here to be seen – although a few plum blossoms were here and there. As you might have noticed in my previous posts, I mistakenly identified plum blossoms as cherry – and have corrected those posts. Still learning the differences.
One interesting item I thought I’d share – the Japanese have traditionally felt that blood type plays an important role in determining your fortune – and your match.
Walking through town, there wasn’t a whole lot to see – which I guess is why some consider this a half-day trip. I wandered around for a bit debating lunch or to continue to the top by cable car to see Iwakuni-jo (castle). What I really wanted to do was see the bridge and castle lit up at night, so I decided to head up to the castle now, wander around for a couple of hours, and then grab an early dinner.
The castle, as it turns out, is a very recent reconstruction. The original was completed in 1608, but due to policies was torn down in 1615 – not to be rebuilt until 1960. Some of the displays inside the castle were interesting, but not really worth the trip up. The view, however, made up for it.
Taking the queue from the guidebooks, I wandered back into town and down a side street to find a spot to eat. While there wasn’t a lot to choose from, I did manage to find a great set meal of sashimi, and several sides including a sweet soy sauce marinated whole fish (which I still can’t bring myself to eat the head). I’ve had similar meals in Ryokan’s, and this place looked like it could even be one. Not expensive either.
The day ended with night, and a lack of photos of the bridge “lit up” as per the promised pictures I had previously seen. The castle up on the hill was also absent of illumination. As it turns out, I was a few weeks too early – the castle and bridge only get lit up during cherry blossom festival season, and while they were obviously getting prepared for it as evidenced by the tents, chairs, and eating areas it was most definitely not open for business yet.
The standard illumination of the bridge was provided by a few bright lights along the river banks shone towards the bridge. With tripod in hand, I got what I could – still pretty reasonable all things considered. The bus ride back to the train station was a half hour away when I finished up, so I grabbed a cup of hot chocolate. Not sure I’d recommend it….even if popeye does.