Off the back of a day at Miyajima, we arrived into Hiroshima at dusk, and sat in the traffic of a real city, with (quite) tall buildings and wide reaching boulevards with lawned and landscaped islands.
Elephant in the Room – The Bomb
The fanciest hotel of our trip saw us bang in the centre of Hiroshima, a stone throw from the Peace Park and Peace Memorial Museum, staying on the 16th floor with a view over Hiroshima – it was at this point I came to realise that Hiroshima is less of a city than say Osaka, but definitely more urban and taller than my Miemachi.
By now it was late, and a quick google search recommend a Mexican restaurant called Otis, which had over a 25 year history! Arriving it was empty, and whilst the food was quite tasty, it didn’t surprise that it was unbusy, though you can’t fault it for atmosphere, capturing a vibe somewhere between youth hostel, gig venue and surf shak. It made a cheery enough place for a few drinks.
The next day we headed to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to learn about the first ever civilian-used nuclear weapon. Displays showcased information and models about the detonation site, the various effects to buildings a different distances from the epicentre, and told the human story and highlighted the imediately, secondary and longer reaching effects on the people there, which all in all made for a harrowing experience.
Currently under renovations, the museum unfortunately had only a small exhibition on display, with the new and improved museum available from 2018, that shall inform its visitors more on the context of the attack, along with the socio-political fallout (pardon the pun) in the following years up until the current day.
A walk around the Peace Park was pleasant, though weird seeing tourists posing for photos in front of the cenotaph, and then unfortunately the famous Hiroshima Peace Memorial – a blast affected building so directly below the epicentre that the resulting winds neither blew the walls away or towards the explosion – was also under renovation, with a scaffold skeleton covering much of the building.
Next was attempting to buy baseball tickets for the Hiroshima Carps game that night – but to our horror, they had already sold out!
Castles and the History of Squatty-Pottys
By now the cherry blossoms were really getting into the swing of things, and the Hiroshima Castle was beginning to be surrounded by pink and white blossoms. Inside the museum the displays of the area’s history and development, social traditions, lifestyles and weaponry were in both English and Japan, but regrettably the exhibition on the squat toilets of history was solely in Japanese and I felt due to this, we really missed out.
Visiting Hiroshima could never be complete without trying the legendary Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, and so naturally we visited the okonomi-mura, a 3 story building housing 27 different okonomiyaki shops all fighitng for your custom.
Setting the Hiroshima style version appart from its cousins is technique of layering the incredients on top of each other whilst being fried, verses the mixture method in which the egg and other ingredients are mixed together prior to being poured onto the grill. Thankfully we didn’t have to cook it for ourselves, and consumed our food by cutting it up with tiny paint-scrapers!
Ahead of schedule, there was one thing for it – a visit to the Shukkei-en! These gardens were started way back in the Edo period (1600s) and designed to give a taste of the different landscapes of Japan. The other story I’ve heard is that the lake is modelled on the West Lake in Hangzhou, which having visited in 2011, it certainly resembles it in terms of wetness… But I’m not convinced much else!
Whilst I’m not sure about that, it certainly did have some bloody big koi carp fighting for the fish food availble to buy, and provided a wonderful serenity in what was otherwise a bustling town. The late afternoon visit threw down some wonderful light, giving vivid reflections in the waters of the main lake, and gave the trees a delightful glow – a time of day highly recommend!
No Carps, Just Fish and Chips
With the failure to aqcuire baseball tickets, the evening was open for grabs – so we went to an Irish bar and watched the baseball live – at least capturing a lil of the atmosphere, even if we’d barely figured out the rules by the end of 10 innings(?) and only got to witness 6 runs – who knew it was such a low scoring game?
The pub was excellent! Molly Malone’s offering truly great ‘western’ food for those missing a lil home comfort, with the most delicious chips and Irish soda bread I’d had in a long time (8 months and counting!).
Since it was a Friday, and getting late, my tour guide duties ended and I was able to slip out to an interesting, hidden gem of Hiroshima called Koba. A rock bar, hidden in building in a quiet part of of central Hiroshima, the concrete interior meshed splendily with the assortment of furniture in the small bar, covered in rock music memorabilia and skate decks. Making friends inside was easy, I was soon hearing stories of Glastonbury ’95 and what it was like seeing the Prodigy play in the early ninties whilst off your tits on ectasy – oh the good ol’days!