Purchasing my ticket for the Shinkansen and looking like an idiot trying to slide it through the reader backwards, I made my way to the bullet train. It was, without a doubt, the fanciest looking coach I’d ever seen; both on the outside and in; pearl white body, lavish blue interior with comfy chairs, storage space and loads of leg room. I had my mask on, as did all the others in my car, and I wouldn’t remove it for the whole ride. It rocketed down the track, burning at 320 km/h; so fast that it blurred the foreground of all the photos I took of the picturesque Japanese landscape. It was expensive too, over three times as much as its European counterparts and five times that of the night bus. But the journey that would have taken half a day by bus, made it to Hiroshima in two hours. It was a well worth experience.
Walking through the streets, Hiroshima was stunningly beautiful. Tokyo and parts of Kyoto were very city-like and industrialized. Although Hiroshima most definitely had a downtown somewhere, the outskirts were wonderful, with pink flowers in bloom, fields of green and waterways of blue. Even the buildings of silver and glass added to the ambiance. An hour’s wander took me past the castle I’d be visiting later, around all the little stores and shops and over and under bridges, all while carrying that overly large bag on my back. Next time, I really need to pack lighter.
Finding my hostel on the corner of two thin roads, I did all the usual paperwork and stowed my junk. 36Hostel https://www.hostelworld.com/pwa/hosteldetails.php/36Hostel/Hiroshima/281597 was split into two building; one housed the lobby and was home to the owners, and the other, a few steps down the street, was for guests. The couple running the place was kind, but instead of having a fluff ball like the pair in Kyoto, they had another little terror no older than 6. Not that she misbehaved, she was very well mannered in fact, just very loud; as all children can be. There weren’t too many other guests, and none of note. Everyone pretty much kept to themselves, even the few foreigners like myself held minimal conversation; reserved mainly for news on the virus. It’s the beginning of April, and I still have the rest of the month before my visa is up.
Down the road a surprisingly short distance was the thing I came here to see. Anyone with any knowledge of world history knows Hiroshima is the site where the first atomic bomb was dropped in world war two (the second being Nagasaki further south.) Along the river’s edge was the Atomic Dome, a theatre that was almost directly under the site of the blast seventy years ago. By some miracle the structure was not completely annihilated, instead standing proud, if not in ruins. An iron fence and numerous plaques guarded the skeleton, with lights illuminating it at night. The only thing I can equate it to, would be going to Auschwitz (See Krazy Krakow.)
Across the river was a park, where I spent a lot of time just sitting and letting my mind wander. Biker and walkers passed, carrying on with their day. I only realized after finding a few cenotaphs through the Sakura trees and glowing street lamps that this park was part of the memorial. A stone walkway flanked by patches of green grass led up to an arcing monument that framed the far off dome. Behind me was the museum which no doubt held much information about the dome and that faithful day, but it was closed; stupid covid.
Not to undercut the depressingly beautiful sight, but I had to move on (though I did come back more than once.) Backtracking, I rediscovered the aforementioned Hiroshima Castle, which had been destroyed by the atomic bomb but rebuilt. The fortress was like a floating island in the middle of a modern city, surrounded on all sides by a deep moat and high walls protecting its core. Touring the grounds, everything was covered by pedals of pink. Foundations were still there from structures long gone and sections of the waterways were filled with speckled Koi. A few stairs led up to the four tiered keep. Looming overhead, anticipation rippled through me. Excited to go inside, I made for the door but a rope and a sign in Japanese barred it; something-something-19; stupid covid.
Rounding out the week, I ventured off to find some more little sights. Shrines were shut, more museums were closed and even the parks had surprisingly few people. Some restaurants were starting to lock up, but the grocery stores had no restrictions on them; yet. The one down the street sold everything I needed and more, treating myself to things I’d never found out about living off of convenience store meals for nine weeks: jelly sweets, strange, fresh fruits, minced meat sandwiches and an assortments of drinks. I even found that black tea again, but rather than in scalding hot cans, it was chilled and in large liter bottles.
I’m planning on going to Osaka next week, to see the castle there and maybe take a day trip to Nara. We’ll see how it goes…