Saturday, 11 June 2016

Week 8.2 - Hiroshima

It took one tube, a bullet train and a tram to get to our hostel, J hoppers, in Hiroshima. This hostel is by far one of the homeliest which we have stayed in, with a fully equipped kitchen and comfortable living space, the TV even has BBC news. We have been looking forward to exploring Hiroshima, a city deep with history and surrounded by mountains, we knew it had a lot to offer.

We arrived late afternoon, so after finding our feet we went out for tea, okonomiyaki. Known as Hiroshima’s soul food, and similar to that which we tried in Kyoto, okonomiyaki is cooked with cabbage, bean sprouts, pork, egg and noddles (soba or udon) on thin flour dough like a crepe. This is then topped with soy sauce, fish flakes and mayo, before being blown with a blow torch. Ours were served on a hot plate in the centre of the table, we then used mini spatulas to cut it into bite sized pieces and eat off. Delicious and really filling!

Once we’d filled our bellies we headed back to the hostel for a good nights sleep, though there was one problem. Our room is a traditional Japanese room, a futon bed on top tatami mats. Now we’d come across these mats before, but never new ones! The room came with a warning about these new tatami mats, and how “foreigners’ sometimes struggle with the smell, well they’re not wrong! Tatami mats are made using rush plants, Kyle thinks they smell like cabbage, I think its more like a rabbit hutch or horse stable…either way its potent. Even the handy room spray doesn’t mask it for long.

We soon feel asleep, once our noses had adjusted, and woke the next day to humidity and rain. We wanted to make the most of the day, and Kyle was in desperate need for a penny board, so we decided to explore Hiroshima Downtown. Like most cities in Japan, this consisted of a covered shopping mall, filled with stores, pachinko, arcades and restaurants. After walking for an hour we stumbled upon Kyle’s dream store, safe to say he got his penny board, and a rash vest plus a pair of trainers! Not one to feel left out, I might of purchased a sneaky pair of shoes too! 

The next day was one of the hottest we had experienced in Japan, so we decided to take a leisurely stroll around the Peace Park. The Peace Park is a memorial park in the centre of Hiroshima, and is dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima as the first city to suffer a nuclear attack and to the memories of all those affected. The large park is covered in trees and greenery, within lies the Cenotaph, holding the eternal flame, The Children’s Peace Monument, which is surrounded by origami birds made by local children and visitors. There are many other small statues and shrines around the central A-bomb dome. Also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the A-bomb dome is what remains of the former industrial promotion hall.  

Silence and emotion is felt throughout the park, and the plaques with anti war quotes really hit home on what happened to Japan. Whilst in the park Kyle rang the Bell of Peace, they encourage visitors to ring the bell to share in their aspiration for peace, and hopes for no future nuclear arms or wars.

After this we went to Hiroshima castle, smaller than others which we have visited in Japan but interesting as the inside has been made into a museum. We ventured inside and learnt about the construction of the castle, and Kyle took the opportunity to dress up as a samurai..he looked rather fetching in my opinion. You could also climb to the top of the castle and view the surrounding areas, including the huge sports centre and old baseball ground.

Felling homely, Kyle decided to cook tea in the evening and made a delicious chicken stir fry. Just a shame he didn’t follow this up by doing the washing up!

On our last day in Hiroshima, and last day of exploring Japan, Kyle had planed a trip to the Mitaki Temple. Located at the base of Mitaki-yama mountain, temples and statues surround the waterfalls in this area. As it is out of the city centre not many tourists visit, so we were lucky enough to have the area to ourselves. We followed a path to the top of the main waterfall and into a bamboo forest, where leaves covered the path. Feeling hot, and with wet feet, I began to moan but Kyle decided he wanted to push on. We trekked through the bamboo forest and further up the mountain until the path forked. Fortunately for us there were signs, unfortunately for us they were in Japanese only, so we could go left, right or back the way we came. As my whinging was ever increasing we went left, as it looked like the path was going down…it wasn’t, well not for some time anyway. 

We continued along the path, and as much as I hate to admit this, we came to an amazing view over Hiroshima and the surrounding islands. Having this amazing view and peaceful moment to ourselves was pretty spectacular and not one we’ll forget in a hurry. Again though we were faced with a direction dilemma, but decided upon the steepest downhill path, this led to a little village which we still don’t know the name of. Luckily for us we walked straight into a bus station, and with a little pointing and a few hand singles we managed to catch a bus to the nearest train station, Shin-Hiroshima. Although the bus drivers did take great joy in laughing at us, I’ll let them off, we did look as though someone had poured a bucket of water over our heads! Sweating hell! 

Anyway, we made it safely back to the hostel and lived to tell the tale. Now were finishing our huge pile of washing (again, its never ending), and planning our route to Fukuoka. From here we will catch a flight to Bangkok and begin our adventures in South East Asia. I am gutted to be leaving Japan, even more so than China. It has been amazing, and I feel as though theres still so much to see…thats ok though coz Ive told Kyle that we’ll be moving here once we’ve finished our travels.

So onwards….to Thailand!

Love Carrie xxx

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