Miyajima & the Hiroshima Bombing Anniversary

6 08 2009

Today was the annversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. We attended the Ceremony at 8am in Peace park where prayers were said and a bell was tolled at 8.15am, the exact time the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945. The Japanese Prime Minister Aso, the Hiroshima governor and 2 UN Representatives spoke at the ceremony. Doves were released and a new scroll with updated names of all that died in the blast was placed in the memorial.

After the ceremony we caught the streetcar to Miyajima station (60minutes), then ran to catch the ferry to the island (10minutes). We walked past many deer, one ate part of our map (yum, paper), then we walked through Itsukushima shrine and took photos of the O-torii out in the sea at high tide (10.30am). There were lots of little crabs in the mud flats around the temple walkways. We hiked up Mt Misen which is about 580m above sea level. It was stairs the whole way and it was soooo tiring, sweaty, humid and hot. It took about 90 minutes to hike the whole way up to the peak. We couldn’t be bothered walking all the way down again so we took the cable car ropeway down the mountain. Around the cable car station were monkeys and deer. There were baby monkeys and mother monkeys, grooming monkeys and even monkeys grooming the deer. The descent on the cable car was steep, then we walked through the ‘Maple Park’ where a deer was eating a newspaper.

We wandered down Omotesando shopping street and saw the World’s Largest Rice Spoon which was 7.7m long.

Then we caught the ferry and tram back to the A-bomb dome. We wandered past some other monuments including the A-bomb mound (that contains the ashes of 70,000 people) back to the museum so Benno could buy a t-shirt and the Japanese book Shanti (about the girl who made 1000 paper cranes when she was dying at age 10 from atomic-radiation induced lukemia). We bought pink paper for a lantern for 600Y then made dinner back at the hostel.

We returned at night to the Peace park to put our lantern (with our wishes for peace written on it) in the water. We had to line up for about 1/2 hour or more as heaps of people had lantern wishes. Luckily we brought snacks of sugar-coated potato to eat while we waited.

After the festival we ate red bean and chesnut sweets from Takayama with iced tea then had cold showers to wash off all the sweat from our Mt Misen hike.

Hiroshima- Peace Park and Castle

5 08 2009

We slept at K’s House Hiroshima, a fantastic youth hostel that was very well priced, clean and had lovely bathrooms and kitchen area with English speaking staff. We had blueberries and porridge for breakfast and after a late start, caught the tram to the A-bomb dome and peace park. There were lots of people, incluing some monks making peace chants/prayers. The A-bomb dome is one of the few buildings that remained partially standing after the atomic bomb as it was very close to the hypocentre so the blast hit from above. It used to be an administrative building but now is a memorial. We wandered along the river through peace park, past the eternal flame and the childrens’ memorial with thousands of paper cranes on display. We visited the Peace Museum and spent several hours looking at the displays. We saw pocketwatches stopped at 8.15am (the time the bomb was dropped), models of the city before and after the bomb (when everything was flattened), wax models of people after the blast in tattered clothing, red burns and dripping skin, examples of building damage (such as melted roof tiles) and a human shadow on the steps of the bank (around where they were sitting the stone was bleached white by the radiation). The saddest stories were of high school children who had been conscripted to work in the city doing demolishion of buildings to provide fire breaks in the case of air raid bombings. Their charred bento and tattered clothes were on display. Some of them walked home to their parents, only to die the next morning from severe burns (the temperature was 3000 degrees 1 second after the blast) and radiation damage. The city was in flames for 3 days after the bomb and over half the population died while the survivors suffered from cancers, burns and radiation damage.
Near the the peace park was a MOS burger store so we had lunch of grape soda, chips and a rice burger then returned to the hostel to use the internet. In the afternoon we walked around some gardens and saw the Chinese gardens in Hiroshima. Then we visited Hiroshima-Jo castle (a replica since the original was destroyed by the bomb) and played dressups with the samurai armour and cotton robes that were there. Then we walked past a Catholic chapel in Hiroshima that was holding peace prayers..

It was hot and humid so we ate icecreams on the way back to the station to go to the supermarket to get things for dinner. We had dinner of noodles and veg with soysauce and garlic at the hostel, made bento for tomorrow, checked the tide times for Miyajima island and did a load of washing and drying before we ran out of clean clothes.

Long day of travel

4 08 2009

Woke up super early at Kyle and Lacey’s place in Asahi, Mie. Took the 7.15am train to Nagoya central, then the Tokaido line to the West. It was our second longest day of travel – 10 hours on the train making transfers at Ogaki, Maibara, Aioi and Okayama. We were able to follow the train schedule perfectly and make all our transfers as planned. We had lunch in Okayama where we found a supermarket by the station and bought ume (pickled plum) onigiri (rice balls covered in nori), cooked edamame (soybeans), blueberries and ritz crackers. Then we were back on the train for another 2 and a half hours to Hiroshima. We arrived a bit after 5pm, checked into Ks Backpackers which was only a 5 minute walk from the station, then went for a walk to find a supermarket. We found Jupiters, an International store which had coconut chai and refried beans. We had difficulty finding a fruit and veg section, and then when we did, they had no S&B curry cubes or soymilk that we could eat. So we caught the tram/streetcar to the station again and found another store. They also had no curry cubes so we settled on pasta sauce. Hiroshima does not seem the most veg* friendly of places. It was after 9pm by the time we had made dinner. But we enjoyed a lovely cup of chai in the evening before bed.