Due to the travel issues discussed in my two previous posts, we lost two nights and one day in Hiroshima. This meant that we had to combine our two day itinerary into one day. This, after climbing Mount Fuji, nearing the end of our vacation, and spending all day every day in the humid heat of midsummer Japan, was a little rough. When we got to Hiroshima castle, we decided not to even enter it because we saw a few extra stairs that we had to climb to get to the entrance- that is the level of exhaustion we were operating at. Nevertheless, we fit the city and the island into one day. Like always, I would have loved more time… but sometimes all you have is the one day.
10am: Arrive at Hiroshima station, walk to Hondori Inn hotel, relax, walk 1/2 mile to Atomic Bomb Dome.
11am: Atomic Bomb Dome
At the time of the bombing, the Atomic Bomb Dome was located almost underneath the explosion, and was destroyed completely except for the standing shell of walls. Currently, it is a World Heritage Site and stands among other sites part of the bombing memorial. The other sites include the Peace Bell, Children’s Peace Monument, Flame of Peace, Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
12pm: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
If you only have time to do one thing in Hiroshima, I suggest you go to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It is a free museum centered around the impact caused by the bomb – both immediate, and lasting effects. The experience of walking through the museum was powerful and moving.
1:30pm: Hiroshima Castle
This castle, nicknamed Carp Castle for the Carp Sea Shore where it was built, was rebuilt after the original 1589 castle was destroyed with the 1945 bomb. It sits on the flat center of the city instead of on a hill, mountain, or other source of elevation – which is unique for a castle. Not that we would know from experience, but there is a museum inside the castle. Like I mentioned earlier, after getting close to the castle (picture of proximity below), we decided we couldn’t make the extra few stairs to the entrance and turned back.
2pm: Walk to train to ferry to island about a 1-1.5 hour journey
If you have the Japan Rail (JR) pass, you can take the JR train from Hiroshima or Iwakuni stations to Miyajimaguchi and then take the JR ferry (?!) to Miyajima. That’s right, a JR ferry! Am I the only one impressed by this? Well anyway, do be careful because there are two ferry lines and only one of them is JR. We did not have our JR pass so we just took the cheaper ferry. I don’t know why they had different prices.
3pm: Itsukushima Shrine
The Itsukushima Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dedicated to the three daughters of the Shinto Deity of seas and storms. The famous shrine on the island of Miyajima, aka the island of Itsukushima, known for its sixteen meter high floating torii gate. The gate is built on the beach of the island and weather you can walk up to it or swim up to it depends on the tide. At low tide, you can walk on the beach all the way up to the gate. At high tide, you can do a kayak tour to get close to the gate, which now looks like it is floating. We went during low tide so that we could walk up to the gate. Unfortunately, we did not realize that there was a restoration project going on and that the gates would be covered in scaffolding. The restoration is in preparation for the 2020 Olympics.
Ok, we need to talk about the deer. There are small Miyajima deer living all over the place and they are not something I expected at all. When we stepped off the ferry, we immediately saw “no petting the deer” and “no feeding the deer” signs everywhere, which I considered to be completely normal fare. I’ve lived in one too many cities with obese squirrels begging tourists for food. Don’t feed or touch the wildlife, I get it.
I walked past the dock with the ferry and into town and was faced immediately with deer. To the right of me, parents photographing their under-ten-year-old (I never know how old they are) child petting a deer. A few feet in front of them, an even smaller (probably three to 6 years old?) child was kneeling between of the legs of a reposing deer, also being photographed by elders. Ok, the deer are friendly. I few more feet into town and I see this! A restaurant owner physically having to keep deer out of his establishment when they kept trying to trigger the automatic doors and come inside! I guess they wanted some air conditioning like the rest of us, hah.
They should have signs for the deer not to disturb the tourists!
4pm: Cable Car + Mount Misen
Mount Misen, the highest peak on the island, gives the best views from the island. You can walk up on foot for free or you can take the cable car up for 1800 yen round trip. My cousin and brother were too tired to walk up the mountain, and I was too tired to even take the cable car. Did you know that there are 500 (my rough estimate from memory) stairs to get to the cable car? I waited at the bottom of the numerous stairs for them to return. They said the breeze up there was cooler than the humidity I was sitting in, and that the views were wonderful. They were very pleased with the experience and I am sure they would recommend it to all of you as well.
7pm: Dinner at Ichiran Hiroshima Hondori Shop
Our last dinner in Japan was in one of the solo-booth ramen shops. It was one of the two best bowls of ramen I had on the entire trip. You walk up the stairs, get seated at a solo booth, fill out the menu card to specify how you would like your ramen prepared, slide it under the curtain, and your ramen appears! Also, there is a sink at your booth that dispenses tea! And there are tissues and places to hang your bags and jackets behind your seat. The bathroom (always look in every bathroom!) was really cool too and had a sink built into the top of the toilet (genius way of conserving water).
What I would have liked to do if I had more time:
Stay and walk around the Peace Memorial Park. Because we didn’t have much time, we weren’t even able to see all of the museum.
Walk up to or do a kayak tour of the Shrine. We went during low tide because we wanted to walk up to it, but we didn’t realize it was under construction during our visit.