Getting to Hiroshima means getting on a train. In Japan. With Japanese lettering. Thankfully everything’s geared towards foreigners as well. Japanese hospitality providing us with Western-style letter, so we are able to find our train, find the spot where we have to wait for our carriage (yup, even that is indicated here, could be a lesson for our own trains!) and just relax during the half an hour extra time we’d given ourselves in case things would be more difficult.
Because the Japanese and Western names of cities flash by on a screen, I am able to try and decipher the script. But it’s a slow process and I am an impatient woman, so when the train comes I switch to a booklet with phonetic Japanese phrases. In the few hours it takes to get to Hiroshima I’ve taught myself to ask for two beers (beer-o nihaj onegashimas), to ask for recommendations (o-soesoemehien-wa nan des ka), to indicate that the meal was delicious (go tsjiesosoma desjta) and to ask for the bill (kandjoo onegashimas). Basically all I think I’ll need to make myself proud in a restaurant today!
We get to Hiroshima-station and buy ourselves two bus-tickets. We have to scratch them on the right date as if they are scratch cards and it works (surprise). The bus takes us all the way down the harbour to the waters edge to a very fancy hotel a friend recommended.
Usually, when we are staying in cities, we opt for hotels somewhere between a bit overpriced and budget. When we arrive at hotels, more often than not it’s either a small reception desk with little rooms in something that might have been a big house at one point, or a generic perfectly fine hotel with a bed and shower that will do the trick of providing us with a place to crash and sleep in relative luxury. This hotel was an exception and what an exception it is. There’s a pond in the foyer, it has floors with gleaming marble, and the room we get is on the 23rd floor (or so, I don’t actually remember) and overlooking the Hiroshima bay. It’s beautiful.
A champagne high tea is included so we enjoy the view a bit longer, feeling just slightly silly in our very unfashionable, not very chic travel outfits. After that, we do what most people do and go to the memorial park.
It’s sad to think that this city is mostly known for having been incinerated by the world’s first used atomic bomb, on August 6th 1945. And even if the sight of horrible places is never (thankfully) as horrific as the stories, I’ve come to believe it’s important to pay tribute to history. So that’s what we’ve come to do.
We walk through the park. Past the memorial and towards the Genbaku Dome that is left standing. The sight where the bomb was dropped and therefore the sight that had the least amount of blast force unleashed on it. The building’s vertical columns were able to resist the nearly vertical downward force of the blast. Everyone inside the building was killed instantly.
After paying our respects, we decide to find ourselves some food. Erik has made it a mission to try and sample as much local food in each city. In Osaka it was little fish pancakes: Takoyaki (disgusting) and in Hiroshima we hunt down a sort of pancake: Okonomiyaki. But not like your regular pancakes. These are pancakes grilled on a hotplate, covered in cabbage, seaweed, been sprouts, noodles a fried egg and a sweet-salt sticky sauce. You eat the pancake with a sort of spatula from the hotplate and long story short: it’s delicious. It’s great with all kinds of flavours dancing around our mouths and even more fun to try and talk to the chef. My Japanese phrases being appreciated to the point where he simply continues in Japanese when his English fails him. I love it!
After lunch/dinner (linner?) we make our way to Hiroshima castle, which is a bit underwhelming and head back to memorial park to take advantage of golden hour for some beautiful pictures and than go and find more food. It’s what travelling is all about right?
We end up at an indoor barbeque. We sit at the wooden bar that is build around a huge pyre where all kinds of food are grilled. We eat courgette wrapped in pork, beans tempura, rice wrapped in bacon and steak from the barbeque. Again, the food is amazing. I can see this becoming a recurring theme during our stay in Japan. And again, all I can say: I love it!
The next morning, we have breakfast with our amazing view, but have to get to get back to hotels that are actually within our budget. We move our bags and try to get to an area that supposedly has a beautiful shrine, parks and lots of little restaurants. We nearly miss the shrine, the park is more of a baseball park and all but one restaurant is closed. It doesn’t matter, we are just killing time before we go to the nearby island of Miyajima.
This island is famous for two things: the ‘wild’ deer that intermingle with the tourists and the massive vermillion shrine dedicated to the water it stands in. We’ve come here mostly for the the latter and hope to see it during golden hour. So once we get to the island, we simply wander around, hike and walk a bit to other buildings noticeable temples in the area and have a beer on a beautiful rooftop restaurant overlooking both the shrine in the water and a temple on the island itself.
Then, we make our way to the shrine, keeping well away from the far to cheeky deer stealing people’s food from their hands. The shrine is beautiful in all it’s orange glory. And it gets more beautiful with a coffee ice cream in our hands.
It’s starting to get cold so we put on our sweaters and make ourselves comfortable amongst the other tourist awaiting sunset. A girl drops her shoe into the water and Erik tries but fails to save it. Her mother simply thanks us, gets up, walks to the shore a bit further downstream and patiently waits for the shoe to makes its way to her.
A cooling breeze is grazing my cheeks, I am leaning into Erik and surrounded by beauty that is both natural and man-made. It’s perfect. For a moment, and a moment more after that, I am completely content. And just like that, it gets cold. It’s over and we have to run to catch our ferry back to Hiroshima.
This day wouldn’t be complete without some great food again. We find ourselves in a small sushi-bar. I ask the waiter what he’d recommend in my newfound Japanese and both the chef and our neighbour try to help out. I have a great time eating and drinking and chatting away in a Japanese that is barely more than yes and thank you. But with beer and context, a lot can be understood and it’s a better experience than residing in our own language. And it’s an experience I wouldn’t go without and intent to repeat and improve in our next stop: Kyoto.