When I have free time here in Hiroshima, I often get the urge to embrace my innergaijin tourist. Armed with my camera, map, and high-rise khaki shorts (shirt tucked in of course) I join the throngs of foreigners to ooo and aaa at Hiroshima’s historical landmarks. Hiroshima (along with Nagasaki, I would argue) is an absolute must-see if you are headed to Japan. I will recount a few of my most memorable sight-seeing adventures.
For me, the most natural place to begin was Hiroshima’s Memorial Peace Park. The Park is teeming with over 60 monuments, including three peace bells and thousands of paper cranes, peace symbols akin to those I saw in Nagasaki last summer. Although I walk through the Park almost every day, the site of the Atomic Bomb Dome always sends a chill down my spine. Formerly Hiroshima’s Industrial Promotion Hall, it was the building closest to the
bomb’s hypocenter to remain standing. Hidden in a small ally next to the Park is an inconspicuous plaque marking the bomb’s hypocenter. I was relatively shocked to stumble upon this unassuming marker, especially after seeing the park and monument erected at Nagasaki’s hypocenter.
Before leaving the Peace Park, make sure to check out the Peace Memorial Museum. With information in every language imaginable, the Museum is both illuminating and sobering. A few sights truly horrified me, such as replicas of Hiroshima before and after the bombing, and life-sized models of victims in the immediate aftermath. The Museum is also home to tiny cranes folded by the famed Sadako Sasaki.
Peace culture aside, Hiroshima City boasts a regal castle, a beautiful garden, and the largest entertainment district in the Chugoku and Shinkoku areas.
Lastly, note about two easy day trips, the first being to Iwakuni, a historical castle town. Currently, Iwakuni is also home to an American military base, which has been cause for contention according to many of my interviewees. High up in the mountains, Iwakuni Castle is only accessible by cable car. I braved the ascent despite my aversion to heights, and it was well worth the risk. For those who prefer to stay on solid ground, try crossing the Kintai-kyo Bridge, a 17th century boardwalk of sorts. My final recommendation regarding Iwakuni: eat at Sanzoku. With traditional, outdoor seating, this restaurant has onigiri the size of my face and massive chicken on a stick. No complaints here.
A short ferry from Hiroshima, the island of
Itsukushima (more commonly known as Miyajima) features one of the most well-known views in Japan: Itsukushima Shrine’s floating torii gate. Miyajima is also famous for its maple trees, maple leaf shaped pastries called momiji, and (strangely enough) wooden rice paddles. Tame deer roam about the island. Although they are fun to pet, they also eat maps, JR Rail Passes, and cardigans, so exercise caution.
My favorite part of my Miyajima day trip was definitely the climb up Mt. Misen. Despite the 90 degree heat, I decided to forgo the cable car option; suffice it to say, I didn’t have much company on the scenic trails. Two hours later, I finally reached the summit. Forgetting my massive sweat stains and awkward purse tan, I gleefully stopped unsuspecting hikers and asked them to capture my heroic feat on camera. Having accomplished my strenuous mission, I returned to level ground to gorge on ice cream and momiji free samples. A day well spent.