[From August Issue 2010]
Flying one-and-a-half hours westward from Tokyo you arrive at Hiroshima Prefecture, which faces the Seto Inland Sea. Hiroshima City, the capital of the prefecture and the largest city in the Chugoku region, is infamous as the blast site of the world’s first atomic bomb, which landed on August 6, 1945, and killed tens of thousands people. Now, Hiroshima continuously appeals for world peace as an International City of Peace and Culture.
Peace Memorial Park is the place where the horrors of nuclear war can be learned, located about 15 minutes by streetcar from Hiroshima Station, and close to the epicenter of the atomic bomb blast. At one corner of the park stands the A-Bomb Dome, but remains preserved in its bombed-out state, showing its collapsed walls and bare iron skeleton. It has been designated as a World Heritage Site.
The park contains a number of monuments intended to call for peace, such as the Memorial Cenotaph (a monument to the atomic bomb victims), which was designed so that the A-Bomb Dome is visible through its arched roof. Other monuments include the Peace Flame, the Peace Bells, the Peace Gate and the Statue of the A-Bomb Children. There is also an open-air cafe where you can relax and rest beside the river.
You can learn about the atomic bombing at the park’s Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The museum exhibits artifacts including the charred remains of a lunch box and a tricycle, along with pictures of other similar items, which all reveal the kind of severe damage the blast really caused. A miniature model of the devastated city right after the explosion further depicts the horrors of the bombing. While English explanations are provided throughout, an English audio guide is available while touring the facility.
From Peace Memorial Park, you can easily get to Hiroshima Castle, which was built in 1599 by feudal warlord MOURI Terumoto. The castle was destroyed in the blast, but a five-story tenshukaku or central tower used as a lookout, was rebuilt in 1958. Inside the tower you will find a history museum where suits of armor and swords are on display. From the tower’s top floor, you can have a panoramic view of the city.
Walking eastward, away from Hiroshima Castle, you will eventually reach Shukkei-en, a beautiful Japanese garden full of lush greenery. It was originally built in 1620 by the lord of Hiroshima as his personal villa garden. Encircling a pond, it features mountains and gorges from which you can enjoy beautiful views of the water and surrounding foliage.
Heading out of Shukkei-en towards Hatchobori, you can see the downtown area just across the avenue. Here, you will find a myriad of restaurants serving okonomiyaki, a Hiroshima specialty. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is a filling dish made by frying two layers of thin pancake-like crepes containing chopped cabbage, soba or udon noodles, thinly sliced pork, and eggs, then pouring a thick, salty-sweet sauce on top. Near the main shopping street of Chuo-dori, there stands two buildings housing okonomiyaki-food theme parks, “Okonomimura” and “Okonomi Kyowakoku Hiroshima Mura.” In each, different okonomiyakishops offer different toppings including cheese, rice cake, oysters and squid tempura, making it possible to enjoy a variety of different and tasty okonomiyaki.
Moving away from the downtown area and towards Hiroshima Station, you will find MAZDA Zoom-Zoom Stadium Hiroshima (Mazda Stadium), the home of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp professional baseball team. The stadium has an asymmetrical playing field, a rarity in Japan, and allows spectators to enjoy games in a wide variety of seating arrangements, from lying on cushioned sofas to having a barbecue while watching the game.
Another of Hiroshima’s World Heritage Sites is Miyajima in Hatsukaichi City. Taking a train from Hiroshima Station and then crossing by ferry, the bright red ootorii (grand shrine gate), symbolizing Miyajima, soon come into view. Floating on the Seto Inland Sea and measuring 30 kilometers in circumference, the island features many tourist attractions including Mount Misen, which is covered with primeval forests, and Itsukushima Shrine, which stands in the sea. Fourteen percent of the entire island surface, mostly its shrines, is designated as a World Heritage Site.
Miyajima has been worshiped as an island of God since ancient times. The main place of worship is Itsukushima Shrine, believed that its original building was built in 593. At high tide, the bright red buildings interconnected by long corridors, seem to float on water. The 16-meter high ootorii is located further out to sea. It remains approachable on foot when the tide is low.
If you would like to further enjoy more of Miyajima’s picturesque scenery, you could climb Mount Misen. To get to the mountain, you can conveniently climb up through Momijidani Park just behind the shrine, and take the two Ropeways. Eventually you will arrive at Shishiiwa Station. The view from here is magnificent enough, but if you keep climbing for about another 30 minutes, you will reach the summit. Here you are afforded a 360-degree panoramic view of the island and the sea, which defies description.
A popular Hiroshima souvenir is momiji manju, which originated in Miyajima. The typical momiji manju is a maple leaf-shaped sponge cake containing bean paste, but other varieties exist with fillings of white bean paste, cream and chocolate. Shops in Miyajima serve freshly made ones, or deep fried ones called “age manju.”
Text: KAWANISHI Yukari