We arrived in Hiroshima on Friday September 9th, by local trains as always. The distance was surprisingly much shorter than expected, and so we traveled for only 3½ hours! On the train there was the funniest sign ever:
Arriving in Hiroshima, I already had some sort of creepy feeling crawling in my skin… everything was beautiful and new-looking; I couldn’t help myself thinking how weird it was to walk in streets where 65 years before, everything had been wiped out in a matter of seconds…
Anyway, on the first night, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice hot bowl of ramen, the last one of our Japan trip. I got one that was kimchi (Korean spicy pickled cabbage) flavoured – since we are going to South Korea next. It was delicious – and hot as hell!
The following afternoon, we went to visit the Shukkein garden, which dates from the 1650’s. It was nice looking, but I much preferred the one at the Hikone castle. Here are a few photos anyway:
And then, on the way out we saw a bitter preview of what we were going to see the following day. Total atomic destruction:
Next day, we went to the memorial park, where Hiroshima downtown was located before the atomic bomb landed. Pretty much everything was wiped out and burnt/melted, except for a tiny amount of buildings, including what they call today the A-Bomb Dome:
While walking around in the park, we encountered a Bouddhist fire ritual, which is usually held annually to appease the souls of the A-Bomb victims and lead them on the path to nirvana. They were beating drums and singing sutras in a hypnotic way. It kind of sounded like North American native pow wow music.
We then visited the Peace Memorial Museum, where was presented what happened exactly during WWII and how the Americans went to bomb Japan. What I liked is that Japan didn’t hide anything – they showed that they were very cruel with other Asian countries (China, Korea), but that bombing them was totally unjustified because they were in a very weak state and pretty much ready to surrender.
They showed many artifacts and striking photos. The following might be quite shocking and not for the weak of heart…
“Once upon a summer day
In their midst, a mushroom grew
They never saw
They never, never knew
They’re walking on the street
Making shadows on the wall
They’re sitting on the steps
Melting into stone
Children of the mushroom
Aren’t we all, aren’t we all”
– Flower Travellin’ Band
Indeed, as the song says, the atomic bomb was so strong and so bright that it actually “bleached” concrete, and created shadows of the people and objects who were standing in the way. The heat of the explosion went up to 5000°C
And what totally freaked me out is the fact that the radiation actually made the skin of people who were close to the center melt!
But the heat also had bad effects on the skin, like the following poor woman’s face:
The blast made everyone feeling thirsty and hot – some of them threw themselves in the river, others drank black rain, which fell 20-30 minutes after the explosion. (Heat vaporized large amounts of water from the local rivers, which is drawn up into the radioactive cloud, making that rain extremely radioactive.) This poisonous rain gave people non-stop diarrhea for 3 months, and in some cases, leukemia and other forms of cancer.
As you can see, this museum was really heavy on us both, and we were truly shocked from all the things we saw. Can’t believe that there was an OTHER bomb dropped on Nagasaki! It had the same effect as this one, killing 70 000 people on the shock, and eventually another 70 000 people from the after-effects. Damn.
To brighten up our stay in Hiroshima, we went to the Miyajima island, which has been a sacred island for centuries. We had to take the tram, and then a ferry to reach the island.
Miyajima has been considered a holy place since the beginning of Japanese history. In the past, women were not allowed on the island and old people were shipped elsewhere to die, so that the ritual purity of the site would not be spoiled. Nowadays, they are trying to keep it looking traditional, although we did see a few big hotels and commercial streets. Sacred deer wander freely through the streets and parks…
The island is home to the Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The landmark here is a gigantic ancient otorii, or dramatic gate which is classified as one of the Three Scenic Views of Japan.
And more deer were hanging around the area, obviously attracted by yummy things tourists were giving to them.
In the past, common people were not allowed to walk on Miyajima island, so to allow pilgrims to approach, the shrine was built like a pier over the water; so it would appear to float separate from the land. It therefore existed in a liminal state between the sacred and the profane.
We then ascended the Mt Misen mountain, which is the highest of Miyajima island. It was really really challenging as the humidity and heat made us sweat like pigs. I think it was around 32 degrees out!! Anyway, it was totally worth it. Nobody was as crazy as us, so we were pretty much alone on the trail the whole time haha. It took us about two hours to ascend.
On the side of the trail near the top were a bunch of small funny looking buddha figures:
Near the top were some really beautiful temples. You could hear some monks chanting with their strange hypnotic voice…
And finally, we arrived on the top. We rewarded ourselves with a shredded ice treat, and enjoyed the beautiful views:
We then descended the mountain, which took us only 30 minutes haha, it was much easier than going up. We pretty much ran the whole way down!!!! After this, we visited the rest of the island, and did a bit of window shopping.
The local food specialty are oysters as well as bean-stuffed maple cakes. They were really killer – kind of tasted like a fluffy waffle with ultra-sweet beans inside of ’em:
Another local speciality are …rice scoops! That’s right! You can buy tons of rice scoops from all the local merchants. They even have the world’s biggest rice scoop for everyone to see haha:
After our big day, we needed a nice satisfying dinner, so we had Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. This time, instead of putting all the ingredients together to make some kind of pancake, it was all layered so you could taste everything separately. To be honest, I really loved the Osaka-style okonomiyaki, but my favorite was this one! It was so tasty… oh man, I am craving it this very moment. Argh!!!!
After the food, we were able to witness the spectacular and famous Miyajima sunset. It really created a nice and serene atmosphere. It was beautiful!
So, that’s pretty much the end of our trip’s Japanese leg! We really really enjoyed our stay here. I wish I had had more money to try more cuisine and buy more records, but we’ll come back one day for sure. Speaking of records, here are our final Japanese scores pics:
Oh yeah, and I had bought a yukata (informal kimono, for summer festivals and such) in Kyoto, so here is a photo of myself in it haha
We had to wake up really early to take next flight to Seoul, South Korea and we finally saw the rising sun in all of its glory… Good bye Japan, and see you some day!
This post is dedicated to my mother, Ginette, who have been operated this morning at the hospital. On pense à toi très fort mom, et je sais que tu vas aller bien très bientôt! Bouddha me l’a promis! xxoo
September 17th, 2011 at 4:05 pm
Fuckin’ cool report Annick!
October 4th, 2011 at 4:56 pm
you rock that kimono!
and i want that hello kitty mushroom set! haha