Day 51: Hiroshima

I took the bus from Ayabe to Osaka early this morning and after dropping my bags at my hostel in Osaka where I was to spend the next two nights, I took the Shikansen to Hiroshima. It felt good to be on my own again and I thought about my last two weeks at the farm. I was surprised at myself for having survived two weeks on a farm and really glad I did it.

I reached Hiroshima after a 20,000 Yen ($200) and 90 minute ride on the Shinkansen. It was worth it. Hiroshima is the cutest little town. It has a lot of tourists who come to visit the peace park. There were a lot of lively commercial areas. Public transport was very good. It included trams and buses. This was my first recallable time riding trams and I was so psyched at the idea of trains running on main roads with other traffic. People in Hiroshima were really friendly and welcoming of tourists. A woman on the tram helped me figure out where I was without me having to ask (I guess the confused look on my face must have been enough for her to know).

The first thing I did when I reached Hiroshima was try the Okonomiyaki which originated from Hiroshima. There was a row of restaurants inside a mall next to the train station. They all had people making okonomiyaki on a large surface in front of you. There was a running counter along the surface with bar stools for customers to sit on, as well as private tables at the back. The restaurant I chose seemed to be family run. The cooks were sweating from all the heat. Customers poured on and there was a line even at 2 pm in the afternoon. Okonomiyaki takes about 10-15 minutes to fully cook on the pan which is why the line didn’t move as quickly as it might have in other restaurants. What surprised me about the hiroshima okonomiyaki was that it had noodles in it. I chose soba, which seemed to be the most popular. It was so good. From what I was able to see, it had egg, pork, noodle and sauces. I ate slowly on purpose so that it would last longer.

Inside view of one of the okonomiyaki restuarants in Hiroshima

The okonomiyaki is prepared right in front of you on a large counter
Soba based okonomiyaki: Hiroshima’s specialty

After the okonomiyaki, I was ready to explore the city. I was inspired to see as much as I possibly could in Hiroshima, but the peace park was so large and amazing, that I spent all afternoon there and didn’t have much time left for other things. The peace park, which was built in memory of the nuclear bombing of 1945, is a large area with multiple statues and symbols of peace and strength that was shown by victims. The most popular was the A-bomb dome, one of the few surviving buildings.

The A-bomb dome used to formerly be a public hall. It remains in its half destroyed state to serve as a reminder of the war. 

Children’s Peace Monument, inspired by Sadako, a girl who was 2 years old at the time of the bombing but developed leukemia at the age of 10. She folded a 1000 paper cranes despite her pain, hoping to recover. Unfortunately, she couldn’t. 

Some of the paper cranes folded by Sadako at the Peace Memorial Museum

I took a slight detour on my way to the peace museum and visited the Hondori shopping area nearby.

Hondori shopping street

A delicious blueberry milkshake: discovered at a 7/11 on Hondori street

Finally, I got to the Peace Memorial Museum which was more crowded than I expected. Thankfully, the museum was very well built (not surprisingly, it was designed by Tange, the same architect who designed Omotseando Hills in Tokyo) and could manage crowds quite well. I didn’t see a single tourist smiling or taking pictures as they moved through the three storey museum and learnt about the aftereffects of war. I learnt that the ground temperature at the time of explosion was between 3,000 and 4,000 degrees celsius, and that the bomb destroyed everything within 2 km radius. About a third of the population was killed. Not everyone died immediately. Some people developed diseases after a few months (or even years). On the day of the bombing (August 6, 1945), people were following their usual schedules, getting ready to go to work when the bomb was dropped at 8:15 a.m. It had been most unexpected, because there had been no warning announcements that day or the day before, as there often were in Hiroshima. Hiroshima had been the centre of many arms and ammunition factories. Many children had been sent away to nearby villages for safety beforehand, and due to the bombing, they lost their parents who had been in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing.
The bomb dropped on Nagasaki was actually stronger than the one dropped on Hiroshima, but since Hiroshima was more densely populated, the effects there were greater. The reason that the two bombs were different from each other was that the US was experimenting with both and did not expect both to work. Unfortunately, they did. The US military dropped less powerful bombs called ‘pumpkins’ in July and early August as practice bombs so that they would be able to effectively drop the nuclear bombs.

An inside view of the Peace Memorial Museum
A picture in the museum of the destroyed Hiroshima

A part of the Peace Memorial Museum is built to make visitors feel as if they are walking through the destroyed Hiroshima. 

 I was on my way back to the train station when I caught site of Tokyu Hands, a department store that I had been wanting to visit in Tokyo. Part of Tokyo Hands has 3D printers where you can print customized items for fairly cheap prices.

A 3D printer at Tokyu Hands prints personalized miniature statues of people based on their pictures 

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