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Japan 2015 — Day 10: Hiroshima

Hiroshima, undeni­ably, makes it mark as a tour­ist des­tin­a­tion by hav­ing the unen­vi­able dis­tinc­tion as the first city in his­tory to be tar­geted by a nuc­le­ar weapon. The bomb oblit­er­ated nearly everything with­in a two kilo­met­er radi­us on August 6, 1945. Predictions that the city would be unin­hab­it­able proved false, and you would not have guessed such dev­ast­a­tion occurred vis­it­ing Hiroshima today without vis­it­ing the Peace Memorial Park.

Our hotel is smack bang in the city centre, though, so we make some stops before end­ing up at the Peace Memorial Park.

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This is the view from our hotel win­dow at night and dur­ing the day. We ini­tially had plans to vis­it the Mazda museum, but we wake up far too late.

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For break­fast this morn­ing, we’ve stuck to the curry rice with a couple of pieces of super juicy and tender chick­en thigh. And I think that’s a piece of unre­mark­able toasted bri­oche. D’s dis­ap­poin­ted that there’s still a sign apo­lo­giz­ing for the lack of hot dogs at the break­fast buf­fet, though.

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A short walk north of where we’re stay­ing are a bunch of wed­ding appar­el stores.

Hiroshima Castle

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It’s not long before we reach the out­er moat and the guard tower of Hiroshima Castle.

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This is a side view of the entrance.

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Main roads in Hiroshima have their name inset into the ground.

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And a front view of the main entrance to the grounds of Hiroshima Castle.

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The first thing we notice is the dis­tinct lack of tour groups crowding the grounds.

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Isn’t it just a beau­ti­ful day?

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These are spaces in the walls, called sama, for fir­ing at intruders.

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Fancy see­ing a euca­lyptus tree in Japan! This tree sur­vived the bomb­ing 740m from the hypo­centre.

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We see some ducks pad­dling in the inner moat.

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A typ­ic­al castle gate con­sists of two gates placed at a 90 degree angle to each oth­er, cre­at­ing a small inner yard that is heav­ily defen­ded from all sides. Here, we approach the second gate.

Kanazawa Castle is situ­ated next to the Hiroshima High Court, which can be seen in the back­ground, as well as a num­ber of oth­er gov­ern­ment build­ings.

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We’re walk­ing towards Hiroshima Gokoku Jinja on the way to the main keep.

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Hiroshima Gokoku Jinja is a Shinto shrine rebuilt with­in the con­fines of Hiroshima Castle in 1965 after its pre­vi­ous loc­a­tion was des­troyed by the bomb­ing.

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After the Meiji Restoration, Hiroshima Castle served as a mil­it­ary facil­ity and the Imperial General Headquarters was based there. This is the found­a­tion of one the out­build­ings just a short walk from the castle’s main keep.

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D knows bet­ter than any­one that I can nev­er get enough of autum­nal foliage!

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During the final months of World War II, Hiroshima Castle was made a legit­im­ate mil­it­ary tar­get after it served as the headquar­ters of a sec­tion of the army to deter the pro­jec­ted Allied inva­sion of the Japanese main­land. As a res­ult, it was des­troyed in the bomb­ing. This is a rein­forced con­crete recon­struc­tion com­pleted in 1958.

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Funnily enough, Hiroshima Castle is prob­ably the only castle we’ve seen that pro­hib­its pho­to­graphy inside. We didn’t go in, though.

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The upkeep of the castle grounds isn’t as metic­u­lous as oth­er castles we’ve been to, and it shows.

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But! The build­ings them­selves look impec­cably main­tained. Entrance to the castle grounds is free, but admis­sion fees apply to enter­ing the main keep.

Rijo Dori

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The Hiroshima Museum of Art is loc­ated oppos­ite the castle grounds.

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Paela is a rather upmar­ket shop­ping com­plex, but with awe­some archi­tec­tur­al details like this ped­es­tri­an bridge.…

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…that over­looks the stair­case and water fea­ture to the bot­tom floor.

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Each floor is a dif­fer­ent shape and topped off with a glass ceil­ing.

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And what’s even more cool, is that the floor dir­ect­ory mim­ics the shape of each floor!

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Further down the street, we hop into a base­ment super­mar­ket and spot pasta in the shape of vari­ous Disney char­ac­ters. Pooh Bear!

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There’s also 7-Eleven drinks in deli­cious fla­vours — apple, nashi pear, sudachi/​lime and yuzu/​lemon. We ear­mark the nashi pear to try at anoth­er 7-Eleven but we don’t end up find­ing it again. We do try the suda­chi and yuzu ones, though, and they were tasty!

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And of course, a Lupicia store! I always find some­thing new I want, mak­ing them dan­ger­ous places for me. Here, it’s their region-lim­ited setou­chi lem­on in a ridicu­lously pretty tin.

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On the way out, we stop by Chococro for a late-morn­ing snack to get us through until the after­noon.

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The dessert offer inform­a­tion at dif­fer­ent Chococro branches vary. Here, they’re offer­ing ice cream and waffles, where­as oth­ers offer par­faits and shaved ice.

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This time we try the cof­fee jelly and vanilla bean ice cream. The cof­fee jelly isn’t sweetened, which is expec­ted, and the goes beau­ti­fully with the sweet­ness of the vanilla bean ice cream (you can see vanilla specks!). I have some­thing like three spoons before turn­ing back to find D’s cleaned the bowl!

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And of course, what’s now our stand­ard drinks — D’s iced cof­fee and my yuzu cha. We take par­tic­u­lar notice of the yuzu to water ratio so we can rep­lic­ate it back home. Our next time, we’ll pay atten­tion to the jar she gets the yuzu from.

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We head upstairs on a curved escal­at­or. We find them end­lessly fas­cin­at­ing.

Quickly walk­ing last the res­taur­ant, we end up in a book store with this super cute panda who’s been wrapped up all snug for the winter.

We spend some time flip­ping through, and laugh­ing at, a book that teaches English speak­ers all phrases you’d need to know to date in Japanese.

And if you’ve ever been in a Japanese ship­ping mall you’ll know that one com­plex often leads to a dif­fer­ent one, so your surest way of get­ting back to street level, let alone being ori­ented on street level, is to leave the way you came. But even when you do that, some­how you still end up lost! So after retra­cing our steps twice we’re finally back on track to the Peace Memorial Park.

Peace Memorial Park

The A-Bomb Dome in the Peace Memorial Park is one of the few struc­tures to have sur­vived the bomb­ing, which dir­ectly killed ~80,000 people, indir­ectly killed a fur­ther ~10 – 85,000 through injury and radi­ation, and des­troyed ~70% of the city’s build­ings, and severely dam­aged anoth­er 7%.

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The A-Bomb Dome used to be the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall, which was designed by Czech archi­tect Jan Letzel.

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This is what the Hall looked like after the bomb­ing. Its close­ness to the hypo­centre (160m) meant that the blast struck from almost dir­ectly above, so some of the centre walls remained stand­ing, leav­ing enough of the build­ing and iron frame to be recog­nis­able as a dome.

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This is the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students. It com­mem­or­ates the 6,300 stu­dents who were mobil­ised by the Japanese gov­ern­ment to work in muni­tions factor­ies or in the the con­struc­tion of defens­ive works, and died from the bomb­ing.

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This is the zero mile­stone of Hiroshima City, and con­sidered the centre of the city. The rock mark­ing the spot sur­vived the bomb­ing. This is not the hypo­centre of the bomb, which is above Shima Hospital, a short walk south-east of the Dome.

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Here you can see the Dome set in the bank of the river.

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A rose garden sits on the oppos­ite side of the river as the dome.

This is the Children’s Peace Monument, built in memory of all the chil­dren who died as a res­ult of the bomb­ing. It was ini­tially inspired by Sadako Sasaski, a girl who was exposed to the radi­ation at the age of two and later died of leuk­aemia, most likely caused by the radi­ation from the bomb­ing. Sadako believed that if she fol­ded 1,000 paper cranes she would be cured. To this day, chil­dren from around the world fold cranes and send them to Hiroshima where they are placed near the sculp­ture.

The sculp­ture shows a girl hold­ing the wire frame of a paper crane stand­ing atop, with a met­al paper crane sus­pen­ded from the bell with­in.

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Another build­ing that sur­vived (but was gut­ted by) the bomb­ing has been turned into a rest house for vis­it­ors. The paper products in the store are made from the paper cranes dis­played at the Children’s Peace Monument.

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We spot this ridicu­lously cute post­card break­ing down the com­pon­ents of Hiroshima style oko­nom­iyaki. We ser­i­ously con­sider try­ing it, but we’re con­stantly put off by the copi­ous amount of cab­bage. So! We buy this post­card instead (made from the paper cranes).

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We also take the oppor­tun­ity to eat some Calbee snacks while we rest. These are yuzu fla­voured Jagarico, which are super crispy potato sticks with a pleas­ant kick of yuzu.

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This is the Peace Flame. The flame has burned con­tinu­ously since it was lit in 1964, and will remain lit until all nuc­le­ar bombs on the plan­et are des­troyed and the plan­et is free from the threat of nuc­le­ar anni­hil­a­tion.

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Set in the Hiroshima Pond of Peace, the Memorial Cenotaph sits at the centre of the park. The saddle shaped monu­ment, which rep­res­ents a shel­ter for the souls of the vic­tims, cov­ers a ceno­taph hold­ings the names of all the people killed by the bomb.

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The Memorial Cenotaph is aligned to frame the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome.

There are many, many more monu­ments to the vic­tims of the bomb in the Park.

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After walk­ing through Peace Memorial Park from the north, we’re finally at the Peace Memorial Museum at the south­ern end of the park. The Fountain of Prayer sits in front.

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The Museum is ded­ic­ated to edu­cat­ing vis­it­ors about the bomb, so admis­sion is nom­in­al at Y50 and there are free lock­ers to store your bags while you vis­it.

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With the admis­sion fee, you receive a com­ple­ment­ary post­card also made from paper recycled from the paper cranes.

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This is a rep­lica of Little Boy, the name of the bomb.

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This mod­el shows the loc­a­tion from which the bomb was dropped.

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These are steps extrac­ted from a bank show­ing a human shad­ow etched in stone. The explan­a­tion accom­pa­ny­ing states, “A per­son sit­ting on the steps to the bank wait­ing for it to open was exposed to the flash from the atom­ic bomb explo­sion. Receiving the rays dir­ectly, the vic­tim must have died on the spot from massive burns. The Surface of the sur­round­ing stone steps was turned whit­ish by the intense hey rays. The place where the per­son was sit­ting became dark like a shad­ow.

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This fused lump of small glass bottles shows how hot it was at the time.

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This is a sec­tion of a wall covered in black rain, or nuc­le­ar fal­lout.

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These are some of the cranes fol­ded by Sadako Sasaki, in hopes of find­ing a cure.

The Museum over­looks Peace Memorial Park.

There’s a fancy look­ing post box — the two girls are hold­ing a music­al score while two birds flut­ter about.

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This is the Statue of Mother and Child in the Storm on the south side of the Museum.

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D and I ini­tially had grand plans to eat Hiroshima style tsuke­men (cold noodles dipped into a sauce spiced up with red pep­per), but decide that the res­taur­ant is too far away.

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So, we make our way back down Heiwa Odori (where the Christmas illu­min­a­tions are).

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The sak­ura lights don’t look half as pretty in day­light.

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This is the Hiroshima Medical Doctors Association Monument. Health pro­fes­sion­als were pro­hib­ited by the gov­ern­ment from evac­u­at­ing the city dur­ing the war. This is a monu­ment to the doc­tors and staff who died as a res­ult of the bomb­ing or by expos­ure to radi­ation. The plaque explains that the “abstract work of hands expresses love and relief. The two doves between the fin­gers rep­res­ent peace mes­sen­gers. The fol­ded hands rep­res­ent pray­ers for the souls of the vic­tims and a strong desire for world peace.” I’m really not sure where the doves are!

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And…we’re back on the main shop­ping strip…

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It’s been a long time since break­fast, so we go for a late lunch/​early din­ner at Coco Ichibanya Curry House, our favour­ite curry house.

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To order, you pick the innards that you want in your curry (from a menu of pic­tures) then for that dish you pick 1) the type of curry, 2) the amount of rice, 3) the spi­ci­ness of the curry, 4) the sweet­ness of the curry, and 5) the sides (if any).

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I get my abso­lute favour­ite cream crab cro­quette curry. I’ve not ordered any oth­er dish on the menu (and we’ve eaten here enough times for that to be a bit weird). But! This time, I mix it up by adding asami clams. The menu says full of asami clams and that is exactly what you get — clams swim­ming in my curry with 2 – 3 for every bite, not just the 5 – 6 in total that you get at fancy res­taur­ants and cafes in Australia. The cro­quettes are heav­enly and the clams were tasty and grit-free. Yum!

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D gets his favour­ite fried chick­en with veget­ables. The fried chick­en is just as we remem­ber — crispy with mouth-water­ing tender innards — and I can­not res­ist appro­pri­at­ing some for my tummy.

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And of course, some snacks — these pear gum­mies are deli­ciously chewy on the out­side with a soft centre. And (not a snack), yuzu fla­voured lip balm — I’d been look­ing for one since our first taste of yuzu in Minoo, Osaka and I found it in DonQuixote!

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We’re head­ing back to the hotel to pick up our lug­gage and make our way to Okayama, but just before we do, we stop by Floresta Nature Donuts. This is the donut store that we even­tu­ally gave up find­ing after a thor­ough attempt in Osaka last trip, and D had noticed it the pre­vi­ous night. Initially, we’d planned to go to the one in Kyoto, but I jump at this one.

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They sell anim­al donuts, which appeared all over Tumblr a couple of years ago. And lucky for me they have just a few left! I grab one of each to eat when we reach Okayama.

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Another shop sells car­rot juice in pack­aging that looks like car­rot.

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Back at our hotel, we sit in the lounge a bit and rehyd­rat­ing at the free drink bar, before we head off to our shinkansen.

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Shinkansen sta­tions are always teem­ing with people.

Our shinkansen trip between Hiroshima and Okayama is the most luxe we’ve ever traveled. You see, we only ever take the shinkansen with a big suit­case. The gen­er­ous seat pitch means we can fit our suit­case with us at our seats, but that’s at the expense of leg room. This time, our reserved seats are at the very back of the car, so our lug­gage fits behind our seats, leav­ing us with all the leg room. The shinkansen seats are already com­fort­ably plush, but it was amaz­ing with leg room.

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It’s late by the time we reach Okayama.

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So late that the Aeon Mall has closed for the even­ing — shops close way earli­er than we’re used to in Osaka and Tokyo.

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We’re the last people to check in at our hotel — the man­ager has only one key left. None of our hotel rooms com­pare to the room we had in Kanazawa, but that was far bey­ond our expect­a­tions.

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With the shops closed, we settle in for the night with our donuts. These donuts are baked, not fried, so they have a dens­er, less fluffy tex­ture.

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They are just too cute! I have some trouble eat­ing such cute­ness, but D has no such qualms. And he’s hungry to boot, so I let him have the first bite to soften the blow.

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This is kobuta (pig) with almond ears and freeze dried straw­berry cheeks. The frost­ing doesn’t taste much like straw­berry, but it does melt to make the donut itself less dry.

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This is kur­onekochan (black cat) with almond ears and chocol­ate frost­ing. This is the most fla­vour­some of the bunch as the frost­ing actu­ally gave the donut fla­vour.

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This is oomu (cock­a­too) with almond ears and head­crest with yel­low and green frost­ing. Amusingly, we’d ini­tially thought this was a frog (it’s green, it’s a frog, we’re simple), which we’d later see in Kyoto. Like the pig, the frost­ing didn’t add much fla­vour, just mois­ture, to the donut.

They are hands down the cutest donuts ever. Filled with cute donuts, we’re off to bed!