Japan Diary 2017 Hiroshima
Onomichi – Hiroshima day 11
At this point, Ryan and I split. He took the camera to the peace park and peace museum whilst I decided to head into town and go shopping. Although I decided to give the museum a miss this time, I urge you to visit it if you haven’t already. It is a very sobering and sombre experience. The peace park and A-bomb dome take on so much more meaning after visiting the museum. Even just walking through the park gives you a moments pause.
The park itself is very serene and easy to stroll through. You’ll see Japanese people and foreigners alike paying their respects at various monuments. The children’s memorial dedicated to Sadako is always very popular. I remember learning about her story in library classes. The hope and futility inherent in her actions as she prayed to get well always stuck with me. Numerous cranes from around Japan and the world are sent to this very spot, so to see them all gives a real sense of our shared humanity and the solidarity that should be taken in opposing atomic warfare.
On to less serious things, shopping in downtown Hiroshima (Hondori) was surprisingly fruitful! I don’t have many photos but shopping in Hiroshima was very fruitful. The wide streets and street level shops of the shoutengai made it easy to browse even for unfamiliar.
I picked up some really cute Tokimeki Gabriel necklaces from the chouchou ange shop in Sunmall. If you’re into anime merch or alternative fashion Sunmall is probably the best place to shop. The 3rd floor onward was dominated by Lolita, anime, doll and second-hand goods.
On the other hand, PARCO is a mix of more mainstream brands and a lot of the most well-known gyaru brands as well. I managed to snag some bargains here as well! Ryan found something that he liked as well: a Gundam model exhibition that happened to be on while we were there.
Dinner wasn’t too far away from the Okonomiyaki mura is less of a village and more of a building. From the second to the fourth floor, there are numerous okonomiyaki stores, all specialising in Hiroshima style okonomiyaki. It is fairly touristy and I can’t vouch for it being the best okonomiyaki in Hiroshima, but I doubt that you can really go wrong with any of the stalls inside. As a bonus, it seemed like most of the stalls were pretty English friendly.
On this visit, we tried Momotaro okonomiyaki located on the third floor. According to the guide outside, this store has been run by the same people for over 50 years and the taste hasn’t changed since! I’m a big fan of Hiroshima okonomiyaki. Seeing all the layers gradually being built up and then cooking down is a fun process is also incredibly appetising.
Ryan’s okonomiyaki had extra pork, cheese, and mochi, which is my recommendation if you’re hungry and after something a little bit different. The cheese and mocha both melt to create a chewy and stringy mouthful.
I had a regular okonomiyaki with extra squid. We both chose soba noodles, as it is more traditionally Hiroshima style, but udon noodles are also an option at many places. The addition of noodles in Hiroshima style okonomiyaki means that just one of these is a very filling meal in and of itself. I usually ask for less noodles, which most stores are happy to oblige with.
After the hearty meal, and a quick game of Taiko drumming we wandered back to our apartment. Hiroshima at night is very relaxed. Wandering away from the city centre, most everyone was making their way home and locals were perched in bars, enjoying their weekend.
Hiroshima – Miyajima day12
If you look up things to do in Hiroshima, most everyone will tout a trip to Miyajima. The scenic views mean that it is a popular spot with both Japanese people and international tourist alike.
We had a bit of a sleep in and a late start, so we didn’t arrive in Miyajima until almost 1 pm Even on the ferry over to the island it is easy to catch sight of the giant red tori gate for which Miyajima is famous. From the port, we were greeted by many hungry and sleepy deer. Unlike the deer in Nara, the deer in Miyajima are fairly gentle and docile. Although they approach people for food, they don’t tend to head butt or chase people for more and they are very comfortable with being touched gently. That said, my selfie attempts with them weren’t all that successful!
The typical tourist path in Miyajima is fairly linear. Numerous stands and shops lead the way to the shrines and mountain walks. We couldn’t resist making a few stops to try the local specialties. Above are an oyster curry pan, (that I accidentally dropped some of onto my white shirt!), a plate of oysters, yaki momiji manju (my favourite flavour is cheese and Ryan’s is custard), normal chocolate manju and sakura ice cream monaka.
We arrived a little past high tide, meaning that the water didn’t come all the way up to Itsukushima shrine. Although we may not have seen the shrine at its most picturesque, we happened to stumble upon a Shinto wedding ceremony taking place. I love just how different traditional Japanese wedding ceremonies are, especially the bride’s white gown and some of the guests decked out in their kimono.
A visit to Miyajima just doesn’t seem complete without seeing the views from Mount Misen. The ropeway up to the peak seems to be a bit of an attraction unto itself! The very steep ascent had me and some of the other people riding the rope way a bit freaked out. No time to rest though! From the final cable car station stop, there’s still a bit of a hike up to the very highest observatory tower. I won’t say that it was the easiest thing to do under the heat but the view was well worth it. It helps that at the observation deck there are places to lie down and just admire the view.
I reasoned that since we were both wearing runners it made sense to walk back down to the town. All things considered, I think we had a pretty good time with all the nature, water and stairs.
As soon as we got back into town, in Ryan’s words, I got suckered into buying something. Caskera tea latte from Miyajima Itsuki Coffee ended up being one of my more delicious impulse buys. As a bonus, the takeaway cup ended up being a great prop for photos with the Itsukushima shrine at low tide.
Last time I went to Miyajima, we just missed low tide. It was still a bit marshy and I couldn’t go straight up to the gate. However, this time we had timed our descent perfectly and managed to walk through the gate and straight to the sea!
After all that walking we couldn’t resist treating ourselves when going back through the town. Yaki moiji manju ice cream, anago manju and fried chikuwan were the order of the day before heading back to the mainland.
In a bid to get to the Jump store before it closed so that Ryan could show me some shirts he wanted her rushed over to downtown Hondori. This ended up being a bit of a fruitless exercise as it was already shuttered by the time we arrived. Nevermind, not too far away is one of my favourite cafes in all of Japan!
From the outside, Chano-ma looks like it could be any other decent Japanese style café. The inside is a completely different story. For the most part, the open dining space is made up of pillows. The walls are likewise lined with even more pillows! Dinners are invited to sit down on the futon like floor any enjoy their meal surrounded by soft fluffy pillows. You could even lie down as you tuck into something delicious and no one would tell you off.
I enjoyed the variety on offer with the deli set. In particular, I enjoyed the pork miso soup which had a nice depth of flavour and spiciness from shichimi. The hayashi rice had a strong tomato flavour and was likewise excellent. The mango, mint and rosemary parfait was definitely one of the stranger combinations that I tried while in Japan but somehow it worked out to be pleasantly refreshing and easy to eat.
To be honest I wasn’t really looking forward to Hiroshima. In my previous visit, I had already been to all of the main attractions that interested me and I wasn’t really all that sure what else the city could offer. In spite of this, I had an amazing time. Precisely because I didn’t feel the need to fit in all the typical tourist sites it felt like I had time to enjoy the general vibe.
The peace museum is currently undergoing renovations and won’t be fully open again until 2018. When I visited in 2014 the whole museum was open and there was so much in the compact space that it was simply overwhelming. According to Ryan even with most of the wings closed, you can spend a long time in the museum going through the exhibits and watching the testimonies of victims.
There are a few different ways to get to Miyajima. See Japan Guide. If you have a Japan rail pass I highly recommend taking the rapid train from Hiroshima station to miyajimaguchi and then riding the JR ferry over to Miyajima.
Although we took the ropeway up to Mount Misen, walking up and down is definitely doable if you factor in enough time for it. I recommend going up the Omoto or Daishoin path as the incline is more gentle and there are fewer steps. Going down I recommend the Momoji Dani path. It has more stairs and is considerably steeper but only takes about 50-60 minutes to go all the way back down to the town. As a side note, I’m of good health but not very fit at all, so don’t worry if you’re not fit either.
The final ropeway down ends rather early, so make sure you can catch that if you’re not keen on a walk back. In fact, most of the shops in Miyajima close fairly early. When we got back to the pier at around 6 pm and almost all the shops were either closed or closing up for the day already!