Another high speed train brought us directly into the heart of Hiroshima where we splurged on two nights at the Sheraton. We were welcomed by a friend, Carl, who has lived in Hiroshima for over twenty years, and who took us around the town and into nearby Miyajima.
A visit to Hiroshima, with its heartbreaking history, is a moving experience. We walked through the Peace Park Memorial and visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to look at some of the saddest objects in the world: a tricycle buried by a father whose four year old son died in the blast; ragged school uniforms stained with blood; a collection of tiny paper cranes made by a young woman who died of leukaemia resulting from radiation. Having recently lost my father, this was one of the saddest days of my journey, but also necessary to understand a part of the backdrop to the modern face of Japan.
That night we walked along the water’s edge, catching the tail end of a memorial to the victims of the 3/11 quake, and seeing the Atomic Dome lit up at night, poignantly beautiful.
The next day the sky was cheerfully sunny and blue, though the wind still carried the lingering chill of winter. We took the ferry out to Miyajima, walked around the island, and tasted the local bean paste Japanese Maple leaf cookie.
That afternoon we had fun eating at a keiten sushi restaurant were the bill is tabulated based on the height of the stack of dishes you leave behind and number of empty beer steins.
On our last leg of the trip we built in a day to experience a Japanese onsen (spa) at Hakone, and spent a captivating few hours walking through the Hakone Open Air Art MuseumHakone Open Air Museum, because I just couldn’t get enough of this place…
Finally, and all too quickly, we found ourselves once again in Tokyo. With just a day and half left on our epic journey we crammed in another bit of sight-seeing, visiting the ancient Buddhist temple, Sensō-ji temple located in Asakusa, before indulging in a brief spate of souvenir shopping.
Visiting Japan requires a bit more planning and organization than other travels, but the efforts are well worth it. The people, food, views and experiences are unparalleled and I hope to return before too long.