I was pleasantly surprised by Hiroshima. We went to see the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, as most everyone who visits Japan does, but ended up really liking the city for more than just the museum.
To be honest, the museum was a bit of a let down. It’s hard to say that and I might get some criticism for it, but after hearing that I had to go to Hiroshima just for this I suppose I expected a bit too much. Maybe it’s because some exhibits were closed and the A-bomb dome was hidden under scaffolding for research purposes. It is of course necessary to recognize this horrific event, and seeing the exhibits about the day the bomb exploded and the effects it had was hard but important. But in the end I appreciated the Peace Memorial Park more, with its symbols of peace, banners of stories from people who experienced it, and messages of hope that we as humanity can learn from this and never repeat such an act of mass destruction. It was perhaps less obvious than the scorched clothing we’d seen inside, but that’s what I liked about it. Regardless, together, they were a well-done tribute to what happened that day decades ago.
The museum was our first activity of the day, which happened to be Matt’s birthday. What a way to celebrate. So we took some time to process, sitting in a park under the gorgeous cherry blossoms with a view of the castle, silently contemplating, until we fell asleep.
We woke up refreshed (and slightly less hungover). We walked over to the castle and ventured inside. Japan is scattered with beautiful castles from its history like the one at Hiroshima. It’s an elegant structure of traditional wood construction on a strong stone base for protection. Inside the first floor was a nice exhibit on the history of the building and a place to try on a samurai outfit – a must for the birthday boy – but as we climbed higher the exhibits were less thought out. One floor was dedicated to toilets samurai used. The main draw was the top floor where we could see out over all of Hiroshima.
The rest of our time in Hiroshima was about experiencing the city by wandering. We walked a lot in this city, as we tend to do everywhere, but found it especially pleasant here. Hiroshima is a manageable size, easily explored on foot, and while it is modern it still has charm. Its rivers and streetcars aided this impression. This was also perhaps the best cherry blossoms we saw; they lined the rivers and in front of the castle, adding a pretty pink hue to all the views.
We learned that residents of Hiroshima are huge baseball fans. There was a game that day so the city was flooded with people in red jerseys. Matt really wanted one but apparently they aren’t sold anywhere in the city. Where do people get jerseys? We were baffled; he was sad.
We also learned that residents of Hiroshima are very friendly. We were there on a Saturday night, and after a delicious Japanese BBQ dinner went exploring in the nightlife neighborhood. When it struck midnight Matt turned another year older, so I shared this information with some guys in a bar that had karaoke and they treated him to an off-key but endearing rendition of Happy Birthday, then took us out to a club. Hence the rough next day.
The day we left Hiroshima we were excited to get Kyoto but a little sad to leave. It had exceeded our expectations, and encouraged our love of Japan. But it was time to move on to Kyoto. This time we had a bus booked, but still no accommodation. On to the next manga cafe search.