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Japan, March 2018



Hiroshima

Next day we left Kyoto by the fast and efficient bullet train with our JR passes.

The train arrived and departed on time (of course) and got us to Hiroshima on time. We checked in at the Sheraton hotel which is next to the station. Having the JR pass also allowed us to use the Hiroshima sightseeing loop bus to get around the city easily. The red bus stops just outside the station, a few minutes walk from the Sheraton.

Our first visit that afternoon was the Peace Memorial Park. This is not a pleasure visit but rather a visit to see the terrible historical event that happened here on 6th August 1945 when the atom bomb was dropped on the city. We started the tragic route from the Atomic Bomb Dome. This has been left as it was after the bomb in memory of what happened that day and the 100,000 people and more who died then and soon afterwards.

There are haunting messages and stories written in many different languages on note books displayed alongside the ruined dome. It is heartbreaking. Nearby there is also a Children's Peace Monument telling the story of a young girl who survived the bomb aged two but died of leukaemia aged eleven. She wanted to fold one thousand paper cranes symbolizing long life & happiness. This shrine is devoted to her belief. There is also a Cenotaph housing a list of the victims of the bomb whose names are known. Further along another shrine symbolizes the prayers for the victims and a pledge for world peace.

Our final visit was the Peace Memorial Museum. It houses a collection of items and photographs of the aftermath. There are stories of the event as well as the history of the atom bomb itself. There are some disturbing photos and sad images of human life and damage from the atomic bomb. The most haunting and heartbreaking stories are the ones told of last messages from people to their loved ones, family and friends, not knowing what would to hit them next from the sky above. A burned child's bicycle on display was the cruelest of them all.

Hiroshima is now a pleasant, vibrant city with beautiful parks. For a more relaxing afternoon we visited Shukkei-en gardens. This is not a dry landscape garden like in Kyoto but a park garden with ponds, carp, bridges and pavilions etc. The park is perched alongside the river which runs through the city of Hiroshima.

Next day we took a day trip to Miyajima Island. Again we used our JR passes for the train to the ferry pier and got on the JR ferry to this well known island packed with visitors. The ferry only takes about 15 minutes. When the famous red Torii came into view all the passengers went to one side of the ferry to take photos of the most photographed shrine gate 'floating' on the water.

The O-tori gate is the entrance to the Itsukushima shrine on the waterfront facing the gate. On the left side is a five storied pagoda and Hokoku shrine. Behind are some lovely old Japanese houses with shops and cafes. We had a late morning coffee and cake break at an old Japanese house cafe before walking up to the ropeway station for the ascent of Misen mountain. The walk uphill to the ropeway station from the waterfront takes about 15 - 20 minutes or you can get the free shuttle bus for a few minutes ride to the station. There are actually two ropeways, the first having small cars seating 4-6 people which goes to a point about two-thirds of the way up, and the second which has larger 10-20 person cars which goes the rest of the way and offers great views of the ocean. From the second station there is a 30 - 40 minute steep uphill walk to the summit at about 530m.

The descent from the summit is a fine walk through forests, passing streams and shrines. It takes about 1 hour 30 minutes to go down the steps, which although downhill, exercises the muscles at the back of the legs which were stiff the next day. I would only recommend this Misen trip for good walkers with sturdy, comfortable shoes, plenty of water and taking several rests along the way.

On our Day 11 we left Hiroshima by JR bullet train to Osaka

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