For Golden Week, Jen and I went down to Hiroshima on a three-day trip. We both really wanted the chance to relax, but thought it would be a waste of the holiday if we just hung around Nagoya the entire week. So, after much procrastinating, we bought the tickets, booked the hotel, and did a bit of research about Hiroshima in the month preceding our trip.
We had originally planned to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) down to Hiroshima, which takes about two and a half hours. But when we discovered that it cost about $150 one-way, we opted for the overnight bus. Fare for passage by bus was about half the price, but it did take eight hours to get there. I think the appeal is that you can just sleep your way to your destination. While that works for some people, such as Jen, I do not have that luxury. I find it extremely difficult to sleep while on public transportation surrounded by complete strangers. I mostly just dozed the night away. The only redeeming part of the bus was the fact that it was a double decker bus and our seats were on the second floor.
We finally made it Hiroshima, and at 7 AM, the city was very quiet and peaceful. But that sense of peace was quickly interrupted by our frustration at our complete inability to get out of Hiroshima station. Seriously, I swear that I have never seen such a poorly designed station in my entire life. After about twenty minutes of roaming around, we finally made it out on the right side of the station and began the walk to our hotel. Please keep in mind that neither Jen nor I had ever been to Hiroshima before and we we following the directions on various maps that Jen had printed from the internet. The real purpose of these maps was to guide us to various cafes around Hiroshima, but we didn’t let that deter us.
After much walking, we stopped for breakfast, reanalyzed our maps for about the hundredth time, and set back out on our way. After walking for what seemed like days, but was more like an hour, we finally found our hotel. And in the that hour, we never got lost; we just underestimated the distance from the station to our hotel. And I believe that somewhere in the midst of our walking Jen discovered the GPS function on her iPhone, which came in extremely handily for the rest of our trip.
When we arrived at our hotel, the ANA Crowne Plaza, we realized, after the front desk person offered to show us to our room, that we might have underestimated the class level of our hotel. Somehow, we managed to get an excellent deal on a high-class hotel. So, we were guided to our room, and after being shown how to operate the key card, we walked into a ginormous room! I mean, sure, Jen and I had to share a king size bed, but the room had a living room section and the bathroom was completely separated from the rest of the room by an entryway. After spending so much time staying at tiny, cramped hotels in Japan, we were more than a little impressed.
At this point in the day, it was a late 10 AM. We dropped off our stuff, took a moment to catch our breath. Then we were off on our second adventure of the day- to see Peace Park and the A Dome. Luckily for us, both sites were about a five minute walk from our hotel.
Jen and I were a bit apprehensive about going to Peace Park. After all, we are citizens of the country that created the reason for the Park. But, we needn’t have worried.The park itself really had a sense of peace and calm to it, and people were friendly.
Visiting Peace Park really was an experience. I was prepared for a real tourist attraction, half expected for the people of Hiroshima to advertise the evils of America and war through their park. I found nothing of the kind. Instead, what we found was a beautiful monument to not only remember the tragedy of that event, but to move together towards a future free of bombs, war, and hatred. I hate to admit this, but I really didn’t know much about the bombing of Hiroshima other than the fact that it had happened. Peace Park was an education into the lives of the people that were affected.
The bomb exploded directly over this building. Because of the force, much of the actual building was left intact and has been preserved as a way to remember the past even as the rest of the city was rebuilt.
One of the highlights of the day occurred while we were at the A Dome. We were approached by a group of elementary school girls. They gave us a piece of paper informing us that they were students studying English at ECC and if we had some time, they would like to ask us a few questions. After giving our assent, we had a grand time answering all kinds of questions from our names to our favorite Japanese foods. Very seriously, they wrote down all our answers and seemed genuinely interested to learn our answers, sometimes translating for each other. The girls, all 9 and 10, were so cute and excited to talk in English, even if they were a little nervous. At the end they gave us a paper crane that they had made themselves, the sign of hope in Hiroshima, and then gave us origami paper along with instructions so that we could make our own paper cranes.
After lunch at a cute cafe and a lot of walking around downtown Hiroshima, we went back to our hotel. Jen went to the hotel’s gym to run, while I took a quick cat nap. We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around before heading to dinner. Originally, we had decided to go to a Spanish restaurant. But after blindly following Jens GPS, we found the restaurant, only to find that it was closed for Golden Week. Instead we ate at a delicious Thai place. It turns out that one of the guys working there had studied at university in Nagoya. Small world. We headed home and after studying- French for Jen, Japanese for me- turned in early.