Hello and welcome to a Throwback Thursday post! I don’t do these very often, but while perusing my past blog posts and my pictures, I realized that there are a few adventures I haven’t talked about here. Some may remain in obscurity for a while longer; others, like this one, grow more pertinent as travel season is upon us.
Yes, Golden Week is around the corner, and before we know it, it’s going to be summer. With all that entails. Cicadas, tour groups, and every flavor of ice cream you can possibly imagine. Among other things.
Today, I’d like to share with you part one of the tale of our overnight Hiroshima trip.
It was summertime, and my friend really wanted to get out of Kyoto during her visit. We looked at a few options for traveling. Bullet train, regular train, bus, and night bus.
The bullet train from Kyoto to Hiroshima will take you a little less than two hours and cost you 11,410 yen for a reserved seat one-way. And while these days I would have opted for that, the two of us wrinkled our noses, wanting to save cash on transport so we could use it on things like food and other goodies.
So, off to the night bus website we went!
What’s a night bus? If you’ve lived in Japan for a while you’ve probably heard of them. They pick you up at a major train station anywhere between 10pm-12am and drop you off at your destination anywhere from 6-8am the next day. There are so many options you can go for–the wide seats, the female-only cars, the student discounts, I could go on. There are also multiple websites, though the best-known one right now is probably Willer Express as you can do all of your reservations in English. My friend and I looked things over and booked 2 female seats for 5500 yen one way per person–half the price of the bullet train.
Thus, our journey began.
The bus ride wasn’t bad. While I got very little real sleep on it, I was able to get comfortable in the 3 seat across style layout. I napped on and off, waking approximately every hour when the bus would stop and give us a chance to use the toilets (our bus didn’t come with them). We arrived at Hiroshima at 6 am the following day, before any of the coffee shops were even open.
Wobbly and bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, the two of us decided to book it to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and I’m glad we did. Early in the morning, the park is almost surreal in its’ quietness, and you can contemplate the space without having to dodge much more than the occasional jogger. We walked around in silence for at least an hour and a half, taking in the sights and snapping pictures (always slightly tilted–not because of a style choice, but because to our sleepy eyes we thought we were holding the camera correctly!)
At one point, we came across the Memorial Museum, and only had to wait a few minutes for it to open at 8:30 A.M. The admission price was very low, 200 yen per person, and the museum was… How do I put it into words?
The two of us were the very first people to enter, and the silence that had felt contemplative outside was almost oppressive within the walls of the museum. Everything we saw was powerful, and we somberly took our time going through the exhibits…. until another visitor joined us.
This was a Japanese man, middle-aged but potentially older, who started off viewing everything with no comment, just like we did. But after we got about a third of the way through the museum, I could hear a soft, keening noise coming from him as we drifted, from burnt lunchboxes to artists’ renditions of August 6, 1945. I will never forget that sound, or that feeling as we completed viewing the museum.
Stepping outside afterward was like a breath of fresh air. It was getting hot, and the park was noticeably more crowded than before. I could see a couple tour groups, their flags held up high, making their way to the key points in the park. Together, my friend and I made our way to the A-bomb dome, our last stop in the park before seeking out lunch.
Lunch was a subdued affair– bento boxes picked up from a department store near the station. However, it did the job of perking us up for our next leg of the adventure, as our hotel wouldn’t allow check-in for a few hours yet–Hiroshima Castle!
This was the pick-me-up we really needed. Known also as the Carp Castle, this place was surprisingly close to the Peace Park–about a 15 or 20 minute walk, so if you’re in the area, I do recommend it. Admission to the main castle is 370 yen, but a lot of the grounds are free to explore. If you’ve seen your share of castles, fair enough; if you like castles, however, this is worth a stop, as a breather if nothing else.
We climbed the steps and into the keep, and found an area where you could play with costumes and take photos, essentially for free. Touristy gimmick? Yep. Did we do it? Absolutely. Am I going to show you pictures? Hahaha, no.
But we took advantage of the grounds until we were able to check in. By this point our feet were dragging, and the chance to relax in the hotel was too great a temptation to ignore. We passed out on the beds until it was nearly evening, and our stomachs were rumbling.
Luckily, there was a place nearby that was serving Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, a dish that differs greatly from the Osaka version. While the latter is a savory pancake stuffed with cabbage and topped with nori, mayo, and sauce, the former is all of that… plus put on top of fried noodles, with an egg on top!
We weren’t able to finish our dishes, as delicious as they were, and soon retreated to our hotel to sleep for the rest of the night.
Stay tuned for next week, where I share the story of our trip to Miyajima Island, Itsukushima Shrine, and how we almost missed our ticket home.