Japan

Hiroshima – Part I

Map of JapanSo, until I receive more information as to where I will be living in Hiroshima, I thought I would write a bit about the prefecture in general. As you can see by the map (click to enlarge), Hiroshima-ken (‘ken’ stands for prefecture), is in the west of Honshu, the main island of Japan.

To avoid sounding too travel book-ish, I am going to skip the general information about Hiroshima for now, and rather focus on the top five highlights that I experienced and remember from when I visited Hiroshima in November last year. I only spent two days in the city, as part of a two week tour of central and southern Japan, but it was an incredibly amazing two days.

  • The Peace Memorial Park & Museum and the A-Bomb Dome

1597-001

When I tell people where I will be living from August, one of the first things that they say is: “Isn’t that where the bomb went off?”. Indeed, the name Hiroshima has become synonymous with the atomic bomb that was dropped on 6th August, 1945. When I was there last year, I had the opportunity to explore the expansive grounds of the Peace Park and the Memorial Museum.

The experience for me was a mixed bag of emotions, especially while walking through the museum and seeing the actual ‘shadows’ that people left behind on concrete steps when the bomb dropped. Even though I found some of the exhibitions in the museum disturbing, it was an overall amazing, and life-reflecting, experience. Interestingly enough this article, written recently, highlights the Peace Park and how it remains one of Japan’s top attractions.

  • Dreamination

One of the best surprises while in Hiroshima occurred at night, called ‘Dreamination’. From mid-November to early January, approximately 1.4 million fairy lights (according to their website) are switched on at night to reveal countless light displays, each representing part of a grand story that runs down the Peace Boulevard.

Dreamination-001

There was so many displays to look at that I think I missed some pieces altogether just because I spent so long taking photo’s and admiring the handy-work of some of the larger walk-through pieces. That, and our tour leader was trying to quietly steer us towards the direction of the restaurant in order to make it in time for our supper reservation.

  • Karaoke

This was the first time I have ever done karaoke, and it was so much fun! There were about 12 of us in the tour group and we got our own private room, which came with two microphones, two tambourines, an extensive food menu, and a wonderful telephone through which you could order whatever your heart was hungry for as it was an all you can eat and drink for 2 hours at a set price. I proceeded to then die and go to heaven.

What a night. At first everyone was a bit timid, or perhaps even embarrassed, to start singing solo (who wouldn’t?), so we opted for group songs that we could all sing along to. Only once the first round of drinks arrived, with the second immediately ordered as back up, did things start to warm up.

Five glasses of plum wine later and I strongly believed that I could take on Aerosmith’s “I don’t want to miss a thing“. It was at this point where things started to get a bit fuzzy. I do, however, recall firmly griping onto the microphone for dear life, power-ballading (is that even a word?) through the song, practically scream-shouting through the chorus, flailing my arms around (I think I was trying to add a bit more drama), and being backed up throughout the entire song with supportive cheering and laughter from the rest of the group.

Best. Night. Ever.

So my experience of karaoke was not this charming and sweet, but this is from a current anime I am enjoying (Isshukan Friends), so thought it was appropriate to share
Perhaps one day maybe I will have a karaoke experience that will be as fluffy and sweet (and innocent!) as it was in Isshukan Friends. Minus the plum wine of course 😉
  • Miyajima

Officially named Itsukushima, though more commonly known as Miyajima, this shrine island is a mere 10 minute ferry ride from the mainland and is home to the famous Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the islands most famous features is the giant torii gate that ‘floats’ in the bay when the tide is high. When I visited the island, it was the peak of autumn and I believe it must of been one of the best times to visit. Why? Just click on the picture below to see why.

Autumn

The maple tree forest was stunning to walk through, as well as quite peaceful. The path we took eventually led us to the Daishō-in Buddhist Temple, which I loved because it was so beautiful and serene. The steps leading through the temple are lined with hundreds (500 to be exact) of small statues called Rakan, each one having unique facial expressions that represent the 500 disciples of Shaka Nyorai (Buddha).

Rakan
Each one of the Rakan had cute, individually knitted, beanies on their heads. Why? I have no clue, but I like to think it is to keep them warm during the cold winter months in the after-life.

Thinking about it now, Miyajima deserves a post all of its own, there is just so much about it that I would love to write about, so watch this space! But let me finish this bullet point with one last picture (below) from Miyajima.

Starting top left: One of the very friendly deer. They smell food (and fear) on you from a mile away, proceed with caution or be mobbed by about 20 cute and fluffy battering rams all at once; Miyajima in kawaii (cute) mode; and the world’s largest wooden spatula… ’nuff said.
  • Okonomiyaki

I’m just going to skip the formalities of actually writing anything and go right ahead to a picture of what okonomiyaki is (click to enlarge):

Okonomiyaki

Words cannot describe how mouth-watering this picture looks to me right now. I promise that whoever reading this comes and visits me in Hiroshima, I will treat them to one of these divine creations. You just cannot come to Hiroshima and not have okonomiyaki at least once. Layers upon layers of goodness, starting with a pancake, then topped with handfuls of shredded cabbage, followed by tempura, green onions, bean sprouts, slices of pork, noodles, a fried egg, BBQ-type sauce and finally sprinkled with seaweed bits. And just when you thought it was safe, along come some optional extras to add to that, such as grated cheese, squid bits and oysters. Feeling hungry yet?

So while I continue drooling over my keyboard, click on this link to read more about this food that takes longer to type out than make. Seriously! Try typing okonomiyaki out – plus double check that you have actually spelt it right regardless of the red zig-zag underline of doubt – and see how long it takes you.

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