|The A-bomb Dome at Hiroshima|
0815 6th August 1945, USA (Enola Gay) dropped Little Boy over Hiroshima. The bombing was the first use of nuclear weapons in warfare and Nagasaki a few days later, the last. Let's hope it remains that way. We wanted to take the children to Hiroshima, specifically to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
However, first, we had to get to Hiroshima. Unfortunately the Shinkansen (bullet train) we had reserved meant that we had to battle the subway commuter crush with suitcases. The children looked on with horror as the people pushed themselves into the train before us! We split us and gave the children specific instructions on what to do if we got separated. We then steeled ourselves to force our way onto the train. We made it and got packed into the insides like sardines, but we were in! Once we got past Umeda station, the crowds thinned and it was an easy disembarkation at Shin-Osaka station. The Shinkansen departure station was like a mini airport, bustling and big. It was however, well signed and we found our track quite easily. The children, Jonah in particular, were super excited to go on the train. It is definitely more comfortable than an aeroplane. There was ample leg room, the seats were very comfortable, there was a power point as well as coat hooks. We also needn't have worried about our large suitcases. The racks above the seats were large enough to take our big suitcases with ease. There was even a snack cart which went up and down the aisle periodically. The stops were announced in English and the trains arrived and left on the dot at the advertised time.
|We survived the subways and made it to the Shinkansen station at Shin-Osaka!|
|Waiting for our train at the marked entry point. First in line!|
|Tea flavoured kit-kat|
|Everything very well signed|
|So excited. He was taking videos of what he saw|
|Stops were flashed up and announced in English as well|
I don't know what it was about us and getting lost at major train stations...Somehow, we confused ourselves and got out the wrong exit and had to apologetically go back past the guard who let us out to go through the station to the other side. We later discovered that there was a tunnel that bypassed the need to go through the platforms. At least our JR passes were well used! We finally managed to dump our suitcases at the Sheraton and got ourselves on to the sightseeing loop bus which was free with the JR pass.
|The sightseeing loop bus had its stops in English as well!|
Our first stop was Shukkeien. Shukkeien can be translated into English as "shrunken-scenery garden" which is a good description of the garden miniaturised landscapes of valleys, mountains and forests. Shukkeien has a long history, dating back to 1620. If someone had told me that my children would be jumping with glee at the announcement of a family trip to a Japanese garden a few weeks ago, I would have laughed hysterically. During the trip, they have somehow been converted...it helped that the kind lady at the ticket booth gave them each a free bag of fish food to feed the carps. They literally ran into the garden and were disappointed when we had to leave. Go figure!
|Very happy to be at the garden and with their fish feed|
|Very pretty and peaceful...before we arrived|
|The feeding frenzy after a certain someone dropped ALL of his feed in one go. Some of these fish were even bigger than the ones we saw previously!!|
Hiroshima developed as a castle town around...Hiroshima Castle! The castle was first built in 1589 and captured the children's interests immediately when they discovered that Samurais once lived here. That ended in 1869 when the feudal system (Samurai rule) was abolished during the Meiji Restoration. Whilst it was spared the demolishment that may other castles met during the Meiji Restorationm, like the rest of the city, it was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945. Having been rebuilt in all its glory it is now used to exhibit historic artefacts. Alas for us, it was closed on Wednesdays. Might not be such a bad thing otherwise it would have been 3 castles in 3 days!
|One the gates to the grounds of Hiroshima Castle which was unfortunately closed on Wednesdays|
|A eucalyptus tree which miraculously survived the Aug 1945 bombing 740m from the hypocenter|
Our first encounter with the tragic past of Hiroshima was the Atomic Bomb Dome. Being a strong building to start with, and being directly below the epicentre, this building sort of survived without being completely obliterated. The only unscathed building was the bank. The skeleton of melted steel and concrete stands as a stark reminder of the city's August 6, 1945 bombing
The Peace Memorial Park was easily found by following the hordes of schoolkids on excursions. At least we were not the only ones disturbing the serenity. It is a huge park covering an area of 122,100 sq m. There are many monuments including one dedicated to the girl who died from leukaemia 10 years after the blast. She gained worldwide attention for her attempt to be granted a cure in the form of a wish given to those who are able to make 1000 paper cranes. This resonated with the kids as did the disturbing museum.
Images of burns victims and the magnitude of the blast were accompanied by simple objects like a mangled tiny trike - never to be ridden again. It was meaningful and lacked the political overtones of the war museums that we saw in Hanoi so many years ago.
|The A-Bomb Dome|
|Children's Peace Monument|
|Paper cranes in memory of Sadako|
|Not so peaceful inside...|
|HORDES of school children|
Hiroshima is the home of okonomiyaki says Malcolm. Okonomiyaki is affectionately known as Japanese pancake by the children. It is a varying mixture of cabbage and choice of meat fried in a pancake shape and topped with aonori (seaweed flakes), katsuobushi (bonito flakes), pickled ginger and okonomiyaki sauce (don't ask me what is in it!). In Hiroshima, the ingredients appear to be layered rather than mixed. Being okonomiyaki lovers, visiting Okonomi-mura, a 5 story building dedicated to okonomiyaki, was an absolute must! The building itself was very disappointing, the brochure described it as a "food theme park". Er....no. It was just a non-descript building with many floors of small okonomiyaki stalls. The okonomiyaki that we had though was delicious. We had not had one with udon and soba in it before.
|The best looking part of the building...|
|Many tiny stalls like this one|
|Built in layers with noodles in the middle!|
|Ingredients added on|
|Then an egg placed on the hot plate and the okonomiyaki flipped over|
As we were right in downtown, we attempted to find a camera store. I accidentally dropped my camera and shattered my polariser, lens cap, lens hood as well as damaging my zoom lens. Sigh...in the end we decided to leave the camera gear hunt until we reach Kyoto and enjoy the rest of our day. We allowed the children to pick something from Daiso's confectionery section as a treat for their endurance and that they could take turns at all the different places we visited. Elliot succumbed to the overwhelming choice, panicked and asked his siblings to go first and pick while he had a think!
|Hondori Shopping street yeah!|
We caught the loop bus back to the Hiroshima Sheraton which was right next to JR Hiroshima Station. We scored a good deal 6 months out including breakfast though it was non-refundable. Turned out to be a good move as the dollar dropped against the yen. As we approached the check in desk, a staff member sprinted to be at the desk before we could make it there. Check in was quick and she proceeded to walk us to the lift and bowed to us as the lift doors closed. Young Jonah was mighty please and remarked "I love this! I feel like a King!". Yup don't get used to it buddy! All joking aside, it was bliss to have space across 2 rooms as well as to enjoy the luxury of king beds.
|The 2 children got their own room!|
|The view of sprawling Hiroshima Station from our room|