22 hour flight, 4 hour layover and a 6 hour train ride later, I finally arrived in Hiroshima from New York. This was the longest journey I had ever taken. Why did I do this to myself? Why didn’t I just start my trip in Tokyo? Because…
Miyajima has been on my bucket list for years and
I bought a one week Japan Rail Pass so, logistically, it made the most sense to travel from city to city before anchoring down in Tokyo.
"Dang babe - you look bad."
That was the first thing my boyfriend said to me as soon as we landed in Tokyo. He's a keeper. (Insert sarcasm) It seems like men don't get worn the way women do after a long flight. Granted, I did just travel for 26 straight hours without a wink of proper sleep. The trek still wasn't over yet. I had another 6 hour train ride from Tokyo to Hiroshima.
The plan was to work my way back up to Tokyo from Hiroshima via the Japan Rail. While Hiroshima may be the largest city in the Chugoku region, two days is plenty to see the city - one day to visit Hiroshima Castle and Hiroshima Peace Park and another day to see Miyajima, the island of gods and free roaming deers.
As with many things in Hiroshima, this city rebuilt itself after the devastation of the atomic bomb during World War II. This includes the Hiroshima Castle, also known as Carp Castle. It was home to the Fukushima family and later the Asano family during the Edo era. After restorations, the castle was turned into a history museum showcasing Samurai culture.
Most castles in Japan are up high on hills or mountains to protect it against attacks. However, the Hiroshima Castle was built in the center of the city on flat land. As a first line of defense, the castle compound is surrounded by a moat, a deep ditch filled with water and carps. Hence the nickname, Carp Castle. If you visit in October, the annual International Food festival is held around the castle moat.
Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine
The Gokoku Shrine is one of the most popular places to celebrate Hatsumode, the first Shinto shrine visit of the Japanese New Year, and Shichi-Go-San, a traditional rite of passage for 3 and 7 year old girls and 3 and 5 year old boys. It occurs every year on November 15 to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children.
The original shrine was built in 1869 in Futabanosato. In 1934, it was moved to where the Municipal Stadium now stands. After being destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945, it was rebuilt on the castle grounds in 1965 with donations from local citizens.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park & The Atomic Dome
You cannot visit Hiroshima without making a trip to the Peace Memorial Park and the Atomic Dome. The park was established to commemorate the victims of the atomic bomb and as a symbol for world peace. The location of the park was once the city’s busiest downtown commercial and residential neighborhood. Sadly, it was flattened by the atomic explosion.
Across the water from the park is the Atomic Dome. It is a World Heritage Site and one of the few structures left unrepaired after the bombing to remind the world of the atrocity that occurred that day.
next stop: Miyajima
This is heavy stuff to start a trip with so if you're looking to lighten up the mood after this somber visit, head to Miyajima to see the great torii gate. It's only an hour away from Hiroshima via train and ferry.