There are several ways to get from Hiroshima to Miyajima and back. We decided to go over by the new-as-of-August-2016 World Heritage Route boat and return via ferry and train. Both options worked smoothly and there wasn’t a lot of difference in the total time for us. The boat is more expensive, but also more scenic and requires no connections once you board at the Peace Park.
The World Heritage Route boat leaves every 45 minutes starting at 8am from a dock just across the river from the Peace Park by the first bridge just south of the A-Bomb Dome. The cost is 2000 yen per adult, one-way or 3600 yen, round-trip. The boat is enclosed and air-conditioned and drops you off at a dock a short distance from the ferry dock on Miyajima.
Returning to Hiroshima, we decided to try another route. We caught the 10 minute ferry from Miyajima to the “mainland” for the paltry price of 180 yen (approximately $1.80 each). There are two options which cost the same and run side-by-side: the JR Ferry and the Matsudai. Since we weren’t using the JR Pass, we chose the soonest departure which happened to be the Matsudai which isn’t included on the JR Pass.
Back on the main island, we walked left past the bow of the ferry and out of the port area. Then, we crossed the street to the local train station. A quick search on Google indicated that we’d be better off taking a JR train, so we walked a block down the street to the JR terminal. There, we caught a train for Hiroshima (all clearly marked for the platform opposite the station), but got off at Nishi-Hiroshima to catch the 25 bus which stopped nearest our hotel where we’d stored our larger suitcases. (The bus stop is just in front of the train station and the 25 Bus parking slot is at the far end, clearly marked by an overhead sign.) If you want to ride all the way back to Hiroshima Station, just stay on the train. The total for all this travel was around 550 yen ($5.50) each.
There wasn’t all that much on my must-see list in Hiroshima, but what there was meant a lot: the Peace Park and Peace Museum. I also wanted to see Hiroshima Castle, but it’s a simple fact that all pales beside the remembrances of the dropping of the A-bomb on this city.
The park is an easy walk from our hotel, the Japanese business hotel Daiwa Roynet Hiroshima which is part of the Daiwa Roynet chain. It was super-conveniently located to the #1 tram from the train station (a 1-minute walk from the nearest stop), and an easy walk to the Peace Park. It was also just what I had I mind to complement our other Japanese lodgings: We’d done an upscale American chain, a Japanese apartment…now it was time for a typical Japanese hotel.
The Daiwa Roynet Hiroshima did not disappoint: Our welcome could not have been friendlier, although English was minimal. Since the skies had opened up yet again just as we arrived, we were offered two small towels at check-in in addition to those in the room; very handy for drying off ourselves and our luggage. We were also give our choice from a box of amenities including bath salts, a body sponge and various hair bands and clips for women. More amenities awaited–of course–in the room: toothbrush and toothpaste, foldable brushes, pressed night shirts that reach demurely to mid-shins on me, but are much more interesting on David’s 6’3″ frame. Our room is a compact, but well-equipped double-bed space with a fridge and Japanese satellite t.v. (I’m despondent that the sumo tournament has just come to an end! I love following sumo when in Japan and had been watching avidly in Kyoto.)
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum spans the entrance to the Hiroshima Peace Park. It’s a simple, but deeply moving memorial to what the dropping of a nuclear weapon means in human terms. [The museum is 200 yen/adult (appx. $2). The park is free.] Viewing clothing and other personal effects of the victims, along with twisted metal girders and roof tiles; fused glass; preserved biological specimens of scarred tissue, hair and even the finger skin and fingernail of a boy saved by his mother to show his father who had been away; and photo after photo of destruction and horribly burned human bodies left me feeling sick to my stomach. As it should.
When you buy your ticket to the museum, you’re given post cards made from recycled paper cranes that people gift to the museum. You can buy stamps at the museum shop and you’re encouraged to write and share your thoughts after visiting the museum.
Outside the museum, we wandered the park with its many memorials: to children, to Koreans pressed into service by the Japanese, to the tens and tens of thousands of victims. There’s the mound where bodies were cremated as they began to stink in that hot August, and the peace bell, and the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, popularly known as the A-Bomb Dome which was 600m below and 170m to the southeast of the detonation. Everyone inside died and the building is preserved just as it was immediately after the explosion.
Chains of origami cranes at the Childrens’ Memorial
There’s also a Memorial Hall to the dead on the park grounds. Entry is free and there are videos and photos to memorialize the dead. Fountains grace the inside and downstairs of the Hall because so many of the vicims plead for water before they died. Much of the park is intended to offer peace and rest to the souls of the dead.
After the Peace Park, we made our way to Hiroshima Castle. Destroyed in by the A-Bomb, of course, the medieval castle has been charmingly restored and was a fun break from the somberness of the morning. The long defensive building outside the inner moat is free to explore and offers models of the castle as well as photos depicting how a Japanese castle is built. It’s 360 yen to enter the castle itself, but the exhibits of samurai swords, videos, the tower view, and the opportunity to try on samurai armor are all fun and well worth it.
So we leave tomorrow on the trip that inspired me to start this blog: a 77-night ramble through Asia. This trip runs the gamut of lodging, transportation methods, and weather. It’s been a challenge to plan (and a challenge to pack for). We’re excited!
In a (large) nutshell, this trip includes:
Our first trans-Pacific cruise [the Aleutians, northern Japan, Yokohama/Tokyo]
2 weeks in Japan [Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima island (where we’ll stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn), Fukuoka]
a ferry to South Korea [Busan, a Buddhist temple stay, Seoul, the DMZ]
a cruise from Shanghai to Singapore [Okinawa, Hong Kong, Chan May/Hoi An and Phu My/Ho Chin Mihn City, Vietnam]
Singapore and Kuala Lumpur
Siem Reap, Cambodia, to see Angkor Wat
Luang Prabang, Laos
a 2-day open-boat trip up the Mekong with a stop at some to-be-determined-when-we-get-there guesthouse in tiny Pakbeng, Laos
2.5 weeks in Thailand: Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai (a day with elephants and a Thai cooking school), Krabi (scuba diving the Phi Phi islands), the Bridge on the River Kwai at Kanchanaburi, Bangkok
a 1st class mega-flight on Korean Air from Bangkok to Seoul to Dallas (courtesy of airline miles and credit card points, a favorite game of ours)
I’ve tried to anticipate the trickier bits and done an incredible amount of research, but I know there will be things I overlooked or had no way of knowing. There are liable to be things that don’t pan out as we’d hoped (or maybe don’t even pan out at all). It’s the nature of travel, and also part of what makes it exciting and interesting. And besides, I don’t want to plan every moment anyway. I intend to focus on experiencing the trip rather than documenting it, but I’ll blog about it when I can. Hopefully, there will be fun as well as useful info to share…and, no doubt, our portion of clueless-fools-in-a-strange-land moments. Wish us luck!
[We’ll be incommunicado for most of the 16-day Pacific crossing, so other than a possible post in the Aleutians 5 days out, we’ll be in Japan before I do any posting. I know going off-grid is a weird way to start a blog, but that’s the plan.]