Adventures of Jacqui and Paul
Our journey to our hotel in Hiroshima was another streamlined wonder of Japanese efficiency and for once there were no wrong turns, no going left when needing to go right or anything like that. The hotel was pretty good, and I was glad for the sake of my continued existence in this world that breakfast was included in the price, so that was yet another plus. The best thing about the hotel was it's location; it was a five minute walk from the peace park, and so we made this our first stop. The A-Bomb dome itself is over the river from the peace park, and we wandered around it, took some photos and read all the information about it before going to the park itself. The dome is still an incredibly eerie place, simply because it is exactly as it was immediately after the bomb detonated. Even the rubble in it's immediate surroundings hasn't been touched. Apparently the reason it still stood after the bombing was because the bomb itself detonated almost directly above it, spreading the bulk of the energy of the blast elsewhere. Anyway, we then strolled around the peace park, which is by nature a fairly sombre place, but it's also tactfully presented and each of the memorials are powerful reminders of the horrors of war. Especially moving was the children's memorial, which was surrounded by a display of thousands of paper cranes donated by people all over the world. Apparently this was inspired by a young girl who was a baby at the time of the bombing and who developed leukaemia several years later, and believed that if she could make 1000 paper cranes then she would be cured. She died before reaching her goal and her classmates finished her work for her. The peace park museum was as harrowing as it was moving, as some of the displays included the stained and withered clothes of some of the bombs victims, as well as their hair and even skin. I'm not entirely convinced that a lot of that stuff wasn't included in the displays because of their shock value, but then again considering the anti-nuclear weapons theme of the place perhaps it was decided that shocking people was the best way to get them to take notice. One of the most effective parts of the museum was, in my opinion, the wall displaying letters of protest written by each successive mayor of Hiroshima about every nuclear test carried out since 1945. The peace park and the A-Bomb dome are incredible places which I think everybody should see if given the chance, and are definite highlights of our travels so far. We took advantage of our proximity to Miyajima to visit the temple there, as well as the famous "floating" gate. After stepping off the ferry the first sight we were treated to was that of a deer chasing a woman who had tried to feed it and walk away still holding some food. It quickly became apparent that the place was infested with them, and the Island is covered in signs warning against agitating deer with antlers. It was clear that these were not animals to be trifled with, as they had large appetites, no fear of man and lethal weapons protruding from their heads, and so were probably best left alone. Jacqui wanted to feed them, of course, and the fact that she was constantly fleeing from deer wanting more food than she had to offer was the main reason we managed to cover the distance from the ferry to the temple in such a short space of time. My amusement at this was short lived, however, as one of the rascals successfully blindsided me and ate my guide map from out of my pocket. After wandering around the temple, which was itself very picturesque due to its construction on a pier rather than on land, and taking plenty of photos of the floating gate we decided to explore the island a bit more and get the cable car up to the park on the hills. Here there were warning signs all over the place about monkeys and how you shouldn't look at them, but in the end we didn't see any at all. It wasn't a wasted trip however, as the views of the island were breathtaking and the park had several small temples and shrines dotted around that were worth taking photos of. On our final day we took the train to Beppu to see the hot springs (or "Hells"). They weren't amazing, but we couldn't come to Japan without seeing some hot springs and this was our only real chance. The "Sea Hell" was good, as it was a huge sky-blue pool of boiling water surrounded by plumes of sulphur gas which stank of dead eggs but looked impressive. We also saw a few bubbling mud pools and another large pool that was supposed to be the colour of blood, but looked more like a big, shallow puddle. We also tried out one of the naturally heated baths (or "Onsens"), but neither of us could stay in it long as it was HOT. I'm all for a hot bath, and obviously gave it large after stepping into it for the first time ("it's not that hot at all" I believe were my words), but my bravado failed five minutes later and I bottled it. So it was kind of a waste of money in the end, as we had the thing booked for an hour. On our way back to the train station we were treated to the wonderful view of Beppu's seaside. I don't know if there are many decent beaches on any of Japan's main islands but if there is, this isn't one of them. Anyway, overall our time in Hiroshima was excellent, as not only is the city itself a great place, it's also in a good position to be used as a base to see other places in the area. Unfortunately though, we now have to go back to Osaka. Great.