Haunting Hiroshima and Mystical Miyajima Island

Thanks to Japan’s awesomely efficient railways, we were able to travel from Kyoto to Hiroshima, with a stop at Miyajima Island, within a single day (we got home just in time for dinner at Matsuontoko, too!)

And, with our ever-so-handy JR Passes, we were able to hop onto a Shinkansen train straight down to Hiroshima; I think the trip took a bit over two hours.  Once we arrived at Hiroshima Station, we had to hop on a tram to get into the city center.  The tram system gave Hiroshima such an antiquated feel, it really felt like stepping back in time.  I wasn’t really expecting to have a ‘fun’ day out in Hiroshima…I mean, can you really say that you had a great day out observing the remnants of one of the most devastating and inhumane acts of war in  human history?

The tram stop for the A-Bomb Dome literally drops you off right in front of it.  There were definitely shivers coursing through my body as we walked up to it.  Situated under the shade of mossy green trees, next to a shimmering canal, and underneath those beautiful, blue skies, it just looked so out of place.  The entire building was filled with piles of rubble, and the steel frames were bent out in all directions.  The only visible modifications to the building were the streaks of white plaster keeping it structurally sound.

The A-Bomb Dome is situated in what is now Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, which also includes a grass-covered mound housing the ashes of 70,000 of the 140,000 victims of the atomic bomb.  Despite the beautiful weather, with butterflies floating through the treetops and birds singing, walking through this park was a truly sobering experience.

The A-Bomb Dome was the only standing building left in the hypocenter of the bomb’s explosion, and it could have easily been demolished and swept away with the rest of the rubble surrounding it; however, it now stands as a monument for peace, and its haunting sight truly does force you to reflect on the horrors mankind has inflicted upon itself and on the Earth.

This Jizo statue sits just across the street from the A-Bomb Dome; the commemorative plaque above it reads: “The Atom Bomb struck Jizoson.  The pedestal has Jizoson’s shadow on its face.”  The areas of the statue which the atom bomb affected are smooth and darkened, while the rest of the statue feels rougher.  The fact that this Jizo statue survived the bombing is especially poignant, because Jizo statues are traditionally used to protect the weak, and children (they are always clad in red caps and aprons.)

From here, we walked on through the Peace Memorial Park, and came to the Peace Memorial Museum.  I don’t think photography was allowed inside the museum, but I would have felt uncomfortable photographing it anyway.  The ground floor of the museum contains detailed photographs and dioramas of Hiroshima before and after the bombing, information on how and why the bomb was created, and a life-size replica of the rounded dome of the A-Bomb Building.  Walk upstairs and you’ll find information on atomic weapon development around the world.  Eventually, the museum shifts from beige walls covered in photos and writing to crumbling brick walls illuminated by neon red lights, replicating Hiroshima immediately after the dropping of the bomb.  The most shocking part of this portion of the museum is a life-sized display of school children emerging from crumbled rubble with their skin dripping from their hands, illuminated red by the neon lights.  Scattered throughout the museum are artifacts recovered from various sites around the city, including bubbled and warped pieces of buildings, melted fragments of bottles, coins, and human bones, a child’s school uniform, and a blackened tricycle and helmet.  The sign accompanying the tricycle explained that it had belonged to a three-year-old boy, Shin, who was outside his house riding the tricycle when the bomb was dropped.  His father buried him, along with the tricycle, in his backyard, before exhuming his son’s remains forty years later, and deciding to donate the tricycle to the museum.  The main focus of the museum is promoting global peace, and working to ensure that there are “No More Hiroshimas.”

We walked to a nearby JR station, and used our JR passes to hop on a train to Miyajimaguchi Station.  From there, we were able to use our JR passes again to get onto a ferry to Miyajima Island!  I still can’t get over how awesome JR Passes are.

I miss those big, beautiful blue skies!

Miyajima Island is known as Shrine Island for a very good reason: just look at the size of that torii gate!

The ‘floating’ torii gate was first constructed in 1168, though this current gate is the 8th one that’s been built.  The gate is made completely of wood and stands upright solely by its own weight.

During high tide, the gate looks like it’s floating on the surface of the water.  I was a little bit bummed that we arrived around low tide, but it was still an impressive sight.

The receding water also meant that Eoin could get up close and personal with the gate…while I hung back on the beach…in the shade.  Did I mention how hot it was on this trip?!

Check out all those barnacles!

Lil’ crab dude.

The entirety of Miyajima is covered in Shinto Buddhist shrines, so this great torii gate acts as protection against evil spirits for the whole island.  But there are also some other divine entities roaming around…

Yup!  Just like my most favorite place on Earth, Nara, Miyajima is also covered in beautiful wild deer!

These deer were every bit as friendly as the ones in Nara; they are just the sweetest creatures, and really made Miyajima even more magical than it already felt!

Miyajima is covered in forests, with the sacred Misen Mountain at its center.  Japanese macaques also live in the forests, though I guess they aren’t as brave as the deer.  I would have LOVED to have hiked up into the forests, but man, the weather was just way too toasty.  I think this place would be spectacular in the Autumn; I just gotta come back!

These stags LOVED getting their antlers scratched.  No sooner had I stretched out my arm than this guy started rubbing his head all over me like crazy, he seriously nearly knocked me over!  I was laughing way too much to care, though.

They were also nuts for paper.  I saw a doe steal a paper cup out of the back of a guy’s wheelchair, a young buck nab a map from an old lady’s purse, and another doe grabbed a pack of wet wipes out of a lady’s bag!  We saw another stag actually try to fight this guy over that piece of newspaper.  One piece of newspaper.  Seriously, paper CANNOT be THAT tasty.

We loved you, Miyajima, we’ll be back again soon!



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