Japan 2016 Day 6: Miyajima and Hiroshima

Friday, November 25, 2016

Today we took a long day trip to Hiroshima, making a slight detour to see the Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Miyajima.  This could have easily stretched into several days, but since time is precious, we picked our top sites and crammed it into one day.  Deciding when to go to to Miyajima can be tricky, but looking at the tide schedules, we decided to go to Miyajima first.

Miyajima

After about 1 hour 40 minutes on the train from Kyoto to Hiroshima, we transferred to another train that took us to the ferry terminal, then hopped on the ferry until we arrived at the island of Miyajima.  This took about an hour from the Hiroshima stop.

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On arrival, we were greeted by more deer, which the boys were both surprised and delighted by.  These ones are not fed deer crackers like in Nara, so while they are used to being around people, you really shouldn’t feed or pet them.

The tide was about mid level, so while the main torii gate wasn’t completely “floating,” it also wasn’t at the point where you can walk out to it.

Historically, commoners and women were not allowed to set foot on the island, but fortunately that is no longer the case.  We spent some time wandering the island, walking to the Itsukushima Shrine, which was quite extensive and interesting, and we also got a look at the beautiful five-storied pagoda:

For lunch, I decided to try some of the oysters that this region is famous for.  The fried oyster donburi rice bowl was quite tasty.

Hiroshima

At this point, we took the ferry back to Hiroshima and took the bus to the Atomic Bomb Dome.  This was the building below at the exact center of the blast-

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It was fascinating to learn why it is still standing when everything else around it was turned into complete and utter rubble.  It turns out that the bomb exploded above it, putting a downward pressure that broke the glass, instantly killed the people, and started a fire, but left the frame mostly intact.  Then the blast blew outward, destroying everything in its path.  Next, the air pressure brought the wind back inward, but since it converged at one point and halted the wind, the wind didn’t destroy the building.  Very interesting, although I don’t think the boys were old enough to appreciate the significance of the story.

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At this point, we continued through the various memorials in the Peace Memorial Park.  One had the ashes of 10,000 victims.  Very overwhelming.

This park also contains the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  We were debating whether or not the museum would be too graphic for the boys, but since both of us really wanted to see it, we decided to try it and leave if it was too much.  As it turns out, one of the first displays was the worst and we were too slow to prevent the kids from seeing it.  There was a wax display showing flesh melting off the people’s bodies.  We were even more overwhelmed, and the kids were beyond horrified.  Parenting fail!  We immediately had them look at the ground and shielded their peripheral vision with our hands.

From there, the most gut wrenching displays were mostly above their heads unless they read the text, which I was preventing them from doing.  There were definite exceptions, but they weren’t near as bad as the wax display.  We zoomed through the museum and I tried to see what was coming and had them close their eyes through the worst of it.  Even though we flew through the museum, we did try to read as much as we could.  It was really fascinating and I would love to go back either without kids or when they are older.

The kids really liked the last exhibit that showed that the atom bomb is a pale shadow of what the nuclear bomb can do.  They couldn’t believe that anything could produce a worse blast than what they saw in the museum, and the concept of a bomb that is 3,000+ times worse was completely incomprehensible to them.  John used to tell people that he was going to join the military when he grew up, but this museum was the one that made it real for him and showed him that real battle isn’t what he imagined.  A bit sad to see him disillusioned so young, but this is stuff that you can’t get from a text book.

Today Hiroshima is a thriving metropolis with no more radiation than anywhere else.  Both the story of why there is no significant radiation and how the city was rebuilt are really fascinating.

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When we were done, we decided to go to the vibrant downtown and wandered through the shops.  It was quite fascinating to contemplate the extreme destruction in comparison with the amazing rebuild.

For dinner we decided to get udon noodle soup.  Jeremy particularly likes the ones that are topped with shrimp tempura.  I was more adventurous and enjoyed mine with octopus tempura.  Delicious!

We took the train back to Kyoto and went straight to bed.  It was a long day, but one of the most interesting.

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