Japan Trip Report: Miyajima & Hiroshima

Okay seriously… where did December go and how is it 2013? I must sound like a broken record. I say this every year!

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone! Outside of being sick for the past week, Rob, Diesel and I had a fantastic holiday — we spent lots of time with wonderful friends & family, ate lots of nommy food, and were spoiled with presents. Thought I’d share a couple of pics from our holiday —

At my happy place Disneyland with my new favorite character Duffy.

And a family pic before we headed to my cousin’s house on Christmas Eve. 🙂

I knew it would take me AGES to write up all the Japan entries I want to share. I’m so slow! Here’s another installment — this time our day trip to Miyajima Island and Hiroshima.

Saturday, 11/10

This was going to be a loooong day. We were heading about 225+ miles west. BUT we were traveling on the shinkansen (otherwise known as the bullet train). I was ridiculously excited!

Here’s a shinkansen approaching Kyoto station. So sleek!

Here’s a glimpse of the interior of the train. I absolutely LOVED it. It was so easy. No need to deal with security. Trains leave and depart on schedule. And there was so much space and legroom around the seats! It was so great.

We got a view of the countryside on the way. The train was going so fast — this was the least blurry picture I managed to take.

After about an hour and 45 minutes on the shinkansen, we got off at the Hiroshima station and transferred to a JR local train that was PACKED (we were crammed in the train like sardines — so no picture of that). It seemed like all the locals were heading to Miyajima too! From the Miyajima station, we had to take one more mode of transportation to get to the island…

The ferry! There’s a few different companies that operate ferries to the island but since we had the JR Rail Pass, we took the JR ferry since it was free of charge to passholders. So convenient.

Our first glimpse of the famous torii gate in the water.

Wild deer are EVERYWHERE on the island. They’re used to people and some of them even approach and follow you around!

Like this one. HAHA.

We decided to follow the main drag towards the Itsukushima Shrine. We weren’t planning to go inside but wanted to get a closer look at the torii gate.

The path is lined with lots of shops and food stands.

Approaching the torii gate. It was low tide so people were able to walk right up to it. I wanted to go down and join all of them but it was SUPER muddy. So Rob & I decided to stay on higher ground to protect our shoes. LOL.

Looking away from the torii gate and towards the shrine itself.

The entrance to the shrine.

And finally a picture of us!

From the shrine, we walked down the shopping street and decided to snack from the various food stands rather than having a sit-down lunch. We picked up oysters (an island specialty) and meat on a stick (I think this was pork belly). Sooooo GOOD.

There were other things to do on the island such as taking the ropeway up Mount Misen to see the monkeys or visiting the aquarium but since we also wanted to visit Hiroshima before heading back to Kyoto, we decided to save the other sights for our next visit to Japan (whenever that may be). 😉

It would have been free for us to take the local JR train back to Hiroshima but I LOVE water transportation so we took a ferry! It was also faster since the ferry takes you directly to the Peace Memorial Park whereas with the train, you’d still have to take a tram from the station to the sights. Anyway, the ferry! Isn’t it cute?!

And inside the ferry. It’s not really a formal narrated tour but the guide pointed out random things along the way. He actually thought we were Japanese so he didn’t bother translating for us at first. When he realized I was just nodding without understanding, he quickly did his best to translate to English for us. He was the sweetest!

The 45 minute ferry ride took us directly to the Peace Memorial Park and from the debarkation point, you immediately get a glimpse of the A-Bomb Dome. But first, we decided to visit the museum so headed over the pedestrian bridge in that direction.

The first monument that you see is the Children’s Peace Monument, which is dedicated to the children who died as a result of the bombing. The statue depicts a victim, Sadako Sasaki, who believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes, she would be cured. Her story is told in the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Surrounding the monument are paper cranes folded by school children and displayed in the glass cases.

As we continued on to the museum, we approached the Peace Flame and the Cenotaph.

The Cenotaph (the rounded arch) holds all the names of the victims and is built to perfectly align with both the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome. Being in Hiroshima was an incredibly haunting and sobering experience.

From here we spent some time in the Peace Memorial Museum (the entrance seen behind Rob above). I didn’t take many pictures in here — it almost felt wrong to do so since there were many artifacts (such as victims’ possessions) and simulated displays showing the city before and after the bomb.

After some time, we walked back over the bridge to get a closer look at the A-Bomb Dome, which is the preserved ruins of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall.

We took the tram back to Hiroshima station where we found a bunch of food and snack stands outside.

We picked up some mochi and donuts. YUM!

We should have booked return tickets to Kyoto immediately upon arrival earlier in the day – because we didn’t, we had to wait about 3.5+ hours to get seats on the train. D’oh! So beware, shinkansen tickets definitely get sold out so book as early as you can.

While waiting, we decided to grab dinner at the train station on the floor with all the okonomiyaki restaurants. Okonomiyaki is a Hiroshima specialty and is a savory pancake with a variety of ingredients — ours had egg, cabbage, pork, udon noodles and sauce. It was super filling and oh so good. Again, I just love the convenience of the train stations in Japan. They have everything you need! Clothing stores, restaurants, souvenir stands, drugstores — you name it.

This is an example of the signage found at most major train stations. Loved that it was so easy to read — perfect for us tourists.

Because of the sheer number of people riding the trains (and really in Japan in general), they had guide lines on the ground to show you how to properly line up for boarding. Here’s Rob demonstrating how to do so. LOL.

Another few hours on the train and a taxi ride back to the hotel, we crashed. It was another successful day touring a beautiful country!

Up next: Day Trip to Nara.

For more pics, check our Flickr here.