Japan isn’t just Tokyo. There are many other wondrous and fascinating places to visit. Once such place is Hiroshima. I went there for the first time earlier this year and experienced wandering deer, tasty micro-brews, handy trams, Japanese “omelettes”, and horrifying sadness.
What A Ferry Nice Day!
Following the four-hour Shinkansen trip from Tokyo I was happy to find a warm climate awaiting in Hiroshima. This was in March and where I live up North, March is still ski-season. After checking in to the hotel I immediately set about making my way to one of the city’s most legendary sights – Miyajima.
Miyajima is an island to the south-west of Hiroshima city. You’ll need a ferry to reach it, and there are a couple of ports in the city. I hopped on a train and was at Miyajimaguchi station in less than half an hour. It was plain to see that the area surrounding the station had been designed in such a way as to funnel tourists safely and efficiently to the ferry port. There were arrows painted on the pavement and underground walkways to bypass traffic. There were also massive signs by the port entrance essentially saying ”FERRIES OVER ‘ERE!!”
The ferry ride only lasted a half hour or so but it allowed for a nice distant view of the island’s most iconic landmark – The Great Torii Gate of Itsukushima Shrine.
Buddhas and Deers and Beers, Oh My!
Following ferry disembarkation I set foot onto the majestic fragment of Japanese historical culture and the first words to slip from my awe-struck mouth were
Why are there so many fookin’ deerses?
Of course, if I’d done even a smidgen of research before going to this incredibly famous place I might have picked up on the fact that deer wander about freely. In fact it’s one of the key aspects of 90% of photos taken there. They amble around like old folks in a retirement home, unsure of what to do with themselves. Some badger tourists for snacks with cute posturing and nose nuzzling. Others treat the visiting horde with an affluent nonchalance befitting someone who’s seen it all before.
My primary interest was in going up Mount Misen which dominated the island’s landscape. I fancied a hike but I didn’t want a hike. So, I followed signs pointing to a Ropeway/Gondola system that takes visitors closer to the summit. Like heart, liver and lungs shoved into a sheep’s stomach, myself and my fellow Riders Of Gondola spent a sweaty twenty minutes suspended above the earth in that metallic haggis. The moderate speed of our floating delicacy allowed plenty of time to soak in the resplendent view.
A trail lead up and around the peak which included a handful of shrines. In addition there was an assortment of tiny Buddha statues dotted along the path. Each one sported a different expression, pose or accessory.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
At the summit there was a stumpy tower that gave selfie-takers ample room to match their mug to a sweeping backdrop.
Having arrived in Hiroshima in the afternoon I only had a short window in which to explore Miyajima’s many wonders. I took the same sky-haggis route back to the bottom and promptly made my way to the famous temple of Itsukushima. It cost money to go in and considering the amount of time I had left on the island I didn’t think it was worth it. I was, however, able to get a few pics of The Great Torii gate along with the other snap-happy tourists.
Next I went through the souvenir district to pick up a couple of novelty trinkets. I did a double-take as I passed by a beer garden. Within they were serving some locally brewed ales. My wallet was in my hand before I’d even read the names. (Yeh, that’s right; I’m not willing to put money into seeing a historical landmark but when a beer pops up I can’t get the cash out fast enough …)
A Tram-tastic Time In Hiroshima
After returning to Hiroshima Central Station I hopped on to a tram to go and meet a friend. Hiroshima has the longest tram system in Japan. Its Japanese name is Hiroshima Dentetsu Kabushiki-gaisha, or “Hiroden” for short. You can pay when getting off the tram at a payment machine which accepts cash or a travel card such as the PASPY (similar to the Suica).
I was lucky to find a seat as after a couple of stops things became a bit cramped. At one point I saw an old lady standing in front of me so I immediately leaped up and offered her my seat. But, as she started shuffling towards the seat a young-ish boy zipped in-between the narrow gaps of thronged people to nab the space. The old woman stopped in her tracks. I was shell-shocked, my jaw left dangling in the wind. I half expected things to kick off but instead the old dear simply recovered calmly and grabbed on to a hand-rail. I was still stunned for a few minutes, wondering if I should berate the young whippersnapper for not respecting his elders. Eventually I opted to let it be as the lady didn’t seem to care much (and I was pretty sure the kid could’ve beaten me up …)
After a long drunken night of frenzied bar-hoping I bid my friend goodnight and collapsed onto my hotel bed. I would be returning home the next day, but not before learning a bit more about the event which burned the name Hiroshima into the consciousness of the world.
“Burned” is right. Atomically burned.
Have you ever been to Miyajima? Care to share your deer selfie?
Thanks for reading. More tales from Hiroshima coming soon. But this isn’t the only Japanese island I’ve visited …