Miyajima Island

Next stop on our whistle stop tour is Itsukushima, also known as Miyajima, a small island in Hiroshima Bay.

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We hopped on the JR ferry for the short trip across the bay to the island. You can get a ticket as part of the Japan Rail Pass so bonus for us!

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Just offshore, a giant, orange Grand Torii Gate stands and marks the entrance to the 12th century Itsukushima Shrine.

The Torii gate here is ranked as one of Japan’s three best views.

 

Sadly for us it’s a) a bit misty and b) being repaired so has rather unsightly scaffolding spoiling it a bit!

As well as the Torri gate, the island is also well know for its tame deer that wander the streets.

These delicate little creatures are almost totally dependant on tourists for food.

This means that they are not only fearless, but also quite persistent . .  I nearly lost our guide book to one very nibbley specimen!

Man versus spindly legged beast, it’s a tense standoff!

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A bit of general knowledge about the impressive red gate that is the symbol of the island now.

The great Torii gate is the boundary between the spirit and the human worlds.
The first Otorii of Itsukushima Shrine was constructed in 1168 and was built about 200 meters offshore.

The base of the great Torii is not buried deep in the seabed, but stands by its own weight.

The sun and the moon are painted on the east and the west of the Otorii roof. Because the northeasterly direction is considered to be the demon’s gate in Feng Shui, the painted sun is said to block this demon’s gate.

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The gate is a brilliant red pigment known as vermilion and originally made from the powdered mineral cinnabar.

This vermilion colour is considered to keep evil spirits away.

Next up we visit the beautiful ‘floating’ Itsukushima Shrine. Retaining the purity of the shrine is so important that since 1878, no deaths or births have been permitted near it.

Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle (広島城 ) was built in the 1590s, but was destroyed by the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945.

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It was rebuilt in 1958 and now serves as a museum of Hiroshima’s history before World War II.

Mōri Terumoto, one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s council of Five Elders, built the castle between 1589 and 1599.

It was located on the delta of the Otagawa river. There was no Hiroshima city at the time, instead the area was called Gokamura, meaning “five villages”

From 1591, Mōri governed nine provinces from this castle, including much of what is now Shimane, Yamaguchi, Tottori, Okayama and Hiroshima Prefectures.

Of course, we’re making a bee line for the costumes! Visitors can dress up as a wartime samurai, complete with a samurai helmet. Samurai Gibbs reporting for action!

I get in on the dressing up action as a Japanese princess and this lovely lady helped me make sure I was kitted up correctly.

Here we make the perfect Japanese Royal couple! Although it did take a lot of trussing up to get us there!

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Within the castle walls, three trees survived the atomic bombing: a eucalyptus and a willow at approximately 740m from the hypocenter, and a holly approximately 910m from the hypocenter.

The man manages to magically locate bicycles using his wheely third senses!

Hiroshima by night

AKA endless shopping pictures from the mecca of department stores – Don Quijote.

Night falls in Hiroshima and casts new shadows on the brooding A dome. Still ominous and dominating the riverside vista after 70 years.

But the horrors of history are not the whole story of Hiroshima, it’s vibrant and bustling with a neon night life just like any other Japanese city.

Here’s a beautiful dark wood sake bar, the man attempts to make off with a vintage ride.

And joy of joys . . we have our first CERK – Close Encounter of the Robot Kind!

This adorable little fellow is Pepper! According to his makers he is capable of identifying the principal emotions: joy, sadness, anger or surprise.

He is also capable of interpreting a smile, a frown, your tone of voice, as well as the lexical field you use and non-verbal language such as the angle of your head, for example.

The combination of all this information enables the robot to determine whether his human interlocutor is in a good or a bad mood.

All we know is he is darn cute!!!!!

 

After this heady excitement we swiftly stumble upon another unexpected (and non guide book) treat – Don Quijote, the department store to end all department stores!

It is floor upon floor of consumer delights, from the basement department full of all things snackable and eatable!

This included a mind boggling choices of Kitkat flavours.

There have been more than 300 limited-edition seasonal and regional flavors of Kit Kats produced in Japan since 2000.

These include soy sauce, ginger ale, red potato and vegetable juice!!! I can heartily recommend the strawberry flavour ones . .nom nom.

The snack floor is a cornucopia of mainly unidentifiable, but cute, edibles.

Above are some very tasty Brazilian orange Pocky – this crunchy sweet snack also comes in a wide range of flavours.

Pocky has been a part of Japanese life since 1966 when the Ezaki Glico Company created it. It’s since spread around the world, in fact we first nibbled in them in Thailand back in 2009!

As you head upwards the store then takes a turn for the bizarre with a floor of fancy dress, masks and fake facial hair!

I have no idea what most of these things are but if you can see a little yellow blob being poked by chopsticks below – this is Gudatama! Basically a clinically depressed egg yolk  . .

As well as adorable plastic toys, there’s also a section for . .  rather more grown up plastic toys!! With a certain amount of trepidation we draw back the curtain .. .

My eyes!!!!! Who knew there could be so many whirling, vibrating, horrifically realistic bits of plastic out there!

All in all, we had a spiffing time in what is basically a department store!! *warning – this won’t be the last time that you are treated to us basically faffing around in a shop!*

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Horror and hope

Our next stop is a sombre one – the now infamous town of Hiroshima, forever synonymous with the horrors of the atomic bomb.

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Whenever we travel, we do our best to try and get beneath the surface of a country, to see all sides of it and it’s history. This can sometimes mean uncomfortable, or harrowing viewing.

We did this in Thailand with the Hellfire pass and death railway, in Cambodia with the killing fields and in Poland with the claustrophobic horror of Auschwitz.

While for some people this might seem macabre, or distasteful, we feel that we owe it to the people of each country to try and fully comprehend their histories, for good and bad.

The Atomic Bomb Dome was formerly the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall and is now part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Little Boy was the code name for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.

The Dome was 160 meters from the hypocentre of the atomic blast but because the bomb exploded almost directly overhead, the building kept its distinctive shape.

Everyone inside the building was killed instantly.


66,000 people were killed as a direct result of the Hiroshima blast, and nearly 70,000  were injured to varying degrees.

The dome was controversial, with some locals wanting it torn down, while others wanted to preserve it as a memorial of the bombing and a symbol of peace.

Ultimately, when the reconstruction of Hiroshima began, the skeletal remains of the building were preserved to forever stand testament to the horrors of war.

Close to the A bomb is a statue dedicated to Sadako Sasaki a little girl who was two years old when the bomb was dropped.

Sadako became one of the most widely known hibakusha — a Japanese term meaning “bomb-affected person”.

She is remembered through the story of the one thousand origami cranes she folded before her death, and is to this day a symbol of the innocent victims of nuclear warfare.

Sadako developed leukaemia nine years after the bombing, in a pattern that quickly became apparent as high levels of the illness began to occur as a result of radiation exposure.

Her hospital roommate told Sadako about a Japanese legend that promises that anyone who folds one thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish.

She therefore set out to make 1000 of the cranes in the hope that she would get well but sadly she died aged 12.

To this day people from around the world continue to make beautiful colourful chains of cranes in memory of Sadoko and for the hope of eventual peace on earth.