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3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Hiroshima - Miya-jima Island


3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Setouchi / Hiroshima - Miya-jima Island - looking round the island

Hiroshima is known throughout the world as a city of world peace, and is also the administrative and economic center of the Chugoku region(the southwestern end of Japan's mainland). The city originated in the second half of the 16th century, when the feudal lord of the time built a castle in a fertile delta that six rivers run through. After this, it thrived as the most important castle town in the Chugoku region. On August 6, 1945 during the Pacific War, the U.S. military dropped the world's first atom bomb, and the city was reduced to ashes. Almost none of the buildings at the time survived. During the postwar reconstruction however, Hiroshima Castle and other historic places were rebuilt.

Hiroshima is also called a "city of water". Lots of rivers flow through the city, and different parts of town are connected by numerous bridges. First, we are going from the traffic circle in front of the south exit of JR Hiroshima Station to Kyobashi-kawa River. We will go over this via Sakae Bridge, and head for Shukkeien Garden, which has been designated as one of the nation's great sights. Shukkeien Garden is a feudal lord's garden built in the 17th century. As its name "Shrunk View" implies, it was constructed as a miniature version of the famous scenery at West Lake in China. Daimyo gardens were built by feudal lords after the 16th century, and in the 17th and 18th centuries, when there were hardly any wars in Japan, they became something of a boom among the aristocracy and ruling classes. These gardens used to compete in elegance, arranging ponds and rocks, and building teahouses. Shukkeien Garden is no exception, and was designed with various kinds of elaborate contrivance.

In the middle of the park is a large pond called Takueichi, which you can walk around, enjoying the changes in scenery. There are over 10 islands of different sizes in the pond, as well as teahouses, gorges and huts made of just columns and roofs where people can sit and look at the view. Kokyokyo-hashi Bridge, a stone bridge in the middle of the pond, is in the shape of an arch and has a modern look. There are also lots of smaller arched bridges, and a stone lantern built in the image of Yang-kuei-fei, the legendary Chinese beauty. You can enjoy a different view with every pace you walk, making the garden like a theater. Flower viewing tea parties are also held in the garden so that people can enjoy the different kinds of beauty on display there - plum and cherry blossoms and peonies in spring, and the golden leaves in autumn.

In the west of Shukkeien Garden stands the castle tower of Hiroshima Castle, which is famous as one of Japan's great castles. This castle was built in the latter half of the 16th century, but was destroyed by the atom bomb. The current structure was built in 1958 based on the original model. The castle tower has five floors, and has been opened as a museum. The top floor is an observation room. Cherry trees and azaleas grow around the moat, and Hiroshima Castle in spring with the cherry blossoms in full bloom is a beautiful sight.

Just to the south of Hiroshima Castle is Hiroshima Art Gallery, which has a collection of modern art from Japan and overseas. In the main round building, over 90 Western paintings are displayed according to period, from the 19th century romantics to the Ecole de Paris in the early 20th century. Almost all the paintings are first-rate works by famous artists, including Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, van Gogh and Picasso. Looking at these works of art, you can get a feel for the state of the world and peoples' emotions in that era. The annex contains a collection of modern Japanese art from the 19th century to the present day.

If you go one block south of Hiroshima Art Gallery, you come to Kamiyacho, Hiroshima's main entertainment district. This neighborhood is full of department stores and boutiques, and we are going to eat lunch there. Hiroshima is world famous for its oysters, which have been cultivated there for about 350 years. In winter, when they are in season, you can try all sorts of oyster dishes.

The dish we ate today is another Hiroshima specialty called "okonomi-yaki". This is a Japanese-style pancake made with flour, and is popular. It contains lots of cabbage, as well as any types of meat, seafood and noodles that you like. You eat it with a sweet and sour sauce on top. The restaurant staff cook the okonomi-yaki with great skill on a large iron plate, and it is quite a performance. The fragrant smell arouses one's appetite.

As we walk west from Kamiyacho in the direction of Ota-gawa River, we can see the atom bomb dome, which is listed as a World Cultural Heritage site. On August 6, 1945, the first atom bomb dropped in the history of mankind exploded 600 m above this dome. The reinforced concrete dome was stripped bare by the blast, and it is suffering further damage with the passage of time. So far it has been repaired twice, with the money both times coming from charitable donations in Japan and overseas.

We have now crossed the T-shaped Aioi -bashi and come to the Heiwa Kinen Koen - Peace Memorial Park. This is at the northernmost point of bar in Ota-gawa River. This park is thick with trees and has footpaths. It was at the center of the blast, and is the site for the annual Peace Memorial Service on August 6. The "light of peace" flame that burns red here was lit on August 1, 1965, and symbolizes peoples' desire for peace. The stone arch in the center of the park is a memorial to the souls of the blast's victims, and the stone hut under the arch contains a list of the names of those who died.

Next to the Peace Memorial Park is the Peace Memorial Museum, a two-story Takayuka-style reinforced concrete building, which looks rectangular from the outside. Inside, various documents and articles left by the deceased are on display. There is a bottle that has been twisted like limp clay, stone steps on which the shadow of a person has been burnt, white walls with radioactive "black rain" on them, and other articles that tell the story of how gruesome the bombing was.

After the Peace Memorial Park, we are heading for another World Heritage Site, Miya-jima Island. We will take a train on the Sanyo Honsen Line from JR Hiroshima Station to Miyajima-guchi Station, then get on a steamboat for Miya-jima Island at the wharf. As the boat draws near to the island, we begin to see the large red shrine gateway standing in the middle of the sea. This is the 16 m high large shrine gateway of Itsukushima-jinja Shrine, which is both a National Treasure and a World Cultural Heritage Site. When we arrive at the shrine, it will already be after dark, so we cannot go round it. But the lanterns along the pathway, the large shrine gateway and Itsukushima-jinja Shrine itself are lit up, so we can see the magical sight of those lights reflected on the water surface.