For our next trip, getting the most out of our JR passes, we headed far to the south, our destination for a nights stay was Hiroshima. We managed to book (not by choice) very early tickets on the shinkansen with a planned stop in Himeji, as we were forced to get an earlier train than we planned with got to Himeji castle just after it opened. This turned out to be very good luck, Himeji was busy! Several tour buses arrived as the castle grounds opened and hundreds piled out. It was a rainy day so everyone also held an umbrella, getting around and photo taking was a challenge!
Nevertheless Himeji castle was spectacular. Along with Matsumoto castle, Himeji is the most renown of castles. Again Himeji is an original castle, and is known as the white heron castle due to the beautiful white washed walls. The grounds are also enormous, we thought our 3 hour break in Himeji was ample but you could actually spend much longer here. After exploring the inside of the castle (no shoes allowed) we walked through the grounds before heading back to the shinkansen at 12 for the last part of the journey to Hiroshima.
Here we had booked one night in an APA hotel just by the station, really convenient for catching the shinkansen. We booked in at around 3 and after dropping our stuff off walked to the A-bomb dome.
Somehow, after being in Japan three times previously, I had never made the journey to Hiroshima. It was an experience I believe every visitor to Japan should experience, to see first hand how mankind can kill so many without remorse. The messages here are very apt, especially in today’s political climate.
After visiting the dome itself we went into the museum, which was currently under a reshuffle. However, the main part of the museum was still open. It was really harrowing to see display after display of blood stained children’s clothes, warped tiles, decimated buildings and the hair and nails of those who got rapidly sick and died in agony.
Coming out of the museum we visited the cenotaph and took a moment to remember. After dinner, with only a day in the area tomorrow, we visited the castle after dark.
Hiroshima castle is, obviously, a reconstruction. The castle had survived but was destroyed in the atomic bombing in 1945. The castle grounds are very close to the epicenter of the blast and serves as a museum to the history of Hiroshima. In the grounds there still stand trees with have withstood the radiation and continued to grow. The castle is beautiful, the brown wood and white plaster make for a lovely scene, and you can’t beat a reflection of a castle in a moat!
The Atomic Bomb dome is also lit and night and gives the area an eerie feel.