Hiroshima

Ahh, such a good sleep. We’ll miss this room! We capped the experience with a proper breakfast delivered to our room at 7am then, leaving our bags, we walked to the other side of the train station and caught a tram to the Atomic Bomb Dome. At 8:15am, the time the bomb dropped on 6 August 1945, we were on the tram probably 200 metres from the hypo centre of the explosion. We both kept a minute’s silence.

The ruins are a striking, iconic sight, in sharp contrast to the resurrected modern city. We walked through the Peace Memorial Park and to the Memorial Museum, getting there just at opening time to beat the crowds.

The museum is undergoing a remodelling, which it needs – like the building itself and the layout of the park, it is a bit dated. A graphic tableau using mannequins seemed particularly unnecessary. The personal items are affecting; there are even body parts, which seem a bit much; but I found the photographs the most upsetting, personally.

After leaving personal messages in the journals provided, we left the museum and wandered the park and the nearby Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, a large cylindrical space with a panoramic image of the devastation made from 140,000 tiles – one for each of the bomb’s victims. We sat there a while with our own thoughts.

We didn’t take many photographs. It’s a depressing pilgrimage but an important one, and I’m glad I went. But it must be hard for those who live in the city, with the place they live and work forever being associated with such tragedy.

After a quick lunch, we got our bags and headed for Himeji on a shinkansen – in the green car this time, though not seated together. A comfortable trip.

Our hotel (the Dormy Inn) is near the station and very neat and comfortable. After night fell we walked the length of the main boulevard north of the station to look at the floodlit Himeji castle, standing out stark and white against the night sky. Then we picked a random restaurant and lucked out – it was a smoky little place with quiet jazz playing and booths, and the tempura and sashimi were excellent.

There’s an excellent top floor onsen which I took advantage of after we’d returned from dinner – soaking in the spa looking up at the night sky and over the city skyline. There were a few other bathers but no one acknowledged anyone else.

Great night. Castle exploring tomorrow morning.

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