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7 July 2008

Our trip to Hiroshima for 486 km took two hours by shinkansen. This was really fast, we took a breakfast from Kyoto station (several shops, last option for sandwiches is directly before Shinkansen track). We had a breakfast in train and enjoyed the ride. You can not really look outside the window, but you can read the book if one is with you. We used the time in train mostly for reading.

Our first destination was Miyajima floating temple. We got the directions from tourist info conveniently before the exit from Hiroshima Station - JR train ride for 20 minutes, then a ferry for 10 minutes across a small bay and we were on the island of Miyajima. Miyajima is very beautiful island and somewhat different from other places we visited in Japan. First, on the island there are very few cars. Also, people here walk slower. The deers, from an other hand are remarkably tame, first two we saw ate newspapers. Lonely Planet suggested to be careful with rail passes.

The most famous spot on the island is Itsukushima-Jinja - the floating shrine. It does not actually float, it is next to the shore and when the tide comes in, it looks like it is floating. This shrine is constructed like a pier. The reason for such construction is that commoners were not allowed to set foot on the island and they should approach the shrine by boat. The view of the floating tori (a gate to the shrine) is one of the most photographed views in Japan.
Floating torii

We spent most of our time on Miyajima island just walking around. The markets were full of local goods and oysters. We had a delicious lunch in oyster Restaurant Yakugaki Na Hayashi. Oysters were served raw or baked, we tried oyster soup and baked oysters. It was new and pleasant experience, we would suggest visit the place if you like oysters.

Next we headed to Hiroshima city center to see the A-bomb dome, the peace memorial park and the museum. We started with the A-bomb dome although for others we would suggest starting from the museum. The A-bomb dome was very touching. It really brought back the absolute devastation of the entire city. This building was preserved as it was one of the only ones left standing after the bomb hit.

We walked through the Peace Memorial Park. Local school children stopped us to ask 10 questions. It seemed that they worked hard on the project, how rise the awareness on the atomic bombing. After walking around the A-Bomb Dome we went to the Children’s Memorial that was built for the children who died because of the bomb. This is the area where the paper cranes are hung as a symbol for peace.

And finally we reached Peace Memorial Museum. The A-Bomb Museum narrated the preceding events, during and after atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.

The whole exhibition is unbelievably touching and made us feel a whole range of emotions as we moved through it. The museum is incredibly well balanced in its presentation of the events leading up to and beyond the dropping of the bomb and our understanding of those events was massively increased. We both felt that any visitor could not help but be moved and appalled by the suffering inflicted on the inhabitants of Hiroshima that day. In fact looking around as we left you could see on people's faces how deeply moved they were, with lots of people red eyed and close to tears. Us included, many times I just could not hold the tears.

The museum is well designed and I think it should be mandatory for every human being in order to understand what atomic bomb, even small, means. After going through the museum you definitely can not understand why people still develop such weapons? Do they really plan to use them? This sounds so stupid ...

Museum is very cheap (50 yen or 0,5USD) and very easily understandable with all the exhibits, videos, maquettes and readings. We spent there almost two hours, the time went very quickly. After departing the museum we just walked in the silence to clarify the thoughts and feelings. It is hard to call the museum experience as a highlight given the subject matter, but if you do nothing else on a visit to Japan go there!