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Corinu visits the Peace Museum and A-Bomb Dome – Hiroshima, Japan

Getting up this morning wasn’t an easy task. Rising out of bed at 8.30am, having fallen into it only about 5 hours earlier, I noticed a distinct smell of whisky and noodles emanating from the pile of tartan and shirts on the floor. Oh well, a successful night… (See Previous Post)

 

I was off to Hiroshima today, via Okayama on the 10am train and, against all odds, I made it. This was the first big Japanese city I’d seen in the daylight and, as I squinted into the distance outside Hiroshima station, it looked good. I’ve found since that Japanese cities can sometimes look pretty bleak – endless blocks of concrete high-rises in the centre and hastily upgraded wooden shanties surrounding – but Hiroshima was better dressed than that. There were even more colourful lanterns and curtains hanging in the shops and restaurants than usual, and the concrete makers seemed to have came to Hiroshima late, discovered patterns along the way.

 

I caught the number 2 street car across three rivers and walked south along the banks of the third to find J-Hoppers, a nice wee hostel just off Peace Boulevard. After checking in I was straight off to the Peace museam, only about 10 minutes away, to do the compulsory Hiroshima tourist attraction. The Peace Museum was built to remember the victims of the first ever nuclear bomb used in anger. It takes you through the whole story – how the war began, Japan’s involvement, how the US chose it’s target and, eventually, what the consequences were. It’s a pretty impressive place, and tells the story well with no bias and no agenda, other than to hope that the same will never happen again. There are some horrific images in the archives, burned victims and blasted buildings, and it’s hard not to get a lump in your throat when you come across the preserved, burned clothes of a group of children caught near the hypo-centre. It’s the kind of attraction that wont exactly leave you feeling good, but you’ll be really glad you saw it, especially when paired with the A-Bomb dome at the other end of the park, which brings the whole thing to life.

The A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan
The A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan

The A-Bomb dome was previously a large government building which had the misfortune to be almost directly underneath the bomb when it exploded. Now, it’s the only part of Hiroshima which has been kept as it was after the blast as a reminder of the destruction wrought. To be honest, I’m impressed there’s so much of it still standing, but it’s still an awesome sight seeing the ruined building, copper roof melted clean off the frame and burned stone surrounding it, and it puts all that you read inside the museum in perspective.

That evening I walked along Peace Boulevard in search of some local grub and, inspired by the first decent looking place which had pictures on the menu, ended up in a little place called Chaya Mario. Not the most Japanese sounding restaurant I’ll admit! I’m not much used to eating out by myself, but I had noticed along the way that the Japanese seem to have got that bit right. Restaurants, even some pretty high class looking ones, generally always have a long table facing into the kitchen, pretty much exaclty like the bar in any pub at home. To me it feels far less strange sitting at the food-bar eating away by yourself than sitting at a table. The extra unexpected advantage is that the chef and his assistants seem to always end up talking to you, and when you’re out yourself that’s usually a good thing! Thus began a weird and wonderful 2 hours in chaya Mario in which I had precisely no idea what I was ordering because it was all in Kanji and the waiters were equally ignorant as to what I was saying because they spoke next to no English.

You might think that that would stilt conversation a bit, but no, banter continued apace! After I got out my guidebook and stuttered through,

“Sorry sorry sorry, very sorry, I speak no Japanese. I am an ignorant foreign dog,”

or something along those lines, the staff at the restaurant got their phrasebook out and we proceeded to read random phrases to each other like a bunch of 1st years in their first French lesson. I discovered that the manager/chef’s name was Ize and they discovered/decided that mine was Corinu (It’s a good new name, I like it.) They were so ridiculously friendly that we had a great laugh, despite the fact that we probably exchanged about as much information as a newpaper headline from the Sun. As I paid up and headed off to mutual shouts of “Pleased to meet you!”, me in Japanese and they in English, I thought about how boring that might have been had I been sat at a table on my todd.

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