Everyone kept telling me how special Hiroshima is, and well, there are no words for it. It was heartbreaking... and wonderful. The city is so warm and lively, and small enough to easily navigate. I fell in love immediately.
My first sight was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (A-Bomb Dome), pretty much the only thing that remained after the nuclear attack. The nearby Aioi bridge was the original target, but it was slightly missed and instead the bomb detonated almost directly above the dome. Being there in the midst of reliving history made my heart sink. The museum was quite tragic (and graphic), and it gave me chills to think about the events that took place on the exact same spot I was standing.
It was such a beautiful, sunny day, and the cherry blossoms were in bloom, so it made everything look a bit brighter. I also ran into my friend Danny from Takamatsu, who was sightseeing with his family from home. It was lovely to see a familiar face, and to just have a nice afternoon chat by the river and walk around the Peace Park.
They invited me to join them for dinner, and we tried the local dish, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake containing various ingredients such as seafood, meat, vegetables. The Hirohima style is famous for layering the ingredients instead of mixing them, and adding soba noodles in the mix. They grill it right on a hot plate, and serve it with a sauce on top. I know it does not look too appetizing in the pictures, but it was so delightful!! I actually had it twice!
We then headed out for drinks and dessert (found some nice apple crumble and shortbread cookies), then to karaoke with his family. It was so much fun! It was their first time, and they really got into it. We sang everything ranging from The Beatles to Dinosaur Jr. I then headed to my youth hostel (and caught a lovely night view of the lit up Memorial on my way), and shared a cute tatami room with some nice girls. Reminder: never wash my face again with hand soap.
On the second day I took a day trip to Miyajima, famous for the red floating tori gate, and for the wild deer roaming about. The deers are surprisingly very tame, and honestly I got more excited from the deer than from the gate.
The island was just so touristy, and it was a bit chaotic, so I just walked around, pet the deer, and got the local sweet, called momiji manju. It's shaped like a maple leaf, and filled with different pastes, such as the red bean one. They're so delicious! I bought a box to give to friends, and the deer almost ate it. I did not feed them!
It was such a nice little escape, and I also took a lot of time to wander around the streets, people-watch at Starbucks, study Japanese, and do some shopping.
It was a fantastic, eye-opening experience. I also did a lot of thinking, and just relaxed and explored Hiroshima. I realized that I feel so much at home in Japan, I really don't feel like a tourist. I can speak and understand the language a little bit, and it makes such a big difference. I actually got to practice my skills a lot, since I was on my own most of the time.
Hiroshima, I love you.