Day 4: Christmas in Hiroshima
Initially, the plan was to head over to Kobe today but my oversight regarding shinkansen availability and frequency meant that we would have to either cut down on the destinations in Kobe by half, or go to Hiroshima instead where the day would not be as packed. A moment of deliberation later, we decided to head over to Hiroshima and reserve Kobe for another day.
Reserving seats to Hiroshima was as simple as lining up at the JR ticketing office at Shin-Osaka Station and telling the counter staff that you want to go to Hiroshima while handing him your JR Rail Pass. If you were travelling alone, it would have been possible to go straight up to the platform and boarding any train’s non-reserved car as long as it was covered by the JR Rail Pass. As usual, we bought snacks and refreshments while waiting for our scheduled train. A few onigiri and an interesting calpis soda later, we were well on our way to Hiroshima with the scenery whizzing by as the bullet train cut through the landscape at breakneck speed. In my opinion, the shinkansen is taken for granted by many, including myself. There would be many a time when I thought “why is it so expensive *just* to take a 3hr train from Tokyo to Osaka?” but then I realized that taking a bus to the same destination would involve many, many more hours of uncomfortable seating.
Once at Hiroshima, we took some time to figure out the location’s tram but instead of going straight to the touristy destinations, decided to do a little bit of shopping first. We took the tram down to DeoDeo Neverland which is one of several shopping centers in the area. This particular building stocks hobby, otaku and soccer merchandise. Soccer jerseys were not cheap, but they were official merchandise and still relatively cheaper than anywhere else. My attempt at asking the helpful store staff for a particular design and size of jersey was semi-successful as she eventually understood what we were after.
Shopping in hand, we got back onto the tram and alighted at the Peace Memorial Building and Park. We took some time viewing the Genbaku dome building before walking around the park. A series of displays housing paper crane works donated from all over the world in tribute to the Japanese piqued our interest for a little while but it was not long before we boarded the tram yet again to head down to the ferry terminal that would take us to Miyajima Island.
It was rather interesting when the tram unexpectedly transformed into a train as it transitioned from ambling down the middle of a road to speeding along tracks and stopping at raised platforms. We alighted near the end of the line to the delicious smells of BBQed seafood. The coastline was literally lined by restaurants with the actual ferry ports taking up a small but central space.
The JR Rail Pass covers the fare for one of the two ferries and that was the one we took to Miyajima Island. Despite the strong, and very cold, winds, I braced myself to step outside the air conditioned area to view the scenery and the island from afar. The bright orange of the famed Torii Gate was easy to spot but I realized it was already low tide so we would not be able to see it or the temple partially submerged in water. Upon arrival at the island, we still had a 5 minute walk ahead of us through a row of shops before we would be able to see the Torii Gate up close. Feeling a little hungry, we each bought a (quite expensive) snack from a little stall we could smell from a distance away. I wasn’t sure what it was called as the stall lady’s accent was very strong but it was basically a crispy rice cake topped with a tiny bbqed oyster and slathered in a savoury sauce. A pair of Japanese girls bought the same morsel and were very vocal about how good it tasted so I was eager to dig into mine.
It may not look it but the rice cake was piping hot and crispy on the outside while the tiny oyster probably had 10 oysters’ worth of flavour packed into it. It was amazing and I would have gone for a 2nd piece if it weren’t for the slightly unreasonable price tag. Moving on, we made the short trek over the wet sand to stand at the foot of the Miyajima Torii Gate. It was much larger than I had imagined and it was good to finally see it in person rather than just on postcards and photos on the internet.
We wanted to also visit Miyajima Temple but it was already closed by the time we walked back across the sand from the Torii Gate so we were not allowed in. The skies were also beginning to darken so we made a short trek around the area, mostly finding nothing all that interesting, before looking for a place to eat. After experiencing the oyster rice cake, we were dead set on trying a real Hiroshima oyster and into an oyster bar we went. This particular establishment specialised in bbq Hiroshima oysters and that was what we ordered.
These were the best cooked oysters I’ve ever had and, similarly to the rice cake, I would have had more if not for the expensive price attached to such a delicacy. The store owner was nice enough to throw in an extra 2 oysters for us gaijin to enjoy and we were very appreciative, albeit slightly worried that he would charge us for them anyway. We were asked to pay for only what we ordered so our worries were unwarranted and we left happy and satisfied. The rest of the evening was spent taking the ferry back, then the train to Hiroshima Train Station, and finally the shinkansen back to Osaka and our hotel. Tomorrow, Kobe!
Things learnt today:
- Get up early and reserve your seat on the shinkansen. Many people take the morning trains so they become full very quickly.
- A visit to Hiroshima can comfortably occupy you for 2 days as there is much to see and do there.
- Try the oysters.
- The Hiroshima accent is pretty strong but it is a touristy area so English and basic Japanese can take you pretty far.