21 Jul 2014 day 3: Miyajima & Hiroshima
Accommodation in Hiroshima
We had booked one night in Hiroshima to visit the memorial park and go to Miyajima island. The Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel is right outside Hiroshima station and the prices were very reasonable. A deluxe king room was $135 (aud). We were looking forward to a spacious 35 sqm room in between staying in a small room in Osaka.
We got a surprise upgrade. Tim had done the check-in and thought he was told we were upgraded but wasn’t completely sure. Not knowing what was said, I was worried he had agreed to pay for it. We had made the booking through the hotel website. Tim had signed up to the membership program, so he logged in to see our booking. The site confirmed that we had scored a club corner suite for the night at $130 (aud). We now had an 80sqm room with two double beds. A lovely surprise and a little bit of luxury on our budget trip.
Miyajima is a small island located close to Hiroshima. The island’s official name is Itsukushima but it is more commonly known as Miyajima, which in Japanese means shrine island. It gets this name from its famous shrine Itsukushima shrine, which is built over water and appears to float during high tide. The shrine features a large orange torii gate that is positioned out in the water and during high tide it also seems to be floating.
Getting the Ferry to Miyajima
To get to Miyajima we took the JR sanyo line from Hiroshima station to Miyajimaguchi station, a 25 minute ride. We exited Miyajimaguchi station to find it was pouring rain. Putting the rain cover over the stroller, we both tried to take cover under our umbrella. Once the rain got a bit lighter we made a mad dash across the road, where we found an elevator on the street. The elevator took us down to a walk-way under the road and then we came up in another one closer to the pier. Again we ran for it and made it to the pier a little less than soaking wet.
As we had a JR pass, we didn’t need to get any tickets so joined the line for the next ferry. The ferry soon arrived and we boarded, folding the stroller up and carrying Fletcher up the steps to get seats inside. Soon after leaving the Hiroshima port, we could see the large torii gate coming into view. It was a short 10 minute ferry ride and we were on Miyajima island. We left the pier area and headed towards Itsukushima shrine. Thankfully it was only drizzling rain for most of the walk.
We spent some time outside the entrance of the shrine complex, viewing the large torii gate that sits out in the sea. I juggled the camera and the umbrella and took some photos of the famous ‘floating’ gate. There were lots of deer wandering around the area. We proceeded to the entrance of the shrine, paying our 600 yen fee at the counter. The entire shrine complex is built over the water. There are several buildings that are joined by wooden boardwalks. We strolled along, mainly staying under the covered areas as the rain had become a lot heavier. I ventured out in the rain to snap some quick pictures.
We continued along the boardwalk under the orange corridor. We took our time to admire all the details around the shrine complex. There are many lanterns and the impressive lion-like statues that act as guardians of the shrine, keeping evil spirits away. One impressive moment for the two and a half year old with us was watching as a deer slowly walked through the water and made its way up onto a sandbank.
While walking around we saw a lot of people gathering in one spot. I stepped over to see what they were all looking at and found there was a wedding taking place. The bride was dressed in traditional shinto wedding attire, with a large white headdress. People were acting like it was a major tourist attraction, pushing to get to the front and snapping away with their cameras. While I understand the bride and groom would be aware that the shrine was a tourist site, I think a bit more respect could have been given.
I stood back and watched for a bit while people around me seemed to have forgotten their manners. When I was able to see without pushing anyone out of the way, I took a minute to observe the wedding, took a quick photo and went back to join Tim and Fletcher.
A rainy day
We got to the end of the boardwalk and exited the shrine complex. Fletcher spotted a vending machine and wanted a juice and as it was such a drizzly day it was perfect for drinking a hot royal milk tea. We wandered around the back of the shrine and weren’t sure what to do next. I had originally wanted to go up Mt. Misen but as it was so wet and still raining, it wasn’t going to be a good idea. I had remembered seeing that there was an aquarium on the island and we decided it was something Fletcher would enjoy as well as getting us out of the rain.
We found the aquarium on the map and thankfully got there easily. We entered and paid the 2800 yen entrance fee for 2 adults. The aquarium features many different displays and sea life from around the local area and the world. One local orientated display shows an example of the many oyster farms that are around the area of Miyajima and Hiroshima.
Fletcher really loved the aquarium. He was able to really enjoy the displays as most of them could be viewed from his height. Tim and I sat on a bench seat while Fletcher had a great time at a large tank that contained many different fish, eels and stingrays. He had people laughing at him while he pretended to be scared of the stingrays. Whenever they would swim close by he covered his eyes and ran away before laughing. He could have stayed at this one tank all day but we eventually moved him on to explore the rest of the aquarium.
While we were there, there was one show/talk that would take place. Two aquarium staff members bought out a penguin each and sat down with them. People were able to go up and give the penguins a pat. I thought Fletcher would want to touch a penguin but he was more interested in the large fake penguins, one of which had a coin slot in its stomach.
The aquarium had outdoor pools but as it was raining and there were no feedings happening at the time we didn’t go to view them. We were able to see the finless porpoise or as the aquarium referred to them ‘whales of the Seto Sea’, from the inside tank. They were playing around with each other and were hitting a ball on their heads.
Lunch in Miyajima
Once out of the Aquarium, we realised it was lunch time. It was still raining so we chose to dine in a restaurant close to the aquarium. I thought it was a nice clean, modern open space, suitable for our toddler and stroller. Tim thought we would end up spending too much money on lunch but it was quite reasonable. Tim had Katsudon, a dish of rice, breaded pork and egg. Fletcher and I shared a tempura plate. It had prawns and various vegetables with dipping sauces. Due to the pouring rain, we just dashed inside. After looking it up, turns out it is actually a hotel, called Mizuhasou.
Back to Hiroshima
After lunch we put the rain cover over the stroller and walked back to the ferry port station. Inside it was very busy with people waiting for the next ferry. Fletcher had fallen asleep while we were walking so we took a seat and waited.
When the ferry arrived, we weren’t sure whether to get on or wait for the next one as Fletcher was sleeping in the stroller. We didn’t know if we would be able to leave him in it and board the ferry. After pushing the stroller into the bottom part, we were standing beside the steps when someone pointed us in the direction of a room in the downstairs area. We entered the room and sat with two ladies for the short journey back to Hiroshima.
Somewhere between getting the ferry from Miyajima and then a train to Hiroshima station, we noticed Fletcher’s pants were wet. We first thought he had wet through his nappy but then we realised it was probably from rain getting through the side of the stroller cover. Normally I would have had spare clothes in the backpack but of course when they were needed, there were none there. We got our bag from the Sheraton Hotel and after changing Fletcher, we put it in a locker at the station.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
We took a tram to the station near the peace memorial park. By the time we arrived there it was almost 3:30pm. It was raining quite heavily, so we sheltered under a tree to look at the A-Bomb dome. The building used to be the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. When the atomic bomb exploded all those inside died, however, the building was not completely destroyed and remains standing today as a memorial. In 1996 it was designated a UNESCO world heritage site.
We then made our way to the children’s peace monument, where the statue of Sadako Sasaki stands tall surrounded by paper cranes. Sadako was two years old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. When she was eleven Sadako became ill and was diagnosed with Leukemia.
Several years after the explosion there was a large increase in Leukemia, especially amongst children. It had become clear that this was a result of radiation caused by the atomic bomb. An old legend states that a person who folds 1000 origami cranes would have their wish granted by the gods. Sadako started folding cranes while in hospital.
The story has different endings. One claims she finished before her death while another claims she didn’t complete the 1000 and they were finished by her friends. Sadako was twelve years old when she passed away. Her classmates set about having a monument built in her name. In 1958 the monument was built, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane. This not only represented Sadako but all the other children that had been affected by the bomb. It stands today surrounded by many paper cranes that have been sent and placed by people from all over the world as a symbol of peace.
Getting back to Osaka
We started to make our way to the museum but realised if we visited, we wouldn’t get back to Osaka until quite late. Although we had wanted to see the museum we still had to get a tram back to Hiroshima station, a shinkansen to Shin-Osaka station and then the subway to the station near our hotel. In order to get a bullet train that would be covered with our JR pass we had to make our way back. The Nozomi trains leave a lot more frequently. The others are about every half an hour, with some having a lot of stops a long the way, making for a long train trip.
We walked back to the tram stop and got the next one back to Hiroshima station. We headed straight for the Shinkansen tracks and almost forgot our bag. Tim ran back to the locker to get it while I took Fletcher and got in line for the bullet train.
We got dinner to take back to the hotel which we made it back to at about 7pm. It had been a busy day and soon after eating, Fletcher was in bed asleep. Tim headed out to search around for somewhere to buy nappies. Looking online, we couldn’t find much. After walking around for quite some time, Tim came back empty-handed. We were onto our last few nappies so needed to get some the next day.
(see our post on buying nappies in Japan)
We were stopping in Nagoya to visit the SCMaglev Museum before continuing onto Shizuoka and collecting or rental car.