There is a holiday in Korea, called Chuseok which is essentially the Korean Thanksgiving – they get together as a family and make a big meal. In addition, they usually go and visit the burial mounds of their ancestors (there are several around where we live and we had seen them trimming the grasses around them and getting ready for this big event). What this meant for Ryan and I was that we had 2 days off of work that week, so we used a few extra vacation days to make a week out of it. We wanted to head to Japan – Ryan had been there several times for work and really liked it so we decided to go back and see it together.
Our first step was to get to Japan – this was the easiest part! We took a flight from Busan to Fukuoka on Friday night and it was the shortest flight I have ever been on – we were literally in the air for 30 minutes. Once we got there, we spent the night and got up early to get on the train and head to Hiroshima. I was SO excited to ride on the Shinkansen (high speed trains in Japan)…Ryan had already experienced this on several of his business trips and loved it so we were looking forward to lots of train rides during this week. Before we left for the trip, we purchased a week long, all you can ride, Japan Rail Pass (if you are planning to travel around Japan for a week, this is a MUST and make sure you get it before you come to Japan).
The train ride was just as wonderful as I thought it was going to be…it was so smooth and super fast. If you know me at all, you know that I fall asleep as soon as I get in the car, so of course this was no different – it was hands down the greatest nap that I’ve ever had, though…the train really does just lull you to sleep. It was glorious! You don’t even realize you’re moving at like 200 mph.
Once we got to Hiroshima, we went straight to a noodle bar that Ryan had been to on his business trip previously. It was absolutely wonderful! Some of the best noodles that I have had – so flavorful! Afterwards, we dropped our stuff at the hotel and did a little plan re-arranging. We were not the only ones that chose to vacation in Japan during Chuseok week – so did Typhoon Jelawat so we quickly changed our plans to stay in Hiroshima an extra day to avoid traveling on the day of the storm.
We spent the first day visiting the Atomic Bomb Dome and then the Peace Museum. The A Bomb dome is basically a shelled out building that was destroyed during the Atomic bombing. It was one of the only buildings that was left standing so they created a memorial out of it. It was unbelievable to be looking at something that I had very often seen in History books at school. It really changes your perspective to see it all – war is never a good thing but seeing how bad it can get really stays with you.
The peace museum is very well done – it walks you through the steps leading up to the dropping of the bomb (interesting to see the other side of the story) and then you turn a corner and they have an area dedicated to what it was like immediately after the bomb was dropped. As soon as you turn that corner, there is complete silence in the museum – it’s just horrifying to think of what all of those people went through. The rest of the museum talks about the time after that and the effects of radiation and also what is being done to stop the threat of nuclear war. To be honest, I thought that it was going to be a little awkward being an American walking through Hiroshima, but it wasn’t at all – I think there was a real feeling of peace throughout the city. I think they truly believe in the message that they are trying to send – war is a devastating thing and we should strive for peace. I really like that.
Before and After the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima…
Later that night, Ryan took me to find a yakitori place that he had been to before. It was upstairs on an off-alley of the covered shopping area and it took us a little while to find, but we were glad that they did. We ordered all kinds of meat on sticks – scallops, chicken, beef, Japanese mushrooms, etc. It was great! They also had Ryan’s favorite saki – “Ku-Boh-tah” (yes, sounds like the tractor company) so we enjoyed some of that. When they pour the saki in Japan, they put the shot glass on a wooden saucer and then pour it until it spills into the saucer. It gives you a little extra once you’ve finished the glass – kind of like those extra french fries at the bottom of the bag. I love eating at places where you can watch them cook right in front of you so this place was great – good food and gook saki!
The next morning was full of rain from the Typhoon, so we took advantage of a leisurely breakfast and then headed out to the Hiroshima castle once we had some sun outside.
At the shrine, you could write out a wish – I thought this really encompassed all I had seen from Hiroshima…they really do wish for peace for everyone.
Inside the castle, there were lots of exhibits about Samurais…Ryan made sure to try on the official uniform – he’s total Samurai material.
For lunch, we went to a place so that we could have the dish that Ryan had been raving about called “Okonomiyaki.” He said it was Hiroshima’s signature dish and it’s delicious but really hard to describe. He took me to a place and we sat up at the bar and watched them make it for everyone. They make a small pancake (very thin) and then they put a bunch of cabbage, some meat (usually pork and squid), noodles, egg, sometimes green onions, and then lots of okonomiyaki sauce. They layer it all up and then slide it over to you, provide you a small spatula and you literally “dig in” – it was incredible! I loved it! It’s hard to describe what it tastes like but it is certainly worth trying if you are ever in Hiroshima. Sitting at the bar watching them make it while we ate was certainly a highlight of the trip – it was certainly a Japanese experience I will always remember!
Afterwards, we decided to relax and enjoy the afternoon by reading in the Peace Park. The afternoon was so nice and it was great to read and do some people watching – there were so many visitors, especially students from all over the world. We loved our okonomiyaki so much that we found another place and had it again for dinner – this one was slightly different and even more delicious!
The next morning, we caught the Shinkansen again and headed to Kyoto for some more adventures…