Visiting Japan: Days 7 and 8

Part three of my trip to Japan! If you want to read the others, here is part 1 and part 2.

Day 7

This was when we packed our backpacks and used our JR Pass for the first time. We set out to Tokyo Central station and got the Shinkansen to Hiroshima. We got it at around 10am and it was completely empty!

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We had to change trains in Osaka and I got an Osaka style Ekibento (eki means station and bento is a packed lunch) on the platform. They always have little shops on the platforms with snacks, bentos and local souvenirs. Not to mention the always present vending machines.

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And did I mention that the second shinkansen we got was the EVA themed shinkansen? It was awesome, and we didn’t even plan to take it, it was a very pleasant surprise! Trains in Japan have personalised tunes they play before each announcement, and on the EVA shinkansen they played the anime opening tune.

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We then got to Hiroshima and, after adding the station’s stamps to my notebook, we got a tram and headed to the famous Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Garden. It’s really easy to travel around the city using the trams, and you only pay for your ticket when you get off, something that confused us at first.

Something wonderful about Hiroshima is that it is a big city that feels like a town, and there are several rivers running through it, giving it a really peaceful look. The Peace Garden was between two of those, like a detached island, and it was extremely beautiful and quiet. It really sucked all the stress out of me and made me feel completely relaxed, even though we were looking at the leftovers of one of history’s most violent chapters.

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We also rang the Peace Bell, but couldn’t take any decent photos, so here’s a picture of me with a turtle meant to honour all the Korean victims of the bomb.

20160103_150658After walking around the park we went to check out the museum, which was an emotionally draining experience. There were objects which belonged to victims and each of them had a plaque telling the victim’s story. At some point I had to stop reading them because I was close to tears. Something that really touched both me and my boyfriend was the fact that the first thing that all the victims did, no matter how old they were, was to make their way home to be with their families.

After buying something sweet to calm ourselves down, we walked past a whole avenue of shops in order to get to our hotel. It was a nice enough hotel, not that far from the centre and right next to a lot of bars and hostess clubs. We rested for a bit in our room and then went out to have some dinner in Fumi-chan, an okonomiyaki place that was amazing!

Day 8

After having breakfast in the hotel, we headed out to the train station and travelled to Miyajima-guchi. We then got a ferry (our JR passes were compatible, so it was free) to get to Miyajima island. It was early and a bit cloudy, but the clouds had disappeared by the time we got there.

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The first thing you see from the ferry is the famous floating Torii gate. It looked really magical and mysterious, and you instantly understand why it’s a popular place for tourists. We got there in the morning, so there weren’t too many people there, which helped when it came to taking pictures. Here’s our first sighting.

20160104_093726We got off and were greeted by a lot of deer, which just walk around searching for friendly tourists that will give them food. I petted one of them, but it didn’t really seem to care that we were trying to take a picture.

20160104_094816After walking past a lot of stalls and small restaurants, we finally got to the torii. The tide was out and we were able to walk pretty close to it and take pictures. The temple itself was beautiful as well, and it must look amazing when the tide is all the way in, like a floating temple. However, you had to pay to get in and it was quite full, so we decided to skip it.

IMAG2483We passed a lot of shops aimed for tourists and had a delicious latte which was flavoured like the local maple leaf-shaped cake (momiji manjyu). We passed a lot of shops that only sold these and you could see the machines that they use to make them through the shops’ windows.

We continued walking and decided to follow a path that went up the mountain. At some point we saw a sign for a restaurant and went up the stairs to see if there was a good view from there. When we got there, an old Japanese lady practically forced us to sit down and have traditional green tea, which was also served with some momiji manjyu. Although we didn’t want to, we sat down where she wanted us to and looked at the amazing view. A couple who was sitting next to us looked at us and smiled: they had also been forced to sit by the pushy owner. She was really nice though, and tried to talk to me in English.

IMAG2517IMAG2519We followed the track a bit further, resting near a stream, and then walked back into town so we could have some anagomeshi (eel), a well-known dish in the island that had been reommended to us by Yokko when we had Okinawan food in Tokyo (see part 2). It was really delicious!

IMAG2532After buying some souvenirs, we got the ferry back and continued our journey to Osaka. We weren’t so lucky as before, and the shinkansen was packed! They really try and push everyone in, it was a bit claustrophobic, but we were able to get a seat eventually.

 

We went straight to our hotel so we could drop our bags off, and then walked to Doutonbori, a street famous for its many restaurants and bars. It was quite full and colourful with all the lights. We had some kushikatsu, which is basically fried stuff on a stick, with some beer, and then found a small bar where we had plum wine and some grilled meat, Kyushu-style. The bar owner was really friendly and we talked with a few of the other customers.

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IMAG2539I was going to talk about day 9 on this post as well, but I think it’s long enough, so I’ll save it for another day.

Have you ever visited Japan? Comment down below, I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Ines

 

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