Miyajima & Hiroshima: Hiking and History

Japan has A LOT of temples and shrines. We were pretty much templed out by the time we reached in Miyajima!

We originally had two days to explore Miyajima and Hiroshima but after deciding to spend more time in Kyoto we arrived at our accommodation in Miyajimaguchi later than planned, missing the first day of exploring.

Miyajima

We stayed at Hostel & Cafe Backpackers Miyajima, literally a 2 minute walk from the station and pier. The hostel was really good and the cleanest I have ever stayed in. We were originally meant to stay on Miyajima island but after doing a last minute search we found this hostel which worked out much cheaper. On arrival into Miyajimaguchi I completely forgot we had found new accommodation and headed straight for the ferry. We crossed the water and once docked Sam checked the map. Damn, we were actually staying on the mainland! We boarded the ferry and headed back from where we had came, starting all over again. Oops! Luckily the ferry crossing only took 10 minutes!

We woke up early the next morning and caught the ferry back over to the island to hike up Mount Misen before checking out of the hostel. We started the hike just before 8am, following the Daisho-in trail. The trail is recommended for its nice views. We passed mountain sides, rivers and deer on route.

There were hundreds of spider webs which all seemed to be at head height and many signs warning us of mamushi! So as well as avoiding a face full of webs we were also keeping watch for snakes! Luckily no snakes were encountered!

We passed a monk close to the mountain top who was busy sweeping up leaves from the steps and lighting candles and incense in the temples. The Reika-do Hall, also known as the “Eternal Fire Hall” is found here. The hall houses a fire which was lit by Kobo Daishi and is said to have been burning for 1200 years.

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We reached the summit by 9.30am and spent a few minutes to appreciate the view and take some pictures before heading back down.

We needed to catch the 10.25am ferry back to the mainland so our walk downhill turned into a light jog followed by a sprint. We made it, and managed to shower and check out by 11am! Impressive!

Hiroshima

We had an entire afternoon to spend in Hiroshima. As we walked over to the lady in the Tourist Information office she had a map ready and began circling things to do and how to get there. Wow! All we had said was hello. How’s that for customer service?!

Our first stop was the A-bomb Dome. The building stands as a reminder for the people who lost their lives during the atomic bombing in August 1945. It was one of the few buildings to remain standing. The ruin is held up by steel supports and areas have been restored to keep it from crumbling.

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We walked around the dome and through the peace memorial park. A cenotaph stands between the a-bomb dome and the museum as reminder for the people who were killed by the blast or exposure to radiation. There is a flame which burns in the middle of the park. We read that it will continue to burn until there are no more nuclear weapons left in the world. The flame from the Eternal Fire Hall on top of Mount Misen, which we passed earlier that morning, was used to light this flame.

We visited the museum where I learnt about a little girl named  Sadako Sasaki who was 2 years old when the atomic bomb dropped. She lived a healthy life until age 11 when she was diagnosed with leukemia, caused by the atomic bomb. There is an ancient Japanese legend that promises anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish by the Gods. Sadako Sasaki spent 14 months in hospital folding more than 1,300 paper cranes before she died aged 12.

A memorial stands in the peace park for Sadako and all the children who lost their lives and paper cranes have been folded and threaded on string, like this one:

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During our time in Japan I noticed baskets of paper cranes left in public places for people to take. I was also given one from a lady in Tsujiki fish market. I found out during our trip to Hiroshima that the paper crane is often given as a wish for peace. I have been carrying one around in my bag ever since.

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