We have safely arrived in South Korea, and I’m sitting in our hostel in Busan, writing up this account of our last few days in Japan. I found Japan to be an amazing country, and everywhere we went, I discovered even more things I wanted to be able to see, but couldn’t in the time that we had! I can definitely picture myself returning soon. Our last few days here were filled with nice surprises – Hiroshima and Fukuoka both turned out to be way more interesting cities than we expected they might be!
Friday June 22 We arrived in Hiroshima before check-in, left our bags at the front desk and decided to use the afternoon to take care of our visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park which contains the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The streetcar we took to the park let us off just outside the Atomic Bomb Dome, which was an eerie and impressive testament to the destructive ability of the atomic bomb. We steeled ourselves for the mixture of emotions that was inevitable from visiting the museum, and then went inside. I won’t talk specifically about what is inside – it is definitely something that needs to be experienced. The exhibits were very nicely done – taking no sides and being honest about the actions of both sides, including a history of the Japanese military presence in Hiroshima itself. It seems impossible not to leave the building not only being saddened and disappointed that such atrocities can occur by human hands, but also being hopeful that peace is possible. After all, if a city that had such a wrong committed against it can rise again so quickly and turn into a beautiful place dedicated to peace, can we not accomplish the same for the rest of the world? We grabbed a streetcar back to the hotel and completed our check-in process. This hotel was the nicest we have visited yet, with a public bath, free drinks all day, breakfast buffet and a 360 degree shower that Mike declared he wanted in our future house! It was definitely the best deal we’ve gotten on Expedia so far! We wanted a way to lighten up the evening so we checked into a baseball game, but unfortunately they were playing an away game. We ended up just having some excellent (Indian) curry at a place down the street. It had the best naan I have ever had!
Saturday June 23 We hopped onto the train and headed to Miyajimaguchi, where we grabbed a ferry almost identical to the one that goes to the Toronto islands to visit Miyajima island. Miyajima is home to a famous tori gate that is built out into the Seto Inland Sea such that it looks like it is floating at high tide! It looked like that as we pulled up on the ferry. Upon arrival at the island we discovered a vibrant little town with lots of souvenir shops and food stalls, a lot of deer like at Nara (but they were slightly less aggressive about getting a snack), and a mountain trail that passed though a temple complex on the way to the summit! As an added bonus, there were gondolas that for 1000 yen spared weary travellers everything but the last half hour of hiking to the mountain’s summit! We opted to ride up and hike down, visiting the temple on our descent. The view at the top was a little hazy, but still impressive. The trail was scenic, and followed a cold mountain stream for quite a way! We were put to shame on the way back down, as we passed 3 or 4 elderly Japanese men doing the climb up… just the last leg to the summit was enough climbing for me, especially because we hadn’t packed much water! Once we were back at sea level, we discovered that the tide had gone out, and the crowds of tourists had moved out onto the exposed sea floor to get their photo taken in front of the gate, and the deer had followed! What a strange sight. We stopped for some snacks before heading back to Hiroshima. I had a steamed bun filled with eel and vegetables, and Mike had a fish cake on a stick. We now know the delicious snacks we have been buying from the markets have been various styles of fish cake. We washed all that down with Japanese maple leaf shaped pastries called momiji manju. We got ones with chocolate and custard fillings. Yum!
After a brief break in the hotel and some time in the baths, we headed out and bought a Japan football jersey to add to Mike’s collection, and had dinner at a nice restaurant cafe along a river in town. It had the best smoked salmon I have had in a while! Then we headed back to pack up, as we were heading to Fukuoka the next morning.
Sunday June 24 We had a good breakfast and did some last minute laundry in the hotel before setting off for the Shinkansen for the last time. The trip between Hiroshima and Fukuoka was only an hour, and when we arrived we discovered a vibrant city with a little less English than the rest of Japan. We walked to our hotel in the pouring rain, and discovered that it was actually part of a giant 4 building shopping complex! We dropped our bags, grabbed some Fukuoka-style ramen from a place called Ramen Stadium and then browsed the shops. The mall was immense, with a canal running down the centre where a music, lights and dynamic fountain show played periodically. There was also a centre gathering place where a couple Japanese pop\rock bands played throughout the day! The weather never let up, so we opted to stay inside our complex, and tried to get some rest before our big day on the boat to South Korea.
Monday June 25 We woke up, checked out and started the 3 km walk to the international ferry terminal. Thankfully the rain had stopped! We got a little lost after breakfast, and turned 3 km into 5, but we got there with plenty of time to spare. We spent the extra time chatting with a nice Korean man who suggested some activities for our time in South Korea! I will miss Japan, but there is plenty to do here in South Korea as well!