Etajima to Hiroshima

(22 KMs)

Friday 3rd November

Etajima - Hiroshima

Busy, busy Hiroshima

I managed a visit to the baths before breakfast and had the bath and sauna to myself - bliss!  We had ordered a western breakfast for 7:30 and it was waiting for us when we arrived a few minutes late. We had a view over the sea, and enjoyed our cold scrambled eggs, bacon, muffins, croissants, fruit, salad and yoghurt. 

The ferry left at 10:10am and we were about 8 kilometres from the port. It was an uphill climb for the first kilometre or so and then we whizzed downhill, past little coves, fishing villages and oyster farms.  We managed to purchase our tickets through the vending machine and immediately boarded.  Our bikes were secured by mooring lines so we could safely leave them to sit upstairs.  It was a quick trip and around 30 minutes later we were docking at Ujina Port in Hiroshima.

We put our panniers into lockers and headed off along the river to explore, starting with a good coffee.  Obscura Coffee Roasters didn’t disappoint.  The barista asked which coffee beans we would like, and I asked him to choose.  Our cappuccino made with Guatemalan beans was sensational and I hope to return there again tomorrow. Thanks to google translate, I was able to tell the staff that it was the best coffee we had drunk in Japan and they were delighted with my feedback!

We pushed our bikes down the Hondori Shopping street which was heaving with people as it was a public holiday.  It was lunchtime and we thought we should try the local speciality Okonomiyaki, which is made with a thin layer of batter and lots of cabbage on top of yakisoba noodles.  The first restaurant we tried told us they were full, then we passed another well-known restaurant which had a massive queue of people.  Andrew had recommended the Okonomimura so we headed in that direction.  We found a likely looking restaurant with a small queue, somewhere safe to leave the bikes and a live performance on a nearby stage to entertain us while we waited.

A few people left so we could see that there were free spaces, but still we waited.   Then a delivery of noodles arrived, and soon after we were ushered in to seats overlooking the hot plate.  Unlike our last okonomiyaki experience, this one was cooked for us and we watched the different steps in the process with interest.  There were some men sitting next to me that gave me a running commentary on the dishes they ordered whilst waiting for their main course.  This included insisting I try some of their chicken dish - which was rather fatty and grisly, so I was pleased we hadn’t ordered any. However, our seafood okonomiyaki was delicious, and surprisingly light, given the amount of cabbage and noodles it contained, so we were able to eat it all. 

After lunch we headed straight to the Atomic Bomb Dome, which conveys the devastation caused by nuclear weapons.  Once a facility which exhibited and sold local products as well as hosting exhibitions, it is one of the few buildings to remain standing following the atomic bomb explosion on 6 August 1945.  The bomb exploded 600 metres above the ground, just 160 metres away. As the pressure of the blast came from above, part of the wall remained standing though anyone working in the building died instantly. Today the structure represents the importance of abolishing nuclear weapons and creating world peace.

From there, we wheeled our bikes into the Peace Memorial Park, passing the Hiroshima Peace clock which chimes daily at 8:15, the time the atomic bomb was dropped.  Nearby was the Peace Bell which visitors are encouraged to ring as they pray for world peace.  We stopped at the Atomic Bomb Memorial Burial Mound which contains the ashes of some 70,000 unidentified victims in an underground vault.  A large number of Koreans who worked as labourers in Japan also died in the bombing and the Korean Cenotaph is dedicated to them. The monument stands on a gigantic turtle which symbolises heaven.

The Children’s Peace Monument was particularly moving.  Built to commemorate Sadako Sasaki and the thousands of child victims, the monument was funded through the fundraising efforts of Sadako’s former classmates.  More than 3000 schools sent money and the funds were used to create a bronze statue of Sadako holding a golden folded crane.  Sadako was two years old when the bomb was dropped and later developed leukaemia.  She spent her last year folding more than a thousand paper cranes which were believed to grant the creator a wish, but she died 8 months later.  Now some 10 million cranes are offered each year at this monument.   

There were crowds of people around the Flame of Peace which was first lit in 1964, in hope of a world without nuclear weapons.  The flame will continue to burn until all nuclear weapons have been destroyed. It overlooked the Pond of Peace and the Memorial Cenotaph. The arch of the cenotaph acts like a shelter for dead souls and houses the names of all the people in Hiroshima who were killed by the atomic bomb.

We had debated visiting the museum and decided to leave it until tomorrow - a fortunate decision when we saw the queues and the sign advising a wait time of at least 90 minutes. Our final stop was the Gates of Peace, an artwork of 10 huge gates made of glass and steel, inscribed with the word “Peace” written in 49 different languages and 18 alphabets. 

We knew the Grand Prince Hotel was located near the port but away from any restaurants, so we stocked up on provisions for a picnic.  Fortuitously we passed a French patisserie so bought a baguette, pear tarte and some raisin bread for breakfast. We detoured via a little supermarket but it didn’t stock any breakfast cereal so we stopped at Fresta Supermarket which had all we needed.  A stop at the port to pick up our panniers, and we were soon at the hotel, together with two shuttle buses that arrived at the same time.  Check in was busy but the line moved quickly and soon we had our bikes parked and our bags in our room which had a nice view over the inland sea. 

A quiet night in - with a call home, and our picnic accompanied by a nice bottle of French Pinot noir.