We left Osaka this morning for an hour and a half train ride to Hiroshima. We got to town and immediately went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which is only a few blocks from our hotel. We went to the A-dome first, which is one of the only remaining structures after the detonation. It is quite surprising how much of it still exists, considering the blast was very close by. I learned, and probably learned before but forgot, that the bomb exploded 600 meters in the air above Hiroshima, just after everyone had come out of their bomb shelters for the day. It was pretty amazing to learn that we deployed other things in addition to the bomb, like mechanisms to determine the change in atmosphere at the time of the explosion. It really seemed like an additional experiment on the bomb. But it was the first time the bomb had ever been used, so I guess we wanted to learn whatever we could from it.
The park is beautiful and there are many peace memorials throughout. I saw the Children’s Memorial, the Korean victims’ memorial, a Biuddhist memorial, and the Cenotaph for A-Bomb Victims. The latter looks almost like a covered wagon, but was designed to protect the victims from the rain (after the bomb came “black rain”, which people also died from). It statesL “Rest in peace for the error shall not be repeated” and contains a list of names of victims.
At this point I was waiting to take a photo and struck up a conversation with an Australian man. He immediately detected my accent and asked if I was from the “States or Canada.” THE STATES. Honestly! Haha! We had a good talk, compared notes about the park, and went our separate ways. Loren and I then toured the museum, which was very informative. I didn’t feel as emotional here as I did at many places in Europe, which I contribute to the fact that, in my friend Jersey’s words, “they started it.” I mean, yes, our response was ultimately a nuclear bomb, but at the same time, maybe don’t bomb us first?
I enjoyed learning about the city, the victims, the bomb, and the aftereffects. It was clear that this was not a museum in the U.S. There was an actual tongue on display to show the effects, as was skin and fingernails and other body parts that I completely skipped over! I also enjoyed learning about a girl named Sadako Sasaki, who was 2 when the bomb exploded. She appeared fine for 10 years, but then was diagnosed with leukemia and died eight months after she began treatment. It was interesting to me to hear that leukemia and other cancers were caused by the radiation in the bomb because radiation is used as cancer treatment. Maybe that’s a stupid thought, I don’t know. Or maybe someone can explain it to me?
After the museum we walked toward Hiroshima Castle and stopped at McDonald’s for lunch. It was that or KFC and I preferred McD’s! I got a Big Mac, which I haven’t had in I don’t know how long. I literally can’t ever remember ordering one, though I’ve definitely had one before! I had to use Google translate to order it without onions. We then made it to the castle, which was another wooden structure. It was very pretty, but we opted not to go inside.
We then headed off to Shukkeien Park. On our way, we ran into our Australian friends again (the guy I spoke to and his wife). As we approached each other the guy goes, “Hey there Minnesota!” It was nice to see a “familiar” face and again swap stories of where were going/had been! They even asked us for Osaka tips! We then made it to the park, but first we saw the courts and the government buildings. They call their prosecutors “high public prosecutors.” I think I’m going to require people to call me a “high prosecutor” when I get back!
The park was very pretty. Lots of bonsai and a pond with enormous Koi. Like the biggest I’ve ever seen! And they were jumping. Like crazy! They jumped high in the air and then basically belly-flopped down. But there was a fair amount of jumping. The park had lots of different kinds of foliage, bridges, and scenic overlooks (that required the removal of shoes). I even had a close encounter with a turtle and a crab. (Not gonna lie, the crab totally reminded me of Bachelor in Paradise…for those of you who watched!) We got kicked out of the park at 5pm to the sound of Auld Lang Syne. Kind of bizarre.
After cabbing it back to the hotel and resting for a brief moment, we decided to go to the rooftop “Skybeer Restaurant” to check out the sunset. That was the first real glimpse of the Bay and all the islands and mountains around. It was gorgeous. We had a drink and then got ready for dinner. We went to Okonomi-mura, which is a building that has three levels completely devoted to making Okonomi-yaki. A friend of a friend recommended this Hiroshima specialty and this location specifically. We chose the third floor and ended up at a nice “stand” (there are about 8-9 “stands” on each floor).
Okonomi-yaki is sort of like a pancake, but not really. It has lots of different ingredients or “toppings.” I had one with squid (I substituted for deep-fried squid), shrimp, and pork (hold the pork). It starts by putting a floury-pancackey batter on the grill (it’s all made at a grill right in front of you), then topped with cabbage (a LOT of cabbage), bean sprouts, a little bit of corn, and then your toppings. Then they bring noodles out and cook those on the grill (they added my deep-fried squid to the noodles) before adding them on top of the other stuff. Then they crack an egg on the grill, mix it around and fry it and then place the fried egg on top of the other pile. Then they smush it down and add a brown sauce to the top. I was real leery of the brown sauce, but it was actually good! I tried something new and liked it! Who would’ve thought?!?! Though I could’ve done with less cabbage and bean sprouts. I could only eat half as it’s quite filling.
We were watching a baseball game during dinner (every stand on that floor had the game on and you could hear all the cheers on the floor when something happened). I decided to ask one of the cooks whether he knew of So Taguchi, a former Cardinal who was from Japan. He played in Japan before making the majors and won a World Series with the 2006 Cardinals. He is the first Japanese player to win a World Series. After his MLB days were done, he came back to Japan for one year before retiring. Now he says he wants to be the first Japanese manager in MLB, but wants to wait until his son is older. So I thought for sure these baseball fans would know him. They had no clue. So I pulled up a photos on my phone and the cook goes, “OH, Cardinals, Cardinals!” And then taught me how to pronounce “Taguchi” in their accent. It’s quite different, so that’s why he didn’t know who I was talking about!
We left there and went to Kemby’s, a sports bar-ish place also recommended to me by the friend of a friend. We each had a drink as we finished watching the Japanese baseball game we had started to watch at dinner. Then it went into extra innings, so it was Zima time again! The atmosphere of the place was great and everyone was paying attention to the game. Unfortunately the Hiroshima Carp (or the Cincinnati Reds, based on their logo) lost. We then went to leave, but Loren wanted to go somewhere else, so she started asking the American basketball players around us for ideas. They were (mostly) tall black guys, so it was a pretty good hunch they were basketball players. Who knew Japan had a professional basketball league? Not me! They played for the Lightning. Loren then went out and I went back to the hotel. And I need to go to bed now…it’s late!