Hiroshima was a strange sort of experience in that it is a city which has carried on with life. It is hard to think that a city which was practically destroyed 70 years ago would still be here and life carried on. I think it is a symbol of the resilience of the human spirit to overcome horrors many of us could only imagine.
We only spent a day in the city but I am glad we did. I feel I would have missed out on a very eye opening experience if I hadn’t. The museum dedicated to the impact of the A-bomb and a continued wish for peace was really interesting as well as quite harrowing.
p.s. the building in the second picture was under where the bomb exploded. Approximately 5 buildings remained standing after the A-bomb went off for a radius of (If I remember) 10 kilometres. So everything in the city centre is new. The islands in the river have been dedicated to a peace memorial park which is quite lovely to stroll around.
Firstly, I would go back to Kyoto anytime. It is just one of those towns that have some personality. The kind of place which would be your instant best friend, know all the great spots to go in town and will keep all your secrets.
We stayed in the eastern bit of Kyoto right near the Gion area. On our first full day there we woke up early-ish and headed to what was local, which happened to be one of the biggest temples Chion-In Temple which is next to Maruyama Park.
When we arrived there weren’t many people around and I really enjoyed the experience of wandering around and seeing these holy places in calm being used as they were meant to. We seemed to follow these ladies on their own path through the complex (it takes up a lot of space) and I enjoyed seeing how people interacted with the space.
We then wandered into the park, tried some bamboo ash ice-cream and waited for these children sitting near us to be eaten by the crows. Luckily it didn’t happen. At least while we were there.
After the calm of the park and Buddhist temple we walked into the Shinto temple next door. The contrast is beautiful. From calm, natural colours, lots of raw wood we moved into this riot of colour, bells been rung, hands been clapped, bright orange paint, shops selling dreams and wishes at the front and tourists dressed in traditional Japanese attire. I love how these two polarities live together in Japan. This yin and yang of colour and nature, quiet and music, austerity and shopping. It is amazing to think that these two different practises live side by side within the Japanese culture. It is a nice metaphor that suggests we don’t have to fit into a tightly defined box, don’t you think?
I was nervous about Tokyo. We were going from our 200,000 population town to a city with 28 MILLION PEOPLE! My mind just couldn’t get around that. I was eventually able to manage it mostly without getting lost too often in the crazy massive metro stations (I’m sure there were 200,000 people in our nearest metro station at one time). I did find that I enjoyed the quieter sides of the city more than what seemed like a shopping crazy obsessed city. So if you are not too concerned with spending all your money and you are also interested in the quieter side of Tokyo here are my suggestions.
Admittedly this neighbourhood was mentioned in our Rough Guide guidebook and from the internet it seems like on a weekend it can get crazy busy. This neighbourhood is about the only part in Tokyo that was saved from an earthquake in the 30s and WWII damage and so is ‘old style’ Japan. I probably would have visited at another time as when we went on a Wednesday morning most of the shops and restaurants were closed and it was more just a pleasant wander through a nice neighbourhood. Also it was about as hot as the surface of the sun and not much shade so I now totally get why the Japanese ladies all carry an umbrella with them all the time.
One place that was open was a little bakery/cafe which made delicious ice-tea and delicious ‘fusion’ type bake goods with a Frenchy feel but definitely with Japanese flavours.
This one street in Shibuya: Kamiyamacho
Shibuya is the ‘shop yourself crazy’ area of Tokyo with several malls which are just H.U.G.E. Like seven stories of mall! However, if you start walking towards Yoyogi Park you find Kamiyamacho street. Along the road you will find some beautiful little shops,an independent publishing bookshop and a Monocle shop which I was hoping would have coffee but didn’t.
However, we did find the one decent coffee that we had in Japan at a Norwegian coffee shop that makes Italian coffee called Fuglen.
Just a nice quiet place to walk around and gather your thoughts while watching the Japanese be Japanese. Playing basketball, reading the newspaper, cycling by.
I really enjoyed seeing contemporary art curated in a Japanese gallery. The Japanese aesthetic really came through in particular in this exhibition on Form and Shape which I really enjoyed. If you like art I would suggest heading to this gallery as you can also get a view of Japan from the 52nd floor.
Sky High Juice bar did some great smoothies. It is a little bit out of the way but we really needed a vegetable and fruit hit.
I would fully recommend our airbnb.
Itoya stationery store in Ginza is amazing. Seven floors!