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Discovering Hiroshima’s vibrant side

Yuliasri Perdani

The Jakarta Post

Hiroshima, Japan  /  Thu, March 14, 2019  /  05:54 pm
Discovering Hiroshima’s vibrant side

Tranquil journey: The Shimanami Kaido cycling route, a 60-kilometer road-and-bridge network in Hiroshima, was listed as one of the seven best bike routes in the world by CNN. (Setouchi Tourism Authority /-)

Pedaling through one of the world’s best cycling routes. Marveling at the burst of colors that light up the night at Hiroshima Castle. Exploring a centuries-old shrine built on water. It may come as a surprise that Hiroshima offers such diverse attractions.

Moving beyond its tragic past, Hiroshima has rebuilt itself into Japan’s leading industrial zone, visible through the many factories, shipyards and Mazda’s vast manufacturing complex that line its coastline.

But for travelers, Hiroshima’s cultural history and nature are what makes it such an exciting destination.

 

Shimanami Kaido cycling route

There is lots to enjoy while cycling along the Shimanami Kaido cycling route, a 60-kilometer road-and-bridge network connecting Hiroshima with its neighboring small islands.

The route offers charming views of lemon trees and the Seto Inland Sea, also known as Setouchi. As you’re peddling along the bridges, the fresh ocean breeze touches your skin.

Avid cyclists will definitely not want to miss the Shimanami Kaido, which was named one of the seven best bike routes in the world by CNN.

Cycling heaven: Cyclist-friendly ferries and lodgings can be found along the Shimanami Kaido cycling route.Cycling heaven: Cyclist-friendly ferries and lodgings can be found along the Shimanami Kaido cycling route. (JP/Yuliasri Perdani)

For those looking for a more laid back sporting experience, don’t hesitate to pick a shorter route and rent an electric bike, which helps when climbing up hills.

The Shimanami Kaido is supported by cyclist-friendly facilities, such as the Cycle Ship Ferry that serves stops along the cycling route and provides ample bike parking space. There is also Onomichi U2’s Hotel Cycle that provides a bike hanger in every room just in case you don’t want to take your eyes off your precious bike.

 

Hiroshima Castle

Seen in a new light: Each night, Hiroshima Castle is transformed into an interactive art space during the teamLab:Digitized Hiroshima Castle event that runs until April 7. Seen in a new light: Each night, Hiroshima Castle is transformed into an interactive art space during the teamLab:Digitized Hiroshima Castle event that runs until April 7. (JP/Yuliasri Perdani)

The original castle was constructed in the 1590s, but was destroyed when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city in 1945. What stands now is a replica, built in 1958, which also serves as a museum.

Travelers can see the castle in a different light at night when a swath of giant bouncy “eggs” emanate colorful glows around the castle park. In some ways, it feels like you've fallen into a calmer version of Alice’s Wonderland.

The light show, called teamLab: Digitized Hiroshima Castle, will run from from Feb. 8 until April 7. It is the brainchild of art collective teamLab, the creative force behind scores of fascinating multimedia exhibitions, including teamLab: Borderless in Odaiba, Tokyo.

 

Itsukushima Shrine

Shrine in the bay: The Itsukushima Shrine and its torii gate were built in the bay to maintain the sanctity of Miyajima, a sacred island where deities are believed to dwell. . Shrine in the bay: The Itsukushima Shrine and its torii gate were built in the bay to maintain the sanctity of Miyajima, a sacred island where deities are believed to dwell. . (JP/Yuliasri Perdani)

The bright crimson Itsukushima Shrine stands out against the blue sea and the green Mount Misen forest in background. Originally built 1423 years ago in 593CE, the shrine is considered one of the three best views in Japan along with Matsushima Island and Amanohashidate. 

The Itsukushima Shrine was intentionally built in the bay to maintain the sanctity of Miyajima Island, which is believed be the home of deities.

Depending on the time of your visit, you will get a different view of the Itsukushima Shrine, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

When the tide rises, the shrine and its torii gate appear to be floating on the water. You can pass through the gate on a boat when the seas are at their calmest.

At low tide, you can see all sides of the shrine in its entirety and walk up to the torii gate, located 200 meters offshore from the shrine. Many visitors stick coins into the base of the gate in an attempt to earn good luck, although it is discouraged as it may damage the gate.

 

Hiroshima Peace Museum and Park

Recording the past: The Hiroshima Peace Museum serves as a somber reminder of the need to maintain peace.  Recording the past: The Hiroshima Peace Museum serves as a somber reminder of the need to maintain peace. (JP/Yuliasri PerdaniYuliasri Perdani)

A visit to the Hiroshima Peace Museum and Park will bring some deep thoughts. The museum displays the belongings of the atomic bomb victims, including a set of uniforms collected from three different boys who lost their lives in the horrific event that ended World War II. Some of the exhibits also help one better understand the science behind the atomic bomb and the global efforts to end the use of nuclear weapons.

One of the museum guides, Osamu Nakazawa, was one year old when the bomb hit his hometown. Luckily, he and his family were not hurt as they lived quite far from the blast.

“I wish to tell the world and visitors what happened to Hiroshima. It is my responsibility to remind them to maintain peace,” said Nakazawa, who has been serving at the museum for ten years.

Not far from the museum is the Atomic Bomb Dome – a building that somehow avoided complete destruction although it was located close to the explosion. The building, which used to be the prefecture’s industrial promotion hall, has been designated a World Heritage Site.

The Children’s Peace Monument is just a short walk from the dome. With all the colorful origami paper cranes decorating the monument, it is hard to imagine that it is a somber commemoration of Sadako Sasaki and the thousands of children who died from the bomb blast. Sasaki developed leukemia after being exposed to the radiation of the blast at the age of two. She is remembered through the story of the one thousand paper cranes she folded before her death at the age of 12.

 

The land of sake and okonomiyaki

Savory treat: Unlike Osaka-style okonomiyaki, which is cooked by mixing all the ingredients, the Hiroshima-style one layers each ingredient and always includes noodles. Savory treat: Unlike Osaka-style okonomiyaki, which is cooked by mixing all the ingredients, the Hiroshima-style one layers each ingredient and always includes noodles. (JP/Yuliasri Perdani)

If you leave Hiroshima without savoring a plate of freshly grilled oysters, a generous portion of okonomiyaki and few shots of local sake, then you’re definitely missing out.

Hiroshima is a one of Japan’s three major sake-producing areas, along with Fushimi in Kyoto and Kobe's Nada district. It is a home to around 50 sake brewers, who still hold onto their centuries old sake-making tradition and craft their rich flavors using locally grown rice and fresh spring water.

Want drink like world leaders? The choice is Kamotsuru’s Tokusei Gold Daiginjo. Then-US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drank the surprisingly affordable sake together during the former’s visit to Japan in 2014. As you pour the sake, you will smell a refined aroma and find cherry blossom-shaped gold flakes floating around the glass.

Unlike Osaka-style okonomiyaki where all the ingredients are mixed, the Hiroshima-style one layers each ingredient and always includes noodles (yakisoba or udon). At the humble okonomiyaki eatery, Nagata-ya, you may need to wait around 15 minutes for a seat, but its savory pancake is worth the wait – flavorful but not heavy, and boasting rich textures. Plus, the restaurant also provides no-pork and vegetarian options.

It is not hard to get fresh oysters in Hiroshima, one of the country’s top oyster producers. On the street you can easily spot street vendors grilling oysters over open flames, and you can also munch deep-fried ones at restaurants.

Refreshing: Many shops in Hiroshima offer snacks and drinks made from locally grown lemons. Refreshing: Many shops in Hiroshima offer snacks and drinks made from locally grown lemons. (JP/Yuliasri Perdani)

Looking for culinary gifts to bring home? You can buy some lemon-flavored snacks. Hiroshima’s lemons boast strong acidity and sweetness, which become the base of a slate of tasty products, from lemon meringues to lemon-flavored noodles.
 

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The Japanese government recently invited a group of journalists, including from The Jakarta Post, to go on a four-day trip to Hiroshima.