Going nuclear

Without knowing it we seem to have booked a hostel right next to the Peace Park (which makes the taxi driver just clueless I suppose) so we set out to do the the Peace museum first of all.Atomic dome This museum of course deals with the nuclear bomb that was dropped to end World War II and the entry fee is a symbolical 50 jpy (like 4 sek). It turns out to be one of the very best museums I’ve been to and is very moving. It’s very matter-of-fact in its presentation of catastrophe and presents a sincere picture of the horrors following the blast.

Among the many amazing stories I learned at the museum, a couple stood out: The first was that as little as three days after the blast, the city trams were rolling again! Take that, SJ! The other was about probably the unluckiest man alive, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who was in Hiroshima on a business trip.VW Café The meetings were done and they were all on their way, but Yamaguchi realized that he had forgotten the seal used for signing official documents, so he headed back into town. He of course timed it perfectly with the first bomb. Badly burned, deaf, and partially blind, he spent the night in the ruined city and come morning managed to catch a train out of town back home… to Nagasaki. So as he is telling his colleagues and boss about the events in Hiroshima – the second bomb drops. In 2009, he was certified as the only known person to have been at ground zero of both blasts. A year later, at age 93, he died of stomach cancer.

There is also the story you’ve all heard about poor Sadako who was sick from radiation poisoning and in the hospital started to fold paper cranes. This because there’s this old Japanese legend that says that if you fold a thousand cranes you will be cured by the gods. She only made it to 644 before being too weak to continue, and she died shortly after. Her legacy lives on in the Peace Park outside the museum however, where her statue stands, next to a display containing thousands of paper cranes from all over the world. Right next to the Peace Park, just over the river stands the iconic dome of the old city hall. The city hall was just a 160 m southeast of the blast, which occurred 580 m up in the air and was badly damaged.Shameless deer It has since been preserved in this state and is a proper monument and reminder of the blast.

It’s a blistering hot day so we’re pretty psyched when we spot an ambulatory café in the form of two girls in a VW bus! That is too cool an idea to pass up and since it’s also unbelievably hot we get some iced coffee and chat a bit. They are very excited over the fact that we’re Swedes and start rattling off all the Swedish brands they can think of. Refreshed we’re ready to tackle our next objective; the little island Miyajima just outside town. Miyajima is home to the enormous red torii that you’ve probably seen majestically standing out in the water. Unfortunately we realize that we could’ve planned this better as we from the ferry see that it’s low tide and the torii now stands on dry land…

Miyajima ToriiMiyajima is also home to a virtual deer infestation, the damn buggers are really everywhere! Today they’re not very perky however, owing to the intense heat. We’re not terribly impressed with Miyajima, it’s rather touristy and even if it does have a fair share of nice temples, it’s not something that you can’t see elsewhere in Japan. The torii however is rather great, even in low tide, but if you decide to make a stop here, try and time it with high tide and you’ll get the most out of it. Another thing the island is know for are the oysters, so as it comes around to eating time we find an oyster place and order some tempura. I’m sure they’re delicious as far as oysters go, but it’s not something I’ll make a point of looking up again… After eating we feel more or less done with the place and make our way back to the ferry, where we’re mercilessly molested by the deer who now, as the day draws to an end and the temperature drops, are more up and about. We witness one woman getting her map stolen right out of her back pocket by a leery-eyed Bambi, so we make sure everything is bolted down.


There’s another reason we’re in Kagoshima; there is an active volcano next door! But that isn’t even the interesting part, as any avid gamer knows there are these white beets you pull out of the ground, some of them as big as your head, and throw at foes in Super Mario 2.Volcano As it turns out, these beets are for real, and they grow right there, at the side of the volcano! They’re called Daikon and they’re basically huge radishes, I guess the reason they get so freakishly large is the super-nutritious ashen soil. We board one of the frequent ferries and head over, only to find out from the lady at the information desk that the Daikon season is late winter! Total bummer… Oh well, we decide to hop on a tour that takes us up to the top observatory together with about a hundred Japanese baseball kids.

The tour is kinda meh, but observing Japanese touristing is always amusing. And at the topmost observatory there is this rather cool scale model of the volcano under the glass floor. In the souvenir shop I get a Daikon fridge magnet, the only Daikon I’m likely to see this trip sadly… On the map we’ve found a lava field that you can visit as well, so we hop on a bus and find ourselves dropped off somewhere in the wilderness with a couple of footpaths leading up a hill.Coins Disappointingly there is no live lava to be found here, even though you wouldn’t think so, given how hot it is! The sun is unrelenting, the ground is all black and the few shady spots are taking by the cleaning staff, gasping for air. The field isn’t much more than a maze of footpaths interspersed by a few bigger hunks of lava rock where people are fond of placing coins. As we’re about to leave the volcano decides to wake up and start billowing sulfurous smoke! Quite cool to watch as we wait for the bus in what is surely over 45 degrees Celsius heat.

We have another stop planned on the way back, touted as one of the best onsens in the area, complete with fabulous pictures, the Furusato Onsen certainly looks like the perfect place to cool off for a bit. The bus pulls up to this Communist-looking, huge box of concrete which probably was all the rage somewhere back in the early seventies.Snow crabs Undeterred we go inside and receive our robes and bathing clothes (this is a mixed onsen, so you’re basically bathing in a pajama). Walking down to the pools we pass this supremely depressing dried out swimming pool, looking more or less like the one I saw in Pripyat, Chernobyl. The actual onsen is just one pool that doubles as a shrine, which is kinda nice. But you quickly realize that the pictures online are taken from more or less the only possible angles and that the place is really not very nice. Suffice to say that we don’t stay that long.

Back at the mainland we have some time to spare and decide to visit the nearby aquarium as well. They have this baby whale shark they’re rather proud of, but the coolest thing I found were probably the snow crabs. Freakish creatures those! They have a dolphin show as well, but if you’ve been to Kolmården, then it’s not very impressive. Towards the evening it’s time to move on to our next destination; Hiroshima. That means traversing almost half of Japan to get there, but with the Shinkansen that is only some three-four hours which is nice. It’s rather late when we arrive so we just grab a taxi to get to the hostel we booked. But due to the mess that is the Japanese address system, the driver can’t even find the place! After a lot of confusion he does eventually find it and we can go to bed in the somewhat crappy but cheap dorm.