Day 11: November 1st 2008 Saturday
Kyoto, Himeji, Hiroshima
So for the Saturday, my plan was to go to Hiroshima. I was little bit hesitant if I wanted to stop at the Himeji castle. The weather forecast was looking good, and the castle was supposed to be beautiful, so I decided to wake up early, take the bullet train and stop at Himeji on my way to Hiroshima. I wanted to spend some time before nightfall in Hiroshima too, so I had to wakeup unfortunately early to catch the train. I took the local train to Kyoto main station, and transferred to shinkansen.
Quite soon I reached Himeji station. As I got out, I left my excess luggage at the station coin locker, and headed out with my camera. Already from the station, you can see the castle some 1 kilometer away. I reached the castle just opening time, so there were hardly any people yet. The castle looked really nice, I went around a bit, and then inside. Inside, you can climb to the top of the castle. They have stairs, but they are pretty steep, so it's more like climbing. The inside of the castle wasn't that fancy, some old items, armor, weapons and such. I got upstairs, peered around the scenery for a while, and then came back down. I briefly checked some other building in the area, and then walked back to the station. Luckily next bullet train was just arriving, so I jumped in and continued towards Hiroshima.
The hotel in Hiroshima was almost at the station, so after arriving to Hiroshima, it took me only 5 minutes to get to the hotel. I quickly dropped my stuff at the hotel room, and then went out. From the station, I took bus towards the A Bomb Dome, the building that withstand the atomic bomb explosion. The story of the building was really interesting. The bomb epicenter was just some 100 meters from the building, but as the bomb was detonated about 500 meters above ground, the blast wave came almost directly above, and the building structure was able to withstand the pressure. The building is still left in the same state, as it was after the explosion.
I jumped out from the bus close to the A Bomb Dome -building and walked through a shopping mall to get there. As I got close to the building, there were really lot of people in the area. The building is located just across the river from the Peace Memorial Park, which is also popular tourist destination. The park has lot of monuments, I'd say some 10-15 total. From all those, I thought the A Bomb Dome was the most impressive, by far. The detonation, devastating the area completely for about 3 kilometer diameter, wasn't able to destroy this one building.
After peering around the Dome, I walked around the Peace Memorial Park. There were lot of monuments around. Of course the incident is quite touching, but do you really need this many monuments? What you get from 10 monuments, that you cannot achieve with few? After I walked at the park, I went back to the shopping area. I noticed I was low on cash, so I stopped at an ATM. Then I noticed certain issue, which I was told beforehand. Many ATMs don't accept foreign Visa credit cards. The ATMs have the Visa-logo, which is supposed to mean that your visa credit card is accepted. However, in Japan, most ATMs have small text unded the visa-logo "only Japanese visa-cards".
A Bomb Dome
Weather was nice, so I didn't mind walking around. However, after several kilometers, and some dozen ATMs, I was starting to get worried. I stopped to read Lonely Planet guide, and I found that there was one bank, which had international ATM. The bank was next to the Peace Memorial Park, so I had to walk back. At the bank, they had several ATMs, and as I was investigation the ATMs, I couldn't find one that didn't have the domestic restriction on them. I noticed a guard was peering at my investigation, so I went to ask him which one accepted international cards. Instead of replying, he pointed me to a clerk inside the back. I repeated the question, and she told me their ATMs don't accept my card, but she instructed me to an another bank about 100 meters from there. So finally I got more cash.
With cash, and night approaching, I decided I wanted to go eat okonomiyaki. I was told it's local specialty, although you can get okonomiyaki elsewhere too, you're supposed to eat one in Hiroshima. It's difficult to describe what okonomiyaki is. It looks little bit like pizza, but instead of the dough, they use vegetable and noodles. Sounds interesting, huh? Actually I had one earlier in Usa. At Akimatsuri in Bellevue WA, they were serving okonomiyaki. It wasn't to my liking, but as I was told you are supposed to eat okonomiyaki in Hiroshima, I was going to try one.
As usually, I didn't want to dine at the tourist area, so I walked few kilometers off the city center, and then started looking for okonomiyaki place. I stopped at few restaurants, and tried to read the menu. The problem was, I didn't know how you write okonomiyaki in kanji, so I spent some time trying to guess if a restaurant had okonomiyaki or not. After a moment, local woman was passing the restaurant, so I asked her if the menu had okonomiyaki. She told me this was drinking bar, not for food. But she was nice to lead me to another restaurant, which specialized in okonomiyaki. This time the food was better than compared to Usa, but still it's not on my favourites. Too much vegetable. After eating, I took the tram back to station, and went to hotel for sleep.