Hiroshima Appreciation Day
Posted by Heliocentrism on October 2, 2016
Saturday September 3, 2016
Saturday, September 3rd, 2016
We have been living in Hiroshima prefecture for two and a half years now. Mark and I visited Hiroshima a few times when we still lived in Kyushu. But, other than the A-bomb Museum and Peace Park, we haven’t seen any of the other tourist attractions in Hiroshima City.This particular Saturday, I had an appointment in Hiroshima. Since we were there, I thought, “Why not see some stuff?”
After my appointment, we drove to Costco for free parking. Parking at Costco is free as long as there are no baseball games at the nearby Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium. (That is its real name in English.) When there is a game, Costco customers get 3 hours of free parking after scanning their receipt when paying for their parking. Baseball fans have to buy a parking pass to park at Costco or pay the ridiculous cost of $20 per 15-minutes of parking.
There was no baseball game that day, so we parked our car at Costco. Even though you’re not supposed to do that, Mark and I buy a lot of stuff from Costco. We buy all our electronics there, most of our fruit and meat, and almost all our cleaning products. They also have plenty of extra parking on non-baseball game days. So, I don’t feel too bad using Costco for free parking.
Right outside the Costco there are several red electric bikes. They are parked next to a sign advertising them for rent. “Why don’t we take one of these bikes?” Mark suggested. We looked at the instructions that were on the sign. To rent a bike, we needed a transportation card that we did not have.
“Let’s go to Hiroshima Station and ask someone at an information desk there about this,” I said. We walked 20 minutes to Hiroshima Station and was directed to a Peacycle office nearby. We filled out some papers and paid 1,000 yen each. We both got a fully charged red electric bike and a map of the city.
Mark was in a cultured mood that day, so he took off for the Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art. But first we stopped at a 7-Eleven to get a couple bottles of water for our day of biking. We parked next to some other bicycles, turned our bikes off, and locked the back wheels. We were told specifically to be careful where we parked the Peaceles. “Be careful of ‘No Bike Parking’ signs,” the Peacecle lady told us. “If other bikes are parked there, then maybe it’s okay. But try to find Peacele Parking.” Since there were three other bikes parked at the 7-Eleven and it was a quick stop, I wasn’t worried.
With our cold water bottles in our baskets, we headed up the steep hill to the art museum. It was very difficult. I got off my bike and pushed it up the hill. “So much for this electricity assisted bike!” Mark, on the other hand zipped up the hill and I could barely see him anymore.
Halfway up the hill, I looked at the handle of my bike to see how much power the battery had left. It was at 100 the last time I checked. The red-lit numbers weren’t there. “Wait a minute, this thing is not even turned on,” I exclaimed with relief. I turn the power one and set it to max.
I got back on the bike and peddled. There was a strong tug up the hill. “That’s why Mark was going so fast. He remembered to turn his bike back on after the 7-Eleven.” The ride up the hill was a lot easier. I still had to put some effort into paddling. But, it felt more like biking up a much less steep hill.
Outside the Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art we found the Peacecle parking our map promised us. I was afraid that I would not be able to distinguish my bike from the other red Peacecles, so I left my water bottle in the basket.
In the museum we bought tickets and tried to appreciate some art. Honestly, I think most of the art there was boring. There were a few things I liked; like a painting done with only thumb prints and one display of post cards. But, I personally, don’t have a deep love for art.
I like living near art museums. I like that there are people around me who love art. But for me personally, I just don’t get art in general and I find most of it to be boring.
On my first day back to work at one of my many, many schools, a coworker asked me about my summer vacation. I told her about my camping trips and asked about her holidays. She beamed with excitement, so much so that she forgot all her English.
She mumbled something about a tower as she ran back to her desk. I sat at my desk wondering what was going on while she searched her bag. Then she pulled out a brochure and handed it to me.
It said, “Hiroshima Orizuru Tower”. It was a new building near the A-bomb dome. Though, it calls itself a tower, it is only 13 floors tall. But, it offers a 360 degree view of Peace Park and downtown Hiroshima.
In the “tower” there is a floor where you can use a touchless computer to make an origami crane. By waving your hands in the air in front of the screen, you can fold an origami paper somehow. There is also a gift shop on the first floor. I found a website that boasts that any Hiroshima related souvenir can be found there.
The Hiroshima Orizuru Tower had opened in July, but its grand opening wouldn’t be until September 23rd. I wanted to see this new building before its grand opening, but there was a huge problem.
The admittance fee was 1,700 yen. That’s roughly $17 US. In Japan I find that often vendors have an overly inflated view of the value of their product. This was such an example. Mark and I didn’t want to pay $17 to go to the top of an eight-story building to look at the same downtown Hiroshima that we’ve seen hundreds of times before. The gift shop sounded interesting, though.
We bike to the new building and was greeted by many “No Bicycle Parking” signs. We circled the building and found an underground bike parking lot, but it cost a flat rate of 500 yen per day. It cost 1,000 yen to rent a bike; we didn’t want a 50% parking fee. “What did the Peacele lady say about free parking?” I asked Mark.
Mark pulled out the Peacecle map. “She said that there were many Peacecle spots where we could park for free,” Mark muttered as he tried to figure out our current location on the map. Sure enough, there was a Peacecle spot across the street from the overpriced “tower”.
We parked our bikes and as newly formed pedestrians, we crossed the road back to the Hiroshima Orizuru Tower byway of the underground shopping mall. We walked through the restaurant area of the underground mall then up to the sidewalk in front of the new building.
The Hiroshima Orizuru Tower did look shiny and brand new. At the entrance stood four uniformed women handing out flyers for the “tower”. They were dressed like flight attendants. Mark and I each got a flyer and we walked in.
Inside, we were greeted by ten more attendants. Some of them were about to hand us each a flyer, but stopped when they saw that some other attendants had already gotten to us. “Why are they advertising this building to people who are already in the building?” I asked Mark. “Doesn’t it sound impressive to say, ‘One hundred percent of the people I gave a flyer too entered the building,’?”
“I have to admit, that’s some good statistics!” I said. “But, maybe a ticket for this ‘tower’ wouldn’t cost so much if they didn’t hire so many people to do such pointless jobs.” I looked around, not only where there about 10 attendants there, but there was also about 8 clerks too. There were all standing around waiting for someone to sell a ticket to. While we were there maybe 2 or 3 people bought tickets. There were other attendants waiting by the elevator and some by the roped off area. There were more attendants than tourists by far.
We walked into the gift shop wondering what Hiroshimic surprises awaited us. I picked up the first thing that caught my eye. It was a very small, very cute jar of strawberry jam. “This is adorable!” “It has a not-so-adorable price tag,” Mark griped. I looked at the price label; 1,200 yen. “Twelve bucks for what is essentially 4 servings of jam!?” I gasped. I carefully returned the tiny jar to its spot on the shelf.
I looked around the store. It was part gift shop part overpriced grocery store. You could buy things like silver pens that don’t say Hiroshima to highly overpriced jars of miso soup paste that also don’t say Hiroshima on them. There were expensive boxes of omiyage and Carp paraphernalia that did say Hiroshima, but most of the stuff in the shop could be bought at a grocery store for a lot less.
We walked out of the “tower” feeling poor. I looked at Mark and asked, “Who buys anything from in here?” “I don’t know. But if I had a friend who told me they went to Hiroshima then handed me a jar of miso soup paste, I’d think my friend was a weirdo.”
We went back down to the underground mall to look for a restaurant. We chose one that seemed very Japanese. I know, we’re in the middle of Japan. Even the Italian restaurants seem very Japanese.
Once filled up with tempura, sashimi, miso soup, and other Japanese side dishes, we got back on our bikes and headed to Hiroshima Castle. Just about every city and town in Japan has a castle. They all pretty much look alike.
When you live in Hiroshima prefecture, everyone asks you the same two questions, “Have you been to a Carp game?” and “Have you see Hiroshima Castle?” When I say, “No,” to both, I get gasps. If they were southern bells they would swoon right in front of me. It’s just un-Hiroshimic to have, not only, never been to a Carp game, but also to have never visited Hiroshima Castle. I might as well say, “I don’t drink water and I think sleep is completely overrated.” That would make more sense to a Hiroshiman than someone who just did not like the Carp and didn’t care that much about Hiroshima Castle.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been drinking Hiroshima water for years, but honestly, Hiroshima Castle was the best castle I’ve ever seen in Japan. There are lots to do and see there. You have Hiroshima Castle itself, whose tickets are appropriately priced. There are the castle grounds; they’re huge. Then there is a shrine.
In front of the shrine is a little souvenir shop that sells specialty ice cream. I wanted to try the raw chocolate flavor and Mark wanted the sake soft serve. There was a long line for the ice cream, so Mark and I went to see what was going on at the shrine first.
There were two cars parked on what looked like freshly raked pebbles. Whenever I see cars where I really don’t expect a car to be I like to exclaim, “I could have just parked here!” But these cars were not illegally parked. I saw a Buddhist priest waving something on and around the cars. The cars were immaculately cleaned. They were either brand new or had been detailed. Their owners had brought them to the temple to be blessed.
After witnessing the cars being blessed, Mark and I saw that the ice cream line was gone. We bought our ice cream and sat on a bench on the grounds. We enjoyed our ice cream cones in front of what was the military headquarters a litter over half a century ago. That building, which is only a few rocks here and there now, is partly what made the American’s want to drop an atomic bomb on it during WWII.
Then we went to the castle. Pictures are not allowed inside. The only exception are the costume area and the lookout at the very top. At the lookout area we could see the Hiroshima Orizuru Tower. It didn’t look all that impressive.
Our tour of Hiroshima was over. We cycled back to Costco and returned the bikes. Then we went inside Costco and bought a barrel of body wash, a crate of mangoes, and half a year’s supply of toilet paper.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)
Hiroshima City Rental Cycle Peacecle
(Hiroshima-shi Kankō Rentasaikuru pi ̄ su kuru)
- There are many bike stations throughout Hiroshima City.
Once you’ve rented a Peacecle, don’t pay to park it. In Hiroshima city parking, even for bikes, is usually not free. But there are many Peacecle spots throughout the city. When you pick up your bike, take a Peacecle map with you so you know where you can park the Peacecle for free.
- All bike must be returned by midnight.
- You might have to register at 1-day pass counter the first time you rent a bike.
- These bikes are electric bikes.
(Hiroshima-shi Gendai Bijutsukan)
- Coordinates 34°22’57.1″N 132°28’20.1″E
- 1-1 Hijiyamakoen, Minami Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture 732-0815
- Adults: 370 (280) yen
- College Students: 270 (210) yen
- High School Students: 170 (130) yen
- 65 and over: 170 (130) yen
- 10:00-17:00 (last admission 16:30)
- Closed Mondays, year-end and New Year holidays
- Hiroshima MOCA is right next to the Hiroshima City Manga Library.
- Coordinates 34°24’05.4″N 132°27’34.7″E
- 21-1 Motomachi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture 730-0011
- Free entry except to Castle Tower.
- Admission fee to Castle Tower:
- Adults 370 yen,
- Senior citizens (aged 65 years and over)
- High school student 180 yen
- Mar – Nov 9:00-18:00 Admission ends at 17:30
- Dec – Feb 9:00 – 17:00 Admission ends at 16:30