Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hiroshima : An Introduction

Hiroshima. A city that needs no introduction. When the world's first A-bomb was dropped on this city on the morning of August 6th, 1945, the city became known worldwide. Visitors to the city today are amazed to see how the city has risen from the ashes to become a modern cosmopolitan city like any other major city in Japan.

During the Obon Holidays this year, our family visited Hiroshima along with Miyajima and Iwakuni.   

Hiroshima was founded in the year 1589 and a castle was built there by the warlord Mori Terumoto. However it was lost in the Battle of Sekigahara to the forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu. This battle was one of the most important battles in Japanese history, because it marked the beginning of the powerful Tokugawa Shogunate. Under the shogunate, Hiroshima was given to the Asano Clan which ruled it for over 2 centuries. During the Meiji Restoration, Hiroshima became a major industrial centre and was one of the larger cities in Japan. It was also the ammunition producing centre during the World War II. No wonder, Hiroshima was one of the cities that was chosen as target of the A-Bomb. The other candidate cities were Kokura, Kyoto, Nagasaki and Niigata. The only two A-Bombs to have been used till date were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both in Japan. The A-Bomb on Nagasaki was dropped on 9th August 1945,  3 days after the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. 
I will cover more on this in my next post - Hiroshima Peace Park and A-Bomb Memorial. 

In the days following the bombing, it was predicted that Hiroshima would become uninhabitable.  Due to the extent of destruction, reconstruction was not an easy task. Visitors to the city today can see how the Japanese resilience has proved this prediction wrong. Over the years, Hiroshima has once again become a major commercial centre. 

Every major tourist destination in Japan has its own "Meibutsu" - local food speciality. In case of Hiroshima it is "Okonomiyaki". 
While Okonomiyaki is a popular dish in all of Japan, Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki is different from what one may eat in Tokyo, Kyoto or even Osaka. It was an interesting experience to see the Okonomiyaki being made in front of us.

So famous is the Okonomiyaki, that the city's Naka Ku,  even has "Okonomi mura", or Okonomi(yaki) village- a street with many Okonomiyaki joints. 
Some joints are famous and people wait outside the shops for hours to get in. No one can beat the Japanese when it comes to having patience !

When it comes to local souvenirs (Omiyage), Hiroshima's Momiji Manju is the most famous. 

This maple leaf shaped Manju with a traditional  sweet anko (red bean) filling are what the Japanese people buy as Omiyage for their family, friends and co workers. These days Momiji Manju come in a variety of flavours including green tea, custard, chocolate, cream etc. We chose to buy our stock of Omiyage at a store in Miyajima.   

Hiroshima is one of the few cities in Japan where trams are a major means of transportation. Hiroshima's tram, known locally as Hiroden, are the cheapest and most convenient way , to explore the city. 
When visiting Hiroshima, visitors can take side trips to Miyajima, Iwakuni, Okayama, Kurashiki or Sandankyo. Miyajima, with it's floating shrine is one of Japan's three famous views. Iwakuni's Kintai Kyo Bridge is well known for its unique architecture. While Okayama is well known for its Korakuen garden and the legend of Momotaro; Kurashiki is known for its canals and preserved old town. Sandankyo is a gorge well known for its scenic beauty. We chose to visit Miyajima, Iwakuni and Sandankyo. 

Official Hiroshima Prefecture Tourism Website: Click here 

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