After Koyasan, we decided to do a short stop at Himeji Jo, Japan’s most impressive medieval castle and its first World Heritage listing, before reaching Hiroshima where we would stay for a day.
Himeji Jo is quite a sight from the outside but inside it was truly disappointing. Maybe we are just used to big and impressive castles in Europe, but I think it has more to do with how they present it rather than with the castle itself. There was no explanation about the main keep which was the highlight of the visit and it was completely empty: no fake weapons on the weapon racks, no samurai armor, no status representing the Daimyo, nothing. We were pressed like sardines up and down the 7 floors of the castle and even though you do have a nice view from up there, it’s really not worth the hassle. And definitely not worth the 10 EUR we paid, which was the most expensive monument we have visited in Japan, and certainly not the most noteworthy.
Still, as I said, from the outside, it’s really quite a sight, especially during sakura time, so I did take plenty of pictures. And I guess it’s a sort of must-see on any tourist’s list traveling between Osaka and Hiroshima.
It was much less interesting than Hiroshima Castle for example. From the inside you cannot really see the old wooden building because the atomic bomb blew everything away, but they reconstructed the castle in 1958 and it is now a museum explaining life in a castle and how Hiroshima evolved to be the city it is now. I learned more in 30min of visiting Hiroshima castle than I did in 3h at Himeji!
I really really liked the atmosphere in Hiroshima. You can feel you are in the South, people are much more relaxed here and there is something in the air that makes you feel good. I know it sounds strange, but I guess it’s thanks to the hard work of the locals who have transformed this symbol of death into a city of peace and life.
The river banks are lovely for biking and we followed them this morning to arrive to the Hiroshima peace memorial and the dome which is the only building kept as it looked like after the blast. We rode our bikes through parks literally exploding with sakura, some of which were already loosing their flowers. Did you know why sakura (cherry blossoms) are the favorite flower of Japanese people? Because they are one of the few flowers to fall before they (fâne), and are the symbol of ephemeral beauty.
You can see some extraordinary sakura trees at Shukkeien garden, in addition to lots of cute bridges and pavilions.
Unfortunately we can’t spend more time in Hiroshima. Now that I’ve been here, I know I will stay longer next time and visit the islands in front of the river delta, especially Miyajima and its famous tori in the sea.
And now is time for another epic travel to Kyushu to discover Japan’s volcanoes and famed thermal baths in the mountains!