Postcards from Hiroshima & Fukuoka

Hiroshima & Fukuoka, Japan

If you want the quick version of this trip check out my Youtube video:
Chuseok: A Trip to Hiroshima and Fukuoka

2 weeks ago Korea had one of its biggest national holidays, Chuseok. For the short break we took a ferry from Busan to Fukuoka. Whilst this was my fourth visit to Japan, the trip really stood out. This was my first time to Hiroshima and I didn’t know much about what happened on August 6th 1945. I watched a documentary beforehand to get a better idea but nothing could prepare me for the visit. It was an emotionally sobering and important experience. Visiting sites where tragic events took place is a strange thing. In the past I’ve almost felt detached. It’s hard to believe you are somewhere so well known for such horrific events, yet feeling nothing.  Maybe because in a way, it’s really impossible to fully understand such trauma and to say I do, would be untrue. When I went to Hiroshima, I was incredibly moved, frustrated and upset. The place left me feeling uneasy but also peaceful. Whilst we can never understand truly what happened, we can feel whats left and learn from it.

It’s important to say that whilst the Peace Memorial Park was a distinctly memorable part of our experience, there is more to Hiroshima than it’s dark history. During our stay we also visited some beautiful traditional areas including Miyajima and Iwakuni. We finished our trip with a day in Fukuoka exploring modern Japan. Here is our itinerary.

Day 1: Hiroshima
We got the ferry from Busan to Fukuoka and were told that our ferry back could be cancelled due to a typhoon. We were worried about what school would say but took the risk. We arrived, caught the bullet train to Hiroshima, ate ramen and that was that.

Day 2
1. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park
We got off the tram and literally right there stands the A-bomb dome. It’s the only building to have survived the nuclear attack and is incredibly eerie. The park is simple and beautiful but this stands out as a distinct reminder of what happened.  There are booklets spread about in different languages allowing you to read more on what happened. The Children’s Memorial is incredibly moving where groups of school children were singing, paying their tributes. After, we visited the museum. It was incredibly informative and doesn’t use much technology. It lets the evidence speak for the horrors of what happened. By the end of it I was in tears.

2. Miyajima
It was a very heavy morning. We were both incredibly moved but we also knew that there was more to Hiroshima than just a traumatic past. The city is very cultural so we nipped over on a ferry to Miyajima. This is where you see the huge red gate in the middle of the water. You can see it at low tide or high tide, depending on how close you want to get to it. It was beautiful and there’s deer walking around freely. Nara take two! We finished the night with an incredible sushi meal in Hiroshima. The sushi chef insisted he made us his ‘special.’ Thinking he was giving us one piece we said yes, then realised we were getting a whole set. We were nervous as to how much our bill was rapidly adding up but couldn’t help but enjoy the best sushi I’ve tasted. It was worth every penny.

Day 3:
1. Iwakuni
Hiroshima is famous for its castle and the gardens but instead we went to a place not far out called Iwakuni. The area is famous for the Kintaikyo Bridge, a castle and its serene Japanese gardens. However, in amidst this lies some oddities which made it a really interesting stop. In the same area you can also visit the Imazu White Snakes Museum. Actual white snakes. We’d also heard that there was an ice cream shop which sold 100 types of ice cream including some rather unusual flavours. You can choose your standard vanilla or if you’re more adventurous, maybe ramen, curry or garlic ice cream? We chose the wasabi and it was actually really good!  It was time to head back, eat more ramen (ramen every day) and then off to Fukuoka.

 Day 4: Fukuoka
1. Robosquare
In Tokyo, I didn’t really get to see many robot-y things. However, Fukuoka is apparently one of the leading areas in this field. Robosquare offers a taster of some techno-gimics. It’s small but free to visit and fun. Talking with Hello Kitty in Japanese and watching the robots perform a show is something you can truly only see in Japan.

2. Pokemon Centre
With the hype of Pokemon-Go and just simply wanting to relive my childhood, we had to visit. I went to the store in Osaka and I would say that one is better but it was still awesome. So hard to not spend all your money. PIKA-PIKA-CHU!

3. Ramen Square
We ate ramen every single day, so why not finish with it. Ramen Square is host to many noodle restaurants in a shopping mall. The food here is so good. After, we hit up the photo booths known as ‘purikura.’ This is where they make you look like a manga character, your eyes are enlarged, skin is flawless. It’s like you’ve been made by the creators of Wallace and Gromit with added frills. I wish they had this in Korea.

Luckily the next day our ferry was still running. It was a choppy journey but we returned safely. This was probably my last visit to Japan. I’m very sad to say goodbye, but really can’t complain given what opportunities living in Busan has given me. Sayonara ㅠㅠ



Postcards from Osaka

Osaka, Japan

I didn’t really know what to expect from Osaka. I thought it may be a chilled out version of Tokyo. In a sense it was, but the layout of Osaka’s sights are far more spread out. Whilst at times it may feel like Osaka is made up mainly of concrete, there are some great areas. Not to mention, this is the true place of Japanese cuisine. Home to conveyer-belt sushi and okonomiyaki, taking a stroll past these restaurants at night is where Osaka really comes to life. Dotonburi is the epicenter of this city’s hustle and bustle. Lit by shops, arcades and restaurants, the atmosphere presents a snapshot of buzzing, young Japan.

Day 1: Arrived in Osaka at our hostel.

Day 2: Osaka Castle, Aquarium Kaiyukan and Beer Festival. 
It was a cram-packed day hitting up three major sites as our time was limited. Since we’d already come from Kyoto (Japan’s traditional hub), we decided to give another temple a miss after seeing the incredible Osaka Castle. Instead, we headed to Osaka’s Aquarium Kaiyukan. It’s one of the most impressive Aquariums I’ve visited. A giant tank is in the centre of the building and gradually you spiral down the different levels. I was shocked by how fascinated I was with the jellyfish which were the most fun to photograph. On the evening, we stumbled onto a Japanese-German Beer Festival under the Umeda Sky Building. With a full band, bratwurst and lederhosen, it was quite a surreal combination. Europe had arrived in Asia for just an hour or two. Just before catching the train back to our hostel, we stumbled upon the Pokemon Centre. That’s right. A shop entirely dedicated to Pokemon. From soft toys, to cards, from the original 150 I grew up with, to Pokemon I didn’t even recognise, it had everything. Of course, with no money I still had to treat myself to something. Allison told me ‘getting a mug is lame’, which I think is a fair point. So, now when you enter my room you see my huge Pikachu pillow. No regrets.

Day 3: Universal Studios Japan
Today was a big day. The thought of Universal Studios Japan; a theme park centered around films combined with Japanese quirks, was far too exciting a thought for me. I’d been looking forward to this one for weeks. I have been to Orlando and would say that the park here is smaller with less rollercoasters, but it still boasted top rides including Harry Potter and Spiderman along with old classics like Back to the Future and Jaws.  It was a non- stop, high energy day.

Day 4: Onsen, Umeda Sky Building & Dotonburi
After two intense days we decided to give ourselves a little rest. The main part of the day was spent in an Onsen (Japanese spa). It was bliss. The onsen was really tiny, very different to the mega spas I’ve visited in Korea. There was an outside and an inside part. I was quite happy to spend the afternoon lazing in hot bath outside whilst it rained. In the evening we headed up to the Umeda Sky Building’s ‘Floating Gardens.’ This is not a garden but a viewing deck of Osaka’s cityscape which was great to see at sunset. Finally, what better to finish Osaka than to head to it’s hub, Dotonburi. We met with a friend whom I went to University with. The phrase ‘It’s a small world’ really hits home when you can meet someone you know on the other side of the world. Although brief, we finished our trips together wondering through it’s chaotic streets.

Osaka offers a true taste of Japan. It’s lively and friendly atmosphere makes Japan’s third largest city certainly a fun place to visit.