The Great Himeji Castle and Wonderful Hiroshima

Among many wonders and beauties in Japan is Himeji Castle. Located just outside of Himeji city, it is the most visited castle in Japan, well known word wide and on a list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Original castle was built in 1333, later upgraded and extended in several phases till 1618. Since then it is in it’s original state and had survived world wars and many natural disasters. It was then closed for a couple of years for restoration and reopened in March 2015.

Well, since the train line towards Nagasaki passes through Himeji, it made perfect sense to stop by such a gorgeous place. In order to manage everything, we woke up quite early, around 6 AM and we left boiling hot Kyoto. Two hours later we arrived to Himeji.


Well, as you can see from our faces, it was not a single degree cooler. 🙂 We’ve spent almost 2 hours walking around this area and we’ve seen the famous Himeji Castle. It’s really nice, but similar to all other famous places – packed and overcrowded. Which is usually fine, but not when there’s absolutely no space in the shade. 🙂


We tried to cool down a bit hiding in various souvenir shops. In one of them we tried local snacks that look like sweet grissini covered with melted brown sugar. Most likely that was the sweetest thing we actually had in Japan.

Since cooling down in shops worked just partially, we decided to stop at the Samurai caffe bar. It’s one of a few places that offers local craft beers, and those are really different. Whole place is very traditional with samurai stories inside, and each Busho beer is telling one of stories too. Unfortunately, only in Japanese. 🙂


Among weirdest I had to try the beer made with red wine. It was weird, but not bad at all. 🙂


On the way back to the train station it got so hot again, that nothing helped. Any place in the shade was better than getting roasted on the hot asphalt. As you can see. 🙂

On the train station, we’ve witnessed our first and only serious situation in Japan. A guy (local) refused to pay the ticket for the train (or something like that), and local rail guys pointed him to the exit. He tried to run into the station but suddenly Police and Rail securities came from several sides and blocked him and took him outside. A minute after that, life continued like nothing at all happened and we took the train towards Hiroshima.

Hiroshima was on a list of places that I must see. Mostly due to the WW2 and that saddest act of war that happened in the history of this planet. Even though I could just open google and search for photos of Hiroshima today, I never actually checked how this place looks like. We were taught that the city was completely ruined, and expectations (which are quite wrong) are that place is most likely in terrible condition. I mean, we all know people live there and is most likely completely renewed as all cities in Germany, but impression that atomic bomb ruined everything for ever remained.

However, it’s absolutely not. Hiroshima is one of the nicest and finest places in Japan and in the world in general. It is known as place to enjoy night life, great food and nice people. At least I got the feeling that it is the second most vivid city in Japan.

On each important building in Hiroshima, there’s a photo how it looked like after the atomic blast. So as soon as you get of the train on a relatively modern train station, you can see the photo of completely – to the ground – burned old train station. And it’s almost 1.8 km away from the atomic dome.


It was our first place where we were not able to find AirBnB and we booked a hotel on some random site. We did not pay anything nor left any credit card information. We were quite insecure how that would work out, so we hurried to the hotel first. Luckily, it was all OK, so we left our luggage there and we headed towards the Hiroshima peace park and atomic dome memorial.


When we were planning our trip, I completely forgot what time of the year will be when we arrive in Hiroshima. We arrived just two days after the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb.


It was still full of people visiting and paying a tribute to all lost lives in that terrible tragedy.


There were thousands of flowers that were placed there in memory of lost lives a day earlier, and tents used during the memorial.


We decided to eat first, and we ate in the restaurant which is here in the memorial park, below the surface. That part is a convention centre and a hotel for all sort of business meetings that hosts all the important guests visiting Hiroshima on important occasions. It was not really our first choice, but yet again, reason was hiding from the heat. 🙂 Finding anything else was not an option.


After lunch we headed to the atomic bomb museum. Now, I don’t know about you, but not a single book, documentary or number you can find on-line can give you a proper dimension of the disaster that happened in Hiroshima. Once you are at the place of the blast and in the museum you can really feel the pain and sadness that happened here just 70 years and two days ago.

On the picture above, red ball represents the explosion that happened 600 meters above the city, and below is the result of the explosion. More than 4 kilometres in radius erased in seconds and 69% of the city burned to the ground. Museum is properly done, you can learn many things and see photos from that time, but it’s extremely sad and emotional place to be.


After lunch and museum we headed to Rijo castle. Castle was originally built back in 1590s but as everything else it was burned to the ground. In 1958 one tower and the walls were rebuilt as a symbol of resilience. Talking of resilience, in these gardens below there are couple of trees that survived the atomic blast and are properly marked with “Atomic bomb survivors”. It’s actually quite incredible as these trees were less than a kilometre from the blast and that first kilometre was the hottest and burned almost everything.


The tower is a museum containing a lot of interesting things and information about shoguns and samurais as well as it’s one of the best places to have a good panoramic view of Hiroshima. 🙂

And as we walked all that up and down it was high time to walk back towards the Tropic Bar. 🙂


On the way, we passed by the barrels of fire, used for grill. 🙂


Just a few days before our trip I was listening to a Montenegrin song “Tropic bar” that has lyrics that go something like this “Tropic bar, give me beer, sit under the palm tree and enjoy.” I told Dina that we should find a Tropic Bar, and somehow it ended up that there is one in Hiroshima. 😀

It also ended up being one of the coolest and weirdest places ever. It’s a small apartment renewed and turned into a bar. It has 3 tables indoor, and 2 on the balcony. But it’s located on the ninth (and top) floor of the building in the centre. 🙂


And so, we had a couple of pints on top of Hiroshima.


All that time I could not stop staring at this crazy cloud that was hanging above the city. I mean, it does not look like an A-bomb cloud at all, but that day with all the emotions and in that moment, it was just scary.


As you can see, only a few of my size can fit in this bar, but in case that you are visiting Hiroshima make sure to end up here. Guy working at the bar is really nice, atmosphere too and it’s a unique place in town. 🙂


Our plan was to eat local food as much as possible and information on-line said that one of local specialities to try in Hiroshima is Okonomiyaki. When we arrived to apparently the best Okonomiyaki place in the city, there were no free seats. We were really tired and hungry so we decided to wait.


And it was a great move for two reasons. First (and not visible on the photos) because of the situation that happened here. As soon as we moved out from Tokyo we were kind of an “attraction”. We could really notice that people are looking at us as we are different, and it’s not so common to have Europeans walking around small streets of Japanese cities and towns. Beside that, it’s not common to have a beard like I do. 🙂

So, what happened here, older couple, maybe 50 years old are leaving the place, and lady is paying the bill. Her partner is looking at me, smiling and hitting her with the elbow to turn around. She turns towards him and wonders why is he so pushy and what can be so important and he then points at me.

And that was it, love happened. 🙂 Lady was amazed by my lovely beard, and, since she speaks English asked me to touch it and gave all sort of compliments. 🙂 Ah.. 🙂 Japan. Pure love. 🙂


The other reason was that we got the front row for the dinner. 🙂 We had a chance to see the full process of preparation and eat Okonomiyaki as locals do. Besides, we learned here that Whiskey in Japan is not poured as 0.03 nor 0.05 but more like 1 dcl. 🙂

Well fed we walked all the way to our hotel as we had to leave early for Nagasaki the next morning.

Once again, it might be all my imagination and result of strong emotions that struck me that day, but Hiroshima remains one of the best places I’ve ever been too. It is a nice, modern and vibrant city with large number of parks and green areas. It is a city I would not mind living in for a while and explore it in detail.

In case you plan to travel to Japan, make sure that Hiroshima is on your to see list.

It is on mine. 🙂

Till the next one…

Love, Balky

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