Nozomi Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hiroshima, Japan
Tuesday 07 Oct 2008 07:28
When I woke this morning I had little idea that by mid afternoon I would be over 400 miles away in Hiroshima but that's exactly what happened. We had talked about it, but it was really a spur of the moment decision to take the Nozomi Shinkansen 700 series, Japan's fastest rail service, from Tokyo to Hiroshima. We just walked across the road from our hotel to the station and ordered our return tickets (¥35K, £175) and within 30 minutes we were on the train. Travelling from Tokyo to Hiroshima is direct and requires no changing of trains. Staff at the ticket office were very helpful, spoke good English and explained all times and relevant information such as platform numbers to go to.
The train was very quiet, smooth running and of course FAST, reaching speeds of up to 177mph (285kmph). The seats are spacious with plenty of leg room and you can recline your seat without annoying the person behind you. The trip of over 400 miles took just 4 hours briefly stopping at stations such as Kyoto and Osaka on the way. The scenery was awesome and of course this is a great way to see Japan outside of Tokyo city. Staff on the train were extremely polite and bow when entering or exiting each car. Drinks and food are brought to you on trolleys during the trip. There are also vending machines and Japanese and Western style toilets on the train. We bought non-reserved seats giving us a choice of seats in cars 1 - 3 (3 is a smoking car).
Visiting Hiroshima, where the first atomic bomb was dropped was a real experience. The weather was overcast, humid and still. There was no breeze at all. It all added to the atmosphere. Hiroshima knows why most people visit and instructions in English invite you to visit the Atomic Bomb Dome and Memorial Park using the number 2 or 6 bus service for ¥150 at the station's South Exit.
Outside the station there's a large metallic sculpture, mushroom shaped - with water raining down. Then we saw the 'bus' which is actually a tram service. We got on and travelled through the city. The stops are well labelled and you can't miss 'Genbaku Dome Mae', the Atomic Bomb Dome stop.
The Genbaku Dome is a building which was so close to the hypocenter of the bomb blast that much of it was left standing. You can see it still, preserved much as it was, as a peace memorial. Its quite some sight. Walking around the dome will take you into Hiroshima Memorial Park where there are many statues, memorials and other reminders of the devastation of the atomic bomb. Many school trips were at the park and some children were making small speeches in front of their class mates which I wish I understood. Unlike at the shrines and museums in Tokyo, here more than anywhere were English translations of all the text at the monuments. Its clear Japan wants people to know what happened here.
A MUST SEE is the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. This 'museum?' includes memorials, testimonial videos, A-Bomb memoirs and an interactive list of the victims with touch screen search facilities (very similar to that featured in the movie Starship Troopers). The dimly lit Hall of Remembrance has one tile for each of the 140,000 victims making a panorama of the destroyed city. In the centre is an eerie water sculpture. It's pie chart shape denotes the time the bomb was dropped (8:15) and is lit green signifying radiation. A photo I took of myself went creepily wrong leaving a ghost image of myself in front of this sculpture. I think the timer went off earlier than I thought and the long exposure because of the low light (no Flash photos allowed in the Hall of Remembrance) caught my walk to take my pose.
We left Hiroshima as evening fell and were back in Tokyo by just gone 10pm. We exited the station via the ticket office rather than the usual ticket machines so we could keep our tickets as souvenirs. The office master was happy to stamp our tickets and let us through. He'd obviously done this before. Its was a day I'll never forget.
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