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Southern Honshu

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Hiroshima & Himeji

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With yet another early morning flight, we checked out of our hotel early and began heading to Seoul's Incheon airport. This was our only flight not with Air China, being with Asiana Airways, and after a short pleasant flight we arrived in the city of Fukuoka, Japan.

We flew via Fukuoka, as it had the best connections to get to Hiroshima, and after getting through immigration, we boarded the short bus transfer to the station, and got hold of our Japan Rail Passes which we would be using for the next week. With everywhere being so busy, it was several hours after we had landed that we finally boarded our bullet train to Hiroshima, but nevertheless we made the train we wanted and got to enjoy the journey on this legendary train.

Bullet Train

Bullet Train

Bullet trains look so futuristic, and felt also very strange, as although travelling exceptionally fast they pivot and thus don't feel particularly faster than regular fast train travel, except the noticeable sensation of ears popping. After just over an hour, we arrived at Hiroshima station, and after buying a few snacks, we headed to our hotel to leave our bags.

Hypocentre

Hypocentre

Our time in Hiroshima was limited to just one night, and this afternoon was our opportunity to explore the city. We began by heading to Hiroshima castle, before making our way to see the sights that are connected to what the city of Hiroshima is most famous for - the atomic bombing in 1945. Starting at the plaque marking the hypocentre of the bomb, we walked around the corner to see the A-bomb Dome, the closest building to survive the bomb, and symbol of the event, surrounded by cherry blossom.

A-bomb Dome

A-bomb Dome

The trip had been scheduled to coincide with the Cherry Blossom Season. However as time was limited, and the cherry blossom takes place in just a few weeks, it was unsure where we would actually get to see it. If it came late, we would catch it in Tokyo just before we left, whilst if it came early we would catch it in Hiroshima as we arrived. This year it came over a week early, and Hiroshima was already at the peak of the blooming.

Eternal Flame within the gardens

Eternal Flame within the gardens

The immediate surrounding area of the A-bomb dome is now a peace park, with monuments and landscaped gardens alongside a couple of museums, which contain artefacts from the bombing as well as other items, such a clock counting the days since the bomb, as well as the last nuclear test.

Peace Watch

Peace Watch

Having taken a brief look around the city, we headed back towards the station to grab food, from a food court on the 11th floor of a department store overlooking the surrounding area, before checking into our room at the hotel.

View from the Food Court

View from the Food Court

The hotel itself had its own Onsen, and after having a bit of a rest, I headed up there to enjoy the heated baths. Although as it was traditionally Japanese, this did mean having to go in naked!

After a soothing bath, it was finally time to sleep before the next day's adventure. However in the morning Chris had not slept well and was exhausted from the week's travel so far. Therefore I left him to get some rest, whilst I headed outside the city towards Miyajima Island.

Taking the train south for half an hour, upon arrival almost everyone got off - evidently full of tourists doing the same, and after a quick walk across the small village I boarded the ferry that would cross the small channel to the island. Upon arrival it was clear the traditional fishing village had now become a tourist magnet, being full of little shops and caf├ęs.

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine

A five minute walk later and I arrived at the magnet of the island, the Itsukushima Shrine and it's torii gate. I had deliberately timed the visit this morning to coincide with high tide, when the gate appears to float in the water.

Floating Torii

Floating Torii

And with the local area also in full Cherry Blossom bloom, it made this one of the most pretty on the trip so far. After popping in the shops, and observing the local pagoda, I headed back to the ferry port and eventually the hotel to collect our bits.

Toyokuni Shrine Pagoda

Toyokuni Shrine Pagoda

Having rested this morning Chris now felt a bit better, and we headed back to the station to continue our journey, now headed for the city of Himeji. Himeji is not exciting enough to warrant a stay here overnight, but it does have one of the most important and beautiful castles in the country. And being just ten minutes from the station we decided to take a look.

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

Arriving at the palace, surrounded in cherry blossom, it was packed full of tourists, but not feeling completely better, Chris stayed outside with the bags, whilst I took a look inside. However the queues inside were long, and it took ages to get around the complex. Queuing to enter the palace took an hour, and I ended up skipping some of the sections altogether. Nevertheless it was an interesting place to visit and did look beautiful.

Inside Himeji Castle

Inside Himeji Castle

Relying on the trains, if we headed back to the station quickly we could make the next train, or otherwise we would have quite a long wait. We therefore decided to hurry and not long later we were back on the bullet train headed for the next city of destination - Kyoto.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 06:37 Archived in Japan Tagged palace train museum castle spa shrine nuclear gate bomb macabre eastasia cherryblossom Comments (0)

Chernobyl

Eastern European Kinda Fun - Chernobyl

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Leaving in the morning - being careful, as the clocks had just changed, a 2 hour bus ride took us to the exclusion zone, where we were met by our tour guide, who took us all round the area. Starting off in Chernobyl city we saw a memorial to the first firemen who tried to put out the fire in the reactor. Further up the road we were taken to a nursery school that was left in such a mess...a sight that would be repeated many times.

Kindergarten

Kindergarten

After this, we were taken to some of the cooling lakes that were used by, and gave us our first sight of the reactor. At first we were rather worried about levels of radiation harming us, but the reading from here on our Geiger counter was 1.37, which was very low - 0.3 is background global levels, whilst anything up to 4.0 is safe. We were also told that out tour guide lived in Chernobyl city - and she looked fine! Whilst in Chernobyl city, I recognised a man from Crawley, who had been staying in our hostel the night before - he was staying in the hotel in Chernobyl city that night and spending two days in the area - rather him than me!

Entering Pripyat

Entering Pripyat

After this, we went to Pripyat - the town that is now abandoned, which housed workers at the plant and their family. Most of the time the levels of radiation were lower than 1.0 except a few spots - once when driving through the Red Forest to get to the village it reached 5.3 for a few seconds, and in the centre of Pripyat, a man hole cover in the central square reached levels of 33.6, however just next to this, the ground was only 2.0. We were told that this was due to the fact that this area was where the helicopters flying over the plant after the accident had landed and refuelled. As we left this area, we spotted another man hole cover, and whilst the girl in front of us walked over it, me and Halina decided it was best to walk around!

Swimming Pool

Swimming Pool

Because our group was rather fast, we were allowed to see almost everything in the town, including the Hotel, the Palace of Culture, the Sports Hall, the Swimming Pool, a school and nursery, the 'cemetery' for machines that were used in the clean up, the prison and some apartments that were home to the residents. After this, we were taken for lunch close to the reactor...however once we arrived we were told there was no food, as they had not been expecting us....for some reason I had gone right off my appetite anyway! Whilst they cooked our lunch, we were taken to the closest point to the reactor we were allowed, beside the memorial to the 25th anniversary.

Chernobyl

Chernobyl

This was just 275 metres from the reactor itself, but an interesting experience. Radiation levels were 1.75 around here anyway. After this we went to the memorial to the liquidators, where the Ukrainian president goes every year in remembrance. After seeing almost everything it was time to go back for food - hoping it was not organic and locally produced, it was announced the food had been brought in from Kyiv earlier that day, and it did taste quite nice. After the lunch, we were taken home, before visiting the memorial to the relocation of the villages in Ukraine and Belarus, and visiting the gift shop, where I purchased a souvenir T-shirt and pen. All in all I had a really great day, and despite the small threat of radiation, I am very glad I went.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Ukraine Tagged history nuclear chernobyl radiation macabre poland&ukraine Comments (1)

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