TLRJ – Day 24 – Matsue to Hiroshima
I woke up early, but I took it easy. So I arrived at 7:15 in the restaurant. By that time, it was already full and I (and more people) had to wait to be seated in a separate compartment. The breakfast buffet was outstanding, I had my phone charging in the room so I couldn’t take any pictures. An immense selection of Japanese dishes and snacks…plus a small Western section that was the exotic part for the Japanese. Impressive.
I applied finally a SmartPacking™ technique…One bag was prepared with stuff that I wouldn’t need for a while, which would reduce the luggage to be carried to a hotel room to only two pieces. The tank bag is then left in the empty pannier. I packed the bike and watched the armada of personnel (in suits and kimonos) wishing the guests farewell. A long bow until the guests are out of sight. As it was very cloudy, I went in full gear. I had decided to visit the Izumo shrine after all. The distance to Hiroshima was short, so I could “afford it”. However, I need 70 minutes for the 36 km to the shrine, the traffic is painfully slow. I remembered the information that Seven Eleven has ATMs for foreign cards and I filled up my cash reserves. The ATM had a menu in German and after each step, a pleasant jingle sounds. In the end, a voice said (in German!): ‘thank you very much for your visit, we are looking forward to seeing you again’.
Finally I made it to Izumo and parked the bike. A man in a suit asked me where I was from. He was also a biker and wanted to take a picture with me. The Izumo Taisha shinto shrine is the oldest in Japan, the largest, 24 m high building cannot be visited. There are smaller shrines for dedicated gods around it, it is said that once a year in autumn they get together here and have a party together.
I went back to the bike and decided that I would not cross the mountains on small roads, but on the ‘expressway’. There was some occasional light drizzle and it was already 11:30, later than planned. First I had to get to the expressway. It turned out that this was not a dual carriageway, but a normal road with separated lanes with a speed limit of 70 km/h. But at least it was not 50 km/h. I climbed up the hills with a very lush forest consisting of picturesque Japanese pines. At a toll booth I asked the clerk if there was a petrol station on the road, but he sent me down the exit where I was served at a station. First fuel stop managed without accident. I went further up and stopped at a service area. I was curious how they would look like, I read some good things about them. Indeed it was a nice area, with lots of sweets shops. I found a small restaurant and after some waiting time, I was admitted. We could not find a common language, but we managed. I ordered a delicious selection for about 10 Euro value. It was very good…if only German Autobahn service areas could provide meals that are half as good!
Up on the mountains I crossed a long tunnel and on the other side it was sunny with clouds. The landscape looked very nice and I was tempted to ride on these rural roads….however, I wanted to arrive quickly in Hiroshima and this would have slowed me down a lot. This was also the reason why I skipped to the sake town Saijo. I wanted to do the Hiroshima visit today, otherwise my plan for tomorrow might not work. I reached another motorway with four lanes. The indicated speed limit of 80 km/h was ignored by everyone and I followed Ryo’s advice to do what everybody else was doing. So I ‘pushed’ the XBR to a breathtaking 100 km/h – and she liked it! Finally breathing freely again.
I arrived in Hiroshima at 3:30 p.m. and passed by the iconic peace memorial, the so-called A bomb dome. I took a picture and rode 500 m down the road where my hotel was conveniently located. A small single room, but that’s all I need. The hotel has no parking, but I found a motorbike parking space close to the hotel. I had a quick shower and walked 100 m to the Hiroshima peace park. This is the area where on August 6th 1945, the first atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima. I visited first the peace museum where many objects and photos were exposed in a black tunnel. A large crowd of visitors moved from artefact to artefact, in depressed silence. The whole museum gave a very accurate background with a focus on the suffering of the people of Hiroshima. The pure facts are painful, but feeling the pain of so many people that died on this very spot is difficult to swallow. It is one thing reading about it and totally another being at one of the biggest mass graves in human history (besides the Nazi extermination camps or the Cambodian Killing Fields). What I found the most touching part in the museum were the drawings of the survivors. Where no camera was present, they recorded the horror after the explosion and tried to deal with it for the rest of their lives.
In the adjacent peace park, many memorials commemorate the event. It is a beautiful, solemn park. But at the same time a very sad place. It is hard to understand that 74 years ago, a 2000 degree hot plasma turned this place into an inferno. I walked to the river opposite of the peace memorial and sat on a stone, watching the building that was not blown apart when the bomb exploded over it. I sat there a long time, letting the impressions sink in.
I continued my walk and visited more memorial, for example the children’s peace memorial. It was a sunny evening and I watched the local people enjoying it. They have learned to live with the past and have turned Hiroshima into a vibrant city. Ok, let’s follow their example. I checked Tripadvisor, checking for good local food. Actually there was a very famous place nearby, Okonomiyaki Nagaya. Indeed there was a long queue in front of the restaurant. But they are known for Hiroshimas’ speciality, okonomiyaki.
After 25 minutes, it was finally my turn. As I was alone, I got the best place, directly at the teppan plate where the food is prepared. And soon mine was ready, of course with the local speciality: oysters! You add some sauce and mayonnaise à volonté, and cut the big thing with a metal spatula. Delicious! And the entertainment for free! I was eating quickly, the queue was still impressive. I walked down a shopping gallery and back to the hotel. Lots of interesting food places. I think this will be some interesting two weeks.
I went to the hotel bar and tasted two Japanese whiskys, Taketsuru 17 years and Yamazaki 12 years.
Excellent drams. Part of the cultural programme, of course. I think I slowly get into the desired ‘relaxing mode’. This was my plan.