Minoh, Osaka ー This past Thursday and Friday, Osaka University organized a trip to Himeji Castle and Hiroshima for all of the exchanges students. We were joined by a few other nearby universities and were 165 people in total.
Originally built in 1333, Himeji Castle has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Treasure of Japan. It is the largest and most visited castle in Japan drawing in almost 3,000,000 visitors in 2015 alone. Tourists can enter the castle and climb up the steep staircases to get to the top where you can get a great view of the castle grounds and surrounding city.
When we had finished touring the castle, we went into the town to search for some famous local foods. We stopped at a small restaurant and had Anago-don (conger eel rice bowl). After lunch we picked up some ice cream and made our way back to the bus for the next lag of the trip.
Traditional Japanese Inn (Ryokan)
We stayed the night in Okayama at a traditional Japanese Inn. The hotel was really nice and my room had a great ocean view. Most of my time was spent folding cranes in preparation for Hiroshima, but it was nice to relax and have time to talk with everyone from my program.
At night, we had a fantastic traditional dinner (Washoku) that last for a few hours. It seemed like the courses would never stop coming.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is one of the most impactful places in Japan. Walking through the Peace Memorial Museum, you can’t help but feel a mix of emotions. That is how the museum is designed. The exhibit begins with life before the atomic bomb and then progresses until modern day. After looking over pictures of the victims and what little remained after the blast, you enter a hall that focuses on nuclear disarmament. As you approach the exit, you are left with a sense of hope that real progress can be made towards eliminating nuclear weapons. More than that, you understand why nuclear weapons can never be used again.
Outside of the museum, there are several monuments spread throughout the park. One in particular is the Children’s Peace Monument where millions of paper cranes are left each year. The paper crane became a symbol of peace and hope after a young girl named Sadako was diagnosed with leukaemia after the bombing. Sadako believed that if she could make 1000 paper cranes, her illness would be cured. Sadly, Sadako died before she could finish. Her death sparked a campaign to see a monument erected in the Peace Memorial Park and inspired people from around the world to send cranes to the memorial in her name.
An Iranian student in my program was determined to make 1000 paper cranes to hang beside the monument. Together we gathered as many people as we could and began folding – 3 days before we would arrive in Hiroshima. Students from all over the world stayed up all night to fold cranes. They were counted in dozens of languages and strung together on the bus on the way to the monument. With only an hour to spare, we had achieved our goal. These cranes symbolize our hope and vision for the future – that there can finally be long-lasting and widespread peace.
After we hung the cranes at the memorial, we walked to the Hiroshima Okonomiyaki Village. You may remember the name “Okonomiyaki” from my previous blog posts, but Hiroshima has its own variation of the popular food. The Okonomiyaki Village is a building full of small restaurants that all specialize in this local soul food. There are a few differences between Osaka Okonomiyaki, a big one being the soba noodles. Another difference is that they don’t mix the ingredients together, but rather layer them on top of one another.