We opted for a 5:30am bike ride to the station rather than a taxi. The sun was just coming up, and although there is nothing more quotidian than a sun rise or sunset, it still seems impossibly magical. This is the time that belongs to busy families, to early risers who want to start the day cleanly, to sleepy workers obliged to an alarm clock, and to the occasional travelers who revel in the miracle too seldomly.
We reached the station too early for the bike parking and it was only by luck that the attendant was there a bit early and able to help us with our bikes. We trained to Umeda, found the Sky Building with the help of several station masters, and checked-in with the bus ticketing counter there.
Shinkansen is such a luxurious way to travel in Japan. It's smooth, it's incredibly fast, it's clean, it's cool. But the bus in Japan is a close second and perhaps in some ways, superior. Yes, it's slower, and a little more bumpy, but it stops about every 90 minutes at another fun roadside market, and there are hoods on the chairs so that you can block out the light around you, and curtains on the windows, blankets, neck cushions, foot rests, and it's slow enough that it's possible to marvel at the landscape moving by. In six hours we arrived in Hiroshima, a bit hungry and tired, but happy that the rain slithering down the bus windows had exhausted the sky to blue.
And then we walked. We walked from the bus stop at Hiroshima station, found a chain udon/tempera restaurant, walked to Shukkeien Garden and visited the Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art, walked to the castle and around the grounds, walked to our hostel and after checking in, walked to dinner.
The Shukkeien a Garden was beautiful and Hiroshima is starting to bloom in earnest. Every angle of the park yielded something new and striking; to walk was to change the landscape. Several new artists emerged to my eyes at the art museum and offered yet further new ways of looking. Even if I didn't really understand how Dali's Dreams of Venice fit into the curatorial theme of "Kawaii, Kawaii, Kawaii" (cute, cute, cute) it was still striking to see the work as well as many others. The Hiroshima Castle was stunning in the evening-lit blossoms, the moat surrounding it.
Our hostel is very nice. We have a double futon on a tatami (matted bamboo) floor with a little balcony. Unfortunately we are only here for the night; there seem to be a lot of fun activities centered in the hostel life for those hanging out in Hiroshima for a longer portion of their travels. And it seems like a cool place to mix with other international travelers.
After we checked-in, we found our way to a recommended okonomiyaki restaurant. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is a special thing, with layers of noodles, cabbage, egg, meat, etc, rather than the Kansai-style of mixing it all together. There also seems to be a difference in the flavoring and some of the toppings. This was my first time trying a spicy lemon sauce. We waited about 40 minutes for the priviledge of dining at this particular establishment. Very popular place.
And now tired, but looking forward to another day in this beautiful city and a night in Miyajima. Unfortunately I can't upload pictures while I travel, but will post them upon returning. It's wonderful to be here.