Holiday in Hiroshima The Friendliest City In The World
Hiroshima attracts the curious traveller for all the wrong historical reasons, but go there anyway, it's brilliant.
I went to Hiroshima once, purely for the fact that it is the site of the first atom bomb ever dropped. In that sense, I was probably like virtually every other western tourist that visits the city. It has an almost mythical presence in 20th century history, and I suppose the draw is seeing the place for yourself, and realising that what happened actually happened.
When I got off the train, the first thing I noticed was that it was like every other Japanese city I had seen. There were concrete buildings, green taxis and traffic police in white gloves. A short walk took me to my destination - the hotel that was to be my home for the weekend. It was a pretty basic place, but authentically Japanese, with futons on the floor to sleep on, and lots of ankle-height furniture.
I decided to get my A-bomb tourist viewing started as quickly as possible, so I ventured out into the streets, with a route to the Peace Park marked out by the owner of the hotel – an incredibly old Japanese man with no teeth. The park is now the centre of the city, marking the point at which the bomb hit. In the middle there's a shrine, containing the names of everyone who died in the blast written in a big book.
It was a clear and sunny autumn day, which made it a shame to move indoors, but I wanted to see the A-bomb museum – a pretty 60s-looking white building on stilts on the south side of the park. It was still early on a Wednesday, but the place seemed busy anyway. I quickly realised that there was a group of school kids in there, all wearing identical yellow baseball caps, and being marched around by their teacher.
After an hour, I was getting hungry, so I headed into the city to find an Italian restaurant that my friend had recommended – I was sick of Japanese food by now. I found the place easily enough, with an old Japanese woman almost physically dragging me there by the arm, she was so excited by the prospect of helping me. It was good food too – a three course pasta feast for less than a fiver.
Hiroshima has to be the friendliest city in the world, where everyone seems genuinely pleased to see you, and overly anxious to help you. I stood at a tram stop looking at a map. The driver stopped and got out to ask me where I was going. When I got on, people shuffled up on the seats, beaming at me as I sat down. When I got up to leave, they even said goodbye.
For the rest of the day I just strolled around, exchanging friendly greetings and drinking in coffee shops. When it got too cold, I returned to my little hotel, where a flask of green tea was waiting for me.