The Korean government met on Thursday, April 28 to vote on a last minute decision to make the following Friday, May 6, a public holiday. Thursday, May 5, is Children’s Day, a public holiday, and the government decided to declare the following day also a public holiday, in the hopes of boosting the sluggish economy. Apparently last year’s last minute public holiday (in August) resulted in a spike in retail sales, and the government was hoping for a repeat.
The bonus holiday didn’t encourage us to spend more money in Korea, because we had already booked our trip to Hiroshima for the four day weekend. (Alex just got to save a vacation day, score!) In fact, judging from the seemingly infinite lines at the airport on Thursday, I’m not sure many people stayed in Korea for the holiday!
We took a bus from Hiroshima airport (yay for direct flights from Seoul!) to Hiroshima station. Our first meal in Hiroshima was Indian food (at Roopali restaurant, rated #2 out of over 5,500 restaurants in Hiroshima, on TripAdvisor — my goto for all travel research!). We had the best (and largest) garlic naan ever (really wished we could have eaten two meals here). After lunch, we took a streetcar downtown, to our apartment we found on Airbnb.
After dropping off our bags, we walked around Peace Boulevard — closed to traffic, with tons of food stalls and multiple stages with singing and dancing performances. We happened to be there for the 40th annual Hiroshima Flower Festival. We walked through Peace Memorial Park and saw the A-Bomb Dome — because the atomic bomb was detonated almost directly over the building, it remained relatively intact. The A-Bomb Dome stands as a solemn reminder of what happened on August 6, 1945. There was something incongruous between the sad memorials (especially the children’s memorial) and the upbeat music and colorful banners of the Flower Festival.
Because our schedule is now dictated by Baby M, we headed for an early bird dinner (6 PM!) at a sushi restaurant, Sushitei Kamiyacho. We arrived late enough where we couldn’t find seats at the bar (where we could have watched chefs making the sushi) but did secure the last remaining table (it was a table for 6… I offered to separate the table so that other customers could sit at the 4-top while we remained at the 2-top, but the staff refused… were they being too polite?! Anyway, it was a little stressful trying to feed a fussy Baby M and scarf down my sushi, while the line of people waiting for a seat went out the door…). The tempura was nice and light, and the sushi was delicious (though not the best we’ve had). As soon as I put my chopsticks down, Alex went to pay, and I gathered up our belongings and hurriedly walked out the door (while looking apologetically at the line of people). On our way home, we passed by Hondori, a busy shopping area. I really wanted to stop by the big Daiso store but we didn’t have time. (Daiso is basically Japan’s dollar store, except it’s much better — it actually sells quality stuff!)
Friday was our only full day in Hiroshima, and it was unfortunately a very rainy day. Fortunately, we had the foresight to bring a poncho (because you can’t easily push a stroller and carry an umbrella at the same time) as well as the rain cover for the stroller. We arrived at Hiroshima Castle* after a long walk from our apartment. This castle was destroyed after the atomic bomb, but was rebuilt over a decade later. After carrying the stroller (with a sleeping Baby M) up lots of steps, she woke up right before we were going to take turns exploring the castle. Alex immediately regretted paying for an entrance ticket once he stepped foot inside the castle. “Ugh, why do they do this?!” The inside of the castle was gutted and replaced by a museum (“They could have put the museum in any location on the castle grounds…”). Apparently they had done the same thing to the castle in Osaka, and Alex declared two visits to these faux-castles/museums was enough for him. The only redeeming feature (besides a rainy view from the 6th story lookout) was that he got to dress as a samurai (the hat was pretty heavy).
Our next stop was Okonomi-mura (Okonomi Village), a building with three floors of restaurants serving Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (a savory crepe/pizza that starts with a thin layer of batter, then layers of cabbage, soba or udon noodles, egg, and whatever toppings you want – cheese, pork, oysters, etc.). We chose a restaurant in the back, where we could park Baby M’s stroller. From TripAdvisor reviews, many people said the portions were big and recommended to share okonomiyaki, but clearly Alex and I aren’t your average people — we have BIG appetites! We thoroughly enjoyed our heavy, greasy, and piping-hot lunch (perfect for a cold, rainy day) and the woman who cooked our food was extremely nice to us (gave us free iced tea, a map of Hiroshima, spoke a few words of Korean) and to Baby M (played with her while we ate, offered to wash her spoon and microwave her jar of puree).
After filling our bellies, we went to Rakubeer, a place serving local craft beer (recommended by our friend). Alex had an IPA and I tried a pineapple pale ale (tasted more citrusy). We were the only ones there (at 1 PM) haha. Next, we walked to Shukkei-en Garden, a perfectly manicured garden with a koi pond (we were given a bag of fish food – FYI koi aren’t very smart… they had a hard time finding the pellets, so most of it went to waste), pagodas, and narrow footpaths (perfect for walking without a stroller, and not in the rain). We struggled pushing the stroller along muddy paths and Alex ended up carrying it up/down quite a few steps.
We took a break so that Baby M could take a nap, and we could take off our muddy and wet socks. By dinnertime the rain had stopped, so we ventured to Hassei, another highly-rated okonomiyaki restaurant. Alex’s house special included lots of cheese and bacon (can’t go wrong with either one of those!). I’m not sure if it was because it was our second time eating okonomiyaki, or if the ones from lunch were better, but we didn’t enjoy it as much. It could also be due to the two ladies behind us who were smoking. Inside. A restaurant. While eating. They even commented on how cute Baby M was, before lighting up. That really bothered me. Couldn’t you at least hold off until after dinner? The first cigarette was… understandable. They probably just got off work and were smoking with some drinks. But then the subsequent cigarettes while eating? Anyway, we often take for granted that smoking isn’t allowed inside restaurants/bars in the U.S. and even most places in Korea!
The next day, we visited neighboring Miyajima (see following post), and the day after, we left for the airport. Hiroshima is a nice city, unremarkable except for the infamous event that happened 71 years ago. What is remarkable is the way the entire city was rebuilt with so many parks and memorials, all dedicated to the victims as well as to the city’s hope for world peace.
* FYI – there’s a small room (it looked like someone was living there) where you can nurse/change diaper. The Castle staff was super helpful and hung a “do not disturb” sign on the door. Just ask any staff member (or mime “bottle” or “diaper” or “baby”) for access.