Tuesday, 25 November 2014

End of an Era ~ Tribute to Hiroshima




Sad times.

For in a matter of days, I will be jumping ship and moving to a new city in a new prefecture, thousands of miles away. But while I have made it known that I would be moving to Hiroshima, I realise that I haven’t really taken to time out to talk about the city in itself. Famously, it’s known as one of the places where the Americans dropped their bomb but in the year that I have been here (and that year has flown by) I have come to enjoy and cherish Hiroshima as my home. It has become more than just a piece of Japanese history but a piece of mine as well. So today I am going to toast Hiroshima in all its greatness.

 Fuku-Chan

I arrived in Hiroshima at night and spent the rest of it in a hotel but the following day as I began the process of moving into my apartment, the very first restaurant I was introduced to was this little number. Hiroshima is famous for okonomiyaki or its original style of Japanese pancakes which, unlike others, are made with yakisoba noodles. I immediately fell in love with this style of okonomiyaki and would often bring visiting friends and guests to this restaurant at every opportunity. I visited other okonomiyaki restaurants but none could compare to the taste that was Fuku Chan. It’s also conveniently located just outside Hiroshima station and often gets busy. I would highly recommend this restaurant. They boast an English menu and their okonomiyaki with cheese is simply to die for.

Peace Memorial Park

This is probably one of the most famous areas within Hiroshima city. Within walking distance is the equally famous Atomic Bomb Dome. One of the very few buildings to partially survive the bomb all those years ago. The park itself is stunning, littered with various artefacts and tributes to that fateful day. It is also the location of the Peace Memorial Museum which I would both highly recommend and also warn that you should brace yourself. I went in expecting to be a tourist, snap a few photos and what have you. I came out feeling extremely heavy hearted. I actually went in a second time, discovered some new stuff and felt equally as heavy-hearted as the first time. I will not be going in there again but it’s definitely something I would say everyone should see at least once.

Hondori Street

This shopping haven is the busiest and longest shopping strip in Hiroshima city. As I lived within easy commute, every once in a while I would pop to Hondori for my shopping needs. Obviously, shopping for clothing in Japan is relatively difficult for me but Hondori housed a few known brands such as H&M and Uni Qlo so I’d find myself frequently there. It also has quite a few restaurants and other forms of entertainment. It was also here where I got my iPhone and where I went to my first family restaurant, hilarious at the time, known as, Bikkuri Donkey (Surprise Donkey). Nearby is the famous meet-up spot known as Alice Garden and a relatively large Don Quijote – one of the only places where I would walk in with the intention of only buying one item, and end up coming out with a bag full of stuff. It gets insanely busy on weekends – obviously – so I preferred going there in the week.

Round One

I discovered this place a little late but Round One is a giant arcade conveniently located in the vicinity of Hondori street. It possesses eleven floors of gaming goodness. UFO catchers, pachinko slots and other general arcade games litter the first couple of floors. Mario anyone? Upper levels boast darts (which I’ve come to really enjoy), billiards, table tennis, golf and even a batting hut. Everything else is bowling and karaoke so if you fancy a fun night out – Round One closes ridiculously late – I would highly recommend this place. I had actually intended to become a member but circumstances being what they are, I held off. If I find another one however, you can bet I’m gonna be signing up.


Aeon Mall

This giant mall was located about twenty minutes walk from my house and like Hondori, has many shops and other forms of entertainment. The name was recently changed to Aeon Mall but veterans know it, nostalgically, as Diamond City. When I first went to the supermarket here, I spent over three hours inside, finding my way around and figuring out which products were what. Later, I would buy my heater, fan and a couple other small appliances here. Once, I bought a month’s worth of shopping and carried all eight bags and my rucksack back home. I’m sure it must have looked a little strange me carrying all those bags and believe me, it’s not something I will ever attempt again. I am quite strong but even my body has its limits. On other occasions, I would meet friends for meals, shop or watch movies. I was very fortunate that this place was so nearby.


Fitting that I snapped this
at night considering that
I both arrived in Hiroshima
and left it at this time of the
day.
Hiroshima Station

Why would I consider Hiroshima station worth a mention? Well, if there was always a place I was passing through, it was Hiroshima station. Whether I was travelling to work or meeting up with friends, Hiroshima station was the place. I also became a big fan of the Starbucks here and would frequent it after I had my Japanese classes in the afternoon. Not all the staff were as friendly as those in the afternoon but they alone made me a loyal customer. The only thing that annoyed me about Hiroshima station was the constant construction works. It made travelling from one side of the station to the other take five minutes longer than it should have. Besides this, Hiroshima station was something of a home base for me. I have a lot of memories here. 


Hiroshima City International Center

In addition to the Hiroshima International Center (HiC) that’s located in the Hondori area, both institutes boast one thing in common – free Japanese lessons. Anywhere in the world, English is big business and you’d be hard pressed to find free English lessons in the UK unless you know where to look but in Japan, for the clueless foreigner, Japanese study is encouraged. I attended lessons for a year and learnt a lot from the volunteers that taught here. Though HiC also boasts free lessons and one on one sessions but I found the City Center a lot more fruitful overall and that’s why for me, it’s worthy of a mention

Nagarekawa

Generally considered a bit of a bad area by the locals, Nagarekawa is Hiroshima’s evening district. People generally come here to party. This area is littered with Host and Hostess clubs, bars, restaurants, and after a certain time, many drunk people. I generally came here to go to the very few foreigner heavy night clubs and/or bars. There is also an American style hole in the wall known as New York New York where I got to eat a chilly cheese dog for the first time (at around four ‘o clock in the morning). I’m not sure how genuine of a replica it was in comparison to the US, but it was damn good. So yes, if you are a party animal, Nagarekawa is the place.


Poplar

Poplar is a conbini chain and while I prefer Seven Eleven because the food and what have you is generally better, there was one particular branch of Poplar that held a place in my heart. Located about two minutes from my front door, I would often pop here in the evening, after work or if I fancied something a little bit sweet (or savoury). The customer service at this particular Poplar was always on point. The guys working here weren’t particularly chatty with me but I liked that they didn’t treat me any differently to anyone else. They were always polite to me. Even that time when I came in out of the rain asking for an umbrella (kasa) and made the mistake of saying “keys” (kaigi) instead. As a result, I was always in there so thanks for the service boys. Maybe I’ll be back some day.

~

So, I’m sure some of this seems a little strange, but these were the highlights from my time in Hiroshima. These places will forever stand out for the moments and the memories I made here. Thus, for anyone looking to teach abroad in Japan, I say – forget Tokyo. Sure, it’s the most happening place in Japan. You’ll never be bored there as you’re spoilt for choice but you’ll certainly be out of pocket because Tokyo is not cheap. Hiroshima city is a fairly big city in itself boasting over a million people. But I saved a helova lot of money here simply because the standard of living is cheaper – and this includes the occasion trip to other prefectures, and frequent weekends out with friends. It’s also a very chill lifestyle. I only really saw it at its busiest during a baseball game (I never got to go to one unfortunately) and during a national holiday. Nevertheless, it made me appreciate its relaxed nature compared to the craziness of Tokyo – and heck, even London. People are friendly – not everybody but such is life; you’ll come across many a tourist and many an opportunity.

Hiroshima was epic. But now I guess it’s time for me to begin the next adventure.



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