Classes have recently started up again after a week-long break due to college entrance exams. I hope all the Japanese high school students did well! Well, during this break, I went out for lunch and dinner with friends, but, initially, I stayed inside to rest and get homework done before the IES Abroad field trip began. The IES Abroad field trip was to Hiroshima, Miyajima, and Himeji.
Our first stop was Hiroshima. While Hiroshima is now a thriving and beautiful city, the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome is a reminder of the tragic atomic bomb during WWII. I didn’t take any pictures because I felt uncomfortable doing so, but there are plenty of pictures available online. The Atomic Bomb Dome is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the only standing structure that remains from the atomic bomb. If you’d like to know more about it, you can access its website here.
Next, we went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Again, I didn’t take any pictures because I was uncomfortable with the idea of taking pictures. I’d much rather focus on the museum, but this is a personal opinion so no worries if you like taking pictures! The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which included an ear-piece translation device, is dedicated to the victims of the atomic bomb. It promotes “No More Hiroshimas”, warning the world of the horrors of nuclear warfare. It has artifacts, historic accounts, and testimonies. It is a devastating experience, but I recommend going. If you want to take a look at the museum, you can go to its website here.
We also stopped at Shukkeien, a Japanese garden. Shukkeien was built around 1620 just after Hiroshima. It is a spacious and elegant garden. The main path wraps around the garden’s large pond that hosts Koi fish that visitors can feed with food bought at the entrance. You’ll also see teahouses in the gardens – all have their own unique history to it, so I recommend you try and read it. I cannot describe the tranquility that settles over you when you enter a Japanese garden. You can and should spend a lot of time leisurely walking through the garden.
For dinner, we met back at the hotel. Dinner with the IES Abroad crew was comforting because it had been a month since our arrival in Japan and we were all busy getting accustomed to Japan. It felt reassuring to be with people who had arrived with you and you knew since the first day you arrived. We were treated to a feast at the hotel, in which we all felt drastically underdressed for, and the desserts were an absolute delight. Dinner was buffet-style, but we were given a dessert ticket to pick one dessert from the display counter. Lucky for them, I had already been eyeing the counter since we arrived, and I knew exactly which chocolate coated dessert I wanted!
The following day, we made our way to Miyajima. Miyajima is an island about an hour away from Hiroshima. Its Great Torii Gate stands in the water, signaling the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine. The Itsukushima Shrine is built so when its high tide, it looks as though it is floating on the water. While both the Great Torii Gate and the Itsukushima Shrine are alluring, Miyajima boasts other temples, shrines, and pagodas. It has a long history in Japanese culture and has long been held sacred.
We were given the day to explore Miyajima as we wanted, and I found myself wandering around the island on my own. It was a beautiful and reenergizing experience. I wandered around the mountains and forests for a bit, marveling at the contrast between the bustling town and the quiet, serene-like atmosphere of the forest. It felt as though I was farther out from town, but I was actually only a couple blocks away from the road. I also happened to do a lot of gift shopping for family back home, because tourist spots always have such tempting items. I might have bought an unnecessary metal samurai just shy of a foot tall. For myself, I managed to nab a pack of Studio Ghibli playing cards! I also bought a box of Miyajima’s famous food, momoji manju – maple-leaf shaped sweets. It is a soft bread with a filling. While I witnessed various flavors being sold at shops (where you can see them making the momiji manju), I bought some sweet bean filling momiji manju. They had this slight sweet taste that was barely there, but enough so that it was delicious.
The following morning, we traveled to Himeji Castle. Having been to Inuyama Castle last month, I was prepared for the steep stairs. Inside the castle, you can go to the highest level, but I’m warning you – those stairs are steep. If you happen to be tall, you’ll have to be careful to not hit your head on a beam when climbing up the stairs. In my opinion, the difficult part is not going up, it’s going down! It’s just so steep that you feel as though you will fall. Given my fear of heights, it’s my least favorite part of the castles, but I brave my fear because it is worth going all the way to the top. The view is always worth it.
Himeji is one of the twelve original castles that remain in Japan. Its white exterior is mesmerizing, earning it the nickname the White Heron Castle. One interesting fact is that stones from coffins were used to build Himeji Castle, so historians wonder if Himeji Castle was built on top of a massive burial ground. Inside the castle, you will find that the rooms are barren, but despite that it is still beautiful. Outside, the castle grounds are vast and stunning. During late March and early April all its cherry blossom trees will bloom, and people will rush to the castle to see them.
I’m not sure where I will head to see the cherry blossoms, but I might be lucky enough to see them on my birthday in April. Cross your fingers for me because that would be one heck of a birthday gift.
Overall, it was a tiring, fantastic, and fun trip. I enjoyed spending time with the IES Abroad crew and I can’t wait for the next one!
For prospective and future IES Abroad students, on these field trips entrance fees are covered. Nightly accommodations are covered. Breakfast and dinner are also covered. Lunch is on your own, so you can either eat at a local restaurant or buy a quick lunch at a convenience store. What you spend, depends on how much you want to spend on lunch, trying delicacies, and tourist gift shops! Money is not a big concern on these trips!
Until next time,
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<p>I like rainy days. Once I saw a triple rainbow. I'm just a female Latinx low-income student studying abroad in Japan, learning to navigate an environment completely different from home. Let's get this パン.</p>