As co-founder of GetHiroshima, I was assigned to a tour of the Setouchi area as part of the “Genki Chugoku Tourism” tour. I was to be traveling with 16 year old Chihiro Ishida and 20 year old Minami Ishida” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Minami Ishida (no relation), one twenty-fourth of local idol brigade STU48 (the STU stands for ‘Setouchi’) – plus their manager and stylist. Our brief was to social media our experiences on a 3-day whirlwind tour. Interested to see and, to be honest, somewhat worried about, how the social media skills of a 50 year old gaijin would match up to those of two fresh-faced and bubbly idols, I put on my brightest and bubbliest shirt and headed for Hiroshima Station on a sunny autumn morning.
Our first stop was Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni. After seeing video footage of the level of the raging river almost reaching the height of the bridge during the rains, it was a relief to see that the beautiful wooden structure still intact and as beautiful as ever. A stop at the bridges two famous ice creams shops was a must.
I resisted the temptation of a garlic and natto flavored cone and, unfortunately, sampling a gold leaf ice cream was beyond the scope of the production budget.
After saying hello to the cormorants used for traditional fishing demos during the summer and the town’s famous white skinned snakes, we headed up to Iwakuni Castle on the ropeway. I’ve been to Kintai many times over the years, but this was my first time up at the castle.
Although there is little English explanation of the impressive samurai sword collection, unusually in Japan, visitors are welcome and encouraged to take photos of the exhibits. The view from the castle keep was equally impressive, but it was the quiet forested grounds around the castle that left the greatest impression on me. I love that even after two decades, there are still discoveries to be made!
During lunch at Sanzoku (affectionately known as the “Chicken Shack” to our friends in Iwakuni), already decked out for Christmas, I was once again struck by how popular this place would be with overseas visitors if it was easy to access by public transport.
Next was a (very) quick trip to Miyajima. The island seemed to have more than recovered from summer’s dip in visitor numbers, the crowds swelled by a temporary Chanel pop up shop on the waterfront which had lines longer than that to get the prime photo spot in Itsukushima Shrine. This was a flying visit and we didn’t have time to introduce the idols to the quieter side of Miyajima and the delights of places like Senjyokaku and Daishoin Temple, but even with the crowds the view of the Otori gate is one that never disappoints. Trying my hand at baking my own maple-leaf shaped momiji-manju cakes, which no self-respecting Japanese visitor would neglect to take home for family, friends and workmates, was a new experience for me though. I was surprised at how nervous I got about following the guide’s instructions, but I did manage to create something edible and, arguably, leaf-shaped. It was great fun exchanging banter with the other, all female, visitors taking part. Highly recommended on your next visit to Miyajima.
Hiroshima by night
Our cakes still warm, we boarded the World Heritage Ferry boat which made quick work of the trip to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, depositing us in front of the iconic A-bomb Dome which was reflected beautifully in the water of the Motoyasu River in the early evening light. After paying our respects at the Dome, we headed up to theOrizuru Tower Observation Deck where people from around the world lounged, taking in the views over the A-bomb Dome and the autumn colors that filled the Peace Memorial Park.
As the sun went down, the lights came on and the idols loved hanging out in the vinyl geodesic igloos set up for the winter months. Somewhat rested after the busy day of travel, it was off to a little eatery where a friendly couple cooked us up some delicious Hiroshima soul food, okonomiyaki.
It was an excellent opportunity to experience Hiroshima as a visitor rather than a resident and I would definitely recommend this evening program, especially to the many visitors who arrive in Hiroshima just as the Peace Museum is closing.
Read about the back ground to this trip here.
You can view all the photos taken by the micro-influencers who took part in the “Genki-na Chugoku Tourism” tour here.
If you’d like to hear more about travel in this region, please feel free to get in touch at [email protected]