Hiroshima

Hiroshima is a beautiful city; lots of trees, rivers, parks and gardens. It has wide boulevards with shady pavements, and it feels open and spacious.

When you look round the Peace Museum, it becomes obvious as to why this is. Complete obliteration of what was once a thriving, bustling city.

There was almost complete silence as we walked the route around the displays, many too awful to look at, yet it felt wrong to look away. I took no pictures inside. It simply felt wrong. If you ever get to Japan, please go and bear witness for yourself, and for the generations to come. This must never happen again.

Like many people, the chance to sit quietly in the beautiful gardens outside was necessary after what we had seen, to try and digest the history behind the events of August 1945, and the determination by the city to remember events and the people involved in the right way.

Away from the river and the memorials, the city showed some other interesting choices. Lots of designer shops; Chanel, Vuitton, Westwood, but alongside them a large number of ‘pre-loved’, vintage and just general junk shops, and the style and craziness of some of the younger Japanese was reflected in this. Some of the more bizarre clothing choices, different colours for hair, crazy shoes – real individuality and style which we hadn’t seen in the more business-orientated Osaka. I’ve been avoiding buying ‘stuff’ I don’t need, but a secondhand, ‘pre-loved’ yukata just couldn’t be ignored. It will always remind me of Hiroshima.

Hiroshima also has its own food speciality – okonomyaki – and the recommendations from our hotel led us to a slightly run down area at the back of a shopping mall.

We were the only customers at this particular stall, one of 4 or 5 on the second floor of a block, but everything looked spotlessly clean and the smell was fantastic.

So how do you make okonomyaki? Pancake batter to make dinner plate sized pancakes. On top of them add shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, spring onions, seaweed, savoury stuff which had no name (!) and various seasonings. Add bacon, flip over and cook.

Flip back when crispy. Now add cooked teppanyaki noodles, soy, plus other sauces. A spread out fried egg is partially cooked and the pancake flipped again so the egg is at the bottom and the pancake on the top. still with me?

More cooking, flip again and coat the whole lot in sticky sauce, more seasonings, and give you a shovel to cut it up with. Utterly delicious.

4 of these, plus 3 beers and a coke – around £20 – total. You can eat cheaply in Japan, if you stick to what is local and relatively meat free.

After that we headed off to watch Wales deal with the Australians – happy end to an emotional day.

I’m seriously considering how to copy the okonomyaki back home. Love cabbage and bacon, but information on the secret seasoning blend wasn’t available, in Japanese or English!

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