Sandankyo Gorge, Hiroshma – Wandering Off The Beaten Track In The Mountains Of Western Japan

Walk along the emerald green Sandankyo gorge.

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The previous day when we visited the atomic bomb dome followed by the Shukkeien Garden we had covered most of the city sights in Hiroshima, hence we had originally planned to get out of the City.

Our initial choice was to head to the castle and wooden arched Kintai Bridges, about an hour drive from Hiroshima, but after going though some brochures at our Airbnb apartment we decided to visit the Sandankyo gorge instead. The drive there took us nearly 1.5 hours, but the scenery made more than up for it. The roads seemed to take us deep into the “Hokkaido of Western Japan” as the locals call the area around Mount Osorakan. Driving, we passed lush green rice fields, thick forests and quaint villages on the hillsides with plenty of things for Jerome to spot from the car window.

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan village houses

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan painting

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan restaurant

There are three places to get into the gorge, we chose the bottom of the gorge in order to be able to walk as far as our legs would take us and then stroll back down on the return. Accessing the top parts stretches the drive another 30 minutes.

Once we had parked our car at the car park near the information centre at Shiwagi, Yamagata district, we checked our route on the big map sign and took one of the free leaflets. We also took our back pack, filled with drinks, plus a small picnic as we did not know if we would be able to find any food or drink on route. In addition our towels and swimming costumes as we one of the delights of the mountain streams is swimming in the cool water on a hot day.

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Sandanko gorge hiroshimma japan entrance

There are restaurants at the beginning of the gorge and some small shops in case you need to fill up on either food or drinks, but it maybe best to bring some with you.

We orientated ourselves on the map and decided that it would take us around 2-2.5hours to walk to the top waterfall, our goal for todays walk.

If you have smaller children with you, I would recommend taking it as far as you feel comfortable with, but would definitely recommend walking to the first boat stop as every child would surely love to ride the boat across the pool in the river. The winding path can also be appealing to children and there is plenty of opportunity to throw stones into the river water.

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan village houses

The Sandankyo gorge must be one of Japan’s most beautiful and scenic gorges. The Shiwagi River winds for over 13 kilometers through the forest and rocks. We crossed the first bridge over the river, the riverbed here was wide and the water shallow, Children played and swam in the water. We started to slowly walk along the well-paved path, not sure I would recommend using a pushchair to go very far, as it is rather steep in places.

The clear emerald green river floating next to us, we were excited to see this work of art Mother Nature had created over thousands of years. Depending on the depth and speed of the water the green turned deeper or lighter shades, in contrast to the lush green trees and the bare, grey rocks that surrounded it. Now and again the water would gush over the rocks like a waterfall. Even though it had been another hot and humid day in Hiroshima here in the depth of the gorge we could feel the coolness of the water. The boys were already thinking about where they might be able to get down to the river and the right pool of water to have a swim in.

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan river path

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan piggy back

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan river water

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan river trees

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan river rocks

We passed surprisingly few people considering it was a Sunday and still Golden Week. After about an hour we arrived at the first boat station Kurobuchi. Here the gorge is deep and narrows, the path climbs high to one side or you can short cut across the lake with the boatman. We decided to get a one way ticket, 300Yen for adults, 250Yen for over 12 year olds (return 500Yen for adults, 300 for over 12). The boats run from April to November from 9-16:30 daily, if the weather permits. The last boat runs from Kurobuchi Zhang at 16:10. We boarded the little boat, waited until it was filled and then the guide took us by punting across the naturally formed lake through high rocks surrounding the gorge on this part to Kurobuchi Zhang. It is a gorgeous 10 minutes of quiet on the water.

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Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan kurobuchi boat ride

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan fish on stick

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan kurobuchi restaurant

At this end we found a restaurant serving basic food like udon, grilled fish on sticks and their speciality, cold noodles which you dip into the fresh river water, apparently among the cleanest of all waters in Japan. We stopped here to have lunch, Jerome, as always, eating his favourite udon. We sat overlooking the lake down below, watched children who threw stones into the water and other people had a picnic. Here we also found a very essential toilet across the river’s small suspension bridge.

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan krobuchi zhang

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan bridge

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan emerald green water

After lunch we walked on towards the top falls and the second boat ride. The path still wound along next to the river, we crossed a few bridges until we got to the second car park, located around two thirds of the way up the river. Here a sign informed us that if we wanted to see take the second boat ride through the gorge we needed to hurry as they stopped at 15:00 for the day! We had exactly an hour to get to Sarutobi before the last boat went. We rushed, trying to walk as fast as possible and literally got there at 14:55. The guide seemed fairly relaxed about us arriving just before his closing time and told us to get into the boat. We were not the only ones turning up this late; there was another couple of Japanese who shared the boat with us in the end.

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan boat guide

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan boat ride

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan towering cliffs

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan view up

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan walls

The guide pulled our boat along ropes attached to the rocks. The entry through the gorge here is very narrow, with high rocks topped with thick forest and the boat is the only way in. At some point we could barely see the sky. The beauty of the gorge here was breathtakingly stunning. The boat slowly glided through the deep green water with the sheer cliffs on either side. It was absolutely peaceful and calm until we could hear the roaring of the waterfall at the other end. Here the gorge opened out again, we could see some other people already waiting for the boats arrival. By the falls, we got off the boat while the guide took the other people back to Sarutobi. We climbed onto the rocks, trying to get the best view of the gorge and the waterfall, taking loads of pictures. After around 10 minutes the empty boat returned to collect us.

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan waterfall

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan close up waterfall

Back at Sarutobi we were very pleased with ourselves that we had managed to get the last boat, there were still people turning up but the guide sent them away. We celebrated with some welcome snacks and drinks before starting back down the gorge.

As mentioned earlier the boys had kept an eye out for a spot to swim in the clear cool river water. About half way back down we carefully scrambled down the steep riverbank to a natural pool in the riverbed where the water had collected and went in for a refreshing swim in the blue green clear water. Swimming in a mountain stream in the summer heat is a great alternative to a swim in the sea or pool. Sadly, our lazy swim was disturbed by a nasty, obnoxious horse fly that kept buzzing around our heads and wet bodies when we got out. We tried to chase it away with our towels but without luck. Insects are a fact of life in Japan but it forced us to move on rather quickly rather than sitting around by the water.

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan natural swimming pool

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan river swimming

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan emerald river

Sandankyo gorge Hiroshima Japan river waterfall

When we got to the first boat station at Kurobuchi Zhang we saw that the restaurant was already closed up for the day and no tourists were around anymore. Walking the steep path up the side of the gorge we were surprised when the staff of the restaurant went zooming by on their motor scooters, who would have thought you could ride a motor bike up this mountain path! I guess they do it every day and know the dangerous parts but I was glad I was not on the back of one even with tired legs!

We did not meet anyone else on our way back to the parking lot and by the time we got there everything was shut up apart from the ryokan.

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan ryokan

We jumped back in our car and drove back towards Hiroshima to the JA Toguchi branch where we had spotted a big playground and Jerome wanted to stop. Jerome desperatly wanted to go onto the roller slide there. Jerome had fallen in love with these unique slides a few years before on Shikoku, where we had first encountered them. They look like a normal slide but instead of having just a flat metal sheet where you slide down, the roller slides are made of lots of thin rolling rods, which make it for a superfast slide. I recommend wearing proper trousers though as I experienced this time with my thin dress that it can hurt if you go down on your bottom. If you are very brave try sliding down on your feet while kneeling. These slides are much more fun than normal ones, for children and adults alike. Of course all at your own risk!

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan roller slide

Sandankyo gorge hiroshima japan roller slide fun

All in all it was a fun day away from the masses of tourists, experiencing the beauty of nature. I would definitely recommend making the detour and visit Sandakyo gorge if you are in Western Japan. It must be especially spectacular to visit in fall when the leaves change colour. The Sandankyo Ryokan at the start of the gorge could also make for a perfect traditional Japanese overnight stay in a stunning location if you have the time.

Hiroshima – Reflecting On History At Its Worst And Best.

Our visit to the Atomic bomb dome, Peace Memorial Museum and Shukkeien.

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Visiting a place like Hiroshima always comes with a certain dread. Especially when you visit with a child who is by now old enough to understand and grab the full extent of what happened to the people living there in Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945. Chris and I had always wanted to visit Hiroshima on one of our many visits to Japan previously, however we always felt we should wait until Jerome was old enough to understand as well. We had planned to visit the Miyajima fireworks the day before so it made sense to stay in town for a few more nights and immerse ourselves in history for a day. History and documents of bygone eras can be seen all over Japan but no other place has had such a far-reaching influence into world politics, even to this day and age.

We took the Hiroden tram, which stopped almost right next to our Airbnb apartment all the way to the Hiroshima Gembaku-Dome-Mae Station right next to the Atomic Bomb Dome.

Hiroshima A bomb dome ruin

Hiroshima A bomb dome through the trees

The original stone building was completed as a trade centre in 1915 and featured a dome on the highest part of the building. It served as a product exhibition hall at the time. Today it is the only structure that is still standing in its destroyed form to remind us of the destruction the atomic bomb caused in Hiroshima in 1945. The other few buildings that survived having been either demolished or renovated.

No words can describe what you feel when you see the dome’s shell. For me personally it was foremost sadness and anger. Anger that something this destructing was ever allowed and planned to happen. The worst thing is it did not only happen once it happened twice, 3 days later the Americans threw another atomic bomb onto Nagasaki. I do not want to go too much into history but the Americans argued that after the war had ended in Europe, it was up to Japan to end the still raging Pacific War. The Japanese not showing any signs of surrender were basically forced to surrender with the 2 atomic bombs. In Hiroshima alone 170,000 innocent people were killed, directly by the bomb on the 6th of August or because of the injuries and/or after effects of the heavy metals and radiation on their bodies.

Hiroshima A bomb dome that day mito kosei

In front of the Atomic bomb dome a group of people have set up chairs and provided folders in many languages “THAT DAY” by Mito Kosei. Jerome went to take one of them and sat down on a stool. We started reading over his shoulder. Mito Kosei’s mother was four months into the pregnancy with him when the terror struck and she told us her story in about “That Day” as she remembers it.

It is a very sad story, her father died from the radiation as he was very close to the epicentre “that day” in less than a month. Her husband, Mito’s father kept silent about “that day” all of his life, it must have been too much of a trauma of what he had seen in Hiroshima.

Tears welled up in my eyes when I read the story. I could see it was hard for Jerome to read too, but we were glad he did. Jerome is not an avid reader but he sat and read the entire story end to end, it is very compelling. Eventually I am sure he would learn about it in school, but that would not be the same. The folder also contained plenty of other informative material about the day, including photos and maps. Jerome kept asking questions, which we tried to answer as best as possible. After many minutes of digesting what we had read we decided to move on towards the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

Hiroshima A bomb dome tourists

Hiroshima A bomb dome ruin from afar

Across the bridge we spotted the Children’s Peace Monument. The monument consists of an egg shaped concrete structure, which is hollow. Underneath we found a bell with a golden origami crane. We joined the short queue to ring the bell to remember all the children that died and suffered from the atomic bomb. The monument was built from money school children from all over the country had collected to remember one girl, Sadako Sasaki, and all the other children. Sadako Sasaki was immortalised as a statue, which can be seen on top of the sculpture holding a wire crane over her head. Sadako died of leukaemia, aged 12, caused by the radiation of the atomic bomb. Before she died she believed that if she folded 1000 paper origami cranes she would be granted her biggest wish, which was to recover from her illness and live a normal healthy life again.

Until this day people from all over the world fold paper cranes and bring them to the Children’s Peace Monument. Some thousands of origami paper cranes can be seen next to the monument in glass cases all donated by children. You can even register yours into a database and will then be sent a letter of thank you. Jerome had wished that he would have known this before we came so we could have folded some origami cranes and brought them along with us.

Hiroshima childrens peace monument crane

Hiroshima childrens peace memorial paper crane

Hiroshima childrens peace memorial paper crane data base

We strolled on through the Peace Park, past the Flame Of Peace, which will only be extinguished once all atomic bombs have been destroyed and joined the end of the queue to get into the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Once we were in the museum we literally went through it in a long line of people, as it was very crowded due to the holiday weekend. Despite this it was well organised and we did get to see every exhibit and could spend enough time looking at them.

First there was a model of the town centre showing which buildings were actually still standing after the blast of the bomb. There were not many, everything had almost instantly burned to dust, as most houses then were made of wood. Pictures and real objects from the era showed the effect the heat and the blast had on everyday objects, like roof tiles and dishes. Some of them we were able to touch. The most harrowing for me was the metal tricycle owned by Shinichi Tetsutani (then 3 years and 11 months). He and the tricycle were severely burned by the heat wave of the atomic bomb. He died that evening. His father buried him and the tricycle in their backyard as he felt he could not separate his son from his favourite toy. In 1985 he unearthed Shinichi’s remains and transferred them to the family grave. He then donated the tricycle the museum. We could have also seen pictures of the injuries and burns people took from the atomic bomb but did not want to get nightmares so we chose not to. At the end of the walk through the museum we went through the gallery where all the politicians that had visited Hiroshima in the past were exhibited. Barak Obama was the last one.

The visit is not for the faint hearted and especially older children will surely be asking plenty of questions. My suggestion is to wait until your children are old enough to appreciate the learning. It is a must for everyone who visits Hiroshima to see the force and destruction of an atomic bomb for real. We all hope this will never happen again!

Hiroshima peace memorial park fountain

Hiroshima peace memorial museum tourists queue

Hiroshima peace memorial museum tiles art picture

Hiroshima A bomb dome memeorial peace park tourists

After hours of history lessons we needed a change of scenery and something to cheer us up.

Hiroshima old advert art billboard

Hiroshima city manhole cover autumn leaves

Hiroshima school yard sports field

Shukkeien, Hiroshima’s famous Japanese garden seemed like the perfect place to do so. The centrepiece of the garden was designed after a lake in China. And was built in 1620 for a feudal lord on his villa’s ground but it was completely destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945. Some trees and plants survived and since then the garden has grown back and been rebuilt to its former splendour.

Hiroshima Shukkeien japanese garden map

Hiroshima Shukkeien japanese garden lake tea house

At the entrance Jerome received a packet of fish food when we paid for the entry fee for free from the lady selling the tickets. The centrepiece of the garden is the lake. A winding path over little bridges, up small hills and over streams leads around the lake, and in fact the design of the garden is a strolling garden where the damaiyo would walk while doing business or his ladies would enjoy the cool air. The aim is to stop every now and then and to enjoy the changing view and scenery.

Jerome kept stopping to feed the fish and the many terrapins that swam through the pond. It is a great past time for children to feed the fish and terrapins, something you may find in many gardens there. Some of the kois were quite colourful, gaping mouths after some of the food. We all loved the fact that the garden was mainly a large lake, which is quite unusual for a Japanese garden.

Hiroshima Shukkeien japanese garden lake feeding fish

Hiroshima Shukkeien japanese garden lake bridge

Hiroshima Shukkeien japanese garden lake stone lantern

Hiroshima Shukkeien japanese garden lake stream

Hiroshima Shukkeien japanese garden lake waterfall

Hiroshima Shukkeien japanese garden lake path

Hiroshima Shukkeien japanese garden lake

Now we were hungry and we strolled south along the river and found a South East Asian restaurant, which served very authentic and delicious food. We sat overlooking the river outside on the terrace and enjoyed the last of the evening sun. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the restaurant and are unable to locate it online, but it is right on Aioi Dori opposite Hiroshima Intelligent Hotel.

Hiroshima streets sunset

Hiroshima Shukkeien japanese garden lake street traffic lights

Hiroshima river walk bridge

Hiroshima river restaurant

Hiroshima evening lights

Hiroshima amsement arcade

Contrasting the brutal history of the city with the gentle feelings of the garden made for an enriching but thoughtful day.

We had also planned to visit the Madzda Museum to see the car assembly line but because of Golden Week the factory and museum were closed. You should consider a visit, where else do you get the chance to see how a car is put together by robots. It surely would be very interesting to see for children and adults alike – but Reservations are essential if you want to do this.

Miyajima, Japan – Fireworks Of A Lifetime

Watching the fireworks on Miyajima was a once in a lifetime experience

 

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We got up early today, packed up, and left on the expressway heading to Hiroshima. We grabbed a quick breakfast from a “konbini”, and leaving the Seto islands behind us for now, we drove through the mountains on the expressway and soon arrived at our Hiroshima Airbnb. I had chosen our apartment based on location, it being right between both Miyajima and Hiroshima so seemed to be the right compromise. I wanted somewhere not too far from Miyajima for the fireworks but also an easy ride on the tram into Hiroshima town.

After arrival we quickly unpacked our luggage into our modern, spacious apartment. But we were in a rush to get out for our trip to Miyajima to watch the famous annual fireworks. As an average of 300,000 people flock every year to Miyajima to be part of this spectacular event, we wanted to get there early enough to secure a good spot for viewing the firework later that evening at 19:40.

I had tried to find out online the best spots to watch the hanabi. Obviously the prime spots are on the beach just in front of the red tori gate, but we knew that the spaces on the beach would already be claimed by all the eager photographers that come, up to a day before and even stay there overnight in order to get their favourite place for taking photos. We were not trying to be quiet as ambitious, we just wanted to grab a spot where we could sit and enjoy watching the fireworks. This meant that we could not hang around at the apartment and needed to get to the harbour at Miyajimaguchi to catch one of the ferries across to the island.

Hiroshima miyajima hiroden tram hanabi firework

Hiroshima Miyajima hiroden tram firework hanabi

The Hiroden line tram stop was just around the corner from our Airbnb apartment and they ran frequently, we took a ticket, which states the starting station of your trip from the yellow machine on the platform and then paid on the tram when we exited. We got onto one of trams, already cramped with people dressed up in festive yukatas all headed like us to Miyajima.

Hiroshima Miyajima firework hanabi ferry terminal tickets

At Hiroden-Miyajimaguchi we decided to get return tickets for the JR ferry to cross over to Miyajima as this would surely make our life getting back in the evening after the fireworks easier and faster. If you have a Japan Rail Pass you can use it on the JR ferry to Miyajima. Surprisingly there were not any large queues for the tickets and the ferries. The ferries ran every few minutes, and were packed with lots of keen festivalgoers.

Hiroshima Miyajima firework hanabi jr ferry

Hiroshima Miyajima firework hanabi ferry ride

Hiroshima Miyajima firework hanabi otori gate

The closer we got to Miyajima the better we could see that the promenade was already heaving with people. We got off the ferry, and mingled with the crowds.

miyajima hanabi firework deer

miyajima hanabi firework dog pushchair

miyajima hanabi firework deer

Despite the amount of people the deer that inhabit the island and run free soon surrounded us. The deer are very cheeky and will try and get what food they can from your possessions into their mouths. Do not try to feed the deer and be careful of what they might grab from you!

All the children including Jerome were fascinated by them just walking around, they showed no fear of human beings and were totally at ease with all the tourists surrounding them.

miyajima hanabi firework sign posts

miyajima hanabi firework sightseeing spot

We tried to assess the situation of where we should set down our mat and decided not venture to far away from the ferry pier – something we were glad of later and can highly recommend considering. We found a place near the frontline in the memorial park next to the harbour. There were also some mobile toilets close-by, which considering that we had to wait until 19:40, for over 7 hours, would prove to be useful. We had brought one of the plastic sheets that Japanese people use for sitting on the grass or beach at Daiso, and I would advise doing the same. There were already hundreds just stuck to the ground by either tape or weighted down with stones. Weirdly enough, no one was sitting on them or standing around nearby.

Jerome and I walked off to get some proper food; in the end we chose to have lunch at a restaurant rather than picking out on food from one of the stalls. We had a hearty bowl of hot udon and bought some sushi to take away for Chris who was watching over our claimed space. We should not have worried as we later found out, no one dared to try to remove or claim one of the already placed sheets.

miyajima hanabi firework food stalls

miyajima hanabi firework foodstall cucumber sticks

miyajima hanabi firework foodstall pineapple

miyajima hanabi firework festival stall

miyajima hanabi firework street stall masks festival

We started to get hotter and hotter in the afternoon sun. I could see the heat was frustrating Jerome and so we wandered off in search for an umbrella. Soon enough we found one and also stocked up on drinks in one of the shops. We strolled past the stands admiring all the deliciousness on offer, kakigori, cucumber on sticks, pineapple, candyfloss…

miyajima hanabi firework sheets

miyajima hanabi firework otori

miyajima hanabi firework photographers

miyajima hanabi firework matcha ice cream

When we got back to our spot, Chris said he would like to walk around for a bit and explore the area. Jerome had made up his mind to stay put under his propped up umbrella; Chris and I walked towards the O-tori gate weaving our way through the masses of people still arriving from the mainland by ferry.

We would have loved to visit the Itsukushima Shrine but as expected there were long queues to get in, we did get a great view of the O-tori and the photographers who had set up their tripods on the beach. Instead we chose to go back to Jerome and started to play card games to bridge the waiting time.

miyajima hanabi firework viewing spot

miyajima hanabi firework waitingMiyajima is always worth visiting all year around but if you are visiting Miyajima with children for the fireworks, there are plenty of exciting things to see and do to bridge the waiting time.

Start by strolling past the festival stalls, they always make a good attraction, as they are so different to anything you would find at festivals in Europe or the US. There is an aquarium past the Itsukushima shrine, a great way to spend some time inside away from the heat but it surely will be busy.

Fancy a swim? Then head to the camp ground with the little ones at the far corner of the island to spend the afternoon in the shade of the pine trees and take a refreshing dip in the sea or build some sandcastles.

If the kids are full of energy why not walk to the ropeway and take a trip in one of the gondolas to the mountain station. Hike up the last meters past more temples and shrines to the observation deck on top of mount Misen and enjoy the view of the crowds from the top and the beautiful surrounding scenery.

miyajima hanabi firework festival yukata outfit

miyajima hanabi firework yukata bows

miyajima hanabi firework yukata fan parasol

The sheets around started to fill up slowly; we had two lovely Japanese girls, dressed up in colourful yukatas, with their hair and makeup done up to match the outfits. I kept admiring the beautiful yukatas, Jerome and I chose our favourite ones.

I decided that next time I would wear one too, it would have to be silk or cotton though, it must be unbearably hot and sweaty in a polyester yukata.

miyajima hanabi firework sheets close up

miyajima hanabi firework boats harbour sunset

miyajima hanabi firework tourists

miyajima hanabi firework moon

The sun started to set behind the mountains across the bay filled with boats full of curious people wanting to see the fireworks. In front of us was an Indian expat with his four-year-old son. They invited Jerome to watch the fireworks with them from their prime spot in the frontline, whereas we stayed in our selected spot.

We could feel the excitement and we all started to get impatient now that the sun had set and soon enough we heard a voice coming from the speakers welcoming us to the Miyajima fireworks.

And then it started, a true firework extravaganza, unlike any firework we have ever seen before in Europe. The fireworks exploded, lit up our fascinated faces and drew incredible shapes into the night sky. Some looked like jellyfish, dragonflies or hearts while others were harder to decipher. We were totally speechless, while we could hear the Japanese around us mouthing “sugoi”.

The organisers had let off 5000 fireworks in six intervals, with the fireworks lasting just under an hour, the normal time for fireworks in Europe is around 15 minutes.

miyajima hanabi firework extravaganza

miyajima hanabi firework half and half

miyajima hanabi firework jelly fish

miyajima hanabi firework gold rain

miyajima hanabi firework two in one

miyajima hanabi firework finale

It was over far too fast, and as it had ended we could hear the people quickly getting up, collecting their belongings and rushing towards the ferry terminal. So did we… But how do you get 300.000 people off an island, when everyone has to get on ferries in order to get back to shore. The Indian expat had warned us that depending on where you are on the island to watch the fireworks it could take hours to finally get onto the boats. He had told us that he waited in line for 3 hours one time when they were near the Otori gate and I would advise you to keep this in mind when choosing your place to watch the fireworks.

Especially with children it is a long time to wait, crowded together in a tight space, but at least everyone was very civilised and there was no pushing from behind. If you were thinking of watching the fireworks with very small children, Jerome hated fireworks when he was small, I would consider staying overnight in one of the local ryokans or hotels. You would need to book well in advance otherwise there is no chance of getting a room on the island.

Even though we had left our viewing spot fairly quickly it took us half an hour to get onto the pier and then a bit longer onto the ferry. Keep in mind that there are two separate ferry organisations, JR to the left, Matsudai Kisen on the left. The guards checked the tickets thoroughly and did not let anyone on without a valid ticket. The ferry company must have had a longstanding experience with the huge crowds of visitors trying to get back to the mainland after the fireworks. Everything was very well organised and the ferries ran back and forth every few minutes; people were allowed to stand on the car deck to fill them, which made the whole process much faster.

Once we got back to the mainland we went straight to the Hiroden tram stop and were able to get straight onto the next tram into Hiroshima. If you need the JR Sanyo line it might be quicker to go one stop towards Iwakuni and then change to go back into Hiroshima.