Hobbies, interests, and other personal stuff...
I have lived in Japan for a total of nearly 15 years, but most of those years I lived in Hiroshima. Here are a few quick pieces of advice for visitors to Hiroshima if you want to get the "local" rather than the "tourist's" view.
Naturally, no visit to Hiroshima would be complete without a trip to Peace Park and the Memorial Museum. Be sure to make that first on your list.
Hiroshima Castle is interesting if you haven't seen many Japanese castles, but if you're castled-out, then you can skip it. If you want to get a view of the city from above, you're probably better off going up the Rihga Royal Hotel in downtown and having tea/coffee in one of the restaurants up there. If you have a car, then you could try driving to the pagoda at the top of Futaba-yama, behind Hiroshima Station on the northwest. You can drive all the way up to the base of the pagoda, but the road up is not easy to find.
Every visitor to Hiroshima must try some okonomi-yaki. Many tourist guides recommend going to places called "Okonomi-mura" or "Mitchan". However, that's not the best okonomi-yaki to be had. There are several good shops in downtown, but they are not always easy to find. If you know somebody in Hiroshima then be sure to ask them where a good place is in downtown.
Called one of the three most beautiful places in Japan, this idyllic island is a wonderful getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city just across the inland sea. While on the island, there are several things you must do.
- Do visit the Itsukushima Shrine. It is the central shrine of the island and provides a focal point for the serenity and beauty of the whole island. Try to visit at high tide for the best visual effect.
- Do visit "Taisho-in", the temple which is up the valley from Itsukushima Shrine. Personally, I find this a more beautiful scene than Itsukushima Shrine. Also, take the path behind the temple into the forest about five minutes to a small but picturesque waterfall.
- Do take a walk through Miyajima Park. If it's fall and the leaves are changing, or spring when the cherry blossoms are blooming, then this is a must.
- Do go up Mt. Misen (if you have time) to see spectacular views of the Seto Inland Sea.
- Do eat some freshly-made Momiji Manjuu--a specialty of the island--in the shopping arcade. My favorite shop is called "Fujii-ya". It has a large area for customers to sit and partake of the hot cakes and complimentary tea.
- Do not feed the deer! While this is not restricted on the island, if you encourage the deer with some of your own food or snacks, they will continue to pursue you for more food, which may very well be your clothing!
While I'm no expert in haiku, I've taken a stab at writing my own. If nothing else, it is great language practice. Here is my personal favorite. I'm sorry I don't have an English translation--I just can't find the words in English to really capture the subtlety of this one. Furthermore, it requires a lot of background knowledge about Japanese cultural attitudes. All of that just doesn't translate easily into English.