Day 1: Budget flight from Seoul to Tokyo
After arriving, I took the train from the airport to Ueno, just to try to get my bearings. The train system in Tokyo is much more complicated than any of the other cities I have lived in (Seoul included.) I ate lunch at a food court in Ueno, and then wandered around the park aimlessly for a bit, before venturing back into the subway system to get to my hotel. I luckily found my hotel without much trouble (thanks to a lot of Google Map stalking beforehand). I ate a small dinner of convenience store snacks and called it a night early.
Day 2: Exploring Tokyo, and an overnight bus to Hiroshima
I woke up very early in the morning for basically three reasons. One was to get in as much exploring as possible before I had to catch my bus to Hiroshima, another was to avoid the crowds, and yet another was to avoid the summer heat. This worked out super well, as my visit to Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine) was blessed with perfect weather and a lack of people.
After exploring Meiji Shrine and resting a bit at a small cafe/gift shop on the grounds, I headed over to Harajuku to do some window shopping. This is one area where I would love to visit again when I am not solo traveling, because I wasn’t able to buy much of anything at the time. But I did have a fun time picking out small souvenirs at “Kiddy Land,” Harajuku’s famous 5-story toy shop. There’s seriously something for everyone there. I picked out some cute novelty chop sticks as gifts: Totoro-themed for my best friend, and samurai sword-themed for my brother. After shopping I had some delicious ramen at Ichiran Ramen, and then headed over to the bus station to catch my bus.
Day 3: Spend the day in Hiroshima
My third day started off with a sun rise from a rest stop in Who-Knows-Where, Japan. I had chosen to take an overnight bus to save on money and time. It definitely did help out in that aspect, but unfortunately I didn’t sleep for even a minute of the 13-hour trip. However, it wasn’t all bad. I got a lot of reading done, for one thing (Dostoyevsky, which under other circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have the willpower to suffer through) and I actually was minorly obsessed with all the different rest stops we visited along the way. (Japanese rest stops are super luxurious and interesting, compared to your average American rest stop.)
Once I had alighted the bus in Hiroshima, I made my way into the train station and got on a train (more like a trolley) to central Hiroshima, where my hotel was located. I got a little turned around getting there, but luckily I’m good at reading maps, so I used the area maps at the trolley stations and near the central Peace Memorial Park to find my way. My hotel room wasn’t ready to check in, but they held my luggage for me and gave me directions to the nearby Hiroshima Museum of Art. Luckily, Hiroshima is small and pretty easy to find your way around, so I got there without any trouble. The museum itself is not huge, but makes up for that with the quality of the art they have on display. They have works by Van Gogh, Manet, Millet, Monet, Degas, and Picasso, just to name a few.
I was especially lucky, because at the time I was visiting, they had a second Van Gogh on display, borrowed from a museum in Amsterdam. I happen to love Van Gogh so it was honestly amazing to see his art up close. The museum itself is also beautiful. It’s set up like a circle, and has four main galleries, each with different themes, that you enter as you go around. The main circle is surrounded by an outdoor green area within the main walls of the complex, and there’s also an annex that has work by modern Japanese artists.
Following that, I once again ate at Ichiran Ramen (my favorite chain of ramen restaurants, in case you can’t tell). This time was at the Hondori outdoor mall location. Then I went back to my hotel and went to bed early to make up for my lack of sleep the previous night.
Day 4: Mini-trip to Miyajima Island, and a healing walk around Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
This was the day I had most been looking forward to on my trip. There were two main reasons that I felt compelled to visit Hiroshima on this trip to Japan, and one was the iconic Miyajima Island, the other was Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park.
The first part of my day was dedicated to exploring Miyajima Island. To get there, you have to take the trolley all the way to the last stop, and then take a ferry across the water to reach the island. The trolley and the ferry were both enjoyable rides. I loved the trolley ride actually, because it gives you a glimpse of suburban Japan, which you might not get if you just stuck to visiting a major city like Tokyo.
When you arrive at Miyajima, you’ll pass through a sort of tourist information center. I put my things in a locker there so I could explore more comfortably, and I also collected a map to help me get around. I first visited the famous “floating” torii gate, which is part of the Itsukushima Shrine.
The shrine itself costs money to enter, but you can enjoy it just as well walking around the outside. After seeing the gate, my next destination was Daisho-in Temple, a Buddhist Temple that is a short walk from the Itsukushima Shrine. Visiting the temple was probably my favorite part of the whole trip. There’s so many things to see and the atmosphere is very peaceful. The steps to the temple are lined with hundreds of statues, and there are even more Buddhist figures all around the temple. Actually ever since I was a little kid, my house always had lots of Buddhist figurines because my dad collected them, so it was personally really nostalgic for me to see all of the figures at the temple. Some of the other highlights there are the prayer wheels, which if you spin them are meant to give you the blessings written upon them, as well as the Henjokutsu Cave, which contains 88 principal Buddhist icons. It’s generally just a really interesting and lovely place to visit, and since it’s lesser known than Itsukushima Shrine, it’s a much quieter and peaceful destination.
After my trip to Miyajima Island, I made my way back into central Hiroshima, for a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, another destination that was personally important to me to visit. Hiroshima has dedicated itself to a message of peace following the bombings there, and the park is a huge representation of that. I highly recommend visiting, especially since it’s free to walk around. There are several memorials and exhibits that are free to visit, which provide more information about Hiroshima’s history and rebuilding.
Following that, it was time for me to make my way back to the main station and board my overnight bus back to Tokyo.
Day 5: Flight back from Tokyo to Seoul.
My last day in Japan mostly consisted of me tiredly traipsing through the train station to board a train back to the airport. I bought a ticket to the airport with the help of a station attendant, and then spent a long amount of time sitting on the platform waiting for my train to arrive.