As the world advances through the technological ages, our cities keep getting busier and busier by the day. Buildings are being built here and there, and time seems to keep getting shorter by the minute. Living in a city is so fast-paced. Especially for people like me who love the outdoors, the city can be pretty suffocating, and sometimes we just need to take a break from all that. And I don’t just mean staying home and watching a movie to chill; I mean like run away for a while and have a change of scenery for once. But, being the busy bees that we are, we simply cannot afford to take the whole weekend off and go out of town. Luckily, however, the city where I live has a place where people can unwind and be one with nature without needing to get far away from the city.
If you’re looking for a place to relax and unwind in Hiroshima, I would recommend the Hiroshima Botanical Garden or 広島植物公園「ひろしましょくぶつこえん」. It is an educational and family-friendly park located in Kurashige, Saeki Ward, Hiroshima. It’s about an hour’s commute from Hiroshima Station. It’s also accessible by a bus commute or the Hiroden.
They have both outdoor gardens and indoor controlled environments where hundreds of different species of plants from all over the world are taken care of. Many scientists and students get to learn from their plant exhibits and seasonal seminars. Moreover, what’s great about this place is that they created the park in a way you can take a stroll and have a fun and relaxing time by yourself, or with your friends or family. So many people also visit to unwind and spend some time with their loved ones. In addition to that, many photographers also like visiting the Hiroshima Botanical Garden to take pictures of the rich flora species they have. Like me, I was very much eager to see what the fall season has bloomed for its visitors to see.
The Hiroshima Botanical Garden has a lot more to offer than what you can imagine from its name. After folding the map I got at the entrance (it was written in Japanese, and I haven’t mastered my Kanji yet) and thought that I’d just go with the movement of my feet, I got to have a small adventure that took my mind off the stress I carry living a city life.
The park seemed pretty standard upon entering the main flower bed. They had a Koi fish pond and a statue by the entrance, then a grand staircase to the Main Conservatory and other temperature-controlled buildings. I thought of going there first, but then I saw this path to my right leading somewhere else. My gut told me to follow that instead, and it led me to the Begonia Greenhouse.
As a photography enthusiast, entering that greenhouse and seeing so many pretty flowers blooming in the middle of November made me so happy. I was really lucky to see the Begonias because their blooming season starts around June and ends around November. So I spent some time there and just played with my camera for a while. My shots of the sunlight peeking through the vibrant flowers hanging above my head made some of my best photos for this trip.
Likewise, the Rose garden and the Fuschia display house did not disappoint with the view. The flowers were very vibrant and they were blooming perfectly. They reminded me of the beauty that nature is, and that despite the increasingly terrifying global warming and natural disasters happening around us, there will always be a reason to hope. It’s just like the story of Hiroshima wherein after the atomic bombings left nothing but dust, a flower bloomed that gave people hope that life can still thrive in Hiroshima.
Unfortunately, some flowers weren’t blooming due to seasonal demands such as that of the Wisteria trellis, Hydrangeas, Magnolias, and the Camellia Garden. Nevertheless, I still got to enjoy the Maple trees, the Arboretum, and the tropical plant species in the Main Conservatory, as well as the Cactus species in the Cactus Display House. Specifically in the Main Conservatory, I was very amused by the variety of tropical plant species they had. I suddenly felt like I was back in the Philippines for a while when I saw the Banana, Orchids, and Bougainvillea plants. Then they also had a Venus Fly Trap display which I was very fascinated by. They even had an enlarged replica display where kids can sit in and take a picture pretending to be eaten by a Venus Fly Trap. In addition to that, they also have an Observation Tower where you could get a good view of the park and the Itsukaichi area.
The park also had this open space with tables and benches to rest or have lunch. If, however, you weren’t ready for a picnic (just like me), there is also a cafeteria that serves pretty decent dishes for you to enjoy.
They also have a playground where kids could play. But, honestly speaking, if I were wearing more comfortable clothes, I would have climbed the mini-adventure course myself. And then the autumn trees surrounding the area created different colors of leaves that made the view rather picturesque.
On the other hand, if ever you’re looking for a more zen aura, the Hiroshima Botanical Garden also has a Japanese garden and a lake that provides a perfect escape to chill and get rid of the city noise. There’s a bench where you can sit, enjoy the view, and/or maybe do some breathing exercises. It’s surely one way to destress and free your mind and heart.
What I love about the park is that there is no one way to explore, there are many different paths you can take to where you want to go. No worries, there are signs, landmarks, and maps all over the park in case you get lost. But, not knowing what to expect along the way makes it more exciting that for sure there’s something unpredictable you’ll come across to remember forever.
Just like when I saw a path uphill, I immediately turned and climbed my way up. As I hear the fallen leaves crunch with my every step, joy spills from my heart and I get excited. I mean, there wasn’t like a mountain top with a good view, but it was a pretty enough walk that woke the adventurist in me. After having been living in the city for so long without my monthly dose of nature trips, I do genuinely get excited about things like this. And so, I followed a path to the forested area, and then I found this stream of water flowing down to the Japanese Garden. I took my time there. I was alone and it was pretty magical. I felt like I was being hugged by nature. I could hear the crickets and other insects play their instruments as well as the water trickling down the stream. The view was even better; The sunlight peeking through the trees and hitting the dust gave off this mystical view. I loved it. Then I went off the path for a bit to check out the water stream. I was enjoying nature so much and I was taking some selfies that I didn’t notice the warning signs placed around me. Little did I know I should be watching out for vipers that may come out from the thickets. That gave me quite the scare. I usually wouldn’t be so scared of such things, but I was alone and deep in the forest with narrow paths, and the sign was pretty convincing.
“Watch out for pit vipers, a venomous snake. Please watch your step and do not enter the thickets.” It even had a drawing of the snake that made me imagine snakes were crawling by my feet. I was not expecting that at all. I mean, you’d see signs everywhere in Japan where bears or deers could just show up, but vipers in the forests of a park – I was not expecting that. It was a botanical garden after all, and I’d think that most of the area is curated for the survival of the plant species and the safety of its visitors. But, rather than being disappointed, I ended up liking the park even more because, I thought, “at least they preserve the natural ecosystem where these flora and fauna thrive.”
Finally, to end my day, I ate ice cream I bought from the vending machine, and I sat down on a bench watching the autumn leaves fall. The difference between being with nature and being in the city is that time moves more slowly when you’re in a more calm and natural environment. As I scrolled through my camera roll and recalled everything that I visited, it felt like I’ve been there the whole day, but I was already heading out of the park by 2 PM. That was still early for me, considering I planned to take the whole day off and see the sunset as I go home. So on my way out, I fed the Koi fish by the entrance.
Then, to complete the experience, I decided to take home a plant with me. I’ve never really been a plant person per se, but I asked the store staff for the easiest plant to take care of, and I’m hoping I can keep my plant alive long enough for my next one. Now I have some greens to look at in my apartment; At least until my next visit. I can’t wait to see what spring looks like!