I recently returned to Japan after 12 years away, and have moved to Iwakuni City in Yamaguchi Prefecture. In the past few months I have explored many areas around Yamaguchi, and recently decided to venture out and about to Hiroshima. I had heard about Hijiyama Park from friends and family, and thus decided to go looking for a piece of quiet adventure in Hiroshima. Parks have always offered a peaceful commune with nature for me, so I chose Hijiyama Park as my Hiroshima destination.
My journey began from the south exit of Hiroshima Station. I walked down the stairs and found a tourist information booth slightly to my left about 30 meters from the bottom of the stairs. At the information booth I found a very helpful Japanese woman, who spoke English very well. She informed me that a trip to Hijiyama Park could be done in one of four ways:
- Streetcar (number 5 tram, takes about 10 minutes and costs 190 yen per adult and 90 yen per child).
- Bus (Orange Line, takes about 35 minutes and costs 200 yen/adult and 100/child).
- Taxi (takes about 5 minutes and costs between 1200-1500 yen).
- Walking (takes 25-30 minutes and is about 2.2 kilometers.
The tourist information center gave me an English-language Hiroshima City map and also a streetcar and bus map. I opted to go by streetcar, which appeared to me the most efficient and simple manner to get to my destination. I would walk back to Hiroshima Station for the additional experience for the excursion.
About 20-30 meters from the information center on the left was the tram area. I got on the number 5 streetcar, paid my 190 yen, and got off and exited left at Hijiyama Shita tram stop (4 stops from Hiroshima Station). In front of the streetcar stop is a winding road that ascends to Hijiyama Park. At the road entrance is a police box on the right, and slightly up the road is a small Buddhist temple, about 50 meters or so on your left.
The walk to the top of the hill and the park is around 500 meters, with 2 built-in shortcuts of stairs on the left that cut out about 200 meters of walking. The road up is lined with trees on both sides that gives a calm, peaceful feeling to visitors; and the shade keeps the walk cool. The road meanders towards the left, while you can hear numerous bird sounds to reassure you that nature surrounds you. On the right-hand side, about 250 meters up from the street entrance, there are two parking lots (one with handicap accessible parking).
There is also a Skywalk that crosses through the center of the park (about halfway up the walk) with an escalator to enter/exit the park from another direction. As you cross over the Skywalk (to the right side) to another section of the park there are two stone memorials: one each for local Hiroshima policemen and firemen who have passed away in the line of duty; I personally found this interesting since I served my country in the U.S. Navy when I was younger.
Continuing back up the main road for the last 250 meters, there were also a few benches on the left side of the road leading to the top of the park to rest prior to reaching the top. These were convenient to stop for a brief rest and to enjoy your surroundings and gather your thoughts/feelings prior to arriving at the park entrance.
Finally, when you reach the top, you will be at the main portion of the park. There you will find The Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) on the left, various park views in the center, and on the right The Hiroshima Manga Museum. There there is also a bus stop for visitors who decide to use this mode of transportation to get to and from the park.
As it was just around 1PM when I arrived, so I decided to sit in the park to have my lunch while looking out over the stunning view of Hiroshima City and the Kyobashi River just below. It was a clear, sunny day with only a few visitors to the park. A couple sat to my right enjoying a chat and lunch. They seemed blissfully unaware of me or any other possible distractions. I settled in with my lunch to take in the peaceful, calm feeling that surrounded me. I was looking forward to a very serene and enjoyable lunch.
At first I decided to relax and take in my surroundings – sights, sounds, smells, etc. Then I took a few photos of the view and some of the fall foliage. At last I was ready to absorb my place in nature and the peaceful surroundings that I had chosen, to relax and have lunch. I mixed my feelings and thoughts together with my sustenance to create a truly enjoyable moment.
Following lunch, I headed for MOCA. The hours of operation were from 10:00AM to 5:00PM daily with holidays usually on Mondays (dependent on National Holidays). I walked up a set of stairs, took some photos of sculptures in front of the building , and then entered the museum. The entry fee was 300 yen. I paid my fee and asked for an English-language pamphlet. Unfortunately, the did not have any. The woman behind the counter apologized in Japanese; no English was used. I believe they were out of English-language brochures, since all of the exhibits had both English and Japanese descriptions.
I then began my stroll through the museum at a comfortable and leisurely pace. Stopping at exhibits that caught my eye. The hall was spacious for its purpose, but not very large by Western museum standards in my opinion. The current exhibit on display consisted of two parts: “Portraits of Self and Others”and “Collection Highlights.”
Various artists on display showed portraits (both photography and paintings) of themselves and others in the first portion of the museum; to include Japanese and western artists. I saw a photography exhibit of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol, which I recognized. The second portion included a peace-themed art in relation to Hiroshima itself. This included a lot of visual art, paintings, sculptures with a Hiroshima-peace theme, mostly centered on The Peace Park. The art was unique and eclectic. Mostly a dark and eerie feeling as you observed the negative side of human nature.
There was one visual exhibit of the Genbaku Dome or Peace Dome which was superimposed with a moving image of a beautiful woman’s alabaster face that shaded a few colors off and on. This to me contrasted the beauty and ugliness of life. It struck me as sublime and surreal at the same time.
Of course, art like nature is subjective and all humans react differently to what they see. For me the contrast was striking in that humanity is surrounded by both pleasant and unpleasant images in life. We decide, based on society norms, what we choose to see as either attractive or unattractive. A version of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To me it brought out feelings of the strengths and weaknesses of humanity seen side by side. This elicited a quiet moment of pleasure in me of the simplicity and ephemeral nature of people. Similar to the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi (the nature of all in life as imperfect, impermanent, incomplete).
After exiting the exhibit area, I stopped to fill out and English-language survey at the doorway exit. I then proceeded to a small gift shop to browse the items for sale, but nothing caught my fancy, and so I departed the building. I also noticed a small coffee shop on the right upon exiting. It was open, but the menu was not to my taste and the pricing was a bit high in my opinion. So I did not enter. Still, this looked like a pleasant place to sit and relax after a walk through art.
One last note on the museum, I saw a sign at the exit that stated that following the completion of the current exhibit on 27 December 2020 the museum would be closing for renovations from 28 December 2020 until sometime in the sorting of 2022; no reopening date was listed.
- Intellectual Stimulation Through Comics
My last stop in the upper portion of the park was The Hiroshima City Manga Library. The listed hours are from 10:00 AM to 5:00PM with holidays usually on Mondays. The building itself is shaped in a semicircle, and the first floor has English-language brochures available upon entering the building. The brochure itself is very well organized and the English explanations was quite good.
The pamphlet has a chronological history of manga from the twelfth century to the present. The library reading room is located on the second floor, and consists of about 100,000 books.
Any person with a Hiroshima City library card can check out up to 10 manga books for a maximum time limit of two weeks. You can also check out up to 10 manga at one time for the day, read them either inside the library or outside in the park under the trees using the available benches.
There is an English-language manga section at the top of the stairs on the left, and also The English version of the Japan Times. The library was relatively crowded for a Thursday afternoon with mostly elderly folks reading manga; there were a few school age kids also reading there. Very quiet and peaceful atmosphere to relax in.
- Additional Park Sites
Although I did not visit them, the lower portion of the park has an Army Cemetary and a Radiation Effects Research Foundation. I did not have the time to see these portions of the park, but plan to see them on my next visit. These can be located on the Hiroshima Siteseeing Guide Map available at the visitor’s center at Hiroshima Station.
Following my exit from the manga museum, I decide to walk back to Hiroshima Station. I used the Skyway escalator to exit the park and at the bottom on the right there was a small supermarket and coffee shop. I stopped at the coffee shop and had some to to relax for about 30 minutes. I then proceeded to head back to Hiroshima Station on foot following the tram tracks to guide me. It was a pleasant walk of about 2 kilometers, and took about 25 minutes.
Lots of shops and interesting windows to peer into as I strolled along the Kyobashi River and finally crossed the bridge over the Endo River arriving in front of Hiroshima Station.
My goal for the day was to travel inside of Hiroshima, but away from typical city life and noises. Japan is full of nature that is only short distances form major cities, and sometimes right within the city limits; sometimes hidden from open view.
Hijiyama Park was this type of place. A park with nature, art, and entertainment in the form of comics. The total experience for me was one of visual and emotional enhancement that offered me a serene moment taken out of the fast pace of Hiroshima city life.
I would highly recommend a visit to Hijiyama Park if you are looking for a place to relax and reflect on things in your life. You can commune with nature, hike, elicit feelings with art, and entertain yourself with manga. Quite a variety of options to spend your day outside the confines of a busy Hiroshima city.
Each person is looking for something different at various moments of their lives to add meaning and fulfillment to compliment their experiences. Hijiyama Park could be such a place for some. If time and interest allows, please give it a try!