The third stop on our 2018 Japanese baseball tour took us to Hiroshima. Our main purpose was to see the Carp in action at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium. However, the trip itinerary also included a visit the the Atomic Peace Dome and Peace Memorial Park. Having seen the plane that delivered the first atomic weapon, it seemed appropriate to see the remains of the destruction it helped create.
1. Getting to Hiroshima
From our base of operations in Kyoto, we walked from the hotel across the street to the Kyoto Station. We took the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Hiroshima Station, covering the 350 km distance in about one hour and 45 minutes (including six stops). Morning sunshine in Kyoto faded behind cloudiness as we traveled southwest.
The trek covered mainly rural areas, with cities interspersed with the rice paddies and mountains to the north. We noticed many solar farms along the way, but given the weather so far on the trip, I’m not sure useful they were this week.
As we approached Hiroshima Station, we passed close to Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium. Even though we arrived in Hiroshima more than three hours before the 1330 game start time, there were fans already lining up to enter the ballpark. Most NPB ballparks open their gates about two hours before game time, meaning fans were willing to wait an hour or more in line to get inside. We didn’t know why at the time, but we would find out later.
2. Hiroshima and the Atomic Peace Dome
After arriving at Hiroshima Station, we took the Hiroshima Streetcar to the Peace Memorial Park. Though we paid cash for the trip, you can purchase a one day pass (which might be a nice souvenir), or use the Suica card you bought earlier in your trip).
The streetcar stop for the Peace Memorial Park is less than 10 minutes from Hiroshima Station. Upon exiting the streetcar, the Atomic Peace Dome is immediately visible. A somber reminder of the first use of an atomic weapon, the overcast conditions seemed a fitting dreary backdrop. The Dome is the only remaining structure remaining from that day, as it was directly beneath the air blast.
Upon closer inspection, even the rubble from the blast was left in place. As might be expected, the Atomic Peace Dome drew significant interest, even on this cloudy and humid afternoon. Being in the presence of the Dome was a sobering experience, conjuring images of unimaginable destruction and chaos.
The Atomic Peace Dome is the focal point of the Peace Memorial Park, which stretches along the banks of the Motoyasu River. South of the Atomic Peace Dome is the Peace Memorial Museum. Time was a limiting factor when visiting the museum, which has a Japanese section on one side, and an English section on the other. Among the photographs in the museum is a picture from 1947, in which Hiroshima still lies in ruins. The image shows Emperor Hirohito addressing the citizenry, with the Dome in the background. This is reportedly the first time the Emperor had addressed the nation in person.
2. Getting to Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium
With game time fast approaching, we headed toward Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium for the 1330 game start. From the Peace Memorial Park, we caught the streetcar back toward Hiroshima Stadium. The streetcar stop was about 1.3 km from the stadium. Walking through a suburban area following the streetcar ride, we followed a long asphalt walkway toward the stadium. Clouds were lowering and thickening, with rain threatening at any moment.
Along the walkway, we noticed groups of people sitting or standing, watching TVs broadcasting the pre game activities. Though it seemed a bit odd, especially with rain approaching, we didn’t think much of it at the time.
A quick walk around the stadium showed nothing remarkable, though there were food and souvenir stands around the park. Much like other NPB tickets, the seating information was difficult to decipher. Typically, we can at least glean the gate number from the ticket, but in this case, we were stumped concerning where to enter the ballpark. Eventually we tracked down a staff member, who graciously showed us where to enter.
Our tickets were general admission, which meant we would have to view the game from wherever we could. Soon after arriving, we realized why there were lines to enter the stadium three hours before game time. The general admission seating was long gone. To watch the game, we would need to stand. Unfortunately for us, all of the railing around the ballpark was ringed with fans, sometimes four or five deep. It became clear that our view of the game would be tenuous at best.
The Hiroshima Toyo Carp have perhaps the most enthusiastic fans in the NPB. The team often sells out the entire season (70 home games) just hours after tickets go on sale, so this is definitely a tough ticket to secure. Since it didn’t seem to matter from where we saw the game, we sought out the Carp Team Store. The store was comparatively small, when compared to other team stores we’ve seen. There was not much of interest to us, so I purchased a Carp cap and a program.
Following the trip to the store, we walked around the stadium. The game as a sellout, of course, and we didn’t see many empty seats, even with rain on the way. One thing that struck me about the park was its resemblance to the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati OH. Of course, the Carp modeled their uniforms after the Reds, so I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising the stadium would have a familiar feel. In any event, we got as close to the railing as we could to see the start of the game.
The Carp’s opponent this afternoon was the Yokohoma DeNA BayStars. A light rain starting falling as the game started, and the afternoon was becoming murkier by the moment. Since we could not get close to the rail to see much of the action, we decided to circle the field, popping in occasionally to watch the action.
Following our trip around the park, the rain began to fall more steadily. Conditions were becoming less conducive to watching a game, especially since we did not have seats. Having seen the stadium, we decided to leave before conditions became worse. Heading back to Hiroshima Station, we saw fans in the rain, huddling around TVs along the asphalt walkway we took coming to the park. The devotion of the Carp fans was impressive, to say the least.
With the weather taking a turn for the worse, we cut short our visit to Hiroshima, and caught the next Shinkansen for Kyoto. Arriving in Kyoto after dark, we decided to visit the Kyoto Tower. Located across the street from Kyoto Station, we had seen it during the day, and thought it might afford a nice view of Kyoto at night.
Kyoto Tower is located in a commercial building, along with shops and restaurants. A quick elevator ride took us to the observation deck. The deck was crowded, which limited the amount of time we could spend in any one location. The view of the city lights was impressive, though low clouds may have obscured some of the lights from nearby cities.
Following the visit to the tower, we headed back to the hotel, exhausted from a long but fun day in Hiroshima.