We checked out very easily from the Okura and got the metro to Hakata station. Not having all the time in the world we spotted Seattle’s Best Coffee and ordered a breakfast set. Apparently hot dogs are a popular breakfast item in Japan and who am I to argue! The food was well packaged for our trip on the shinkansen to Hiroshima. In the end we arrived pretty early and had a good 15 minute wait on the platform.
Train: Sakura 542 Hakata to Hiroshima
Depart: Hakata Station: 08:47
Arrive: Hiroshima Station: 09:53
Seats: Car 4. Seats 13D and 14D
Train: Kyushu Shinkansen 800 Series Maximum Speed 160mph (260 km/h)
We settled in for the hour long ride to Hiroshima and quickly discovered the coffee we had purchased was definitely not Seattle’s best, being considerably worse than Starbucks coffee it probably ranked pretty low should this stuff actually be served in Seattle. The hot dog on the other hand was decent.
This bullet train was even more spacious than the previous with seating in a 2-2 formation rather than a 3-2 formation that is common.
We were treated to some stunning views on our way to Hiroshima, but these paled in comparison to what followed later on the trip.
Hotel: Sheraton Grand Hiroshima
Room: Deluxe Corner King (Room 1824)
Status: Bonvoy Gold
We soon arrived at Hiroshima station and seeing as we picked the right exit it was impossible to miss the hotel. We followed the walkway along the side of the station and got the lift up to reception. Via the SPG App I had requested an early check in and a pretty early check out. Although we didn’t get an upgrade as an Bonvoy Gold, I had booked a corner room for a small premium. Seeing the stunning views of the city that people had posted on Trip Advisor I thought it was worth it given the occasion. Despite the lack of an upgrade, the 10 am check in and being placed on the 18th floor were very much appreciated.
After taking half an hour or so to settle in, photograph the room and admire the view we set off on our itinerary for the day.
First off we walked in search of some art.
There were a couple of great pieces on display and I managed to nab a few pics before being told off. Apparently photos were OK but not specifically of the art works… Sorry!
After a good time at the museum it was lunchtime and we’d picked a place that specialised in tofu. After I got us lost thanks to Google Maps inventing paths in the park and the GPS location being a tad inaccurate we made our way down through the park to Tosho.
It became evident very quickly that Tosho was a place people came for special occasions as it was pretty fancy and quite traditional. When you think special occasions you think rowdy birthdays and so forth but in truth we hardly saw a soul in the main dining room, this was most likely down to the numerous private rooms we spotted around the restaurant building. We were half anticipating Takeshi Kitano gun-fighting his way out of one of the rooms as we finished off our lunch.
Anyway, I’m getting slightly ahead of myself. We initially had some trouble finding the place as first of all there was no English signage and we had to match the characters on the restaurant sign to those on their website. Second of all, as we arrived a medium sized family group were exiting the restaurant and blocking up the entrance way. Being polite we waited for them to leave but a taxi driver waiting outside thought we were confused and went inside to confirm our reservation for us.
Once inside it was a proper shoes off affair and we were walked upstairs along corridors, past kitchens and into the dining room. We had been allocated a table facing the restaurant’s stunning garden. All the service was in Japanese from beginning to end so there was a possibility some of it got lost on us. Tosho was a full on traditional kaiseki place and whilst we’d got a bit of a taste in Hakone, it quickly transpired that we’d been eating the food in totally the wrong order.
The courses came at a decent pace and all looked like little works of art. The speciality being a tofu dish that resembled a crème caramel. Despite the overload of fish dishes I enjoyed my meal and the ambience of the garden view. Whilst the courses may look very small the sheer volume of food soon catches up on you and before long you end up very full indeed. The only thing that was odd during the meal was that they didn’t take any drinks orders from us so we stayed with the complementary green tea from beginning to end.
The whole area was heavily over run with western tourists which came as a bit of a shock after our travels so far, but despite that it was still a place where you could find a space to think if you had the patience. For me the most harrowing part of the exhibits were the videos of the survivors explaining what happened the day the bomb exploded. Listening to the stories whilst walking round such a beautiful city you realise how resilient we can be as humans and how miraculous it is that wildlife can flourish again in a place that was almost wiped off the face of the Earth.
We spent some quality time at the Peace Park before having a lovely walk through the castle grounds as the sun set. Unlike the nearby Peace Park the castle grounds were largely deserted.
We then headed back to the Sheraton via a rather interesting Google Maps routing that covered everything a city can throw at you from high end residential and office space to a red light district, cute little streets filled with restaurants to grimy space by the railway lines. We dropped our stuff at the hotel and fired up Google Maps to look for a dinner spot as the original plan was for Okonomiyaki which Anne-So refused to eat after her case of Tokyo Tummy.
When you want a meal that’s going to taste nice and fix a dodgy stomach naturally Indian cuisine comes to mind. After a delicate Japanese lunch I was craving some curry and it turned out I was not the only one. Roopali Indian was a five minute walk from the hotel and was filled with Brits, Indians and a solitary American who needed their spice fix. Finding it impossible to decide, we went for one of the set menus, with tandoori meat, rice, two curries, poppadom and a giant naan. Was it the best or most “authentic” Indian food we’d ever had? Of course not, but it was delicious and tasted of home, good memories and of not being sick. During this trip we managed the full works of upset stomachs from Tokyo Tummy, to Sapporo Stomach, Kanazawa Kramps and the less said about Fukuoka the better! Whilst clearly it was not my favourite meal of the trip, at that moment it all tasted amazing, especially that giant naan (OK, maybe not all amazing as the Japanese rice was a bit odd).
We trundled back to the hotel for a coffee and a romantic night time view of the city where we got our money’s worth with an absolutely stunning panorama of lights. Exhausted, it was time for bed as yet again it was another early start as the next morning we were headed to Kyoto. In addition the Ritz Carlton app was showing our room had been substantially upgraded and as pretty much all the reports say they rarely upgrade anyone, I thought it was likely a mistake that would be rectified at the hotel. However, a little bit of me was extra excited going to bed that night.
We got up early and maxed out the Sheraton breakfast buffet as best we could.
The selection was good and I enjoyed a made to order ham and cheese omelette along with my buffet selection of carbs, processed meat and a small helping of fruit.
The food was certainly above average but nothing to get excited about. The hotel was also full of the kind of middle aged tour group people you don’t want to get stuck behind under any circumstance ever at all, unless you happen to be a part of that group.
After breakfast we checked out and made the short walk to the station. Would Kyoto live up to the hype?