Backpacking Guide to Amsterdam

Alone in Hiroshima

Hiroshima Night

Snow and Winter, Canada to Japan

I touched down in Japan in late January. For whatever reason, I anticipated the weather being more favourable than it was in Canada. I was wrong. It turns out that the climates are surprisingly similar. I left Canada with snow and arrived in Tokyo with snow. I had plans for meeting friends in Tokyo in a few days' time, so I figured the best thing for me to do would be to explore elsewhere; I headed south.

Tourist Tickets and Transport in Japan

Japan has a tremendous transportation system. Perhaps the best in the world. As a tourist, you can purchase a high-speed rail pass for a fraction of the normal price. The only caveat: it must be purchased outside of Japan from a tour provider. Fortunately, I had enough forethought to buy one.

Tokyo's Narita Airport to Hiroshima by Train

When you land in Narita Airport, you’re not really in Tokyo yet. A fairly long commuter train awaits to bring you into the city centre. As is usual with my travels, I overshot the main terminal in Tokyo by a few stops – a small annoyance. When I doubled back, I picked up my ticket for the high-speed rail (covered by my rail pass) and headed to Hiroshima.

Accommodation Choices in Hiroshima

Hiroshima, itself, is a great town. There are plenty of hostel options that offer both traditional and western rooms. I didn’t know the difference at first, but traditional is exactly as it sounds: a mattress on the floor of an eight-foot by eight-foot room. Bathroom was down the hall, also traditional. The traditional bathroom is much like the western bathroom except you replace the toilet of the western version with a hole in the ground – and that's the only real difference.

First Impressions of Hiroshima

Hiroshima Street Artist

I arrived into the city in good time. Hiroshima has a nice little streetcar system that was very helpful once I arrived. Once I had settled – the early evening – I decided I would hit the town and do my proper exploring the following day.

Now, Japan is efficient. Really efficient.

As most newcomers tend to do when looking for 'the place to be,' they simply follow the crowds in the hope of ending up at said 'place.'

Look Up for Japanese Shops, Restaurants & Bars

I knew I was in the right neighbourhood, people of my age were out in droves; the streets were filled with young people out on the town, looking for fun. I was more than willing. The problem was, all these people kept walking from the street and into buildings, but I couldn't figure out where they went from there. If you were to glance up at most of the buildings in Japan, you’ll see that nearly every floor boasts a shop, restaurant, bar, etc. Ground-floor rentals are expensive, so these smaller shops tend to set up shop a few floors up.

It’s a terribly efficient use of space that was getting in the way of my having fun.

A Little Lost; Find Entertainment in Hiroshima

There reached a point in the night when the crowds died down. It was 10pm and I knew that people were somewhere within these buildings all around me. I just couldn’t figure out where to go. It was like searching for a lost city.

But luck works in mysterious ways.

Meeting a Local, an Invitation for a Drink

I was passing a man who was changing a light bulb outside of a building, when he politely waved me over. We spoke for a little while and I finally and plainly asked him if there was a bar around.

“Sure. I own a bar. You should come for a drink.”

He didn’t need to ask me twice.

He led me up roughly five floors before we walked through the door of his bar. It was exceptional. Few bars I had ever come across in my life measured up to this one. It appeared as if a tree had been sawn in half and transformed into the main bar. I pulled up a chair and we spoke for a while about Japan and Canada, before getting back to his bartending duties.

As I looked around his bar, I noticed that there was barely an empty seat around. I was perplexed at how some establishments in my hometown that were situated at street-level failed to find such plentiful custom, while this one, four flights up and deep down an unsuspecting hallway was so full of patronage.

The Sun Sets – Moving on From Hiroshima

I have long forgotten the name of the bar I went to that night in Hiroshima; I tried to glance upwards at some of the neon displays that jutted out from the building. I was sure that it wouldn’t matter. As I trekked back to my small eight by eight box, I was certain that wherever it was, I'd be gone by tomorrow and I would never see it again. Almost as if it never existed.