from “Cowboy”, Erasure, 1997.
Our last day in Hiroshima saw us uncover a couple of real gems and made for a nice end to what we can safely say has been our second favourite city in Japan after Tokyo. We rounded off our visit with common activities on much of our travels: a museum and a garden. And with the museum and garden right next to each other this made for both a very convenient visit and the perfect way to spend the afternoon.
Time to explore the delights of the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum and Shukkei-en.
Upon entering the museum we were immediately impressed with how modern, open, and airy it seemed to be; the rear wall of the main hall was all glass and overlooked the adjacent Shukkei-en garden. It wasn’t too crowded either which always makes for a more pleasant visit.
We were initially just interested in the permanent collections, but the very nice lady on the ticket desk explained that we could get a ticket that would cover us for the permanent and special exhibitions as well as entry to Shukkei-en all for only a little more than the price of the permanent exhibition alone; the sum of the separate parts was certainly a lot more than the bundled ticket, so we duly accepted.
Photography was again prohibited (drat and double drat) which was a shame as we saw some really great pictures, which we spent half the time debating on whether they would look best in our Hampstead or Bangkok flats. However, some of the items in part of the permanent collection had a special “photo OK” labels and so we do have a few examples of some of the lovely artefacts we saw – so a bit of a hurrah! there.
We were quite tempted to go around some of the galleries for a second look but given that it was our last day and time was pressing on we needed to go and explore the Shukkei-en garden next door before it closed. Of the several museums we visited in Hiroshima it was the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum that was not only the best, but arguably the best art museum in Japan so far and we cannot recommend it highly enough.
We used our garden tickets on the automatic reader of the glass door in the rear of the museum and were admitted to Shukkei-en – VIP access, don’t you know darling! It was a lot damper outside than when we had entered the museum and there had clearly been a brief downpour – oh goody that’s helped make it even more humid!
Shukkei-en (縮景園, which roughly translates as “shrunken scenery garden”) dates from 1620 and displays many features of the traditional aesthetics of a Japanese garden, especially the theme of “shrunken scenery”.
Being just a short distance from the hypocentre of the atomic bombing the garden was nearly devastated by the attack and became a refuge for victims. The remains of some who died are buried within the garden. Shukkei-en reopened in 1951 after extensive renovations, and here is a glimpse of how it looks now.
We saw a few of our old friends the carp in the Shukkei-en lake as we meandered around, but when we got to the central arched bridge we discovered that there were a whole lot more carp in the lake than we had thought as evidenced by the feeding frenzy caused by some of the other visitors. We promptly found out where they got the fish food and bought some of our own in the shop/café, then set about generating our own fishy frenzy and get their picture.
We also saw – a little to our surprise – a lot of crabs living in the garden but the little devils kept scuttling into their hidey-holes in the lakeside at the slightest movement and so we couldn’t get any good pictures of them.
A beautiful garden ended what was one of our most pleasant days of just being out and about in the city; they both were real treasures.
Hiroshima, we are going to miss you.