Our next stop was at the Shukkeien Garden. This was a highlight of the tour, because of the amazing Spring weather we were enjoying. Masa quickly ushered us across the road and into the garden, doing his best to stay ahead of the pack.
Throughout the morning he’d shown interest in my new camera – Japanese made of course – and he was quick to spot potential and to give me a nudge. Good man!
The garden – first laid out in 1620, imagine that! - is set around a pond and follows the concept of miniaturising many scenic views. Tradition demanded that it was modelled on Xihu, in Hangzhou, China and the pathway which leads one around the features gives gardens of this type the name “circular tour garden”.
Some of the finer trees were still wrapped up in their protective winter coats and the office blocks in the background gave the game away whenever one forgot about the world outside, for this would have been a peaceful and serene place had it not been for loads of pesky tourists galumphing around.
Of course, the garden was destroyed by the A-bomb, but careful restoration following the original plans mean that we can see it exactly as was intended.
The semi circular Koko-kyo bridge in the centre proved too much of a temptation to Mary and I, who both wanted to pose on the top of it for our heroes, who wielded the cameras. But it was indeed slippery and we did need to take care. Neither of us were too keen on making the splash of the day!
Of course, the plum blossom was a highlight and was just opening in the sunshine. Another week or so and it will be at its best, if the weather continues like this.
The white blossom in particular had a heady scent and Masa said what an unusual day it was, “May in March”, he thought.
Of course, we were not the only ones visiting the garden and these two young women were enjoying taking pictures of each other, posing in the Japanese style with kooky expressions and little waves of the hand. We smiled, greeted one another with a Konnichiwa and I said how kawaii (cute) they were (not having the Japanese for “beautiful”) But that seemed to hit the spot…kawaii was indeed the intended impression and both bowed effusively and thanked me for the compliment! (I had been a little anxious that they would have been insulted!)
The next scene was most certainly more beautiful than cute. A shy bride was being photographed with her handsome husband and not only did she have the photo-team on hand, it appeared the world of tourism wanted her photograph too!
I can only hope the professional photographer was able to avoid the baseball caps in the background.
Don’t they look lovely?
Masa was looking closely at his watch though, and thought it was time we were off. We’d been lucky to see the garden in such glorious weather and felt delighted to leave Hiroshima on such a high.
Though we weren’t quite done yet! On our return to the ship, we were greeted by smiling faces and “Hiroshima Delight” cocktails: Midori, tequila and goodness knows what else, but altogether delicious! There was to be a ceremony in the theatre and we were keen to watch.
The chef was preparing sushi and sashimi, there were marvellous decorations and the scene was set for a celebration, for sure.
This was the ship’s first call at Hiroshima in nine years and the occasion was to be marked by the tapping of a cask of locally made sake in a traditional Kagamawari ceremony.
There were speeches, an exchange of gifts and eventually, the seal on the sake was broken.
Toasts were made and the first kampai (cheers!) called, as the General Manager drank the fresh sake from what looked like a wooden box.
Fortunately there was plenty for us all to share.
Kampai! Hiroshima. What a delightful time we’ve spent here. Such a warm welcome from everyone we encountered and an experience which we’ll remember fondly.
This afternoon, we’ll set sail through the Inland Sea for Osaka. I’m going to use the time to make a little something for our friends, who are joining us for cocktails this evening. I’ll explain later.