Follow the popular route on to Hiroshima for some history. The city itself is nothing special. It is known for being the city where the first atomic bomb was dropped to bring an end to WWII, as the Japanese refused to surrender, and all civilians were forcibly enlisted as “volunteer forces” as the Emperor promised to fight to the death of every single Japanese citizen. Right after the last offer by the Americans was again refused, the bomb was dropped. The museum was interesting and worth a visit.
Much nicer is Miyajima island, famous for its Torii Gate and photographed more than most sights in the country. It is reachable as a day trip by boat, and is very beautiful and charming.
Nagasaki is fantastic. It is a very long haul to get there, even with bullet trains, as it is in the south of the country. It has a large American influence, and is said to be the most international Japanese city. This is not difficult as Japan is 99% homogenous. They don’t live by the cultural relativism so much of the West propounds and have kept their culture intact by shunning most foreign influence up until the 19th century.
Nagasaki was the first, and for many years, only point of entry for foreigners, which meant the Dutch, as they were the only ones allowed in until the 19th century. They were put on Djemaa, an island off Nagasaki, where the harbor for international shipping was on one side and there was one bridge on the other side where priests, Japanese officials, and courtesans could come to them. That was it, no foreigners on Japanese soil.
The city and the wharf are charming, and this is one of the writer’s favorite cities. They like Americans apparently for two reasons. One, we beat them in WWII, and they deeply respect that as we are the only nation to beat them. Two, we rebuilt their country with our money and soldiers after the war and enabled them to become an economic powerhouse.
Another must see is Himeji Castle. Back on the train the traveler must go. The castle was built by the shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1580 and is the best example of the remaining castles in the country. It also has the distinction of being the site of “The Last Samurai” royal court film scenes. It is gorgeous and well worth a half day visit to see the inside of a historical Japanese castle.
These are just a few of the highlights in Japan.