First Impressions of Hiroshima – the City of Positivity
By Adam Carter
Two nights in a backpackers hostel in the middle of the city.
Fourteen hour flight to Shanghai, China.
Sixteen hour layover.
Restless, anxious, and realizing I was learning the hard way what it means to budget travel. I bought the cheapest flight I could to make my way to the largest of a series of islands on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean of where I’ve grown up.
Two and a half hour flight to Tokyo, Japan.
Before I knew it, I would be pressing a random button on a menu machine of a soba shop and soon after, my face would be buried in a large bowl of katsudon. I had finally arrived! Seeming like a blink of an eye, two weeks flew by during my stay in Tokyo. Perhaps the pace of thousands of padding, polished shoes that danced and dodged through the sea of people, also rushed over me and with it, all sense of time.
Or maybe it was the jet-lag.
But one thing I heard from a stranger-turned-friend-turned-all-night-drinking-buddy would ring true: Tokyo is unlike any city in the world – even other cities in Japan. Two weeks gone by and I couldn’t be more ready to explore those other cities and places in Japan.
Two hour flight to Hiroshima, Japan.
Waking up from a beer and sugary snack induced power snooze I could immediately feel the difference in the air of Hiroshima. Then, I was shown the first of three reasons why Hiroshima is a Japan must-travel destination to experience positivity and hospitality like nowhere else.
Like Tokyo, energy of so many people and so much history was bouncing off the walls. But different than Tokyo, the overwhelming presence of this energy was incredibly positive. Even after a flight late in the evening that experienced turbulence and delays, laughter could be heard floating from the voices of smiling faces. It’s the kind of warm laughter and energy that made my shoulders fall into a relaxed state and to exhale the tension I didn’t realize I had been holding in my breath. My relief wouldn’t last long though. Not only did I have no idea what direction my hostel was in, but my phone was at four percent battery and I was a hundred percent sure I was hungry. As if she could read the worry on my face, a nice older lady spoke to me in English asking if she could help me with anything. I told her what I was looking for and she kindly pointed the way. Even though Hiroshima is a big city, I couldn’t shake the feeling of this positive collected mindset – with strong, small-town like hospitality.
On the right direction toward the Evergreen Hostel, next I would have to shush my growling stomach. Expecting to find The Evergreen Hostel right around the corner, I stumbled into a warmly lit restaurant ready to drink whatever beer was on tap. Again, the energy I had felt earlier would come to life once more, as I was being greeted by a welcoming host. I was prepared to speak my survival knowledge of Japanese to order a meal and a beer, but grinning ear to ear, the waitress spoke to me in English and offered me a seat. She asked me where I was from and told me she was happy to be practicing her English by talking with me. By then, I was grinning too – happily ignoring my rumbling tummy. After I had been seated and ordered an assortment of skewers with beloved Japanese rice, another guest took a seat next to me when others were open. He overheard I was from USA and wanted to talk over beers. We talked about many things and laughed over everything, all the while we chewed on the clams he ordered and had shared with me. Just like that, a stranger had become my friend (and future Darts opponent) – yet it was different than how I made friends in Tokyo. Here in Hiroshima, people reached out to me – they were curious, friendly, and positive. Before, in Tokyo and even in my hometown, I was always the one reaching out to strangers hoping for conversation and story sharing.
Feeling completely different than when I was struggling after my flight, I was ready to head to The Evergreen Hostel to begin my stay. Ahead I would see the tall pink building with many lovely little artistic touches. Approaching the front door, I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect – but as I opened it, four bright faces looked up at me from the game they were playing in the main hall. They were expecting me and had been happy to see me and welcome me. Rather than bombard me with questions they would need to ask for my check-in, they were kind enough to introduce themselves and ask how I was doing and what I thought about Hiroshima so far. Then I was given a tour of the clean and homely hostel and provided with a bed that had already been waiting for me and prepared. I knew this was going to be a place where I could rest easy knowing I can just be myself. Everyone I met that night shared the energy of positivity and hospitality and The Evergreen Hostel, consisting mostly of foreigners and travelers like me – were no exception to providing the same good vibe.
In Tokyo, I would wander around lost for hours, wide-eyed, curious, and trying to stay out of the way of professionals and locals. In Hiroshima, people would go out of their way to give me direction, welcome me, and make conversation. In only a few hours, I was captivated by the hospitality and the feeling that I could be at home when I was so far away from home. A lot of the time, first impressions can mean everything. In this case, my first impressions of Hiroshima, the locals, and The Evergreen Hostel would mean so much to me, making me feel welcome, relaxed, and as a new member subscribed to providing the same positivity that I’ve been given.