Date: Mon, 1 Jun 1998
Day 11. We gathered our bags and headed to the station. We got our tickets and got breakfast in the station's bread shop. Panyas (bakeries) are very impressive here. You get a tray and some tongs and select from a very delicious array of baked goods. We hopped on the shinkansen and took the short ride to Himeji.
Now experts at packing our luggage into a locker, we were out of the station in 5 minutes. We wandered down the road to Himeji-jo castle. Kel made a startling discovery - 'Look, a ginkoe (tree) in front of a ginkoo (bank).' :) It's a beautiful castle, rising high into the sky over the town. It's also tactically well-defended, although an attack never came. We wandered around the castle for about an hour, then headed to an arcade to blow some time.
In reference to the multiple questions about it, Japan is not dirty. The images from other Asian countries probably influence this idea in people. Japan is a much cleaner country than the US. There were these guys picking up cigarette butts with tongs on a random sidewalk in Kyoto this morning, just as an example of how clean they try to keep things. It's almost sparkling clean EVERYWHERE. We headed to the station, got our tickets, and bought bentoo (box lunches) to eat on the train. I got beef and Kel got anago (eel). Yum! We rode the train to Hiroshima, where we rode the streetcar to near our hotel.
The Ikedaya Minshuku is the most dormlike of all the places we've stayed. But they have more channels on the tv. We wandered out past the nearby A-Bomb dome to the Sogo Depaato. We found a Kinokuniya Bookstore, and bought some english books. I suggested we get pizza for dinner, and Kel was elated. On the way to the pizza place, I slapped myself in the head. 'Okonomiyaki!' I yelled. Hiroshima has great okonomiyaki (a sort of pancake-like'pizza' made of cabbage, batter, vegetables, and meat) and I've been planning on getting some forever. Kel still wanted a pepperoni pizza, though, so tomorrow. We got the pizza (which costs about the same as a US Domino's) and carried it back to the minshuku. It was greasy but not bad. Don't tell my doctor, though. We discovered that the tuner had an out jack so we hooked up the camcorder and started taping commercials. We got lucky and caught a Leo DiCaprio car ad. Down Lizzie, down! :) We didn't tape this hysterical english-lesson program with gaijin- 'Is this seat taken?' 'no, it's not.' 'Thank goodness!' 'It's your lucky day!' You had to be there. Went to bed reasonably, preparing ourselves for the depression of the Peace Museum. --M
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 1998
Day 12 - Hiroshima. We got up very late, like 9:30, and both took showers. We headed out in the nasty rainy weather, first to the Peace Museum, only four blocks from our hotel. It's a depressing place, but only partially so now that I know what's in there. They have lots of displays of before and after, film clips, photographs. Displays on current nuclear weaponry, videos for kids to watch. The most gut wrenching stuff is the displays of clothing, eyeglasses, a lunchbox, etc, and underneath the story of how that person died, or that their family never found them, just their things. Yes it's sad. Yes you feel guilty for your country. But they make it seem like this was a sudden random event that nobody could forsee. No mention that it probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives. I'm not saying bombing Hiroshima was a good thing. It's just that the spin on it doesn't explain why. Without too much reading, you'd almost forget there was a war going on. Kel didn't show even a hint of sadness; she was sad, but it was offset by the above views.
We left the museum and walked to the memorial and Eternal flame. At this point I realized I forgot my watch in the shower, so we ran back to the hotel. Still there as expected. Realizing my backpack was getting soaked, we left it and all the expensive gadgetry behind. We walked back past the museum to the other side of the V-shaped river that denotes the park. We were hungry and...wait, this building looks familiar... Yes! It's the chinese restaurant I first ate lychees at thanks to Shannik!! I couldn't believe it. It's on the 5th floor of this building and has an all you can eat lunch buffet (chunking-style). No lychees this time though. Well stuffed, we hit the covered shopping arcade. We tested my memory, and sure enough, the map in ny head was perfect. We found the okonomiyaki place, the hotel we stayed at 3 years ago, and the anime store. We even found the pachinko place I won ¥5000 at. Damn I'm good. :)
We stopped into a Taito arcade, and found a racing game that had not only a Nissan Skyline GS-R, but a 180SX powered by none other than the mighty SR20DET, the turbo version of my car's engine!! I was in heaven! I drove that thing like crazy. Sounds and feels just like my car! It was funny, because I drove the 180SX better than the Skyline since I'm used to driving one! Game's name is 'Side By Side 2:Evoluzione'. I love it, but at ¥200 a pop it's a bit much. We returned to the minshuku via the A-bomb Dome to rest up before our Okonomiyaki dinner. When we passed the dome, I felt uneasy because it occurred to me we were standing where thousands of people died. You don't usually stand where someone met their ultimate end on a regular basis. Strange feeling.
Whoo! Okonomiyaki is great! I was making it all wrong at home; now I know how. Yummy! We hit the arcade again, then wandered around the entertainment district a bit. We played a little pachinko, then returned to the minshuku. --M
Date: Wed, 3 Jun 1998
Day 12-Hiroshima. We left the minshuku this morning on our way to Miyajima, an island just off the coast of Hiroshima. It's considered one of the three most beautiful sights in Japan.
We rode the streetcar to the JR station and then used our railpasses to get to Miyajimaguchi, the port that runs a JR ferry to the island. An interesting realization hit me. I was thinking that the streetcar was a really inefficient way in this day and age to get people around compared to other Japanese cities, but something the peace museum said told me why. It said that within 3 weeks of the bomb, they got the streetcar working again, and it gave people a lot of hope. So, to remove that symbol of hope even today would be a drastic change. Hence the reason they didn't start over with a better system after the bomb.
We rode the ferry, again free, and got off on the beautiful wooded, mountainous island. The first unavoidable symbol of Miyajima are the deer. They're everywhere. They're not afraid of people at all, and they eat anything. I once saw one eat a cigarette butt. Indeed, the second we got off the ferry, one attacked a school girl's shopping bag, eating off one side while she screamed and pulled it away.
We saw another eating a tour guide brochure. We headed in the direction of the great floating toori (gate) that sits very visibly in front of Itsukushima Shrine, one of the island's landmarks. The tide was out, so people were walking almost underneath it. We entered the shrine just in front of a huge tour group of senior citizens. Kel had a theory that the Japanese work hard all their lives so they can get old and get into a good tour group and travel the rest of their old age. :) The shrine isn't all that interesting in itself, but it is very large. We walked out to the toori and played with the hermit crabs, whelks, and sand crabs. We headed further into the island and went to the aquarium.
The aquarium is rather well done, but not huge. We watched them feed sea otters (soooo cute!), pirahna, and archer fish. We also watched the sea lion show which was cute. I petted a penguin and a sea slug, and had a close run in with a stork. Kel liked the finless porpoises. We left there and wandered along until we stopped in for lunch, learning that Kel really likes katsu-don, a rice bowl with egg, onion, fried pork cutlet, and broth.
We hit the historical museum, then wandered up the hill to Momijidani Park where we watched a couple get continually accosted by a herd of deer because they had crackers. One kept head-butting the guy. Beautiful scenery, despite the deer. We headed through the endless shops and caught the ferry back to the mainland. We returned to the minshuku for a bit, then headed out for another okonomiyaki dinner. Last night we ate at a place that shares a name with one of Cloyce's favorite characters, Shin-chan. This time we stopped at Chii-chan, home of the cute-girl okonomiyaki chefs. Kel noted the guy last night was more skilled, but the chefs now were much cuter. In their little Chii-chan T-shirts, and shouting, 'Irasshaimase! Hai! Doo-zo!' they were pretty irresistable. We scarfed down the excellent food, and I was almost tempted to have another. We left and hit the arcade again - got my name in 2nd with the Skyline. :) Dipping dots ice cream and another arcade later, we finally stopped the outflow of cash and headed back to the minshuku. Tomorrow we head for Beppu, home of the hot spring resort and the Hells. --M
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