A Travellerspoint blog

hiroshima

days 3 and 4

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not much to do in hiroshima once you have walked around the park, but i decided to go and visit the castle, which of course wasnt the original castle because that went with the bomb, but they had reconstructed it and made it a fairly nice museum inside. most of the rest of the grounds had been left though as they were after the bomb.

From here i decided that i wanted to get a subwya and then go and eat it in a park or some gardens. i went along to some gardens but didnt want to have to pay to go in. ive seen way too many gardens ad dint feel like seeing them really. so then i made my way across to the park where the contemporary art museum is. they park was on a hill so it took some walkng around but i eventually found a plesent spot to eat.

as well sa being home to the art museum it also hosts a manga library, which i decided to take a look in. i got some strange looks as i wandered around looking at the many shelves of manga, but i was more interested in how busy it was. lots of people, male and female and all ages were sitting in there reading. apparently there is manga for everyone. including the gaijin so i found some english manga, after accidently picking up some french!! i know i need to learn french but i didnt want to do it then.

aftr that i just went back to the hostel

the next day i had done everything that i wanted to do in hiroshima so i decided that i would take it easy after having rushed around for 2 weeks. i also had some things to send back home so i walked to the nearby post office but because it was a saturday it was closed. so then i ended up going to the main post office and sending it from there. because i had bought one of the japanese paper umbrellas the parcel was an odd shape and the tape i used to wrap it was coming off in lots of places, but i left it in the hards of the postal worker who hopefully made it so that it might reach england in one peace.

from here i decided to go and get take away okonomiyaki to take and eat in the park. this one i got with cheese and corn. i sat in the park for about 3 hours, eating reading and sleeping.

then i return to the hostel and got them to print off some documents that i needed printing for the rest of my trip. and for 200yen they also burnt my 2000plus photos onto a dvd for me to send home just in case something happens to my memory cards.

i sat ariund the hostel until about 630 when i went to the train station to catch my ngiht bus. this time there were no people in red aprons to help me find my bus, luckily i went up to a driver and asked and it happened to be my bus. i had upgraded for this bus which meant that i had a seat that went almost horizontal and with a blanket and shade to pull down over your eyes. i had a very good sleep.

Posted by leiasj 04:53 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Miyajima

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I had been looking forward to visiting Miyajima since starting my trip and hearing from other travellers about it.

I bought a 2 day tram pass for 2000yen because I could also use it for the ferry to Miyajima and for the cable car to take me up and down the hill on the island. The tram journey too around an hour, I left around 8am because high tide was at this time and I wanted to reach the island before the tide had gone to far out.

Luckily the ferry journey was only about 10minutes, as I do suffer with sea sickness. Already before the ferry set off I could see the object that I was going to the island to see. An iconic image of Japan, though people dont realise. As it happens i was discussing this image with my parents and it was that they had seen the image on a geocaching website that very day. so thats how iconic it is.

Upon docking I went straight round to it and it really does look as amazing as i had hoped. A giant red torii, which appears to be floating in the water. There was a large group of Japanese getting their photo taken in front of it, well slightly to the side. There is a temple on the shore which isnt much for itself, but worth paying to enter so that you can get some nice photos of the torii. Being such a fan of toriis i did take quite a few photos from 3 different view points around the shore line. a kind man offered to take a photo of me with it since he could see that i was struggling with my gorillapod. he was then quite concerned that the screen doesnt work and he has to look through the viewfinder.i reassured him that it was daijabu. After taking a substantial amount of photos i went off with plans to return around 2pm when the tide would then be out and it is possible to walk up to the torii.

I went wondering round, saw many deer. I then aimed to find the cable station to take me up the mountain. But on the way i was inticed into seeing some dolls as it was the last day of the girls festival. I gentleman who spoke very good english told me a little about the dolls that he has on display but there are more displays all over the island that i could go and see. i then told the man that i was heading to the cable car, to which he said that someone had told him it was closed due to strong winds. i took the short walk up to ask for myself at the park entrance. and sure enough, i was told that it would be closed all day, which annoyed me somewhat because i had bought the 2000ye ticket which was only worth buying if you use the cable car.

disheartened i walked over to another shrine which made me laugh somewhat. They had a lying down golden woman wit marge simpson blue hair. and some tinned pineapple being offered to one statue while another had sake.

from here i walked to another temple which had some of te dolls on display and a young girl told me more about the history of the dolls.then this temple was also offering some classes, either in origami or caligraphy of rice spoons. becasue i discovered that miyajima is where the rice spoon was invented so i decided to write on the spoon. i decided to chose to write dream on my spoon in Kanji, because it was the best of the designs that they had to offer and i wasnt feeling cretive enough to ask them to translate any other words.

from here i decided to walk across to the cable car station to see if it was open on the off chance, especially as the walking route that i looked at as i walked past was closed on account of landslides from a typhoon. as it happened the cable cars were now opened so i took the first car half way, which was a car like normal cable cars. but then i had to change into another car which holds up to 30people and goes back and forth rather than around and around.

I was only up the top of the mountain for around 30minutes, but that was long enough to see some monkeys. its been a whle since i have been around monkeys so it made me very happy.

by this time it was about 2pm so i wanted to get back down th mountain again in order to see the torii with the tide out so i took the cars back down.

there was lots of people out at the torii now, many taking photos but also the japaese people were out at the shoreline digging around for something, i think maybe oysters.

while i had been in hiroshima talking to the group of 4 japanese people one of them told me an intersting fact that the torii isnt actually sunk in at all, well obviously a little bit on the surface but actually it is just from its weight that it sits there and does not fall over when the wter comes in. i liked looking at the part of the torii which goes in the water because there is a build up of seaweed and coral type stuff.

From taking more photos of the torii i went walking through the shops and wanted to try the maple leaf cakes that are famous frommiyajima. i tried them in a few flavours, green tea, chocolate, cream cheese and custard. they were rather nice and i hadnt eaten yet so they hit the spot. then i came across the worlds largest rice spoon. which was... big.

i had had enough of walking around by this stage and so i just headed back on the boat and tram to the hostel.

i ws going to have a quiet night in, maybe get some okonomiyaki when i met an ameican girl in my room who was going to the baseball, Hiroshima carps against osaka. so i thought that for 1500yen it would be fun to go along. i had contemplated it already, but didnt like the idea of going alone and she was glad of the company. so we went along and it was all very strange. well not the baseball, we werent really watching that. but just observing the japanese as sports fans was obscure. they become less inhibited. and we were in from of the band who with a guy dwn below shouting, were forming songs for every player everytime they batted. we had a few beers as well. qand our team won apparently.

from here we nipped across to peace memorial park so that we could take some photos of the A Bomb dome at night. and then went to find somwhere to get food near the hostel. i ended up getting some ramen and we were about finished and to go on our way when i drunken male japanese customer came in and offered us some sake and friendly banter. well it was all ok until he spilt sake over us. but he also gave us cake. so a ood night anyway.

Posted by leiasj 02:52 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Hiroshima

Day 1

sunny
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I arrived at Hiroshima at about 730 and made my way to the hostel making use of the tram system, which was luckily towards the empty side. Following the directions diven by the hostel i arrived with no bother and left my belonging there while I went off to explore for the day. My hostel was a short walk from Peace Memorial Park. A park located a mere 300metres from the epicenter of the bomb on that fateful day. Well it wasnt a park back then but a highly popnes in populated residentual area, but now serves as a peaceful reminder of the devastation of the world first atomic bomb.

Upon arriving at the south of the park i was aiming to go to the museum first, but happened across some rather poignant statues first. They show a women carrying their babies and children in the aftermath of the bomb, weak themselves from the effects, searching in vain for some help. Beneath there statues lay thousands of paper cranes, which I learn later are of great significance.

I entered the museum, which at only 50yen was very reasonable, so i deciced to enhance my experience with a headset to narrate me around. The museum was very well laif out. The first section focusing on the run up to the event, not failing to mention events such as Pearl Harbour, but also going speaking of conflcit with China. It is sometimes easy to forget that the war went far beyond Europe. Im sure that at school we learnt more about the effects on Europe and very little about events even as big as Pearl Harbour and Hiroshima. This section of the museum also featured information about how it came that an atomic bomb was even made and the tough decision that had to be made about where it would be dropped.

A model of the area showed the utter devestation that can only begin to be comprehended today in the city when you see the A-bomb dome in the north of the park. There were lots of photos of the area directly after and in the year or so after as the city tried to rebuild itself.

The next section spoke about Hiroshimas mission to rid the world of atomic bombs altogether. For every test carried out by the US, France, the UK, Russia, etc the mayor of Hiroshima sends a letter to that country to object. HUndred of letters later and nothing has changed.

The next area of the museum was much more emotional, now turning the focus on individual stories of lost ones and personal effects of the bomb. BY this stage i was starting to rely more on the headset and reading a little less of the plaques, but there wre a few stories that stood out for me.

ONe of a man whose fingernails when they grew after the bomb were black and oozed blood when he cut them.

There were several building tiles that can be seen to have melted from the impact of several thousand degrees heat hitting them in an instant, only from this can you begin to imagine the impact on human skin. The manniquins of zombie like creatures with skin hanging off is easily imagined to be true.

The significance of the paper crane is that as a result of the bomb a 10 year old girl developed Leukimia, as she lay dying in the hospital she began folding 1000 crane in the hope that when she reached this number her wish would come true. SHe surpassed this but still died. Her classmates continued to fold the crane and now they can be seen around the park as a symbol of peace.

Leaving the museum and feeling the emotional impact of its contents, i went to sit on a bench outside and contemplate. Just having taken a bite from a biscuit an elderly japanese man comes over and begins talking to me. He plays the harmonica, 3 differnet ones and shows me the book that he has written. He seems to have suffered a stroke of something similar as his right side continues to move involuntarily. Though with the citys history, anyone can guess the cause. HE was certainy of an age that would make him very young or an embryo at the time of the bomb, After 30minutes of him talking to me, i managed to escape and continue eating my biscuit. As i was about to reach a tree that survived the bomb I was interupted by a group of 3 women and a man who wanted to practice their english with me. They were very friendly, and asked me about my stay in Hiroshima, one lady handed me a leaflet for Miyajima when I told her i was going there the next day. And as i bid them farewell they insisted on offering me a paper crane and a rice cracker for my time, which was very nice of them. I eventually got to finish my biscuit and to see the tree, despite the exposure the tree continues to grow and even does so after being moved from its original location.

I headed further north in the park to the monument to remember the event. by itself it looks quite unremarkable but it was only after i got to see it straight on that i realised it was in line with the A-bomb domb and the flame that continues to burn between the two, only to be extinguished when the last atomic bomb is destroyed. An offshoot from the flame has made its way to Ueno park i remember seeing when i first arrived in Japan. The monument itself holds the names of the victims of the bomb and is updated every year since as new victims are discovered.

A very poingant statue was the Childrens Peace Memorial, built with the leukima crane girl in mind but used to remember all of the children who suffered as a result of the bomb. This statue had glass cabinets behind it full of the paper cranes and arranged in images.

The memorial mound that I walked to next held the ashes of tens of thousands of the victims of the bomb. not really a striking memorial compared to some others but its simplicity still holds an important message.

The monument for the Korean victims of the bomb was important for remembering that this was a world war with victims from many nations. Also to remember that Americans also died from this bomb, which wasnt intended. Hiroshima had infact been chosen from the shortlist of possible cities based on the information that there was no POW camps in the city. There was, it was just that America didnt know about it yet.

The park, like many others in Japan at this time was in full cherry blossom bloom and there were families enjoying their picnics under the trees. Even more impressive becasue it was thought that nothing would grow in Hiroshima for 75years.

The bell of peace in the part continued to chime as people went up to it to show their support for the message of Hiroshima city for world peace.

I had now finally reached the very north of the park, where the A Bomb dome is located. Back when it was built it stood out in the city for its blue roof. After the bomb it was one of the few buildings from near the epicenter to survive the blast. There was controversy over whether it should remain intact, to act as a reminder and monument to the event or be demolished as the people who survived would rather forget and move on. After many years deliberating it was decided that it would stay and be preserved as a monument to the devestation that nuclear weaponry can cause.

The exact coordinates that the Ameicans were aiming for was Aioi bridge just by the A bomb dome. The actual bomb was some 600meters away when it exploded so the bridge remained relatively intact and was used for many years after, only being replaced recently (1983) when it surcumed to general wear and tear.

Last place to visit in the park was the memorial hall. This had a monument outside which represents the time at which the bomb struck at 815 am. INside were many photographs of the victims and a searchable database for such information as where a victims was when the bomb hit. THere were also some video clips of survivor stories. There was a giant hall with a 360degree view of the city in the aftermath of the bomb.

That night for dinner i went to a recommended restaurant to have okonomiyaki. HAving tried it in Yoyogi park and discovering octopus inside, it was reasurring to watch this one being made. Replacing the octopus with bacon for the hiroshima variety and with the choice to add cheese to the egg, it was rather tasty and very filling.

Posted by leiasj 01:21 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Nara

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With one more day to spend in Osaka before catching the nightbus down to Hiroshima, it was another chance for a day trip. I had heard from people in Kyoto about Nara, which was worth a visit. So I had already decided that I wouldnt have time in Kyoto to make the trip but no doubt from Osaka I would find the time, and I did. SO i took the train for 30minutes to Nara and wen to the tourist information office on arrival. Before even having the chance to open my mouth the lady passed me a map and was circling all the places I should see and the route to take between them.

So with my map I set off on my merry way. First stop was a pair of pagodas, which is always nice to see. And my first deer sighting, which was fairly exciting until i saw that they had their antlers taken off. I can see why, because if you are going to have wild deer wondering around a city you need for them not to be spearing people with their antlers, but still it is sad to see, as they try to complete their mating rituals of locking antlers with the other male, but are unable to because they dont have the antlers to do it. It was later in the day that I then saw what they did with the unwanted antlers was to make them into various souveniers such as chopsticks!

From the pagodas i followed the crowd to the main attraction of the giant buddha, the temple of which is a UNESCO world heritage site. This is inspite of it, like every other temple in Japan, having been burnt down, twice. But much of the architecture and statues remain from the time it was first built in 752AD, which was a pretty long time ago. I guess if more temples had remnants from this early in history they too would be on the list of heritage sites.

The temple itself was one of the more attractive that I have seen, suitably large, well it has to be in order to hold such a large buddha.The buddha itself wasnt as large as i was expecting, i mean it was large, but i expected it to be twice the size with the big deal that was made about it. MOre interesting was watching a line of small children try and fit through a small hole in one of the poles holding up the temple. THe theory is that if you can fit through you are enlightened. FOr an adult to try would imply that they are not very enlgihtened, if they even think they would be able to get themselves through such a small hole. Im guessing that when it was made the small japanese people were even smaller! Perhaps the message today is that an adult cannot fit through because no adult can be enlightened, only a child unspoilt by the world can stand a chance of being enlightened. Or maybe im reading too much into it!

Outside the door to the temple is what would have to be the ugliest statue that I have seen in Japan. Binzuru, one of the disciples of Buddha, was a bit of a witch and so apparently if you rub a part of the statue, if you then rub the corresponding part of you own body any ailment from that part of your body will go away. Now unfortunately i couldnt test this because i had no ailment.

I got myself another fortune while I was at this temple, although it was only in Japanese. But i left it wrapped to the bar outside the temple so that even if it was bad, things will still turn out ok.

It was later discovered that on either side of the temple should be stood a pagoda. SO in recognition of this there was now a Sorin stood on one side which is to symbolise the 7 storey pagoda that once stood there.

From here I walked up to a raised temple which gave good views out over Nara, and some relief from the rain, which wasnt really enough to warrent an umbrella, but was annoying none the less.

By this stage of my trip, I have seen far too many temples and shrines. and so as not to bore myself and others with hundred more photos of such things I continued wondering around the area at a leisurely pace, but was not really taking many photos. It was a nice park to wonder around though and there were some more shrines etc to look at. And of course plenty of deer who tried to take my bread from me!

I returned to Osaka and sat around at the hostel for a few hours as my bus was not scheduled until middnight! i left the hostel at 11pm. And realised when i reached the bus stop that I had left my battery charger at the hostel! damn it! luckily that was resolved easily because i was staying with the same chain of hostel in hiroshima so they sent it to me there, and it only cost 640yen, cheaper than buying anew one.

I was catching the bust from outside the central osaka post office. I arrived there at 1130 and foud it still to be open! which struck me as very strange, but i guess very convenient for any urges to send parcels at 1130 at night!

I got on the bus, which was not as comfortable as the previous bus had been. I was sitting next to a woman who was larger than the average japanese woman, and she wasnt very accomodating , taking over a portion of my chair. and the bus seemed to stop a lot more than last time. LUckily, i upgraded to the stylish bus from hirishima to tokyo, which is a 12hour journey so i should be suitably comfortable with this trip, fingers crossed.

Posted by leiasj 01:19 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Himeji Castle and Kobe

best beef EVER

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With Osaka fully seen in just 2 days I decided to take a day trip to HImeji castle, supposedly the must see castle of Japan. So i took the train 1 hour from Osaka, noticing that on the way I passed Kobe.

I decided to visit the Koen next to the castle first, which had some very interesting gardens, and was very peaceful and not very busy. I also saw an albino carp which was pretty cool. Then i went around to the castle which was much busier. Again because of the cherry blossoms the Americans and Japanese were out in force taking photos.What was partiularly good about this castle was that there was information all the way around in English. First i took a tour around the outer buildings which had some intersting informaiton about holes which things were dropped though and special drainage on the windows. INformation but not too much unnessessary information. Then the tour route took you out in front of the castle for a nice portrait of the castle and it looked quite spectacular. Going around inside the castle the first few floors had information and exhibits,such as things they dug up while restoring it and pictures of how it would have looked back in the day. Then at the top there was a very nice view over the town, and the surrounding gardens of the castle.

Having finished at the castle by 1pm, i decided to head to KObe since it was on the way and a stopover wouldnt cost any more for the train fare. ALso i read in my guide book that i could get a lunch set of Kobe beef for about 15quid, which seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. So i took the train to kobe and rushed to get to the restuarant before 3pm, when i thought the lunch would finish. I arrived in time and ordered the cheapest set.The chef cooked the food in front of me, i watched as he cut the slice of fat from the edge and then cut away a third of the beef and rested it on top to cook. This was served with musard, soy sauce, japanese vinger, salt, pepper and garlic. And the beef was the most amazing beef ever, i didnt think it would be as good as the reputation that precedes it but it tasted so good, i cant even describe the taste, because it was like no beef i have ever tasted before. Then while i was eating that piece and my salad, pickles, rice and soup the chef cooked some vegetables (pepper, potato, tofu, abergine and some weird japanese jelly thing) with the next piece of beef and added it to my plate as and when it was cooked. HE then served the fat. THen the final piece of beef was cut into smal pieces and cooked with some bean sprouts. FInished off with a cup of green tea. For the price the beef was amazing and a complete bargain. If i ever have the opportunity and the money again i will be sure to have KObe beef again.

From my meal, and feeling very satisfied i took the cable car up the hill to see a view over Kobe and towards Osaka. The view was very nice, and then I made my way down the hill through the herb garden which was a little unusual for my trip but nice enough, Then i could have gotten the cable car down the last half of the hill, but i decided to take the hiking route... which was maybe a mistake. It started out very nice but then i started to freak myself out becasue of the horror movies that are going through in my head. There was no one else on the route, but it kept running through my head that maybe when i did see someone that person wuld kill me or soemthing!!! then the route took much longer than it should have taken and i started having to walk up stairs which seemed odd since i was going down the moutain. the signs had started off with english on them but by this stage they were just in japanese so i was trying to work out the way to get down.

ANyway, since i am writing this you can assume that i was jsut being paranoid and i got down safely. Then i was going to get the train back to Osaka, but i saw that i could get the subway to Harborland which i knew was where the memorial park for the 1995 earthquake was, so i thought i would pop over to see that. It was very interesting tosee, once i eventually found it, because they had kept a part of the pier as it was in the direct aftermath of the earthquake,so that you can see the extent of the damage, and there were some photos on display with english translation to explain the aftermath. It seemed very out of place because the rest of the city is completely recovered from the earthquake after 12 years.

After this i finally went back to the hostel and planed my next day.

Posted by leiasj 04:25 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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