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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Kyoto to Hiroshima

JAPAN | Friday, 4 July 2008 | Views [7599] | Comments [1]

Wed 2nd July - Up early again as off to Hiroshima today. Making a stop in Himeji along the way. The only sensible way is to get a Shinkansen train, which stops at both places on its way to Hakata. Bus to Kyoto main station and as usual the trains are fairly regular, so didn't have to wait too long, and got on the 9:13 Nokomi super-express train. Cost 11,960 Yen for this trip. I keep wondering each time I take a train if the JR pass would have been worth it. The problem is...you have to apply for it outside of Japan. But, you have a choice of unlimited travel on JR lines either for 1 week or 2 weeks depending on which pass you buy. I didn't have the time or even have that detailed a plan before coming here. If you are here for a month for example, and the journeys are spread troughout that time, then how can a pass work? There should be a better way for foreigners to do this from within the country. All you should need is your passport. But they don't do it that way. So it costs a fortune to travel around. Hey ho....

Himeji is mainly famous for its castle, one of the few that still exists in its original form. It was built in 1580 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and has been home to many lords over the centuries. As with most castles, It has a central main tower or donjon and several smaller ones. Some of the walls were designed so that the defenders could pour boiling oil or water on any invaders through slits in the walls! One of the outer buildings is called 'Harikiri-maru'. This was a place for committing samurai ritual suicide or 'Seppuku', as it was more commonly known. A well was thought to have been used to wash the beheaded, although it was used for other functions. The castle inner is a massive wooden construction of solid beams and floors with simple character. You really could imagine this place buzzing to the sounds of ornately armoured Samurai warriors. An awesome sight I would think.

Back to the station and onto another Shinkansen to Hiroshima, the Hakata Rail Star. This journey akes about 1 1/2 hours, so plenty of time to relax and take in the scenery. A few notes while I think about it.....
When you sit on an empty plaform and a Shinkansen shoots past that isn't stopping at your station, you realise why it is called the 'Bullet' train. The ground starts to vibrate before you even see the train approaching....then....whoooshhh....this stunning beast of a train flies past at a phenomenal speed. A few seconds and it's gone. The slip stream would suck the wig off your head if you were wearing one! I have no hair and still felt it!
When you are on the train, approaching stations are signed on electronic displays at the front of each carriage and also announced in japanese (with a standard japanese style sound) and english....with a ladies voice that sounds a bit like Hal from 2001 space odyssey....really calm, smooth and relaxing. The announcements are preceded by a rather pretty jingling tune...very disneyesque!
Almost constantly, the impeccable hostesses are coming around with food and drink trolleys and bags to collect any rubbish. Come on britain....wake up....you have so much to learn about providing a modern train service. The japanese are amazing at how well they have their services organised, something we can learn a lot from....it does come at a price though. However, a comparable journey to this one would be well over twice the cost in the UK!

One other thing I have noticed here...no grafitti. Stations, streets, subways....not a single sign of grafitti anywhere. I'm sure it does exist somewhere, I just haven't seen any. Maybe it's because they all respect their country? Something that is so obvious in their general behaviour. Why damage something you respect....if only the rest of the world could think the same.
The journey is a nice one. For most of the time, both sides are flanked by sprawing towns disappearing into green forested hills. Skies are a bit grey today, although it is very warm.
Straight forward arrival at Hiroshima. Aim for the exit and the nice information desk lady supplied an excellent coloured map, tram map all with a rea friendly smile. I needed to get across town as am staying at the J-Hoppers trad japanese place (2,500 Yen a night). Best way was using the excellent trams that stop outside the station. No.2 or No.6 to the Dobashi stop and a few minutes walk from there. Flat fee of 150 Yen.
Checked in to my mixed dorm room then off for some domestics...shower and the laundry. A coin-op launderette opposite was handy and cheap, so now got clean clothes and feel fesh after a nice shower. As this is a japanese style place, shoes off at the door and placed in a cabinet and on with the povided house slippers. All part of the etiquette.
As per the usual problem with travel...no sooner do you arrive when you have to plan where you are goin to next, how to get there and where to stay..so off to gather some info and also see what's going on around here. Decided on Beppu and will go by bus, so booked a place to stay for three nights at a spa hotel with Onsens or hot springs on its doorstep, something that the south is famous for, as will become clearer nearer the time.
Hiroshima hit the world's stage for being the unfortunate first place in the world to be hit by an atomic bomb on 6th August 1945. The main sights to visit here are all in the Peace Memorial Park, which I will visit tomorrow. The 'A-Bomb dome' is an old building that stands as a poignant reminder of that atrocity. Later in the evening I walked there as I had seen it from the tram window on the way here. A very eerie sight! More about it tomorrow.
Had a great meal this evening at a type of restaurant called an 'Okonomiyaki'. Similar to one I had been to a couple of times in Kyoto. This one was called the Ichi Riki restaurant. Basically, you sit around a large hotplate and the cook dexterously chops, tosses and manipulates the combination of finely sliced vegetables, beansprouts, egg, meat, onions and some herbs in front of you. wonderful to watch and even more wonderful to eat. Many different types, but same process. Cost about 600 Yen or so and best washed down with a glass of cold beer.
Back at the hostel and time to chill for a bit with the inmates and do the usual of swapping travel info... And imbibe some of the free Sake that is floating around. Nice end to the day....

Thu 3rd Jul - Lots to see today and I guess it will be a bit of an emotional journey. Entered the Peace Memorial Park in the south western corner and the first thing I saw after crossing the Nishi Heiwa-Ohashi bridge was a monument dedicated to the Atomic bombed and donated by the teachers and students of National Elemetary schools. It shows a woman carrying a lifeless body of a child with colouful garlands around the base. A poignant start to this park. Many children who survived the A-Bomb will still be suffering the consequences to this day...most of course...didn't survive!

The main starting point was a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Before going in though, a couple of important things to see. Firstly, in front of the museum is a moving statue of a 'Mother and child in the storm'. The 'Storm' refers to the after-shock of the blast, and shows a woman with two children...one by her side, the other trying to climb on her back as she stoops to walk against the wind.
Across the 'Peace Boulevard' is a row of rectangular peace arches with wishes for peace in every language on their walls in glass. These two monuments set the scene ahead of entering the museum. So much has been included here. By the entrance is the 'Peace Clock'. This has two digital displays. One counting the days since the A-Bomb struck Hiroshima....22977 days, and the second, the number of days since the last nuclear bomb test. This latter only numered 633 days!
The museum is superb and details every aspect of this tragedy. Some background is in order.....

The Atomic (Uranium) bomb or A-Bomb was developed by the US, mainly under the direction of scientists who had escaped from Germany. They alerted the US government that Germany was developing nuclear weaponry. Albert Einstein no less, signed a letter to president Roosevelt urging the US to undertake a counter development policy. In August 1942 the US launched the 'Manhattan Project' to develop such a weapon. The first test was in July 1945. In february of that year, leaders of the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union attended the Yalto conference, at which it was agreed that the Soviet Union would declare war against Japan, in an attempt to bring a speedy end to the war. Germany had surrendered in May 1945. The US had invested 2 billion dollars on the development of the A-Bomb and wanted to justify that expenditure. It seems as though, in order to protect their supremecy should the soviet union become too mighty, they wished to theaten the USSR and so planned to drop the A-Bomb on Japan. The 'Potsdam Declaration' on July 26th 1945 requested Japan to surrender....they refused. On 8th August 1945 three B29 bombers set off on a secret mission...the Enola Gay bomber carried the A-Bomb, another carried scientific observation equipment, and a third carried photographing equipment. At 8:15am, the future of the world was to change when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Its epi-centre was the T-shaped Aioi bridge and was launched 600metres above Shima hosipital. Within a 2km radius almost everything was decimated....melted under the intense heat of this megabomb. Any human just evaporated! One building partially survived...what is now referred to as the 'A-Bomb Dome'. Set adjacent to the Aioi-Bashi bridge, and with a backdrop of modern buildings, it is a reminder of this tormented city's past and its determination to re-build and move on. Many other statues within the park are a constant reminder of the past....the cenotaph for the A-Bomb victims, the peace flame and many others....a very thought provoking place to walk. Towards the north western corner is the bell for peace, which you can ring with the horizontal log striker....I rang it!
Time to sit for a while......

Whilst I was in the museum, I picked up a copy of the  City of Hiroshima Peace Declaration August 6th 2007. Here's a copy of the opening pararaphs.....

That fateful summer, 8:15. The roar of a B29 breaks the morning calm. A parachute opens in the blue sky, a flash, an enormous blast...silence...hell on earth.
The eyes of young girls watching the parachute were melted. Their faces became giant scarred blisters. The skin of people seeking help dangled from their fingernails. Their hair stood on end. Their clothes were ripped to shreds. People trapped in houses toppled by the blast were burnt alive. Others died when their eyeballs and internal organs burst from their bodies - Hiroshima was a hell wee those who somehow survived envied the dead.
Within a year, 140,000 had died. Many who escaped death initially are still suffering from leukemia, thyroid cancer, and a vast array of other afflictions.
But there was more...Sneered at for their Keloid scars, discriminated against in employment and marriage, unable to find understanding for profound emotional wounds, survivors suffered and struled day after day, questioning the meaning of life.
And yet, the message born of that agony is a beam of light now shining the way for the human family. To ensure that 'no one else suffers as we did', the Hibakusha have continuously spoken of experiences they would rather forget, and we must never forget their accomplishments in preventing a third use of nuclear weapons.
This declaration goes on....you get the message. It is heartbreaking considering the recent summit where some major world powers didn't attend to remove the use of nuclear weapons from their armoury.....how disgusting is that! Some people will never be free from their torments!

Tomorrow I will be aiming to the south of Japan to Beppu, so spent a while walking around the city and checking out the Hiroshima Bus Centre on Rijo Dori avenue and got myself a ticket (5,500Yen) leaving at 1:30pm'ish.
Next stop in the swealtering heat (about 30deg C) was Hiroshima Castle. The original from the 16th century was destroyed by the bomb. The present one was reconstructed in the 1990s and is superb. Not many people around today, so very quiet. Another must-see within its walls is the Gokoku shrine. I was lucky enough to be there when two of the young priestesses, dressed in red and white, did a worshipping ritual. A beautifully elegant and peaceful ceremony to watch.
Further on with my walk in what is referred to as Chuo Central park, and heard some music coming from ahead, so went to investigate. It was coming from the senior highschool, who were practicing outside, so I stayed and listened for a while....a really haunting echo.
Getting a bit tired now as it has been a tough time without much of a break so headed towards the baseball stadium. The architecture of the buildings in this area is ultra-modern and made for great photography. One little distraction....some young students were using one of the highly polished windows of one of the buildings to practice a dance routine, so watched for a while. Absolutely shattered so aimed back to the hostel.
Felt much better after a bath and freshen up. Played guitar for a while in the lounge, which I do miss a lot and caught up with some other travellers to swap stories then got the urge to eat at nearly  midnight. Not good really. Went to the Okonomiyaki I had been to last night, but it was closed. Spotted another one across the road that turned out to be even better. I think its name translates to something like 'Dandan'. Not a word of english, but that didn't matter as easy enough to communicate what I wanted. It was heaving with locals, which is always a good sign. This one had small tables with indvidual hotplates as well as the main hotplate. Fantastic meal for 650 Yen. Nicely full and satisfied...back to the hostel and carry on the chat, with some Sake thrown in for good measure....then off to count some zzzzzzzz......

Fri 4th Jul - Great night's sleep, so feeling refreshed this morning. I had just realised that I haven't mentioned yet about japanese toilets. They are scrupulously clean people, and toilets come in a couple of main varieties. The basic one is a squat type. You face forward towards the bowl whilst squatting. The more fun type are the electric ones. You get a heated seat to sit on, western style, and a control panel for the options. Most wash your nether regions afterwards with controls for pressure and temperature etc. Others include hot air blow dryers, so you get the full works. You could be in there for hours if you enjoy it enough!  Then when you flush the toilet, a sink built into the top of the toilet cystern emits water to wash your hands. Oh..and on the way into the toilet, you exchange your house slippers for toilet slippers, in case the floor is wet. I's all well thought out and just what you expect of these hyper-clean detailed people.

 

Comments

1

Thanks very much for the recommendation regarding Ichi-Riki!

  Yannai G. Oct 11, 2011 9:59 PM

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