Aimeric (aimeric) wrote,

Someone Set Us Up The Bomb

Appropriate title, but a bit cruel? Visited Hiroshima and Miyajima today.

This was a long day - out the door at 8AM, back at 9:30PM. Took the JR rail as far as Himeji, then hopped on the Shinkansen for the rest of the trip. Took about 2 hrs transit, plus time to walk to and from the station, plus changeover time.

Did Miyajima first, since it's a bit further (a few local stops, plus a ferry). Miyajima means Shrine Island. Named one of the 3 most beautiful spots in Japan, the iconic view from the island is the "Floating" Torii gate (yes, I'll be posting plenty of pix afterwards, although, of course, there's always the Google :) ), which luckily I got to at high tide (at low tide, rather than raising up from the water, it's sticking out of the mud...kind of spoils the effect). Though one can see the torii from plenty of different vantage points, the best view is from the pier at the end of the complex of shrines rising above the shore. It's also apparently a popular wedding spot - I got there just as the wedding procession was beginning - both the bride and groom (and the maids of honor and the groomsmen) were wearing traditional garb, though the rest of the family was in tuxes and gowns. I didn't want to intrude by snapping pictures, but eventually, plenty of other tourists did, and were not shooed away, so I managed to get a couple of snaps (not the best, though). One isn't allowed to take pix of the shrines themselves, though I did throw a coin in and follow the ritual bow and claps in deference. I though of L, of course.

L also came to mind when viewing the indigenous fauna. Deer are plentiful, and occasional announcements warned that some of the bucks might be a bit belligerent right now. For the most part, they either lay down near some of the lion statues or tried to cozy up to patrons willing to part with food.

There are some other nice attractions on the island, but I didn't make it to many - too much to do. I did walk through their merchant arcade (covered street full of restaurants and tchotchke shops), and had a fantastic fried oyster lunch. Didn't make it to the hike up Mt. Misen, nor the place where one can supposedly view the indigenous monkeys. It was 2:30 at this point, and I knew I wasn't going to have a lot of time to do Hiroshima at that rate; so, I took the ferry back, got back on the local, then got on a cablecar at Nishi (West) Hiroshima and rode it to Peace Memorial Park.

As with the rest of my sojourns (all of which have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites; I think I've been to at least one every single day I've been here), there were a ton of school kids, in droves, out with their classes. Occasionally, some of them boldly said, "Hello" in heavy-accented English. I grinned "Hello" back. One of them wanted me to take a picture of their group, though he was too bashful for me to take a pic of him. They eagerly traversed the park, enjoying their youth; such a contrast to the event being commemorated on the grounds in front of them.

The Atom Bomb Memorial is actually a prominent Hiroshima building, built in 1915. The bomb exploded almost directly overhead, setting the building on fire and killing everyone inside instantly, but a good part of the structure, including the dome, survived somewhat intact, while all the surrounding buildings were leveled. After plenty of debate, it was decided to preserve the building exactly as it was. Nearby are several other memorials, including a Peace Bell, which one can ring, sounding for all the world like a sustained Buddhist prayer each time it is struck. The Atom Bomb Memorial actually sits across the narrow river from the park, though several other structures have been built so that one can view it through them from different angles - there's a reflecting pool with a small flame in the middle and an upside-down half-oval at the other end, beyond which stretches a set of stairs. Viewing the memorial through that sight-line, while the bell tolls in the background, is haunting. And the place is very beautiful and tranquil (minus the students). As I looked at the flowers near the Memorial Mound, the first thing that sprang to my mind was the beginning stanza of "In Flanders Field".

Didn't make it to the actual museum, though, since by this time it was getting close to 5. My remaining goal was hunting down Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki. There are two distinct cities which are known for very different styles; I'd had Osaka-style already - now it was time to compare with Hiroshima. My Lonely Planet guide listed a couple: one that sounded Sardi's like (e.g. famous people's pictures and signatures adorning the walls), while the other was a small, three-story, sit-around-the-grill-as-it's-prepared joint. I opted for the latter, as it sounded more "authentic". Actually, the decor was a bit mall-like, and I was a bit worried that there weren't many patrons (though it was still early for dinnertime), but it was as good as advertised...although I would have preferred a bit less cabbage [which clearly means I like Osaka-style better]. One thing in common with both...what the hell is in that brown sauce, besides obviously crack? More, More, More...

By the time I left the restaurant, it was after 6. By the time the cable car made it to the main Hiroshima station and I was ready to board the Shinkansen for home, it was close to 7. M&B usually eat around 8-ish, and M usually falls asleep with Evan around 9-something, so I knew I wasn't going to make it in time ('course, I'd already had dinner). No problem, she'd actually eaten already, and B was going to be a bit late coming home from work. He was still up for a bit when I got home (actually, M was as well; she'd managed to get Evan to sleep, but wanted to hear how my day went).

Oh, one other bit worth mentioning: I'm having a blast learning Japanese on-the-fly. Since I've been busy with multiple shows/interviews/work/etc, I haven't had any time to try and pick up any of the language, but it's funny what seeing the same signs will do after a few days. M recommended some excellent iPhone apps, so I've spent the time during the commutes (when not looking at Lonely Planet) studying them, then studying the signs/ads/storefronts/etc to see what I can pick up. I think I've got most of the Hiragana down - I still mix up a few which look very similar, but I can probably sound out 1/2 to 2/3 of them without needing to think too much. I passed a restaurant and nearly squealed with delight when I realized it said "Udon" without even noticing the displays in front. I've picked up a few Kanji, though it's interesting to see how they get used in groups as phrases sometimes, as opposed to individual words. The grammar's still pretty odd to me, even though that's what I was drawn to first (though L always said she found the nouns and verbs were far more pointing, of course). It's also a bit odd how the Kanji is sometimes built from combos of simpler Kanji which have nothing to do with the word in question - well, sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. I've read a bit about the etymology, and what they borrowed (or didn't) from Chinese. Sometimes it's really the sound they're borrowing, not the concept.

If you're curious, Human Japanese is a fantastic tutorial (in everything, from vocal to grammar to the actual brushstrokes - which you need for some of the other apps. If you want to draw the Kanji and have the apps look it up, you'd better get the strokes in the right order and have the right features); Midori is a very comprehensive language reference (translation, roots, combos, derivation, etc. Only thing is that the pronounciation for the Kanji is written in Hiragana, not Romaji, so it helps if you've drilled the kanas first. OTOH, this helped me learn some of the kanas and get used to them instead of having Romaji as a crutch). Japanese for Dummies is a Berlitz-like compendium of useful, every day phrases, particularly for travels. Google Translate is great as well as a reference, but you need a connection for google for that, and my phone is wifi-only to avoid roaming (to call M, I used the non-smart-phone I rented from the airport)
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