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Japan

Hiroshima - Day 1

The city that rose from the dead

Thursday was a holiday. At first someone explained it was Thanksgiving Labour Day or Thanks for Labour day. It turns out that it was just Labour Day or more importantly we had the day off. We decided on to go away for a few days and decided to go to Hiroshima.

We booked a hotel on Monday night and checked out shinkansen (the bullet train) tickets, but they were going to be ¥40,000 ($400) return total for us. Using our travel motto, "we can do it for cheaper" we decided to rent a car and drive down. We ended up saving about ¥15,000 ($150) so it was a good decision.

We left early Thursday morning around 9:00 and headed out. We plugged our hotel in our GPS and took off. Cultural note: When you drive here there are toll roads everywhere. You can get on the expressway and drive faster, but you have to pay a toll depending on how long you go for. For example or toll from Osaka to Hiroshima was about ¥7500 ($75) for about 350 kms. But, even with these tolls it was still cheaper than the shinkansen. One of my students told me that it was supposed to rain on Thursday. It wasn't raining when we left, but it was raining by the time we arrived in Hiroshima, which seemed oddly appropriate. We figured that going to the Peace Museum and the A-Bomb dome needed to be done on a rainy day not a sunny happy day.

Andrew made great time navigating to our hotel (with the help of our onboard GPS). We were on the 11th floor of our hotel and it had a great view out over the river and the city.

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We got settled in and made our way to the streetcar stop to connect to the Peace Park.

The first thing we happened upon was the A-bomb dome. The bomb was detonated in August 6, 1945 at 08:15, about 600m above this building. It was formerly the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. It was one of the few buildings left standing within a 2km radius of the explosion. It is in the same condition that it was the day that the bomb was detonated (well, they had to restore it in the mid 90's because it was falling down. But they restored it to how it was on August 6, 1945).

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This is a shot of a steel beam and how it was bent.

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Then we made our way to the Children's Peace Monument. There was a girl named Sadako who was diagnosed with leukemia 10 years after the bomb was dropped. One of the beliefs in Japan is that if you fold 1000 paper cranes then a wish will come true. She started to fold 1000 paper cranes but she died before she finished. The rest of her classmates finished folding all the cranes for her. After that they built the Children's Peace Monument and people send cranes from all over the world.

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When Courtney was in grade 6 her teacher taught them how to fold cranes and they sent them to Hiroshima. Because of this she spent all her free time between when we decided to go to Hiroshima and when we left folding cranes. It was only about two days, and what with working, she only ended up having 11 cranes ready to go when we got there. She registered them and placed them near the monument. Some of the cranes and displays that people made were fantastic. Here are a few shots.

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This display is made of a lot of small folded cranes.

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But, my favorite one was a display from Bradford, Ont. Only because they had to give three reasons how they would help world peace and Austin from Bradford said this...

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If you can't read it, it says...

I can help the world be a peaceful and here are three ways how. First, I will be kind to others. Next, I will be quiet. Finally, I will pick up garbage.
Austin, Bradford, Ont.

We were very entertained by this. It is such a Canadian kid thing to say.

After the Children's Peace Memorial we made our way up towards the Peace Museum. We passed the centotaph for the A-Bomb Victims. The kanji on the front says, "Let all the souls here rest in peace; For we shall not repeat the evil." You can see through the cenotaph and see the flame of peace. This flame will be put out when the last nuclear weapon on earth is destroyed and finally you can see the A-Bomb Dome.

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The Peace Museum was only ¥50 ($0.50) to enter which was a real bargain I think. I don't have a whole lot to say about the Peace Museum, maybe Courtney will have more to add, I think it is something everyone should see. I don't know who said this but it goes something like this, "One death is a tradegy, but 100,000 is a statistic" (it sounds like Churchill, but I'm not sure). For me the Peace Museum changed my perspective from the 100,000 people to each individual person. It was a thought provoking afternoon.

After we left the Peace Museum with went over to the Korean Victims Monument. There were a lot of enslaved Korean workers that were killed by the bomb so they created a monument for them. And we went to the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound. There is a cinerarium underneath this mound that housed the ashes of 70,000 people that they hadn't been able to identify. Currently there are only about 1000 that remain unclaimed.

By this time it was pouring down rain so we decided to go get some food and find somewhere indoors to hide out. We went to check out the movie theaters, but all that was playing was "Flags of our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwa-jima" two WWII movies and we both decided that we'd had enough WWII for today. So we continued on our journey.

We stopped in to a coffee shop to warm ourselves and steel ourselves for the next journey. We did a lot shopping and went to an okonomiyaki restaurant. The region we live in is called Kansai. Kansai is famous for takoyaki (fried octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (kind of like a pancake, but completely different). Hiroshima makes a similar okonomiyaki but with a twist. Everyone says you have to try it so we did. It turns our Hiroshima-yaki is better than Kansai-style okonomiyaki. While we were sitting an American couple came up and sat at the grill next to us. We had a good chat with them while we ate.

After supper we had to go walk off all the food. We wandered along a covered shopping arcade, where Courtney finally found a pair of polarized sunglasses to replace the ones that broke months ago. We wandered along the arcade until we realized we had already been there. After that we decided to go check out and do some karaoke.

We kicked ass pretty hard for a couple of dead sober Canadian kids. Here's Court rockin out on some Meatloaf.
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I'm not sure what I'm singing maybe Foo Fighters or Franz Ferdinand.

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And this is us doing some Bon Jovi to wrap up the night.
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We originally signed up to do 1 hour, but that just wasn't long enough. We ended up doing 2 hours. Plus it took us about 30 minutes to get warmed up. Court decided to start us off with some Bee Gees to start the evening off. Which is a bad idea because no one can sing like Robin or Barry or the other Gibb (aside: it jumped off the page. He told me to put in a song and I put in the first one I looked at ~CW). Especially when they can't sing and aren't warmed up. Needless to say our performances improved as the night went on. [Side Note: Karaoke in Japan is different than Canada. It's not like going to the Oasis where everyone gets to see you perform. Here you rent out a small room and you and your friends have your own private karaoke machine and room. There's a phone that you can use to call and order more drinks or food. It's a pretty good system I think.]

After we finished up the karaoke session we picked up some snacks and made our way back to our hotel where we promptly crashed after a long full day.

Posted by agc_cwm 06:02 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Himeji Castle

Lonely Planet was right.

Yesterday I picked up an extra shift in Himeji. It is a city about an 1 hour away form our apartment. In Himeji there is a huge castle, and it's one of the only ones that hasn't been converted into a museum. Our Lonely Planet book says that if you only see one castle in Japan, see the Himeji Castle.

My shift started at 2:35, so I went up in the morning to go through the castle and I agree that the book was right. I ended up leaving late, (we are getting an air conditioner installed today and it's been a huge runaround to get it organized and I had to do more for that yesterday morning) Needless to say I didn't see all of it. There are other gardens and Saumrai quarters that I didn't get to.

Here are a few shots of the castle.

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Here's a brief history of the castle. It was built originally as a fort in 1333. In 1346 they built the premises. Then in mildde of the 16th century they built the castle. The whole castle was completed as it is in 1609. In 1992 it was desingated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are huge gardens that I didn't go through. When you first enter the castle you have to take your shoes off and you can either wear their slippers or just wear your socks. I opted for the slippers and the guy came over to ake sure that they fit me and they weren't too small. They were ok, but I almost blew a tire and lost one going up the stairs. All the stair cases were really steep, but the little old Japanese women powered up them while I was huffing and puffing. (not really, but watching them climb them was impressive.)

The castle was very impressive. My pictures of the inside don't do it justice. The few pictures I do like are:
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They have these arrow holes all around the castle so the warriors could shoot arrows, through rocks or pour boiling water out of them.

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All around the castle they had these weapon racks. Basically every wall had these racks and I imagine that back in the day they were full of weapons. They had a few racks with weapons. There were a couple with guns, one with spears and another with longer spears.

They also had these "secret" rooms where people could hide if they castle was invaded. One of the signs siad that if people had to hide in these rooms the castle was eventually going to be sacked, but they were still expected to fight.

As I was leaving I saw these five old men sitting outside the castle chatting away and having a great old time.

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I didn't spend as much time as I would have liked here, but that means I will just have to go back!

Posted by agc_cwm 16:56 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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