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Japan Day VII-IX : Hiroshima vs. The Hives

So we got up early to begin our trip to Hiroshima and hoped to get there by late afternoon, which was a good goal because we did have slight delays in Osaka when changing trains. Basically we had to take the train from Nabari, the Kintetsu Line, to Osaka-Tsuruhashi Station, which takes about an hour, and much of it through beautiful hills and valleys and then through the dense outskirts of Osaka proper. Once at Tsuruhashi we then had to switch trains to get to Namba station. You have to know that basically Ashley has been a savior on this trip, as she knows the basic Japanese you need to just get by getting around here. She has learned and is able to read a bit of two of the three different ‘alphabets’ here, and if she didnt know these basics we would be in big trouble. So at this station we then had to take the Osaka subway Midojouri Line to Shin-Osaka station, which is where the JR trains leave from.

It was actually pretty hot and this station was a HUGE maze, and took us probably 45 minutes to find, granted we were taking our time as we had no deadline or schedule to attend to. One thing I remember vividly was walking through this open area inside the station where there was no ceiling, and there was a bunch of kids hanging out there, and there was this group of girls, some in their school uniforms, and some in the crazy Japanese dress you see pictures of sometimes, and they were doing this weird break-dacing type dance together in front of this huge mirror. They looked almost professional. When we finally found where the subway line was everything was written in Japanese on the lines, which was strange as so much was in English to be able to find your way around the station! Anyway Ash could make out some of the subway map, but as usual, a local older man from the area approached us and asked in English if we needed help and he led us on our way, with a polite bow as well i might add. Once we went beyond the turnstiles all the signs were in English, so it was just a pain the one most important sign, that helps us get INTO the subway, was only in Japanese. When we got downstairs this older man was already in the train and he saw us and he was waving to us and trying to get our attention telling us to get on that packed train, but for that reason, we waited for the next train. What a stand up guy! Boarding the subway cars was interesting because I learned here that everyone lines up to get on the train, even in the subways, where it is clearly marked where the doors will be when the train stops, so we stood in line until the train came. As we were waiting i noticed there were these huge signs in pink on the ground next to where a few subway cars would stop, and they said ‘Women Boarding Only’. Unfortunately cause the trains are usually so packed, men feel they can just touch and grope women on the trains, so now there are special cars where women only can get on to avoid this problem. I thought it was so sad and weird in such a manners-centric place, but Ash noted than its partly the women’s fault cause they are so timid and dont speak up so that when they are touched by these guys, they do nothing. Of course in America you would get your ass kicked, and the Japanese men know this, so they wont even attempt such disgusting moves on an American girl, or any girl that doesnt look Japanese i guess! Another thing I noticed in Japan, which is prevalent more than anywhere is on trains, is that people sleep whenever they get a chance to ‘sneak in a few Z’s’! Because the culture is here is so GO-GO-GO and nonstop and working 100 hours a week and going to school 7 days a week, people dont sleep much, so whenever they can get a chance, they try and sleep. When you are on the subway or commuter lines you look to your left or right, and EVERY person is slouched over, eyes closed, and sleeping! Its unreal, and not an exaggeration, EVERY person is asleep!

So at Shin-Osaka we then had to buy our next and final fare which was for the Shinkansen, which is the bullet train, to get to Hiroshima. I heard that trains are very very expensive here and was prepared for it but for some reason it caught me off guard when was told the fare for a reserved seat was 14,440 YEN, which is just under $140.00! This is for a 1 hour and 10 minute ride! But when you board the train and see how immaculate it is, how great the service is (hot towels and smiles anyone?), and how SMOOTH and INSANELY FAST the trains you are, you understand. For instance when we came back from Hiroshima we went with the unreserved cars to save some money (costing us around $90) and of course we had to stand for the first third of the ride and we were going 300 km/hour and hardly even had to hold onto anything, thats how fast and smooth these train rides are! So we lined up at our car number spot on the platform (trains arrive about 1 min before it is scheduled to leave, and then leaves right in time, talk about efficient) to wait for our train. A different train pulled up to let people off and this large contingency of white very European people started getting off the train. Each one of them as they got off were giving us this look of ‘Look, other WASP’s!’ and i decided not to look at them much even though it was interesting, cause i didnt want to look like this obnoxious fool getting excited at the thought of seeing other white folks. Anyway one guy came out with a bright green shirt of the band ‘The Hives’ and then i started thinking these guys must be models or something, then at the last second both Ash and I realized they werent looking at us cause we were making that fellow white man bond, it was cause they thought we were some crazy groupies, and i looked back and going down the escalator was the lead singer of The Hives going down the escalator! Its especially odd cause I know nothing of this band other than one time seeing them on Letterman and thinking they were good and i noticed at the time how energetic the lead singer was. Strangely he was even wearing the white and black suit thing they always wear in unison. Worse part this is the ONE time i didnt have my camera out and ready, but I did take a picture of the spot and train where this happened, which ill post soon!

So I was expecting Hiroshima to look kind of like DC or Canberra, which were both newly designed cities that were created and designed from scratch, and very very modern and looked very thought out. There were parts in Hiroshima that looked like this, mostly the memorial areas, but despite being a rebuilt city of only 60 years, it definitely looked much older than I had expected, but was clearly much more modern than other Japanese cities, other than Tokyo probably. Ash has been to Tokyo and said she said Hiroshima defnitely looked like Tokyo in many parts, especially at night with all the neon and bright lights. Hiroshima was HUGE. There are about 1.5 million people living here now (compared to just over 300,000 in 1945), but felt even larger than that. The downtown was huge and PACKED with people, and was just never ending looking. Many times I thought it looked like NYC. People there were very nice, but the only thing that made me sad was the fact there was clearly a military base there or nearby, cause we saw alot of American military (sadly, all KIDS, around 18-21 years old) and then families as well, who must be there visiting. It made me sad cause I really hope the Japanese do not get their only impressions of Americans from these people, cause they certainly dont represent most people I know. Huge clothes, gold chains, backwards baseball caps, and clearly preying on local Japanese girls who dont know any better, or what these guys ‘goals’ are.

So our hotel was the Hiroshima Prince Hotel which was right on the water in Hiroshima Bay, and the view was just amazing. We were on the 18th floor, and we had a HUGE window to look out from. Beautiful mountains and a big bay with boats travelling about all day. I cant wait to post these pictures as the view was quite impressive. After checking in I really wish I had taken a Japanese airline to Nagoya, as the women working at the hotel were all just beyond beautiful. Kind of the image people think all Japanese women look like, which is certainly not the truth! And they even spoke English. Ash’s friend Charli actually just said that she just met with a girl who’s big dream was to learn English and work at one of these hotels, so it must be a big deal here. It was strange after we got back the first day from eating downtown we went to the water’s edge, as the hotel was right at the water, and sat down to chat and we were noticing right then that the water went right to the edge of the area we were sitting at, and I said it aloud that ‘are we at the ocean or is this a lake or something, does the water never rise?’ and at that VERY second these weird little waves started coming in and washing over the edge and almost seemed menacing especially at night. My first thought was a tsunami was coming at us! Ash jumped up too but then it stopped and we were ok. But it was so freaky, as if something or someone was listening and telling us to GET OUT! Oh one other thing about the hotel which ive never seen in another hotel anywhere else. When you come out of the shower, in the mirror there is a big square that is completely clear, not steamed up at all, right above the sink!!!! Why in hell does this not exist everywhere! GENIUS, and common sense really. And one other thing about bathrooms. At public ladies restrooms, there is a button you can press that will play the sound of a toilet flushing over and over and over. WHY? Cause its un-ladylike to for women to making ‘bathroom sounds’ when they are using the toilet, and women use to just flush the toilet over and over, so instead of wasting water/energy, they came up with this for the ladies. My goodness!

So on Sunday we spent the day at Miyajima Island which is about a 20 min boat ride away, with a departure point right at the hotel too! When we were waiting for the boat people were staring at Ashley like crazy, which she never got in Nabari that much or in Osaka either, but in Hiroshima people stare like theres no tomorrow. Maybe they thought she was a movie star or something. Anyway the only people not staring was this Japanese couple whom we couldnt tell at first if they were Japanese as they had white sneakers and white socks and shorts on, clearly an American way of dressing. They came up to us and it turns out they were from California. They said they didnt speak Japanese but whenever an announcement was made they knew exactly what to do! Anyway they were really nice people and it was nice to talk to them for a bit. They were on a long vacation starting in Seattle, up to Juneau, then an Alaskan cruise, then to Russia, then Pusan South Korea, then Osaka, and their last stop Hiroshima. The gentleman (his name was Sammy!)had actually been to Hiroshima during the Korean war on leave in 1952, so it was cool to talk to someone who was there only 7 years after the bombing. The boat ride cost $28 to get there and back, and it was worth every cent. Its what you expect scenery wise Japan to look like. Lush forests, streams, waterfalls, friendly deer walking around all over the place, high mountains, and numerous temples of the Shintoism and Buddhist religions. The main temple is the Itsukushima shrine, which during high tide, appears to be floating in the water. In front of the shrine is the giant 16 meters tall torri gate, which is the symbol of Miyajima Island, and stands freely in the water. It looks beautiful during high tide, and during low tide you can go right up to the base of this giant symbol. We also took one of the cable cars over the tops of the trees to the top of the highest peak on the island, called Mount Misen. At the top monkeys run around freely and you are able to walk around with! I have alot of pictures of all this, which I will let do all the talking when I post them next week! Oh and a weird bathroom thing, this time on Miyajima Island! When we got off the boat and was walking to the terminal we walked past the bathrooms, on the outside of the building mind you, and the men who were using the urinals had a HUGE open wall to look outside. So as you are walking past the bathroom you look to the right and their are 2-3 guys about 2-3 feet away from your face just blankly staring straight ahead! The open space goes down to about their stomachs, so, hopefully, we know exactly what is going on below, or what is supposed to be going on below. Ash almost threw up she was so disgusted!

The rest of the day we went back downtown to go to Peace Memorial Park, the A-Bomb Dome, and the museum about the Atomic bombing. I really did not do my research about what any of this was, and I am glad I didnt, cause when I saw what the A-Bomb dome was it really hit me. Evn though I knew the bomb that was dropped in 1945 actually exploded a few hundred metres above the city, for some reason with the word ‘dome’, I expected a huge crater in the ground, but in actuality is the remnants of the one of maybe 10 buildings that survived the explosion, in parts of course. This building was also just over a hundred metres away from the hypocentre of the bomb explosion, and was originally the Hiroshima Prefectural Products Exhibition Hall designed by a Czech designer. We were walking along the river and then took a left over a bridge towards the museum and then looked towards our right and down the river saw this building and it was just chilling. Even if you didnt know what the A-Bomb Dome was, as I did, the second you see this, you know what it is. Almost compleltely in ruins, the remains have been kept intact exactly as it stood right after the bombing in August of 1945. So we kept going across the river towards the Memorial Centograph, which is an arch that covers this tomb which inside contains the names of all the victims killed in the explosion. When you look through the arch you can see in a perfect line beyond the arch the eternal flame that will stay lit until every nuclear weapon has been removed from the face of the earth, and beyond that the A -Bomb dome, which is across the river. For some reason the fact that this straight line is actually going diagonal through the rest of the layout of this city makes an impact as well. It was really a very beautiful thing to see, and much sadder than I expected. We checked out the museum as well, for which I have some picures from the inside also. It describes the history of Hiroshima from its origins right up until the bombing, and through the reconstruction up until today. There is a whole seperate wing that focuses on the details of the effects of the bombing to the city and to the people, and some very disturbing artifacts and pictures to show the horror of what happened that day. The one thing that effected me and impressed me the most what a display of these numerous letters. Since the day of the bombing the mayors of Hiroshima, past and present, have written letters to the leaders and ambassadors of nations that have nuclear weapons urging them to rid of them forever. What hit me is these letters are written DAILY. Over and over the mayor writes these figureheads telling to stop. It was very moving to see, and I bet means alot to the victims and their families, of which both still survive today. Currently there are still 30,000 survivors of the bombing living in Hiroshima alone. I read that the temperature at the instant the bomb went off, reached 100,000,000 degrees celsius, and witnesses who survived said it was like seeing the sun fall to earth. I have a picture of a display if a picture of a man’s eye who looked right at the blast, and his entire pupil was bright yellow, a direct effect of seeing the explosion from the bomb.

ON A BRIGHTER NOT AND ENDING, to keep you updated, i got the Air Greenland sweatshirt in the size I needed at UniQlo in Hiroshima!

ALSO hats off to Ashley, who I know must be getting sick of me by now, seeing me every day and staying in her place. I almost feel bad! She has been a great host and so much fun to be with, I love her to death, and will be out of her hair soon enough, until next time! :)

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