hiroshima peace park museum.
in grade school we read a book about a sick japanese girl who thought that if she folded a 1000 cranes she would get better. till i saw this i never knew that the girl was real, and she was sick from radiation poisoning from the a-bomb. these are some of the cranes that sadako sasaki folded.
so our third and fourth airports were haneda and hiroshima. right off the bat, haneda was a much newer and pleasant appearing airport. it’s getting bigger and there is more public transportation being built to connect it the city, so if you’re wondering which airport to fly into, even thought haneda isn’t as well known.. . . i’d recommend it. it just seemed to have more of those creature comforts than what i saw exiting narita.
we left early, around 9 and landed in hiroshima around 11. there was an hour long bus ride to get into the city. and while at the bus station we booked tickets on a bus to kyoto for the next day. we then followed directions to a house owned by the ‘world friendship center.’ i booked the place based on something i read in a travel guide. it’s obviously not a chain hotel, so i worried a little as we followed the somewhat sketchy map and directions i had. no, it’s not a hotel, but it is clean, sweet, and cozy and the people who own it are super friendly. we had futon beds, wonderful air-con, and a shared bathroom. there was one couple staying there as well, and we didn’t run into them except at breakfast.
for me, the public transport was even more confusing here. maybe it was because we only had a day and figuring the system out wasn’t as necessary since we were staying so close to our destination, but i really felt confused. there were trams, trains, streetcars, subways. we got on one of them and followed the directions as much as possible. i was kind of glad we decided to walk to the peace park, even though it was blistering hot.
we got into the room around 2 or 3. it was really hot and we had walked a bit from the bus stop. so sitting for a little while in the air-con was rather pleasant. but we had to get our day on the way. the friendship center was not too long a walk to the peace park though i was grateful for a lot of trees and their shade. we opted to walk through the museum while the sun was still high.
the first section of the museum was really informative. there was a really detailed history of everything leading up to the dropping of the bombs. a question that formed in my head was ‘why hiroshima, why not kyoto or tokyo?’ that was answered in detail. (hiroshima had become a building center to support the war, they didn’t have any ally pow’s that were known of. . . and after narrowing down from about 17 sites to bomb, it came down to weather and visibility. on that particular day, it would be very easy to see the effects in hiroshima.)
some of the surprising things were how warring japan was throughout history leading up to world war II. i never followed japanese history. it seemed so bizarre that an island nation would be attacking china and korea so repetitively. i still don’t understand their motives or what they were after, but it seemed rather relentless. after seeing some of the history, and especially after living a bit in korea and hearing some of their views on the japanese, it kinda seemed that japan was deserving of a bitch-slap. that being said- i’m not in favor of war, i’m not in favor of nuclear weapons. it seems that civilians end up paying for the mistakes made by the military and ruling class. the sad catch is, i’m not sure the war would’ve stopped without the bombs.
well, enough on things i don’t know much about. . .
onto the museum and park.
the second half of the museum was more difficult. i understand the desire to show the meaning of life that was lost. i understand the desire to shock. . .but i just don’t know about the second half of the museum. there was a large scene of mannequin children walking through the rubble and fires with skin sloughing off their arms. i can be quite fascinated by disgusting and horrible things, but i was a little unsure of the decency. there were toddlers all over this place. if they have any memory of visiting this museum, what will it be? i guess i’m a little more used to a warning that presets the viewer- objects in museum may be disturbing. perhaps that just seemed redundant since i was walking through a nuclear bomb site museum?
the discomfort continued through a section of artifacts that were found. the museum was able to link each object to the owner who died, and each object had an audio story of that person’s life as it was extinguished by the bomb. i could only get through a handful of the artifacts. each person, each loss is excruciating, tragic and undeserved. it’s unfathomable and overwhelming.
we moved on to the outdoor park.
not as much to talk about. there were some beautiful sculptures and some eerie building remainders but it was really beautiful.
overall, i didn’t feel like i was in a city that had been so devastated. i’m not sure what i expected, but i felt surprised to not feel like i was in the museum the entire time.
we found the first of several covered shopping streets and did some shopping and stopped for a ramen dinner. we walked through the park again on our way back to our room. the a-bomb building is rather stunning lit up against the night sky. across from it some guy sang and played guitar on the river edge.
off to bed and an early morning to catch some breakfast with our hosts.
we had a delicious breakfast and a lovely chat with a couple from switzerland. they were vacationing in japan for five weeks! we swapped stories of overwhelming heat and confusing train systems. they had already been to kyoto and suggested a zen garden as a site to see. . . (added it to the list.)
(their english was really good. they only knew a couple of phrases of japanese- like us, but it got me to wonder about traveling through japan without knowing english or japanese and how difficult it would be. it’s sorta odd to think that knowing english would help you get around japan.)
we headed back to our rooms, sorted through our packs a bit and then headed into town to catch a bus. kyoto next.
we were inspired to see this by the couple from switzerland that we met in hiroshima. i didn't realize it was also an unesco world heritage site. the whole area was larger than i realized, and filled with more trees and parks than i expected. i would say the same for all of kyoto. i didn't expect to see so many trees and so much greenery hidden away within a city.
i have a theory about how this area helps you become contemplative.
you see, there are four levels of texture at work here. 1. each rock has it's own shape, 2. each rock has it's own color, 3. the ground is level but has some natural bumps to it, 4. the raked lines add another pattern
it's really difficult to focus on any one thing, so instead you focus beyond it. kind of like those hidden 3D image posters from the 90's. you had to focus your eyes on something behind it in order to see the hidden image.
however, it also helps me understand why it's so easy to zone out in front of tv snow.
there were more rapid ways, but they cost so much more. so, we bussed for a little under six hours.
we got into kyoto and our hotel. a rather fancier place. they took our bags up and all. (turns out we got it on the cheap due to a 72 hour sale.)
we took a walk around to find some dinner. ended up at a place where we ordered our meal through a vending machine. there were actual wait staff and places to sit, but you made your meal order and received a ticket for food from a vending machine.
it was drizzling the whole time. it was a cooling rain for the most part so we didn’t mind. we tried to walk around to find gion and found one of those covered shopping streets with a lot of people wandering about.
it seemed like we were pretty close to gion, but not quite there. after getting a little lost trying to get to the hotel we packed it in and planned a little bit of our next day.
we actually only had that one day there. we had to check out of our hotel that morning so we decided to go back to kyoto station to lock up our bags, then do all of our site-seeing and catch the train from kyoto to osaka.
kyoto might be easier and more accommodating for travelers. it could be that after four days of prior traveling we had figured things out a little more, but it just seemed a lot easier to figure out how to get from one thing to another. and the transportation didn’t seem quite as expensive. according to their own pr, kyoto is more of a walkable town. there are so many sites that walking from one to the other really isn’t difficult if you have the time. the sites aren’t far from one another, so many temples and shrines. but, if you only have a day, and you have some main points to catch. . . a bus ticket will do you well.
all three of our sites to see were along bus routes. (again, there were separate train companies, and separate bus companies. but we knew what questions to ask, and what to look out for.) we quickly figured out that our bus routes could all be combined on a day pass for approximately five bucks.
we were a little intimidated by how much there is to see in kyoto. how do you pick one shrine or temple from another? we got a couple of lucky last minute tips. bruce, a former co-worker chimed in that we should check out the golden pavilion. . . and the couple we met in hiroshima mentioned the zen garden. aside from that i had found pictures of one shrine that i was excited to see, and if we had time left over it would be easy to fill, but we thought we were pushing our luck with three sites.
the golden pavilion (kinkaku-ji temple) was fantastic. it was pouring rain, so we each got to test out our ponchos. i did discover that my camera acts up a bit when it’s wet, so that’s something to think about later.
the ryoan-ji temple, gardens, and the zen garden was a beautiful resting area. the rain had let up a bit, but it was still drizzling from time to time.
we stopped back to kyoto station to refuel a bit. we tried some udon noodles, camille mailed a post card, and i got more money out. (didn’t have the cash to buy a couple of souvenirs outside of the golden pavilion- and they didn’t take cards- grrr.)
then off to the fushimi inari shrine. we hit it just around dusk. i read that a rainy day would be better since there would be fewer tourists. sadly the place was much larger than i expected, so we only walked through a small area of it. extremely picturesque. another nice quiet spot. though i think it would’ve been completely creepy at night. and the town area around it was really cute too.
there were so many places that sounded interesting, a shrine with a thousand statues around it, a temple covered in moss. . . but the day ticked away. and i feel that we filled it pretty well.
then it was back to kyoto station (third time that day) to catch a train to osaka. it’s a pretty great station. helpful people and pretty easy to get around. so, no complaints here.
my mom really likes to eat crab. i sometimes like it. i would never want to be crawling around the ocean and come across a crew of these guys though. they sorta reminded me of skeksis and the made up creature from 'the village'. . . oh, and very large armored spiders.