Oh, the stories I have to tell about Hiroshima!
I flew instead of taking the bullet train because as crazy as it sounds it was cheaper. I booked the flight like three months in advance so I got huge discount. I was met at the airport by a friend who lives in Hiroshima and her ma and sister, and just like that we were off.
We went to the famous Hiroshima peace memorial park and museum first. I was warned that it would be depressing, but it was heartbreaking. Near the end of the museum tour are images of the damage done by the A-bomb: people with burns and melted skin and the sickness that came after. But the most shocking thing to me was a series of letters from the mayor of Hiroshima to the president of the United States asking them to stop nuclear testing. There were letters as recent as January 2012. The whole experience was pretty sobering. Depressing yes, but something that I felt I shouldn’t overlook…not that I plan to launch any nuclear missiles anytime soon but who knows, it may one day be an issue I, or anyone who has visited the museum needs to vote on, so I think seeing the complete devastation and decimation caused by nuclear warfare is important.
But I also wanted to have some fun in Hiroshima. The A-bomb’s not all the place is famous for. Some of you may know I was dying to go there to see this magnificence up close and personal. See how majestic it is? How beautiful? How red? The next day, when I woke up at my friend’s place and we piled into the car with her ma to catch the ferry to Miyajima, I was a little disappointed because it was cloudy and rainy. Damn, this crappy lighting will mess up all my pictures. I thought. But the mountaintops were covered in this swirling, silvery fog, and it gave the area a kind of a cool, mysterious atmosphere. I kept pointing it out and my friend and her ma kept laughing at my city-girl enthusiasm. There’re no misty mountaintops in Tokyo.
We got to the ferry terminal and her ma paid for all our tickets including mine, even though I protested. We got on the ferry and it slowly puttered to Miyajima. The scenery was beautiful, foggy green mountains all round us, the rolling see underneath us, and then I saw it – the torii! And it looked…like…THIS!
What the… the rain wasn’t enough? Murphy, you and that law of yours got some ‘splainin to do. I felt my lower lip tremble a little while my friend and her ma tried to soothe me with soft, regretful zannens (that’s too bad). But I’m tough, and it’ll take more than a torii under renovation to break me.
Itsukushima shrine must be beautiful in good weather, because even with the grayness and dampness it was still gorgeous. Finally, some good pictures!
The best part of the trip up to Miyajima was getting to devour some Hiroshima okonomiyaki. The place we went to was small, family run, and the okonomiyaki was goooood. There was one old woman behind the counter who was just staring at me, mesmerized by my use of chopsticks. It was great entertainment for her and I could just hear the commentary in her head:
Oh it looks like she’s struggling on that one piece, is she gonna do it? Oh the cheese is really gooey maybe she won’t be able to cut through it. Is she…yes…she did it! Sugoooi!
We went back to the house shortly after that, where I took the elevator (!) up to my swanky room and passed out from the sneezing I had been doing all day. Did I forget to mention I was having an extreme hay fever attack as well?
After my nap my friend’s dad came home and I was finally able to meet him. He took us all out to dinner at a really fancy, traditional Japanese restaurant. As we sat in our private room with soft shamisen music playing over the speakers I thought wow, all this for little old me?
The first course was an elaborately decorated sashimi plate. Here look at it, tell me that’s not some elaborate decoration.
Yep there’s a lobster tail and some seashells on there, even a fresh crab. So fresh that as the waitress was bringing the plate in the crab rolled off and tried to make a break for it. My feet went up off the floor and under me so fast. My friend’s ma squealed even as she picked the crab up by one of its legs and it struggled weakly. The waitress was all apologizing and bowing, but by the way she speedily took the crab away, I think it must happen a lot. I think he was chopped up into a soup we had later. Anyway, after that with every course I sent a silent prayer – please, nothing alive.
See, this family has been very kind to be, taking me into their home and such. I couldn’t insult them by refusing to eat something “yucky” at dinner. Even though I’ve been in Japan for over a year I haven’t been that adventurous with food, mostly only eating the basics like sushi, sashimi and curry. But no matter what kind of “Fear Factor” like weirdness they brought out, (you remember that show? Where people had to eat bull testicles and living bugs and alladat?) I was determined to at least try to get it down. Luckily not only was everything dead, but for the most part delicious. The only think I didn’t care for was sea urchin. Imagine what it might be like to eat a pair of musty, sweaty old socks, and you’re close to what it tastes like.
My favourite course was the Hiroshima beef above. It was so soft and juicy and…and beefy…*drool*. I would go back to Hiroshima just for that.
Despite the rain and the renovations, I had a great time in Hiroshima, but even Hiroshima beef couldn’t keep me away from the wonders of Kyoto.
To be continued…