Wow it’s been a while, hasn’t it! I’ve been on holiday…
So, in a ridiculously random occurrence, it turned out I was going to Hiroshima on the same bus and at the same time as one of my friends. So it turned into a surprise Brit-expedition to Hiroshima!
I can highly recommend NOT doing what we did, i.e. doing a double night bus via Tokyo (10hrs and then 13hrs). It’s a killer…
However, with a short dally in Tokyo (that included some early cherry blossoms) and a VERY long night journey to Hiroshima, we made it while still mostly sane!
Since we were in Hiroshima, it was only fitting that we visited the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Museum. Both were horrific and moving…seriously. We came outta there really depressed but by then were able to check into our respective hotels. Also, I think I may have found the worst hotel in Hiroshima, I swear that room just about managed to fit a single bed into it. That was about it. I also had the wondrous (note the sarcasm) experience of having to use a public bath…
The second day was really drizzly, so as Brits we decided it was the perfect day to go to a castle, eat ice cream and okonomiyaki and then a temple walk through the forest. We were slightly soggy when we got back…
That day (well, technically 2am the next morning) also decided it would a great time for me to experience my first earthquake – and not even a small one. It was M6 when it struck, just off Oita prefecture so that meant it was at least M5 when it hit Hiroshima. It scared the crap outta me, and I didn’t move until it was all over. Ellie, on the other hand, almost managed to sleep through it.
Regardless, we still managed to be up relatively early, get the tram to the wrong port in Hiroshima, take another hour getting back into the city and getting the tram to the right port, so that we could catch the ferry to Miyajima. All before 12! Miyajima is an island with one of Japan’s ‘famous views’ – its floating shrine.
We also managed to trek up to the top of the mountain on Miyajima – seriously, it was steps ALL THE WAY! We got a view from the top, though so it was totally worth it! That and the ropeway trip back down the mountain…
On our last day together in Hiroshima, we decided to do yet another temple walk (cause you can never visit too many temples!), this time in the nearby seaside town of Onomichi. The town itself was very quaint, and had lots of old-looking touristy shops. It also had a ropeway, that led up to an observatory and few temples on top of a hill in the middle of the town.
It was another beautiful day, so we went up to the observatory, ate lunch looking out at the beautiful scenery and then set off for a couple of hours to see the temples on the walk. To get to the majority of the temples, we had to walk back down the hill, through tiny winding streets – one of which contained an art garden. There were cute little cat statues hidden along the path and, in Japan of all places, ‘My love is like a red, red rose’ by Robert Burns was painted on a wall…
We also stumbled upon a temple, where there were pigeons ambling around – we could also buy food to give them.
That night, Ellie carried on with her journey and the following night I headed back to Tokyo – my Mum and younger sister were coming to Tokyo to spend a week with me.
My week in Tokyo was lovely. For the first few days, we did a lot of toursity things – Tokyo Tower, Tokyo National Museum (the day it rained horrendously), Asakusa.
We went to Asakusa on my birthday (18th March), which also happened to be the day they held the ‘Golden Dragon Dance’ (Kinryuu no Mai). I only found this out through a Japanese website, it wasn’t mentioned in any of the guidebooks, but I can highly recommend it!
In the evening, we went up Tokyo Tower (I know, again…it must have been my third time there) to see the sunset. Admittedly, the best part of my birthday was being able to eat a Tesco birthday cake!
We also made a trip out to the famous temple collection at Nikko (about 2 hours from Tokyo by train). Oddly enough, like the previously mentioned Yuzawa City, Nikko also reminded a lot of Aviemore. The town was the home of the famous ‘See no evil, Speak no evil, Hear no evil’ monkeys, as well as a large number of lavishly designed temples and the tomb of one of the Shogunate.
That Friday was a national holiday and so we had organised to meet up with Mum’s childhood friend Fumiko, and her family. She had organised a wonderful day out at a few touristy places – Roppongi Hills, the Imperial Palace Gardens, a river cruise in Asakusa and finally back to their apartment for a delicious dinner. Alice and Mum tried sushi for the first time (Alice didn’t like it, I think, but Mum seemed to – I will never be a huge fan of it!). They also bought me a lovely birthday cake, which we all shared.
On our last day in Tokyo, we visited Odaiba (on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge). There was a lovely area full of retro shops, restaurants and gaming arcades which I and my sister enjoyed a lot. We had a go on a retro pinball machine and saw original Street Fighter, Gallaga and Space Invaders games.
We were hanging about Odaiba because, in the evening, they were going to have the annual ‘Tokyo Gundam Project’ show – an event where they project images onto the giant Gundam robot statue (apparently it moved one year). The show took place in the evening, so all the lights suddenly went out just as it started.
Mum and Alice flew back to the UK the next day and I got the night bus back to Akita, to get ready for the new term….
Well that’s all for now, I’ll try to get a post out during the weekend about our new arrivals. So until then, またね！
As promised (if a little late), here is my update on my trip to Lake Tazawa and Kakunodate 🙂
This was the first of our big ‘school trips’ – I was well excited, I haven’t gone on a school trip in years! I think there ended up being about 200 of us – crammed onto 4 buses (think not quite sardines). At first, things on the bus were a bit tense – one of the American girls was singing rather loudly, in my opinion, and was getting a bit annoying. I held my tongue and just enjoyed the scenery instead! We passed loads of farms, little villages and with mountains framing the picture. It was beautiful. Unfortunately, this drive was marred a bit by paranoia (and bad singing). The other day, I saw a Chinook helicopter land at Akita airport. That day we passed a couple of military convoys (full of guys in uniform and including a gun mount vehicle) that must have numbered at least 30 vehicles. There was some suggestion that the countryside around here would be the perfect place to practice, but it still felt like the beginning of a horror/apocalypse movie (think ‘The Mist’).
We took a quick stop off at a place famous for producing Soy Sauce and Miso – home of the infamous soy sauce ice cream (don’t try this at home folks), before we were on our way again. Although this was not without hitches. One of the buses had broken down, so we had to squeeze the people onto the other buses – they had fold down seats for the aisle. At this point the singing had begun again and I would have snapped, had it not been for our Asia Pacific theme coming on – basically every time we had an Asia Pacific lecture in first year, me and my friend Eve (along with others) always ended up singing “I’ll make a man out of you”. When this song started, my British stiff upper lip broke and I joined in. This led to a bus-wide sing-along of “Call me maybe”, “Blue” (the song, not the band), “Don’t stop believing”, the “Sailor Moon Theme” and, the pies’de resistance (yeah, don’t judge my spelling) the “Pokemon Theme”. Yeah, now get that out of your head! It was my childhood (^^)
Our next stop was Lake Tazawa (Tazawako), which is the deepest lake in Japan. It must have been the clearest as well since you could see all the fish swimming in it – it was absolutely beautiful! It was so beautiful, in fact, that three of our party (all guys) decided it would be a great idea to go swimming in their pants – and then get back on the bus…..There was also a little shrine where you could get a fortune – the ones that gave bad luck could be tied to the ropes around the shrine to ditch said bad luck:
After this, we had lost quite a lot of time (the term ‘be back at the bus by THIS TIME’ doesn’t seem to mean a lot to some people), so we had to miss out one of the stops on our trip – the wildflower garden. However, by this point it was bucketing it down, so we weren’t that disappointed! Instead, we headed straight to Kakunodate. I was presuming we were just going to look at the old Samurai houses (we had a ticket 2 of the old mansions), but when we got there, it turned out there was a big festival on! Most of the small town had turned out in traditional costumes and were moving giant floats which depicted legendary figures.
We were also able to try one of the local foods, called Kiritanpo. This is basically rice that has been pounded into a paste, wrapped around a stick and then cooked over an open fire – these ones had pork wrapped around them and a bit of BBQ sauce. They were absolutely delicious, and we also managed to cement the image of Akita people being really friendly. We had a lovely conversation with the stall owner (in broken Japanese) and she was the smiliest person I’ve met so far!
After a lot of wandering about, waiting and then finding out we were in the wrong place, we eventually found out the floats were in another street. I think we ran as calmly as we could to go find them! Eventually we found one of the old streets that had a bunch of the floats being pulled down it. Two floats were being pushed against each other to see which one would win, traditional matsuri (festival) stalls lined the pavement selling yakitori and takoyaki (delicious). All the floats had now lit their lanterns, so they lit up the streets in a way that felt like we had stepped back in time. I guess we really had.
These guys were hilariously drunk and just posed in front of us….
Unfortunately, we had to get back to the bus by 7.30 (even the matsuri was just getting into full swing) so we, like the good students we were, headed back in the hope that we wouldn’t be the only ones. Luckily it turns out we weren’t, however one of the students (should I name and shame on here?) decided to make us wait an extra 40 minutes before coming back to the bus….we were ALL ready to high-five his face by the time he came back.
Well, hopefully that gives you an idea of what the trip was like – we’ve got another one to Oga at the beginning of October, so look forward to that one soon! However, next up will be a little weekend summary (including typhoons, church and a huge second-hand manga store). Until then, またね！