Monday, August 9, 2010

Weekend 21 of 52: Japan.

Beetle Ferry, Fukuoka, Tempura, Karaoke, Miyajima, Ryokan, Torii Gate at the Itsukushima Shrine, Buddhist temple at the foot of Misen, Manju, Hiroshima, Peace Memorial Park, Okonomiyaki, Pachinko, Shinkansen

All of Korea has been on summer break for the last couple of weeks. We spent ours in hot, hot Japan. Dan planned the whole trip, organizing transportation and housing, dealing with all the money, speaking Japanese, being awesome. Dan, as his name would have you recite, is the man.

We trained down to Busan so we could take the 3 hour Beetle Ferry, dodging dolphins and sea creatures with speed and precision, over to Fukuoka. I have a friend, Anson, from my high school days who is currently living in Fukuoka, and he let us sleep over for the night. Sleep we did, but not before Anson took us out for lunchtime tempura where we bought meal tickets out of a vending machine, then for karaoke where we did some Disney sing-alongs, and finally for some dinnertime sushi. It was great to see Anson, great to meet his roommate Danny and his friend Kengo, and even greater to participate in a house church gathering before we had to catch our Sunday train to Hiroshima.

Once in Hiroshima, we boated to Miyajima Island, where we stayed in a ryokan for the night. Ryokans are sort of like the Japanese version of a Bed and Breakfast. Our host was named Yoko, like Yoko Ono she said, and she was funny and kind and very welcoming. She encouraged us to go visit the Torii Gate both before and after nightfall, before so we could walk up to it, after so we could see it lighted up. The gate rests at the entrance of the Itsukushima Shrine, and it is not tethered, it is secured by its own weight. Depending on the level of the tide, it variably looks like it's standing or floating.

We checked back in at our ryokan for our 8 course Japanese dinner, full of amazing fish and homemade sauces and tasty soups. We finished the night with a classy bath and a dip in the hot spring tub.

The next morning we had a traditional Japanese breakfast and then walked around the island some more. Dan walked up to the Buddhist temple at the foot of Mount Misen. I stayed back and hung out with the island's presumptuous population of wild deer. So bold are they that they sometimes eat guide maps and clothing. It's pretty hilarious.

After Miyajima, we went back to mainland Hiroshima. We spent the day at Peace Memorial Park. I don't know how to talk about the atomic bomb without complete incredulity. I don't know who made that call, and I don't know who didn't stop him, but I do know that it's got to be one of the greatest evils ever touted as simply an act of war. Of course the museum was horrifying. The temperature of the bomb pretty much melted all things, buildings, rocks, skin, internal organs. What the heat and explosion didn't kill, the radiation took care of. The worst of it all, of course, is that it happened again several days later. And it would have happened to the rest of Japan's cities had they not surrendered. I am firmly on the side opposing all nuclear things.

Well, Hiroshima is also known for their okonomiyaki, sometimes referred to as Japanese pizza. It's a cabbage, flour and egg base loaded with toppings and tastiness. We ate some of that, played some Pachinko, which I just did not get at all, and did some serious window shopping. Fun. Then we took the Shinkansen to Tokyo.

Busan welcomed us with a fountain light show. How dynamic of them.

The ceiling in our love motel. We were in space.

Dan so excited to ride the ferry!

Big boats and stacks of storage.

More boats and mountains.

I don't know what this is, but it looks really cool. Maybe for ship building?

Fukuoka's shoreline.

Arrivals (Entering Japan). That's us!

Karaoke machine.

Karaoke machines. Dan, Danny, Anson.

Buildings in Fukuoka.

There was a vitamin/energy drink company advertising on the street. Using the energy from the drink, Dan was able to push this boulder up a gradual incline. For which he won a t-shirt.

Other Fukuoka buildings. Japan felt so different to us from Seoul. We weren't expecting that.

Outdoor train station. With all the cars exposed.


Getting on the boat to Miyajima.

So much sky in Japan!

Dan getting to know the welcome deer.

Guarding my map and making friends. This guy tugged on my dress too.


Our modest Miyajima loot: a wooden hammering game, and a toothpick holding owl.

Our ryokan.

Stairs to the loft that was outfitted with two twin beds.

Dan in the loft.

Our view and our bathroom.

Down the staircase to the main floor of the ryokan.

On the main floor. Slippers, computer station, bathroom.

Five storied pagoda. Walking around the streets of Miyajima, filled with pedestrians and small cars, felt like Europe feels in the movies. I have no personal experience of Europe, but I have seen plenty "When in Romes" and Lizzie Maguire movies, and that is what it seemed like.

The Torii Gate and its accompanying sea cabbage. I impressed a Japanese man by mucking right through.

We saw later on a map that the mountain actually splits the island, so we only even saw half of Miyajima.

Dan and the gate's impressive girth.


Barnacles. Dan killed the glossy one on the right.

We and the barnacles.

Outtake, obviously. What? Why would I make this pose?

Sky again.

The clouds were exploding everywhere.

We walked out a fair piece.

Colors on the gate.

We exchanged the task of picture taking with a group of fellow Americans, mid-westerners even.

There was a stream running through the main part of the island.

So lovely. I would go here on my honeymoon, but I've already taken it.

Baby deer.

Dan exploring the rocks.

Hello from Miyajima!

More sky.

A very dapper crossing man.

On a lot of the door posts. Part of Shintoism?

Mossy shrine.

Ready for dinner. The little dining hall in the ryokan.

First course - salmon, edamame, eel.

Second course - sushi.

Third course - pork, mushroom, and tofu in hot pot.

Fourth course - pickled radish and rice. There are two courses I forgot to photograph, but I can't remember the first one or when it came. Oops.

Fifth course - maybe sea bass? with homemade sauce.

Sixth course - Kobe beef. The final course was sorbet. All of this food was amazing.

Deer at dusk.

The gate at night.

The ferry and a vending machine.

Webbed lighting.

A boat cruise. These tourists got to boat right through the gate.

Our fancy family bath. In Japan, they shower before they bathe. The tub on the left is full of hot spring. It was very hot.

Dan's view from the temple. Photos by Dan.

Buddhas and mask. Photos by Dan.

Eaves and awnings. Photos by Dan.

We read about these bibbed statues. They are looked after by parents who've lost children and then care for the statue as they would have their child. Photos by Dan.

A cafe where we got deep fried manju, a Miyajima custard filled cake treat.

Dan with manju. Then with our shaved ice. We got to choose and administer our own syrups.

A lone deer setting off the automatic door standing at the threshold of this shop.

Hiroshima's baseball team, installed to boost morale after the bombing, is the Carps. Their hat is just like the Cincinnati Reds.

Shrines and streetcars in Hiroshima.

A burger at the dessert heavy (and so perfect) buffet at our hotel.

A monument on the walk to the Peace Park. I think it's meant to represent clasped hands reaching upward.

Gates of Peace.

A model of before and after, near the epicenter. That building is what is now called the A-Bomb Dome. It still exists as it did shortly after the bombing. It took most of the blast from directly above which is why it remained somewhat intact.

US nuclear stash.

A child's uniform. The museum had a collection of obliterated children's clothes. Hiroshima had been demolishing buildings during the war and students were enlisted to help. As a result, many of them were outside when the bomb was dropped.

Melted glass bottle and melted rocks. The discoloration on the rocks is where they've melted.

Part of a preserved wall from the Red Cross building. On the right, stains from the black rain that fell shortly after the bomb.

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. A young girl, Sadako, developed leukemia 10 years after the bombing. She had heard that if you could fold a thousand paper cranes, your wish would come true. Her wish was to live.

View of the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims and the A-Bomb Dome. "This monument embodies the hope that Hiroshima, devastated on 6 August 1945 by the world's first atomic bombing, will stand forever as a city of peace. The stone chamber in the center contains the Register of Deceased A-Bomb Victims. The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer for the peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace."

More paper cranes.

The A-Bomb Dome.

And then Dan taunted a crab.

The Atom Bomb Struck Jizoson. The shadow left by the bomb surrounds her on the face of the pedestal.

Nearby graveyard.

Our okonomiyaki.

The arcade in which I played Pachinko. I think ours was maybe broken, because I did not get it at all.

More arcade games.

A rhythm game we dominated.

Night view of Hiroshima from our hotel.

And in the day.


We rode the "Silence Car" in the Shinkansen to Tokyo.

Some rural scenes.


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