Sunday, July 09, 2006


Saturday morning, we got everything ready for our rail trip around Japan. We really didn't want to carry all of our stuff around the countryside, and the only plan we could come up with was to rent a bed in a dorm room at the hostel to put our stuff on while we were gone. That would have been a tad expensive, but worth it in the end. We asked the desk girl and she said that we could keep our bags in the office for 100yen/bag/day. Totally worth it. When she found out that we wanted to stay there when we get back, she gave us a discount on storing our stuff too!

We pack our day-packs and headed to the train station. Now everyone speaks a little English here in Japan and along with having specialized jobs, it is pretty easy to get by not knowing Japanese. For example at the train station we just had to say, “Hiroshima soon” and the ticket seller really didn't need to speak much more to get our tickets ready.

We had to transfer trains about halfway between Tokyo and Hiroshima and that gave me a little stress because the only thing recognizable on the tickets were the departure and arrival times and the seat number. I was worried that we wouldn't know where to get off and switch trains. The solution to that turned out to be simple, just watch the clock and get off when the ticket declared we were arriving at the proper station. That little trick is coming in handy.

In Hiroshima we went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It is a very good museum. In one of the buildings they have displays that deal with historical facts about the bombing along with models depicting Hiroshima before and after the bombing. In the other portions of the building there are artifacts from the bombing. People's clothes, lunch boxes, belts, watches stopped at 8:15, roof tiles and a myriad of other things.

The best part of the museum was that for the most part, it examined the bombing from the point of view of the individual, not from the point of view of a city or group or country. It told the personal stories of people that were involved in a very moving way. Beside every artifact was the owner's story.

Entry to the museum costs 50 yen, which is about 50 cents. There is a free exhibit in the basement. In the 60's someone had the idea to get survivors to do artwork about their memories of the event. There are now over 3000 works. Every year they pick a theme to display and show 50-60 works. Underneath each work is the artist's explanation and story. This year's theme is family.

Adjacent to that there is a photo exhibit. Tragically many photos and news articles were destroyed by censors, first the Japanese to prevent panic and then to hinder research about the bomb by the Americans. Second, during the occupation, the Americans censored what was to be printed in the news in order to hid the true destructive power of the bomb. Several photographers hid their negatives until the occupation ended.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, is one of the best museum's I have been to by far if only for how much it affects you.

After leaving the museum we still had no place to stay for the night, so we went searching. We found a great hotel, called the Parkside Hotel. We enjoyed the hotel. There were kimonos laid out on the bed for us along with slippers. Hopefully they expected the kimonos to leave the hotel, because Tracie really wanted to keep hers.

We went out after finding the hotel to get something to eat. We found a little cafe where you order at a vending machine that prints a little ticket with your order on it. You give your ticket to one of the staff. From what we could figure out, Tracie ordered only half a meal. The first guy couldn't explain it well enough and so they had a pow wow in the back and the only girl in the entire place was elected to deal with us foreign devils. Thankfully we had figured out what they wanted us to do and so we just pointed at one of the pictures on the vending machine, and paid another 300 yen. Weird. It seems to me that if you only want half a meal or just soup or what ever you should be allowed or should have to order more after. Even if it is very weird to do so.

The next morning we finished our tour of the museum and left our bags in the lockers there during a trip to Miyajima island about 30 minutes away by train and then ferry. It was nice, but we didn't really understand what we were seeing, but it was nice and there will be good pictures.

I asked Tracie if she thought that she was learning anything about Japan or just getting a better vibe of what Japan is like. I think that I am not really learning much about Japan but am really improving what my impression of Japan is. There may be nicer parks or gardens than what I have seen, but before I got here I thought that they were all virtually perfect. Finding out otherwise was somewhat disappointing, truth be told. So far I haven't seen proof of the hotels that are basically drawers a la Kramer, but there hasn't been definitive proof against them either. That's one belief about Japan that I plan on keeping until I learn for myself that they aren't real.

We had a great day at the island exploring and trying new things. On our hike up the mountain a short way, we found a little creek with a nice waterfall and went wading in the water. Short on time we didn't go to the top of the mountain. We made it back just in time to collect our bags from the museum lockers and to make it to the Hiroshima train station and have supper.

Tracie called a hostel in Kyoto to book the last two beds. Most of the hostels with internet booking seemed to be full tonight. We called the sister hostel to the one we stayed in, in Tokyo but all they had were female dorms left but they gave us the number of a hostel down the street from them. Now we are aboard the train on our way. We have to make a transfer in about 45 minutes but it is a lot easier than we might have thought before our ride to Hiroshima.



Jon said...

Are you riding Shinkansen/bullet-train or regular rail?

The best thing about Miyajima was the hike up to the top of the mountain from the gondola. That, and those little maple leaf shapped cakes. Those kicked arse.

gary said...

I think we are riding the regular rail. It goes pretty fast though. A lot faster than the train across Austrlia that's for sure. What ever the regular price JR tickets give you is what we have.

Jon said...

Probably the regular rail...

The bullet trains are fairly noticeable when you see them. The look, well, like bullets.

You havn't lived until you have experienced riding a train at 170mph in a tunnel and having another train blow by you 2 feet away in the other direction at 170mph.