A Travellerspoint blog

Hiroshima, Miyajima Jaunt

Today I caught the shinkansen from Shin-Kobe to Hiroshima together with Leigh, a Melbournian staying at the same hostel.

While circumventing the A-Bomb Dome a fellow approached us and offered to guide us around the various monuments of Peace Park. He handed us both a card which read MITO Kosei - Peace Navigator.

He's one of the youngest and few remaining Hibakusha, survivors of Hiroshima. Rather fortunately (considering) he was in the womb at the time of the blast and his mother was beyond the fall out zone. However, his older brother was caught within the blast radius, developed radiation poisoning and was dead within 2 weeks.

We saw Sadako's thousand paper cranes tribute, a crypt housing the ashes of over 20,000 victims, the Korean portal to heaven and remaining tombs and statues bearing the mark of the radiant heat rays that followed the blast.

Before entering Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Kosei lead us to the eternal flame, which has been pledged to stay lit until the last nuclear weapon is destroyed. Sadly, at this time, I think it's more probable the flame will be extinguished due to depleted oil reserves rather than global nuclear disarmament.

After a rather bleak and reflective morning in Hiroshima, we caught the train and then ferry to Miyajima, to check out the floating Torii gate, one of Japan's official top 3 views and reportedly the most photographed scene in Japan.

Lucky so many other people have taken some great shots and I was able to buy a postcard of the torii. Cause my photos are rubbish.

Check it out....

Rubbish.JPG

How shit!

Posted by kitschikat 08:19 Comments (2)

nOsaka

(thanks Adam)

semi-overcast

Unfortunately I can't shake my impressions of Osaka being a grungy dump.

Granted this has less to do with the city and more to do with my current state of mind. Which, mind you, only developed once I got here, so maybe... oh whatever.

Yesterday I trundled out to Ashihara-bashi to visit the Osaka Human Rights Museum. It was closed. Instead I got molested by mosquitoes.

I've counted twenty two bites in the brief gap between my jeans and hi-tops and a sprinkling over my forearms. One brazen mozzie even managed to nip me on an eyelid, so that now my left lid refuses to open in it's entirety and is rather puffy to boot.

This coupled with my strained neck that took a pillow bashing from my lumpy mattress last night, which kept me bedridden until early afternoon due to my complete inability to move, which in turn prevented me from travelling to Hiroshima this morning, has allowed a rather dismal state of mind to develop.

Enough bitching. Tomorrow I'm on to greener pastures in Kobe. I'm getting the first train.

Posted by kitschikat 00:13 Archived in Japan Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Oh man, Osaka..

but Media Cafe Popeye!

sunny

My first impressions of the place are pretty ordinary. However to be fair, I've seen but very little of the area and I am staying in a rough part of town. It doesn't seem as safe as the other places I've been. There're a lot more lecherous and shady looking characters and it is dirty and run down.

I took a stroll this afternoon through an alleyway arcade parallel to my hotel that has grimy eateries and dreary looking merchandise. It smelt like all kinds of piss and vomit. Some guy came up to me with a girl hanging off his arm while I was watching a sumo bout playing on the TV through a shop window. He was asking me all these things, and I was shrugging my shoulders saying wakarimasen gomenaci, sorry I don't understand. They were laughing and he persisted talking at me. Finally they walked off, towards their friend who was also laughing. He was making fun, it wasn't hard to spot. Oh well, whatever.

I got into Osaka last night and it is grimy. Nothing like the places I've stayed prior. The streets are quite filthy and although I had been warned that some Japanese have no qualms about spitting in the street, I'd not witnessed it until I came here. There are people spitting all over the joint, one time I had to check myself because I thought I'd actually been spat on. Man it makes me retch when I hear people hocking and I have to quickly distance myself from the impending phlegm ball.

The hotel I'm staying at is depressing. It's a thrilling shade of bland. My room is the size of tinned fish and there is one shower to share among a myriad of guests, who like me, refuse to use the public bath. This pretty much includes all the foreigners. Hopefully getting a shower before noon is not an impossibility and I'll have better luck today.

There's no real common room, so there's not much opportunity to meet other guests, unless you happen to share the excruciatingly slow elevator, during which time you could conceive three children. Maybe if I ride it all night I'll get lucky. There is an internet space with three computers, but it's hardly sufficient.

Thankfully, this last drawback lead me to discover my current situation, which is way cool. I came into Dotombori, a major night life district of Osaka, with the intention of finding the internet cafe I spotted last night. Before I could relocate that place I found Media Cafe Popeye, a 24hr internet, pool hall and ping pong table joint. You can choose from a variety of seating, I chose the reclining chair. I've got my own little cubicle that I can seal off. In it is a TV, safe, foot rest, coat hanger and slippers. The place is quite large and along all the walls run stocks of books, managa comics and movies. Hundreds of them. You can buy noodles, snack food and toiletries. The drinks are free, and they're not shitty either. You've got slurpies and soft drink of every variety. Woo! They even have a vending machine selling hot food (no thanks). So you can eat, drink, smoke and sleep in your own little cubicle (they also have porn magazines and sell mens underwear, so there's also something else you can do in the privacy of your cubicle. EWWW!). They've got soft jazz piping through the place, and except for the occasional snoring neighbour, it's really relaxing. And so much better than my arranged accommodation. I don't care how much it costs, I'm spending the night here.

Posted by kitschikat 11:18 Archived in Japan Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me

sunny 30 °C

Today I saw something scary. It was the first time that I got kind of freaked being on my own. On the train to Nara, this dude came into my carriage and at first I took no notice of him, assuming he was getting off at the approaching station, which he didn't. All this I picked up on my periphery. What caught my attention was his fist smashing the glass of the train doors, repeatedly, and him rocking back and forth and side to side, lifting each leg off the ground sumo style. I thought perhaps he'd meant to get off at the last station and was expressing his frustration for having failed to do so.

Then he turned his head, and oh my, it was shaved in the exact place where you'd expect a lobotomy to have been performed. Then he turned right around and the same spot on the other side of his head was also sheer. Double whammy. He then proceeded to freak out the entire carriage by continuing to beat the doors and stomp about and mutter. As each station rolled up he stood by the doors in what looked like preparation to alight, but never did. Each station I kept thinking, please please just step off. I wanted to doze the trip japanese style as I was extremely tired, but there was no way I was closing my eyes with this guy about.

Finally, after maybe 5 stops he sat down on the seat opposite mine. The seats ran the length of the train up to each door, one on each side, so I had a very good view. He stuck his hands in his crouch and scratched furiously. The poor old dear next to him was quietly wigging out, with her left hand across her body, clutching at her neck. At this point I had to feign a coughing spasm for the whole scenario suddenly seemed very funny. It wasn't. And nobody laughed.

It certainly wasn't funny when everybody else reached their station and we were left alone.

After some intimate time together, to my relief he got off the the train.

The doorways connecting each carriage were open, so you could walk the length of the train without interruption. Maybe 10 minutes later, the same guy comes tumbling down the carriages, clapping and resumes his former routine in his old spot. We rode the rest of the trip to Nara together.

Poor, poor dude. Still really creepy.

Nara was beautiful, and again I hired a bike to get me about. As I got there kind of late, I only had time to check out two temples, which, though very unfortunate, did mean I didn't exceed my pre-stated temple allotment.

First stop was the Kohfukuji Temple complex which included The Kohfukji National Treasure house. It had an impressive assortment of statues, paintings and books which have been designated important cultural properties.

Next I rode up hill to Todai-Ji Temple, which was magnificent. It's outstanding features are The Great Buddha Hall, which is the largest wooden structure in the world, and contained within it, of course, the Great Buddha, which rates as the largest Bronze statue in the world. It was truly splendid and enough to turn even the most ardent atheist religious. If only for a moment. I hung around for a bit soaking it all up and taking some very average photos before returning the station area to chomp a Teriyaki Mcburger. It was quite disgusting.

Red ridinging hood.JPG
Binzuru, loitering outside the Great Buddha Hall

Posted by kitschikat 05:19 Archived in Japan Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bring back the cane

or show us a little courtesy and spank that child!

30 °C

My last two days in Kyoto have been interesting. Spent the first peddling my way around Arashiyama, one station stop from GHBB. I hadn't ridden a bike in years, and you could tell. Thankfully I managed to stay on it most of the time, and, considering that the streets round these parts rarely allow enough room for one car to pass let alone two-way traffic, I think I did alright.

My first stop was Tenryu-ji Temple which occupies the space on which the first Zen temple in Japan was built and, since '94 has had the cachet of being a World Cultural Heritage site. It also had a bamboo tunnel. Cool!

Actually, you're pretty spoiled for choice when it comes to World Heritage sites in Kyoto, as the prefecture has a whopping 17 properties included on the prestigious list.

I visited another temple next, Shakado, which isn't on the list but was most accessible given my shit map reading skills. That bought me up to my two-temple-a-day quota and the rest of my afternoon was spent zooming down alleyways and plonking about sidewalk shops.
Near the end I got lured into a Kimono factory on payment of 100 yen. Initially I thought I'd been stung when one of the craftsman tried hard to sell me expensive boogie rags, it was the first time my ignorance of japanese worked in my favour. I just smiled and slowly backed away, bowing. Although good news for trees, the whole concept of a handkerchief is disgusting. But, the place turned out to be quite decent, I was shown the various stages of pattern and colour application to kimono fabric which was interesting.

Back at GHBB I had the good fortune to meet two boys from Oz, Matt & Adam. It was so nice to finally have people to speak with! That they were highly entertaining and offbeat AND had apple flavoured vodka only increased my esteem for both and I'm extremely glad to have met them. Unfortunately that night was their last in Kyoto and so I have now returned to my aphasiac state, more acutely aware of how much I miss speaking with my friends.

Hi guys!

Today I went on a 5hr walking tour of the back streets of Kyoto with the colourful Johnny Hillwalker. 'That's HILLwalker, not Walker'. The tour runs a few times per week and he's been doing it for the past 11 years. I wonder how many times he's made that joke?

Although it must be said, with all those years under his belt, he's been able to refine his commentary to perfection and gave very concise and insightful information on a wide range of cultural peculiarities. The tour avoided the usual tourist hotspots and we were shown around generational workshops of fan makers, prayer bead producers, tea canister manufacturers, tatami mat makers and potters. All of these goods are hand made by families and not mass produced in factories, ensuing high quality and often hefty prices.

He also showed us a geisha school (from the outside) and gave an interesting account of their training and practices. We wondered around their stomping grounds, peering at tea houses, but unfortunately our timing was out and we didn't manage to spot any geisha.

The tour was a great way to learn some interesting cultural characteristics and a very pleasant way to spend a day in Kyoto, though unfortunately, I did manage a couple of grievances;

1. In a group of 30 sweating westerners, all wanting to take the same photo, I hadn't yet felt like such an intrusive foreigner. I would happily have paid more to be in a less imposing number.

2. The little boy who, even before the tour, was complaining that he didn't want to walk. And, who's parents allowed him free rain to interrupt and disrespect the entire length of our course.

As a very sage friend once said: Anybody who takes children under the age of 15 on holiday should be shot.

Posted by kitschikat 06:17 Archived in Japan Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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