Posts Tagged With: Hiroshima

Visiting China and Our Trip So Far


Neon Tokyo at Night
Greetings from China! By the time you read this, Brooke and I should have landed in Guangzhou and are likely out exploring the wonders of a brand necountry – our third on the trip after Japan and New Zealand. However, since the powers that be in China have decided to block internet access to WordPress (among other websites), we’ve written and scheduled this post in advance of arriving. We may be offline for a couple of days until we hit Vietnam, but that just gives us more time to get knee deep into unraveling the mysteries a new country.

On the way to the summit of FujiThis third leg, which we’ve dubbed our Southeast Asia section, is among the shortest portions of our Round The World trip. We landed on August 24th, so we’ll have about ten days to visit a small corner of China (which includes the Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Maccau), Vietnam and Singapore. For our Southeast Asia itinerary, we’re back to just playing it by ear with our stops and activities. We’re more than open to suggestions on anything that’s worth doing in the area. If you have any thoughts, please let us know in the comments section below!

That is one huge ass Japanese Lantern!We know, we know – ten days is nowhere near enough time to truly soak up the region, but we’re determined to make that time work for us. So far in both Japan and New Zealand, Brooke and I have had some long, full days where we’ve managed to pack in a ton. More often than not, we’re up and out of our hotel/hostel/guest house/yurt by early morning and then only returning late in the evening as a pair of spent but fulfilled travelers. Luckily, most of our beds and rooms so far have been uber-comfortable (notable exception – Reino Inn in Hiroshima. Blegh). We’ve been hitting the streets armed with city maps, transportation schedules and perhaps a travel guide to steer us to our next interesting discovery. Racking up the miles on our shoes, we’ve stumbled across wonders ranging from a magnificent a hot-spring geyser to the most stunning temple gate imaginable. And, yeah, sometimes a walk takes longer than anticipated or preferred, but that’s all part of the fun of not knowing precisely where you might be headed eighteen hours prior. At the end of the day, we tend to find ourselves exhausted but, if we’re lucky, just a pinch more worldly than we were that morning. The next day, we’re ready to get up and do it all again. To be fair, we’ve also had a handful of days where we’ve done relatively little. Thankfully, those are the days that help keep us sane and from burning out.

What is this strange yogurt?At this point, Brooke and I have been on this ole once-and-a-lifetime trip for a little under a month. In short, the trip has been going insanely well. This (temporary) lifestyle of being abroad and absorbing the culture, locations, landmarks, attractions and food has fit like a glove. The days are exciting, eye-opening and thought provoking. We’re constantly discovering locations that we didn’t even know existed a few days before – Miyajima in Japan is a great example. We’re learning a little bit more about how things work in parts of the world that are thousands of miles away from home. Which is incredibly important because that was one of our original primary goals in taking this voyage. Little things like learning that the Japanese tend to shun tattoos because most water parks and osens (spas) won’t let you in if you have one. Or the basic ins and outs of a Rugby game. Or even walking through the largest pedestrian cross walk in the world at Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo! We’re chalking up more memories than we can conceivably cram into our blog posts.

This map will direct me to the old sailing ship! Where could it be?So, what’s next? Come early September, we’ll be on a flight from Singapore to Copenhagen for three days in frighteningly expesnive Denmark followed by our Baltic Capitols cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines. We’re ecstatic for our cruise – in no small part because it will be nine whole nights in the same room and bed. A break from constantly searching for and checking into new hotel rooms. No need to schlep luggage around because our boat will be taking us from country to country! Also, we anticipate that it will be a nice change of pace from our time in Asia matched with a slice of easy cruise-ship living. But for now, let’s see what China has in store for us.

-Phil

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Categories: China, Hotels, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized, Unusual Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Miyajima and Mazda

After visiting Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, we decided we needed to do something different. Something totally unrelated to the atomic bomb and the events which follwed. One of the things that is so great about this trip is the fact that we find ourselves in interesting and unique places that we never even knew existed even a month ago. Miyajima Island, about 45 minutes outside of Hiroshima, is just that place.A beautiful Island

Miyajima is a renowned tourist attraction in Japan and is most widely known for its beautiful shrine gate. When I read the descriptions, what drew me most to visiting this island is the flame burning near the temple at the top. I know this sounds strange, but apparently this flame has been burning continually since it was lit 1,200 years ago. Twelve hundred years! That is utterly amazing. So, without knowing much more than this, we made the journey out of Hiroshima, first taking the street car, then the train, then a ferry! Many modes of transportation are required to get there, but Miyajima is totally worth it. Once again, our JR Pass paid for itself as the trip out and back didn’t cost us a single Yen.

Domestic Deer?When we first stepped off the short ferry ride and began walking around the island one thing struck us immediately–the amount of “wild” deer. I say “wild” because they really seem quite domesticated and docile. Having grown up in Ohio, I am used to deer which run away at the sound of people or cars. I expect deer to be skittish and elusive. Not these deer. They walk amongst the people like they are pets. People are told not to feed them, and we didn’t see any of that happening, but people were definitely petting the deer and even touching their antlers. Phil and I kept our distance, but at one point the deer came right up to me, sniffed my bag and kept going. We saw one deer steel a bag of snacks from the back of a man’s wheelchair. It was very strange and a little unsettling.

Gorgeous!Because we got there so close to sunset, we were unable to go up the ropeway which would have taken us to the 1200 year old flame, but it was totally worth missing to get to view the brilliant red shrine gate of Itsukushima-jinja at sunset. This huge gate is set out in the water, so at low tide visitors can walk up to it and at high tide it looks as though it is floating. It is one of the most sensational sights we have seen thus far. We realized that most of our time in Japan has been spent in bustling cities and crowded areas. Miyajima at sunset is the complete opposite. Sure, lots of people were there taking photos and watching the sun slide behind the mountains, but it was incredibly quiet and tranquil. We sat for almost an hour, watching the sun go down and the stars come out. It was really majestic.

Our final morning in Hiroshima found us touring the Mazda Museum. I’m not really a car buff and I certainly don’t know what makes Mazda different from any other type of car, but it was so great getting to take this tour. First of all, the facilities are absolutely huge. We were not allowed to take pictures of the outside buildings, but did learn that the assembly line is 7km long, the longest in the world. In addition, this Mazda facility has its own private bridge which is 500 meters long making it one of the longest privately owned bridges in the world. They also have a private port where their ships transport up to 5000 cars at a time to different areas overseas (it takes 14 days to transport a car from Hiroshima to Northern California).

Mazda Museum

The tour was really great, starting with a little history of the company and moving through the years. Of course there were 2 major parts which were most spectacular. First, we got to see some of the classic Mazda cars. They were absolutely beautiful. We even saw a Cosmo Sport, a sports car from the sixties which is very rare because it is entirely hand made; there were only 1200 in existence. I also thought the 3-wheeled trucks were awesove me–these were the first motor-vehicles Mazda ever made. I think I could drive one of these as my everyday vehicle!Love this truck

But to be honest, the best part of tour was actually getting to see the assembly line. It was amazing. The cars would creep down the conveyer belt while workers put different parts into place. We were surprised to see different models of cars being made on the same line. We figured that would get confusing, but they clearly have a way of keeping it all straight. We were especially fascinated by the machine that put adhesive around the edges of the windows, windshields and rear windows. It knew exactly where to go–it really is like magic. The cars are put together from start to finish at this plant, and it takes about 15 hours per car. They make about 1,000 cars per day. Absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the assembly line, but just trust me when I tell you it is one of the most intricate and interesting things you can see–we could have stood there watching all day.

Toy Truck?After visiting the Mazda Museum, we decided it was time to leave Hiroshima and head back towards Tokyo. We can’t believe how quickly our time in Japan is going, although that seems to be a pretty consistent theme of our trip so far. Now, we spend the day buying souvenirs and shipping some things home (we have the benefit of using the U.S. Postal Service on base). However, the most important thing we are going to do today is get prepared for tomorrow–the day we climb Japan’s tallest peak – Mt. Fuji!

-Brooke

Miyajima gate at sunset

The shrine gate at sunset is truly a sight to behold. The tide is coming in at this moment, but at high tide it looks like it is floating.

Going Green
One of Mazda’s concept cars. In an effort to “go green” there are grooves on the roof to collect rain water, filter it, and pour into a bottle for the driver to drink. Really!?

Categories: City Visits, Destinations, Diversions, Exploring, Japan, Landmarks, Museums, Relaxing, Temples, Unusual Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Visiting Hiroshima

New foods!We’ve made our way on the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Hiroshima leaving behind Shoguns, Geishas, Kimonos and Pagodas and ready to see a new city. It was a quick two hour ride on the Shinkansen. After arriving in the early evening, we set out to grab some dinner. Very quickly, we discovered Okonomiyaki – Hiroshima’s signature dish. Okonomiyaki is best described as a noodle pancake loaded with cabbage, sprouts, egg, meat and more – all cooked on a griddle. Locals take pride in their Okonomiyaki and it is as ubiquitous as chili is to Cincinnati or deep dish style pizza is to Chicago. The verdict? Inexpensive and tasty! Can’t wait to go back tomorrow for another round before we head out of town! The very friendly owner of the particular restaurant we visited was insistent on giving me his card. You can visit his site here.

Hiroshima is a lively, colorful city that uses street cars of all sizes, models and years as their signature public transportation. Running up and down the major streets, the street cars are the main way we’ve been getting across town. After a relaxing night at Hiroshima’s wonderful Hana Hostel, we made our way to Peace Memorial Park and The Peace Memorial Museum – part of a whole complex dedicated to the memory of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and to creating lasting worldwide peace..

Memorial at HiroshimaThe museum and park certainly qualify as “must visits” in Japan. The nearly-free museum is well done, informative and paints a complex picture of the really widespread, horrific destruction done by the atomic bomb. It was interesting and informative and solemn, but structured to teach and share to make sure that all remember. Brooke and I walked away glad we took the time to tour the museum and grounds surrounding this incredibly important, watershed event in human history. It is also the first time we’ve really come to understand the specific impact of an atomic attack on a specific place.

The museum has such a tactile component with archives full of items from the blast that you can touch and hold. Showing these human, personal items helps to establishes a more intimate connection with what happened here 67 years ago. One eye-catching exhibit was the stopped wristwatch reflecting the exact minute that the bomb went off- it is literally a snapshot of time. The personal stories and archived items, and especially the photographs from the city after the bombing are unsettling, but that’s to be expected and kind of the point.

Archives at Hiroshima MuseumWe found it really interesting how the current generation of Hiroshima locals really shoulder the city’s legacy from the past. The city is a rebuilt place, but they are urging people to never forget what has happened here. The museum has a clear focus on their dedication to peace and ending nuclear proliferation. In fact, the sitting mayors of Hiroshima have sent a letter of protest to a country each time their nation has tested an atomic weapon over the last forty years. Copies of these letters fill up two or three full walls within the museum. We also applaud their mulit-lingual exhibits that show the desire to spread peace across all peoples. I get that this is supposed to be a message of warning, but it does sort of make the future looks grim and bleak. I saw a sign on the way out indicating that this should be a “warning to future generations.” Indeed.

After leaving the museum, meandering through Peace Park was its own striking experience because you’re standing in the near exact bombing spot that you had just studied inside. It’s all preserved green space now with the cenotaph, flame of peace and the Childen’s Peace Monument which was built in a response to the well-known story of Sadako Sasaki- the cancer stricken girl who made a 1,000 paper cranes. Is is an astonishing tale that’s simply heartbreaking. The most notable building was the so called “A-dome” structure: the shell of a building close to the center of the bombing that was one of the very few to remain intact.

The "A-Dome"We walked away from the area and took some time to compose our thoughts and consider our experiences. Hiroshima is in no way a depressing city and its desire to be focused on peace rather than tragedy is quite clear. We understand why some people may avoid visiting this city, but we would definitely try to convince them otherwise. No matter what your political views or beliefs about nuclear weapons, the story of Hiroshima and its people deserve our attention and remembrance. There is more to our visit to Hiroshima which is a bit more uplifting and fun, but we will tell you all about that tomorrow.

-Phil

Phil and The noodle pancake owner guy

Phil and the owner of the Okonomiyaki joint

Another view of the really striking A-dome.

Another view of the really striking A-dome. It’s been preserved to look exactly as it did right after 8:15 AM on August 6th, 1945. Everything else around it was just obliterated.

Categories: City Visits, Destinations, Exploring, Hotels, Japan, Landmarks, Museums, Transportation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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