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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Okayama Prefecture

Current situation

Hair has gone through a couple of changes since I last blogged.  I wanna have as much fun with it before i chop it all off!

Also I celebrated getting another year old in Fukuoka!  It was a good session of partying, definitely enjoyed myself, my peeps looked like they were having fun too!




After Hiroshima!
The last blog was the final leg of my first trip to Hiroshima at the beginning of April.  This next stop on the Only the D Brave tour was the Okayama prefecture to be more specfic - Kurashiki

How did I end up there?  
Well the plan was to get a hotel in Okayama.  Through expedia I found a reasonable priced one and booked it.  It was only the day before leaving Hiroshima that i checked my booking again and discovered that I had actually paid for a hotel outside Okayama city (15 mins away by train).  Wary of having to pay a cancellation charge and look for another hotel I did not make any changes - and im so glad I didnt!

I stayed in was an APA hotel in the building right next to the station!  It took me a while to find it tho because it wasn't obvious.  The Hotel actual started on the 9th floor of the building next to the station, the floors below were either car park space or shops and dining areas.  The room was a throwback to the 70's with its decor! I was happy with the little paper crane placed on my bed and the kimono style dressing gown.  Actually my first impression of Kurashiki city was that i had been transported back into the past. It was the first city on my adventures that didn't have the archetypal Japan look to it.

There wasn't the many high-rise block buildings, numerous 24 hour convenience stores i was used to.  30 secs walk in any direction from the station and you were in a more suburban surroundings.  This was quite refreshing and since I knew nothing of this city, gave me more of an incentive to explore.

A 15 minute walk from the station and I found myself in the Bikan historical district.  This was a very traditional part of town.  During blossom season the view were amazing

Obaachan crew
While I'm happily snapping away at the blossom and beautiful surroundings,a group of senior ladies (Obaachan crew) caught my eye.  They are trying to take a group picture one turns in my direction and beckons me towards them.  I take heed of of her calling, take their digital camera and take a picture of them.  They seem pleased with the final result, thank me and then I turn to go about my merry way.  Then I say to myself, wait this is a photo opportunity, let me take a picture of them with my camera. So i do a 180 and ask if I can take a picture of them.  They happily agree, i take the picture and show them end product and they are impressed (not sure if its because it was really goood or if it was a digital DSLR)  then for the next 10 minutes I get questions flying left right and centre from these cute senior ladies, all in Japanese!  

When I had used up all the Japanese I knew I said my goodbyes and continued to take pictures around the area.  However I did keep bumping into the Obaachan crew multiple times around the .  This was particularly amusing when sitting on the same bench as a Japanese woman, the Obichan crew passed by giving Konnichiwa's smiles and waves, one of them even gave me a sweet!  The Japanese woman sitting on the bench was bemused to say the least

Ojiichan crew
After leaving the Bikan historical district, I decided to explore the path leading to a shrine I had seen earlier in the day.  Here a saw a group of senior men (Ojiichan crew) having their Sakura lunch.  Had to walk past them to get a snap of the city landscape from an elevated view. I gave them a Konnichiwa and while taking my pictures one of them asked me where i was from.  I turned around said England and then was invited to sit down and and chat for a few minutes.  2 hours later we were still in the same spot getting along like a house on fire!  Their English was a little better than the Obichan so it was easier to commuincate, they with Japanese and broken English, I with English and broken Japanese.  They had offered me some of their sakura lunch of fruit, salad, rice and chicken, a couple of beers and some shochu!  I was amazed and touched by their kindness and friendliness, thinking to myself that this kinda thing wouldn't happen in Britain!  Eventually convo led to hair and the inevitable question "could i touch your hair?"  Now in terms of multiculturalism, Japan quite a way behind England therefore they a lot of people are still amazed when they meet someone non-oriental.  I've lost count of the amount of trying to touch my hair attempts in Japan, with or without permission. I was feeling in an amicable mood (maybe from the shochu) so I let them touch the afro.  I got the usual response - "wow your hair is so cool, do you want to touch mine?"  I respectfully declined their offer.
One of the guys then asked where i was staying, I told them next to the train station.  He suggested that i join the Ojiichan

Steak Munch

 The Ojiichan crew knew the owners and introduced their new foreign buddy (me) to them. They then proceeded to order me a steak and some 15 year old hibiskki  whiskey.  This was a good combo, in the back of my head I was thinking about how much this would cost, but hey, this was an Only D Brave once in a life time adventure, I may as well enjoy it.  I pull out the wallet to pay for my meal POW my hand gets slapped down.  I attempted again - same slap down.  They weren't letting me pay for the meal!  So I returned my wallet to my pocket and tucked into tasty steak and some fine Hibiski whiskey.  During the meal one of the guys suggested a round of Karoke after dinner.  I laughed "heheh  watashi wa genki (i'm ok)"  thinking he was joking .  Then he asked again in a more serious voice. Hmm this is crazy but again another Only D Brave experience so why not!  

After a hearty meal we moved to the Karaoke bar which was directly on top of the restaurant.  Again I got introduced to the owners of the bar and then the Karaoke fun began.  With Hibiski whiskey and Umeshu flowing we started belting out hits, the crew singing Japanese songs while i stuck to Karaoke classics like, Aha take on me, Oasis Wonderwall, and Bohemian rhapsody


Japanese word of the day - Ojiichan -Granddad

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Hiroshima final chapter

Hello folks im back with my latest update. please enjoy!

Current situation

There have been riots in my beloved London town :|.  They seem to have settled down (God willing) but its was still painful to watch.  2011 hasnt been the best year for the world in the grand scheme of things, hope the rest of the year passes by without any other major tragedies. Currently i'm back in Hiroshima with a new travelling buddy, 10 months have passed in Japan, 2 months left of my journey and Operation Remove Afro has commenced.  Yup my afro wont be returning to the UK, after 6 years of Samson status i've finally decided to chop it off.  But before it gets removed im gonna have a lil fun with it as you can see below 

I am back in Hiroshima but this latest update is the final part of my first visit to the peace city at the beginning of April.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

The most memorable and most poignant part of my first visit to Hiroshima was the peace memorial museum. If you ever visit Hiroshima the museum is a must.  As mentioned before, my knowledge of Hiroshima with regards to the war  before coming here was minimal.  From bumping into random Fukuokaians ( is that even a word) and conversing with the locals my I started to get a better idea of what happened and why.  The visit to the museum took it to the next level and beyond

 First of all the entry fee was 50 yen, the equivalent of 40 pennies sterling.   Now I've been to quite a few museum, exhibits in my time in Japan but this was one of the best and most informative for such a small fee.  There are not that many places in the world that I would consider paying at least double the entrance fee but this was definitely one of them. 

Then there is the actual contents of the museum.  Not only are exhibits informative, plentiful and interesting, they are presented in such a way that has you begging for more information.  This is achieved in the form of written text, models, artifacts from the time and videos.   

The museum is split into 2 parts - the East building and the Main building.  The East building has 3 floors.  The first floor started of with a quick overview and brief history of Hiroshima before their entry into the second world war.  It then moves on to Hiroshima role during the war, the development of the Atomic bomb, reasons why Hiroshima was chosen to for the bomb to be tested, the key events leading up to the bomb drop the eventual dropping of the atomic bomb. The second and third floor displays what happen after the bomb dropped, how it affected the land and people, and the current Nuclear age we live into day.  Moving through each of these floors you do really get an understanding of Hiroshimas war history.  

 A feature that spans all three floors is the model of the A-dome.  It is a realistic reconstruction of the actual A dome on a 70:100 scale. 

At the bottom of it on the 1st floor letters that the Hiroshima Mayors send out to every country that has performed any Nuclear testing are placed on either side of the base.  Each letter urges the country to abandon Nuclear testing and technology for the good of mankind.

Main Building

The main building displays actual Hiroshima Atomic bomb artifacts.  Whereas the East building gives you the story of how things came to be up to now, the main building visually takes you to August 6 and the following days after. 

 I wouldnt say it was scary but some parts make you feel a tad uncomfortable, like when you see a car wreck, you want to look away but you are transfixed by what you see. 

 I definitely came out of the museum blessed in a number of ways.  An increased knowledge of Hiroshima's role in the Second World war greatly increased, an admiration for the way Hiroshima and its people have recovered from the tragedy, respect for their outlook on peace.

Japanese word of the day - Atsui - Hot