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Friday, 22 April 2011

Howdy Hiroshima

Hello peeps and welcome to the 2nd of a double header blog entry i.e two blog entries on the same day a week!  I'm currently in Kyoto now but this one will discuss my first and second day in Hiroshima.  Be warned this is a bumper read! Please enjoy and check out more pictures @ Only D Brave Facebook page!

Hiroshima Surprise!

Other than being extremely tired from lack of sleep, the journey from Fukuoka to Hiroshima wasn't that bad.  First change over was at Kokura.  The train i had to transfer onto was on the platform opposite and I only had a 5 miniute waiting time!  Second transfer station was Shimonoseki.  There i wasn't so lucky.  The next  train was suppose to Iwakuni was suppose to be in 25 minutes according to my itinerary but in fact it was  in and 1hr and 45 minutes time, a wait i could have done without. Third transfer was the quickest and the most dangerous as in i didnt really have time to check if I was on the right train or not.  It was a case of the train was already on the opposite platform and 30 secs after i got on it, the train departed the station!!  Thank goodness it was the train going to Hiroshima!

Arrived in Hiroshima weary from the 8 hour journey but excited at what adventures lay in store for me in this new city! Took out the iPad and looked at the route to my hotel -18 mins.  After 25 mins (map wasn’t so clear on the location ) I had arrived! Smallest hotel room I have had so far in Japan but as the Japanese way tidy clean and efficiently makes use of limited space available.  I got settled in, plugged in my electrics, took a quick wander of local surroundings then went to sleep
The next day after a very basic buffet breakfast i checked out of the hotel. I only stayed the one night because the main hotel Saturday rate was double the daily rate for the other days of the week. Th main hotel was only a two minute walk away so it was nice and handy. Dropped my stuff there but since check-in was 4 hours away I decided to explore the city. My aimless wandering led me to the peace memorial park, to be more exact, the A-bomb dome
This is the preserved remains of one of the few buildings not to have been totally destroyed by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, that helped signalled the end of the second world war. I was approached by a local volunteer who proceeded to give me a history lesson on the Hiroshima before and after the bomb struck and what an education it was. Back in the UK all I knew about Hiroshima in the second world war was that it was hit with 1 of the 2 atomic bombs used to end the war and the iconic picture of the school girl crying, the clothes burnt off her skin. I was informed about so much more, such as the bomb didn't actually hit the ground, it exploded approximately 600 metres above the city, and one of the reasons Hiroshima was chosen because it was believed that it didn't have any prisoner of war camps.

Had been sitting with the volunteer for about 45 mins when I heard a "Hey you!". Looked up and I saw a familiar face! It was a girl I had been introduced to by Ned one evening in the street in Fukuoka about two weeks prior but for the life of me I couldn't remember her name(I think I've forgotten it again! I think it might be Tessa) She did stick out because not only was a fellow Brit, she was from London South, in fact town neighbours (Dulwich and Streatham) We reintroduced ourselves, asked why we were both in Hiroshima and agreed how small the world was and how random our reunion was! We said our goodbyes and then resumed the historical lesson by the volunteer. 

10 mins later still buzzing from randomly bumping into someone I knew, I hear a "Heyyyy!". Looked up, wowsers yet another person I met in Fukuoka!! This time I knew the name of this person! This was Aliyah, an American student who is a also fantastic dancer that I met in Fubar! What are the chances of bumping into not one but two separate people at the same spot that, you met in your previous town?? The volunteer knew Aliyah too since she had spoken to her on a prior day! The three of us spoke for a bit, and then Aliyah mentioned that she wanted to check out Hiroshima castle! I said I would join her since that was on my list of things to see! Also I think my head would have actually exploded if I saw another person I knew at the same spot! 

Before going to the castle Aliyah showed me more of memorial park. She took me to the cenotaph, built in remembrance of the those that lost there lives in the bomb. It was purposely built so if you looked through it you could see the flame and the A-bomb dome in the distance. We then visited the statue of Sadako Sasaki. I had not a clue before who this person was and Aliyah kindly gave her back story. This girl had been exposed to the radiation of the bomb and had become sick years later with leukaemia.  There is an ancient Japanese story that anyone who folds 1000 cranes will get their wish granted.  Sadako believe this an embarked on folding 1000 cranes.  Unfortunately she died before reaching her target and so her school friends completed the rest for her.   I found it to be a very sad and touching story  but also fitting it became a massive symbol of  the peace memorial of Hiroshima.  
After a quick pit stop at my second hotel, made our way to Hiroshima Castle!  Hiroshima Castle also known as Carp castle was originally built in 1589 but was demolished by the atomic bomb (as well as 99% of the city)   It was rebuilt in 1958 with a museum inside.  
 Castle wasn't far from the hotel at all, no more than a 15 min walk.  When we first saw it, there was concern that the castle lacked size.  Fortunately fears dissipated, it was a case of mistaken identity the actually castle was further in the grounds.  Bar having a moat, Japanese castles do not resemble English castles.  they are mainly constructed out of wood as oppose to stone and  they have more of a grand, multilevel look to them. Started off the exploration at the building we first mistook for the castle which housed a massive drum which was used for proclaiming the time.
We then moved further into the castle ground!  After seeing a kid scaling a wall with ease, I was dared to do the same thing.   One day I will decline such challenges - but that day wasn't the day.  It was pretty simple to climb until the last bit where I couldn't find a proper foothold for a sec, but I overcame this and silently celebrated my mini victory of defeating the wall!  Also within the grounds a Japanese couple were having their wedding pictures taken in traditional dress!  It was a beautiful site, especially enhanced by the cherry blossom surroundings.  At first I started taking sneaky paparazzi style pics, decided to ask the couple if I could take proper pics (translated phrase provided by Aliyah) and they agreed.

Castle entrance fee wasn’t expensive at all.  Inside was ornaments and history of  Hiroshima castle.  This included swords, roof decorations and armour.  Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures but some people found ways to blatantly ignore the rules.  Best part of the castle for me I have to admit was the on the bottom floor , where you could dressup as a warrior or traditional dress.  Aliyah and I gave it a go as did a senior couple and I have to say I did look rather dashing in my Japanese getup!

Japanese word of the Day - Akachan - Baby

Earthquake second day

Hello peeps and welcome to the 1st of a double header blog entry i.e two blog entries on the same day!  I'm currently in Kyoto now but this one will discuss the day after the earthquake.  Please enjoy and check out more pictures @ Only D Brave Facebook page!

Earthquake - Day 2

March 12th 
The first day after the earthquake.  Woke up extremely cold (due to no heating)  Felt a little aftershock, a little reminder of what happen the day before.  Had a cold water wash and went out to survey the area.  At first glance seemed like a normal day, bar the electricity for the traffic lights.  However walking  further I started to notice damage cause from the earthquake.  Cracks in buildings, roads and bridges, shattered windows, statues and roofs on the ground.
  Also 95% of the stores were closed especially the 24 hour convenience stores.  The ones that were open had massive queues.    The most surprising thing was the calmness the “Yamato-damashii” of the people.  Queue was quiet an orderly, people seem content to wait for an age for small portions.  I’m thinking if this was England, looting and possible would have transpired 1 hour after!  I joined one of the queues and after waiting for an hour an a half was able to get a bag of peanuts and a tin of tomatoes.

When I got back to the house I was greeted by my housemates who had also been on a supply gathering mission.  They had collected a lot more than I did and quite a few can of beers.  Thomas decided to try and recall the beer can to hob video he had seen on you tube, operation MacGyver was born!

Operation MacGyver
First step  Beer Can - check,  then cut beer can into three pieces -check  middle piece of the can is used as an inner wall -check  holes pierced near the top with a pin - check.
I wont go further into the science of this but our creation is known as a side burner stove.  We took our creation outside poured some alcohol in it and lit the alcohol with a lighter.After a second attempt of lighting then there was fire!  And we were able to boil water!

Japanese word of the Day - Betsu Betsu - separate the bill

Monday, 18 April 2011

Exit Fukuoka -Earthquake end of first day

After promising to be more regular with the blogging I am even further behind.  I am currently in Osaka but since my last post I have been to Hiroshima, Kirashiki, Okayama and Kobe! A fantastic time has been had in all of these places!! Ok my challenge for this week is to at least do blogs about 2 of these cities.    This blog will start with the leaving of Fukuoka and continue the Earthquake experience.

Bye Fukuoka

Last night in Fukuoka decided to dance the night away meanwhile taking pics to remind me of my recharge time.  Got to Fubar in time for £7.50 Nomihodai (all you can drink)  Usually I always miss the cutoff point but this time I got there J  Good start to the evening.   On the dance floor there were some break dancer, excellent I muttered to myself, I can get some great pictures.  Pulled out the camera, switched it on, looked at the digital viewfinder - black screen, check to see if lens cap was - no lens cap switch off and on again - still black screen, check battery -ahhh no battery. Great! Got a big ol DSLR with me and cant take ANY pictures!  I did have nomihodai so made the most of it ordering a number peach fizzes from the always on point Fubar staff.

I probably danced the least I have ever  danced @ fubar that night.  Instead I had loads of fun chatting to people old friends and new (when I say old I mean people that I have encountered 5 and a bit months here, dam it feels like that time operates differently here)Lots of belly laugh talking to Chris, Joel, Katy, Makiko and great to meeting the new peeps whose names fail me at this time!  After a while I was gonna call it a night but then a friend called me and asked am I ready to go to club.  Now I wasn’t feeling to go but since they had made the effort to come out, get dressed I thought let me do it.   I told the friend I had to leave by 6 tho because I needed to pack get ready and have a lil bit of sleep.  Unfortunately this didn’t happen due to no fault of my own and was not a happy pappy! I ended up not sleeping at all, not the best thing when catching a train to a new destination with 3 changes!

11th March continued.
Last part of the earthquake tale, Jeremy and I had just had beer and popcorn from a bar in the clubbing district and we were making our way home.

On the way home we walked past Sendai station where there was a big ass queue of people, guessing trying to get home.  That’s when Jeremy humanitarian side kicked in.  “We must help these people, lets offer them a place to stay”  Initially I agreed to this, but then as time went on it didn’t seem such a good idea.  Firstly our Japanese wasn’t the best so offering them accommodation in Japanese would be a struggle, secondly although we could offer them room in our house it wouldn’t be warm due to no electricity or gas and thirdly  2 foreign guys offering accommodation hmm didn’t sound right to me.

 Eventually it looked like the people we asked were sharing the same fears as me so went back home where we met up with out third housemate, Thomas, where we swapped stories of the earthquake experience, what were doing before it happened, during and how we felt throughout.   Thomas also mentioned a video that he had seen on you tube making a mini stove out of a beer can.   If only we had internet we could access this grrrr.

We then started playing a card game called President / Arsehole!  Im guessing it was a French game but very enjoyable.  I wont go into the details but the winner is president, 2nd place is neutral and the last place is arsehole and once you become arsehole its really difficult to become change position since you have to give your best 2 cards to the president  at the beginning of every new game.  Me being a newbie was stuck as the arsehole for long periods of the game.  The last game Thomas fixed the cards so I would have a great hand and Jeremy would be the arsehole.  However Thomas miscalculated and as well as giving me a great hand gave Jeremy an even better hand.  The last game Jeremy was president, myself neutral and Thomas arsehole!  This led to hilarious discussions to who was president arsehole or neutral!   I don’t know how but the subject of helping the people queuing  in the station came up again and it was decided that we go to the station to offer our place.  I opposed this but what outvoted 2-1 majority so we made our way back to the station where we found……!   The people had either found their way home or were staying in temporary accommodation provided the city.  So we trudged back home in the cold arguing who was arsehole,  neutral and president.  What a day what a day.

Japanese word of the Day - Nomimasu - (To) drink