miyajima: daishō-in temple & return to hiroshima   13 comments

Wednesday, August 2:  After visiting the O-torii Gate at Itsukushima Shinto Shrine at somewhat low tide, I take a break to walk uphill toward Daishō-in, a historic Japanese temple complex on Mount Misen, the holy mountain on Miyajima.  Including Mt. Misen, Daishō-in is within the World Heritage area of Itsukushima Shrine.

Mt. Misen sits in the middle of Miyajima Island.  The mountain was opened as an ascetic holy mountain site by Kobo Daishi in the autumn of 806 when he underwent ascetic practice for 100 days in the mountain. The fire lit by Kobo Daishi is said to have been burning for 1200 years.  The fire was used to light the Flame of Peace in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Daishō-in Temple is one of the most prestigious Shingon Temples in the western part of Japan. The Shingon, or “True Word,” branch of esoteric Buddhism, was introduced to Japan from China in the 9th century. Shingon involves trying to reach the eternal wisdom of the Buddha that wasn’t expressed in his public teaching. The sect believes that this wisdom may be realized through rituals using body, speech, and mind, such as the use of symbolic gestures (mudras), mystical syllables (dharani), and mental concentration (yoga). The whole is intended to arouse a sense of the pervading spiritual presence of the Buddha that resides in all living things, according to Encyclopedia Britannica: Shingon.

In the 12th century, Emperor Toba founded his prayer hall in Daishō-in. The temple had close links with the Imperial Family until the 19th century. Emperor Meiji stayed in the temple in 1885 (Welcome to Miyajima: Daishō-in).

Though I love the bright vermilion of many Japanese temples, I have a fondness for the wooden structures that look ancient and weathered and seem to blend in with nature.

The Niomon Gate serves as the official gateway into the temple. A pair of guardian king statues stand by the gate. Nio kings are believed to ward off evil, and are determined to preserve Buddhist philosophy on earth.

Niomon Gate of Daishō-in

Kukai, posthumously known as Kobo Daishi, is the founder of the Shingon sect. In 804, at age 31, he went to Tang, China, where he mastered profound esoteric teachings.  He is also well-known as one of the three greatest calligraphers in Japan.

Niomon Gate

lantern at Daishō-in

Lining the steps to the temple are the statues of 500 Rakan statues.  These represent Shaka Nyorai’s disciples. These images all have unique facial expressions. Besides the Rakan statues listed on the map below, there are other statues spread sporadically throughout the temple complex.

map of Rakan statues at Daishō-in

 

There are so many interesting things to see at this temple complex, even if I don’t know what many of them are.

water pavilion at Daishō-in

Daishō-in

Shimo Daishi-do Hall at Daishō-in

Along the temple steps is a row of spinning metal wheels that are inscribed with sutra (Buddhist scriptures). Turning the inscriptions as one walks up is believed to have the same effect as reading them. So, without any knowledge of Japanese, a visitor can be blessed with enormous fortune by turning the wheels (japan-guide.com: Daishō-in).

stairs and prayer wheels

The bell in the belfry was once rung to tell the time in the morning, afternoon and evening in the past. Now it is rung to start the time for worship.

Belfry

Kannon-do Hall was established  to enshrine the image of Kannon Bosatsu, the Deity of Mercy.

Kannon-do Hall

A mandala using colored sand depicts the divine figure of Kannon Bosatsu, the symbol of mercy. The mandala was made by Buddhist priests from Tibet.

Kannon-do Hall

Bosatsu, or Bodhisattvas, are the ones who are undergoing ascetic training to attain enlightenment; they are committed to NOT becoming Nyorai (the highest deities of Buddhism who have attained enlightenment) unless all sufferers on earth are saved.  To show their determination, Bosatsu images hold various objects.

Kannon-do Hall

Maniden Hall is the main prayer hall where Sanki Daigongen, or the Three Awesome Deities of Mt. Misen, are enshrined.

steps to Maniden Hall

Worshipers pray at Maniden Hall for good health, longevity, and contentment in their daily lives.

Maniden Hall

Commemorating the current (77th) head priest’s succession, 1,000 Fudo myo-o, or Immovable King, images were donated by worshipers.

one thousand Fudo myo-o, or Immovable King, images

figures at Daishō-in

In the dimly lit Henjokutsu Cave are the sand and the principal Buddhist icons of the 88 temples of the prestigious pilgrimage route on Shikoku. Worshipers believe that they are given the same blessings as people who make the pilgrimage to all the temples on the route (Welcome to Miyajima: Daishō-in).

It is my dream to one day do the Pilgrimage to the 88 Sacred Places of Shikoku.

representations of 88 temples of Shikoku in Henjokutsu Cave

pond at Daishō-in

figure at Daishō-in

After leaving Daishō-in, I visit Itsukushima Shinto Shrine and the O-torii Gate once again, as I make my way back to the ferry.  This time the tide is higher (miyajima: itsukushima-jinja & the floating o-torii gate).  Then I return by ferry and train to Hiroshima.  At my hotel, I ask for a recommendation for a good okonomiyaki restaurant.  Hiroshima is famous for oysters and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes: batter, cabbage, vegetables and seafood or meat cooked on a griddle).  The local version, Hiroshima-yaki, features individual layers, and noodles as the key ingredient (Lonely Planet Japan).

The place recommended by the hotel is open air with no air-conditioning.  It is much too hot for me to eat in there.  I’ve been sweating all day and look forward to cooling off during dinner.  So I walk back up the same street and find the perfect (air-conditioned) restaurant.

diner for Hiroshima-yaki

Here I’m greeted by a very friendly waitress who speaks some English.  A baseball game is on the TV in the background, and she keeps cheering for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, the local baseball team.

diner for Hiroshima-yaki

It’s quite a process watching the chef whip up the Hiroshima-yaki.  I’m able to order mine with just shrimp.  I never want squid in these pancakes, even though squid seems to be the most common ingredient.

I have to say this pancake is one of the most delectable things I’ve eaten in Japan. Even though it’s huge, and filling, I have to eat every last bite. 🙂

After dinner, I stroll along the river in Hiroshima.

I see one last view of the Hiroshima A-bomb dome.

Hiroshima A-bomb dome

Hiroshima A-bomb dome

paper cranes for peace

Tomorrow morning, I’ll leave for Nara, where I’ll spend two nights. 🙂

Total steps today: 21,442 (9.09 miles)

 

miyajima: itsukushima-jinja & the floating o-torii gate   12 comments

Wednesday, August 2:  After leaving Senjo-kaku Pavilion, I make my way down to the water to see the “floating” O-torii Gate of Itsukushima Shrine.

In December of 1996, the World Heritage Committee official designated Itsukushima Shinto Shrine as a World Cultural Heritage site.  The area includes 431.2 hectares including the building of Itsukushima Shrine, the sea to the front, and the Mt. Misen Primeval Forest (Natural Treasure) to the rear.  This wide area covers nearly 14% of Miyajima Island.

The O-torii Gate of Itsukushima Shrine is designated as a National Important Cultural Property.  It is about 16.6 meters tall and weighs about 60 tons.  Its roof, thatched with Japanese cypress bark, is 24.2 meters long. The main pillars, 9.9 meters in circumference, are made of natural camphor trees, while the four supporting pillars are made of natural cedar. The present O-torii, which is the 8th since the Heian period, was erected in 1875.  The top rail of the torii has a hollow space, and stones the size of one’s fist are put inside as a weight (7 tons in all).  The gate stands under its own weight.

When I reach the shrine, it’s 2:20 p.m., still quite a long time until high tide at 6:42 p.m.  At least it’s not low tide (which was 11:46 a.m.), when it is the least scenic, sitting as it does in the muddy sand at low tide. Because the tide is still somewhat low, people are wading around by the gate.

first glimpse of the O-torii Gate at Itsukushima-jinja

The Miyajima deer are relaxing in the shade, a smart move as it’s in about 95 degrees F (around 35C) and very humid.

deer in Miyajima

Itsukushima Shrine is dedicated to the three Munakata goddesses, Ichikishima-hime, Tagitsu-hime and Tagori-hime.  These three goddesses are worshiped as deities of sea, traffic safety, fortune and accomplishment.

As I join the people wading near the O-torii Gate, I can see on the shore the shrine sitting on stilts in the sand.  The water will reach the shrine at sunset, during high tide at 6:42 p.m.

Itsukushima Shrine

I wade out to the O-torii Gate, enjoying the lapping of the slightly cool water on my feet and calves.

O-Torii Gate 2

O-Torii Gate 3

O-Torii Gate 5

O-Torii Gate 6

I make my way through the water to the opposite shore.

O-Torii Gate 10

O-Torii Gate 11

The map below shows my route so far.  I came from the ferry on the bottom left of the map, walked along Omotesando Shopping Arcade, went up to the Five Story Pagoda and Senjo-kaku Pavilion, and then made my way down to the O-torii Gate.  I know there are more temples to see in the hills to the right, so, I head in that direction.  I walk through Daigani Temple and then walk uphill to Daishoin Temple.  I will go through Itsukushima Shrine after visiting these shrines so it will be closer to high tide.

Miyajima Guide Map

I walk briefly through Daiganji Temple, which until the Meiji Restoration (1868), was in charge of the repair and construction of the Itsukushima Shrine.  It is dedicated to Benzaiten, the Goddess of eloquence, music, wisdom and wealth.  The statue below is a wood carving, but I’m not sure of whom.

figure at Daiganji Temple

You can read more about Daiganji Temple here.

Daiganji Temple

On the way to the path to Daishoin, I pass the Benzaiten statue and Itsukushima Shrine before heading uphill.

Buddha figure with Itsukushima Shrine in the background

I also walk past the Miyajima History and Folklore Museum, but I don’t go in.  The museum preserves the main house and part of a storehouse which formerly belonged to the Egami family, one of the most prosperous merchant families in Miyajima. On display are about 1,000 items of a wide range of Miyajima folklore materials, including ancient documents, paintings and woodcraft.

Miyajima History and Folklore Museum

I head uphill to Daishoin Temple, where I spend nearly an hour.  In the interest of keeping everything about Itsukushima Shrine in one blog post, I’ll write about Daishoin in another post.

I leave the Miyajima History and Folklore Museum at nearly 3:00, and, after visiting Daishoin, by 4:00, I’m back down to the Itsukushima Shrine.  I have to walk all the way around to the other side to get into the shrine through the entrance.

Itsukushima Shrine

deer near Itsukushima Shrine

Finally, I’m in the pavilion walkways of Itsukushima Shrine.  It’s the perfect beach shrine, with its open-air walkways.

Itsukushima Shrine

Though it’s now after 4:00, only an hour and a half from high tide, the water has still not reached the shrine, although some rippling pools of water are making their way up slowly.

Itsukushima Shrine 2

I love the lanterns swinging in a slight breeze in the pavilions.

Itsukushima Shrine

The shrine is known for its unique construction, displaying the artistic beauty of the Shinden style of architecture. First built in 593, it was remodeled into the present grand structure by a powerful figure, Taira-no-Kiyomori, in 1168. Its placement on the water, beautifully framed by the mountain in the background, is testimony to Kiyomori’s extraordinary vision and achievement.

Itsukushima Shrine

lanterns at Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine is composed of a main shrine, a Noh drama stage, music rooms, halls and several other shrines arranged around it.  All these structures are connected by corridors with a total length of about 300 meters.

Itsukushima Shrine at low tide

Itsukushima Shrine with the Five Story Pagoda behind

Itsukushima Shrine

After leaving the shrine, I can see O-torii Gate at Itsukushima Shrine.  It’s now about 4:20. Now the water is too deep for waders, so no one is in the water.

O-Torii Gate at higher tide

O-Torii Gate at higher tide

O-Torii Gate at higher tide

Itsukushima Shrine

ema at Itsukushima Shrine

The vermilion color of the shrine and of the O-torii is considered to keep evil spirits away. The shrine buildings are coated with vermilion lacquer, which is also efficient as protection from corrosion.

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine

last view of the O-torii Gate

I have my last view of the O-torii gate at 4:30 p.m.  If I could only stay two more hours, I’d see the shrine covered at high tide, but I’m worried about catching the ferry back to Hiroshima, where my hotel is. It’s a shame I didn’t spend the night here.

It’s quite a long haul back to Hiroshima, first on a different ferry, larger than the one I took to get here, and then a long train ride back to Hiroshima.  In Hiroshima, I look forward to sampling Hiroshima’s famous dish: okonomiyaki, similar to Osaka’s but with noodles.

miyajima: the five-storied pagoda & senjokaku pavilion   5 comments

Wednesday, August 2:  From the Motoyasu Bridge Pier bordering Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, I take a 50-minute ferry ride to the island of Miyajima for 2,000 yen (~$18). The ride is quite pretty, with islands jutting up in green mounds out of the choppy Hiroshima Bay.

Hiroshima Bay from the ferry

on the way to Miyajima

Hiroshima Bay from the ferry

Boat from Motoyasu Bridge Pier to Miyajima

I checked the tidal information before I came, as it’s recommended to come around high tide to see the best view of the O-torii Gate at Itsukushima Shrine.  I’ve arrived at the island at 12:47 pm, and high tide isn’t until 18:42, slightly less than 6 hours from my arrival time.   I know there is no way I will stay that late as I must return by ferry to Hiroshima.  Maybe I will be able to see the tide rise high enough during the day to get some decent photos of the famous floating torii.

I had read you could rent bicycles on Miyajima, but I’m told by someone at Tourist Information that it’s impossible.  Apparently, the island is easily walkable, so I promptly set off on foot.

Today’s tidal information

I’ve heard all about Nara’s famous deer, but I’m surprised to find deer wandering the streets of Miyajima.  The deer here are wild, but we’re warned they may eat paper and cloth, especially tickets and souvenirs.

deer in Miyajima

I walk along the main street of the town, but turn inward to enter Omotesando Shopping Arcade.  As it’s after lunchtime, I’m hungry, so I keep my eye out for a restaurant.  I’ve heard that Miyajima is famous for its broiled or grilled oysters, so I’d like to find some of those.

beginning of Omotesando Shopping Arcade

Some of the deer seem to be looking for dining spots as well.

shopping deer

The arcade is shaded, luckily, as it’s extremely hot and humid.   I don’t know how I’m going to last very long in the heat today.  At least I hope to find air conditioning in a restaurant.

Omotesando Shopping Arcade

There are so many cute things I’m tempted to buy in the shopping arcade, but buying anything means I’ll have to carry whatever it is around for the rest of my week of travels.  As I only have a carry-on bag with me, and it’s already packed, I have to pass on everything.

I love the Japanese traditional Kokeshi Dolls, but luckily I already bought a small one at Hanazono-jinja’s flea market in Shinjuku.  It’s already in a box on its way back to Virginia.

Japanese Traditional Kokeshi Dolls

I decide to eat at this restaurant graced by a smiling deer.  The plastic foods on display show broiled oysters.

restaurant for grilled oysters

I enjoy my meal of Kaki-no-sugata Yaki, or broiled oysters in the shells, but I must admit the meal doesn’t fill me up.  Oh well, I’m planning to eat Okonomiyaki, Hiroshima’s famous dish, tonight, so I’m okay not to eat too much.  Besides, it’s too hot outdoors to walk around on a full stomach.

Kaki-no-sugata Yaki

I don’t really know where I’m going in this town, but I follow the road to the conspicuous Five-storied Pagoda and Senjokaku, also called Toyokuni Shrine.

The Five-storied Pagoda, built in 1407, enshrined Yakushi Nyorai Zazo, the Buddha of Medicine, as well as Fugen Bosatsu (Mercy Buddha) and Monju Bosatsu (Wisdom Buddha).

Yakushi Nyorai Zazo, the Buddha of Medicine, is said to have been made by Kūkai, also known posthumously as Kōbō-Daishi, 774–835.  He was a Japanese Buddhist monk, civil servant, scholar, poet, and artist who founded the Shingon or “True Word” school of Buddhism (Wikipedia: Kūkai).

upstairs to the Five-Storied Pagoda

From the hilltop where the Five-storied Pagoda sits, I can see the mainland and the town of Hatsukaichi.

view from Senjokaku pavilion

Senjokaku (literally “Pavilion of 1000 mats”), also called Toyokuni Shrine, is the largest structure at Miyajima Island. It’s basically an open-air hall that has ancient paintings hanging from its rafters.  Today many Japanese folks find respite from the searing sun on the pavilion’s cool and smooth floors.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a preeminent daimyō (powerful feudal lord), warrior, general, samurai, and politician of the Sengoku period, started construction of Senjokaku as a Buddhist library where people could chant Senbu-kyo sutras for fallen soldiers.

Hideyoshi is regarded as Japan’s second “great unifier,” bringing an end to the Warring States period (c. 1467 – c. 1603).  He died in 1598 and the building was never fully completed. Originally, Amida Buddha and two subordinate Buddhist saints, Anan and Kasho-sonja, were enshrined in the structure until the Meiji reformation, when the structure was converted into a Shinto shrine dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Senjo-kaku pavilion

Five-Storied Pagoda

From the hilltop, I can see some of Miyajima’s many shrines, most notably Itsukushima Shrine, home of the floating torii.

view from paintings at Senjokaku pavilion

Numerous votive picture tablets that had been hanging in the Itsukushima Shrine buildings until the Meiji era hang today on the walls inside Senjokaku.

paintings at Senjokaku pavilion

paintings at Senjokaku pavilion

Senjokaku pavilion

I love the airy feel of Senjokaku pavilion. I wander around here for some time, enjoying the shaded area with a bit of a breeze whispering through.  The multitudes of ancient paintings create an atmosphere heavy with history.

Senjokaku pavilion

Five-Storied Pagoda

Finally, I leave the pavilion and head downhill in search of the famous O-torii Gate.  On the way, I pass more friendly deer. It’s only 2:14, so the tide won’t be high enough yet to make the torii gate picturesque.

deer in Miyajima

I continue on to the beach, where I find people wading out in the water around the O-torii Gate.  At least it’s not sitting in mud at this point!

hiroshima   13 comments

Wednesday, August 2:  At 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb in human history was dropped on Hiroshima.  “The explosion decimated 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of ‘a new and most cruel bomb'” (History.com: Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Ever since I read the book Hiroshima by John Hersey, I’ve wanted to visit Hiroshima. When I lived in Korea from March of 2010-March of 2011, I only had a short break for the Lunar New Year in February; I went to Kyoto because it was the easiest place to get to from Busan, S. Korea. My first choice was Hiroshima, but in the short time I had, it didn’t seem possible.  Now that I’ve been to Japan, I know it would have been possible, but those years were my first years of traveling solo, and I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. Kyoto was wonderful, so I had no regrets.

When I planned my one week trip through Japan, I thought I’d have at least 1 1/2 days in Hiroshima because I assumed I’d be able to leave my apartment early on August 1.  However, since my company scheduled my apartment inspection for close to 3 pm, I didn’t arrive in Hiroshima until 8:40 pm, leaving me only one day in the city.

This Wednesday morning, from the brunch room at the top of Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima, I see a clean and beautiful city, sitting placidly in a bowl surrounded by mountains, with several rivers threading through. It’s impossible to imagine the devastation that occurred here nearly 72 years ago.  A beautiful blue-sky day beckons.

After breakfast, I head out directly to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, sitting just catty-corner from my hotel.

view from Sunroute Hiroshima

Before the A-bomb, and after the Meiji Restoration, the event that restored practical imperial rule to Japan in 1868 under Emperor Meiji, Hiroshima grew to be the largest city of the Chugoku Region and one of Japan’s leading military bases.  During the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) the Imperial Headquarters (primary command center) was established in Hiroshima, with Ujina Port utilized largely for military purposes.  Each time Japan took military action, troops gathered in Hiroshima for dispatch to battle.  Military facilities expanded year after year.

Hiroshima was also a leading education city, boasting the only Higher Normal School outside of Tokyo.  Moreover, manufacturing growth between the world wars developed it into an industrial city.

Why did the USA choose Hiroshima as its first target? According to a plaque at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum: Evaluation of Targets: The Target Committee, comprising military personnel and scientists, evaluated potential targets from a military standpoint.  At the first meeting on April 27, 1945, criteria for target selection were developed, and 17 areas were selected for further study.  At the second meeting on May 11, 1945, after examining such issues as city size and topography that would magnify the effects of the blast, the committee shortened the list to four: Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, and Kokura.  They also agreed that psychological effects against Japan were of great importance.

It seems the city was chosen because it was a military as well as an industrial hub, and because it sits in a bowl surrounded by mountains which maximized damage from the blast.  It was very unlucky for the residents of Hiroshima, but, if there is a silver lining, at least the cultural treasures of Kyoto were not destroyed.

From Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima, I have a clear view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome on the right bank.

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park now occupies what was at one time the city’s busiest downtown commercial and residential district. The park was built on an open field that was created by the explosion. Every year on August 6, a Peace Memorial Ceremony is conducted by the Hiroshima Memorial Service Association, in addition to the Hiroshima Inter-Faith League and other religious groups.  The park is abuzz with activity today as people are setting up for the ceremony which will be held in four days. The ceremony is held to console the victims of the atomic bombs and to pray for lasting world peace.  A moment of silence is held at 8:15, the moment the bomb exploded over Hiroshima.

The Peace Memorial Park’s purpose is to not only memorialize the victims, but also to preserve evidence of nuclear horrors and to advocate world peace.

Sadly, today I find that the West wing of the The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is closed.  Only the newly renovated East Building is open today.

Inside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, I walk along a curved wall that displays floor-to-ceiling black & white photos of Hiroshima before the bomb.

Photos of Hiroshima before the Atomic bomb went off

Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall before the blast

The video below shows black & white photos of Hiroshima before the A-bomb as I walk along the curved wall.  I’m sorry it’s a little shaky.

A single bomb indiscriminately killed tens of thousands of people, profoundly disrupting and altering the lives of survivors.  Through belongings left by the victims, A-bombed artifacts, testimonies of A-bomb survivors and related materials, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum conveys to the world the horrors and inhumane nature of nuclear weapons and spreads the message of “No more Hiroshimas.”  (From a plaque at the museum)

The time Hiroshima was hit

the A-Bomb Dome after the bomb exploded

After the A-bomb, the central columns of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall Building remained intact, although the bomb exploded almost directly overhead.  In another room, I walk along another curved wall showing photos of the city after the bomb hit. This is so moving, it brings tears to my eyes.

aerial view of Hiroshima

In the center of the curved room is an aerial view of Hiroshima and a simulation of the bomb exploding.

aerial photo of Hiroshima

Below is my video of the aerial simulation of the blast.

The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (approx. 160 meters from the hypocenter) was completed in April of 1915 under the design and supervision of Czech architect Jan Letzel.  Noted for its unique green dome, it was primarily used for arts and educational exhibitions.

The atomic bomb exploded at an altitude of 600 meters, approximately 160 meters southeast of the Industrial Promotion Hall, instantly killing everyone inside the building, which was seriously damaged and completely burned out.

The East Building of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum includes exhibits of belongings left by the atomic bomb victims, and photos and other materials that convey the horror of the atomic bombing. There are also video recordings of atomic bomb survivors’ testimonies and special exhibitions.

According to the introduction to the museum’s English guide: “The East Wing—the newest addition—explains the history of Hiroshima City before the bomb, development and decision to drop the bomb, the lives of Hiroshima citizens during World War II and after the bombing, and ends with information about the nuclear age and efforts for international peace. Included in this section is a model showing the damage done to the city. It has some important letters exchanged between scientists and top leaders of that era talking about atomic development and predicted result of its use” (Wikipedia: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum).

Below are photos of some of the items in the museum with descriptions taken directly from the plaques.

Tricycle – 1,500 meters from the hypocenter: Sinichi Tetsutani (then, 3 years and 11 months) loved to ride this tricycle. That morning, he was riding it in front of his house.  Following a sudden flash, the heat rays burned Sinichi and his tricycle, leading to his death that night.  Thinking that little Sinichi would miss his home and could ride his favorite tricycle, his father Nobuo buried Sinichi’s body in the backyard of their house together with the tricycle.  In the summer of 1985, forty years later, Nobuo dug up Sinichi’s remains and transferred them to the family grave and donated the tricycle to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

Sinichi Tetsutani’s tricycle

Sinichi Tetsutani and his sister (?)

watch

Human shadow etched in stone – 260 m from the hypocenter:  A person sitting on the steps to the bank waiting for it to open was exposed to the flash from the atomic bomb explosion.  Receiving the ray directly, the victim must have died on the spot from massive burns. The surface of the surrounding stone steps was turned whitish by the intense heat ray.  The place where the person was sitting became dark like a shadow.  Several bereaved families have suggested that one of their family members may have created this shadow.

Sadly, this is only a photo of the stone steps of the bank.  This was one of the main things I was interested in seeing when I came to Hiroshima; it must be in the closed West Wing, because it is nowhere to be found here.

Human shadow etched in stone

According to the introduction to the museum’s English guide, “The West Wing, which was part of the old museum, concentrates on the damage of the bomb. Sections include Material Witness, which shows clothing, watches, hair, and other personal effects worn by victims of the bomb; Damage by the Heat Rays, a section that looks at what happened to wood, stone, metal, glass, and flesh from the heat; Damage by the Blast, focusing on the destruction caused by the after shocks of the blast, and Damage by the Radiation which goes into details about the health effects suffered by humans” (Wikipedia: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum).

It seems that the stone steps from the bank must have been in the West Wing during my visit.

burned clothing

The Holocaust at Hiroshima (Ceramic Wall Painting Replica): The renowned painter Ikuo Hirayama was exposed to the atomic bombing on August 6, 1945 while working as a mobilized student at the Army Weaponry Depot.  Seeking refuge after the bombing at his birth place to Setoda-cho, he stopped along the way at Mt. Ogonzan and gazed in astonishment for several hours as all of Hiroshima became engulfed in flames.

The painting expresses images of eternal peace and of Hiroshima, an immortal phoenix reborn from its own ashes.

The Holocaust at Hiroshima

Wedding Costumes: Ms. Toshiko Iida (then 25) was exposed to the A-bombing together with her daughter, Makiko (then, 4), her son Kunihiko (then, 3), her father Chiematsu Shinnaka, her mother Fumiko, and her younger sisters Hiroko and Michiko, when she was at her parents’ home in Kako-machi, nearly 1km from Ground Zero.  The house had collapsed, trapping all of them under the fallen structure. However, they managed to get out of there and ran barefooted in desperation.  When Toshiko and her two children were stranded around the Sumiyoshi Bridge, they were rescued by a ship of the Akatsuki Corps right before evening, and the ship carried them to Miyajima Island. Afterward, they moved to their relative’s home in Yamagata County.  Although Toshiko was nursed there, her hair fell out and her body including her lips turned bluish-black as a result of the effect of the radiation.  Her symptoms worsened, from fevers to bloody discharge and necrosis.  She finally died on September 4th, followed by Makiko on the 5th.

These are the costumes worn by Toshiko for her wedding ceremony.  Since they had been relocated from their original storage place together with other items on August 5th, the day before the atomic bombing, they remained safe.

Ms. Toshiko Iida’s wedding costumes

A Young Girl’s Death from Leukemia – Sadako Sasaki: Sadako Sasaki was exposed to the A-bomb at the age of two but escaped without apparent injury.  She grew into a strong and healthy girl.  Nine years later, in the fall of her sixth year in elementary school, she suddenly contracted leukemia and was hospitalized in February the following year. She folded paper cranes continuously hoping they would help her recover, but after an 8-month battle with the disease, she succumbed.  Sadako’s death triggered a movement to build a monument to all the children who perished due to the atomic bomb, and the Children’s Peace Monument was erected in Peace Memorial Park with donations received from all over Japan.  Sadako’s story has since traveled around the world.  Now countless paper cranes are sent to this monument every year.

Sadako Sasaki

The Children’s Peace Monument stands in memory of all children who died as a result of the atomic bombing. The monument was originally inspired by the death of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako’s untimely death compelled her classmates to call for the creation of a monument for all children who died due to the atomic bomb.  Built with contributions from more than 3,200 schools in Japan and donors in nine countries, the Children’s Peace Monument was unveiled on May 5, 1958.

At the top of the 9-meter monument, a bronze statue of a girl lifts a golden crane entrusted with dreams for a peaceful future.  Figures of a boy and a girl are located on the sides of the monument.

The inscription on the stone block under the monument reads, “This is our cry.  This is our prayer.  For building peace in this world.”

Children’s Peace Monument

Below are some of the countless folded paper cranes, symbols of world peace, at the Children’s Peace Monument.

Paper cranes

Paper cranes at the Children’s Peace Monument are sent here by children all over the world.

 

Near the center of the park is a concrete, saddle-shaped monument that covers a cenotaph holding the names of all of the people killed by the bomb. The monument is aligned to frame the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome. The Memorial Cenotaph was one of the first memorial monuments built on the open field on August 6, 1952. The arch shape represents a shelter for the souls of the victims.

Memorial Cenotaph

The Peace Flame is another monument to the victims of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, but it has an additional symbolic purpose. The flame has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964, and will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The Peace Flame

The Bell of Peace was dedicated as a symbol of “Hiroshima Aspiration: Let all nuclear arms and wars be gone, and the nations live in true peace!  May it ring to all corners of the earth to meet the ear of every man, for in it throb and palpitate the hearts of its peace-loving donors.  So may you, too, friends, step forward, and toll this bell for peace.”  ~ Dedicated September 20th, 1964 by Hiroshima Higan-no-Kai.

Bell of Peace

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound:  Here are laid the ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims of the bomb.  Being close to the hypocenter, numerous corpses were collected at this spot and cremated.

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound

Paper cranes also hang around The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound.

In July 1955, as part of the 10th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb, the present memorial mound was constructed with an underground cinerarium through the leadership of the City of Hiroshima.  The ashes of victims excavated around the city were placed here.

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound

At the Cenotaph for Korean Victims: Among the 400,000 people who were killed or exposed to lethal post-explosion radiation, at least 45,000 were Korean, but the number is uncertain, because the population has been neglected as the minority. Additionally, 300,000 survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki returned to Korea after liberation from Japanese colonialism. The monument, beautified with Korean national symbols, is intended to honor Korean victims and survivors of the atomic bomb and Japanese colonialism.  The monument’s inscription reads “The Monument in Memory of the Korean Victims of the A[tomic]-Bomb. In memory of the souls of His Highness Prince Yi Wu and over 20000 other souls”, while the side-inscription reads “Souls of the dead ride to heaven on the backs of turtles.”

Cenotaph for Korean Victims

In December 1996, the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, soon commonly called the Genbaku (“A-Bomb”) Dome, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as a reminder to the entire world of the horrors of the atomic bomb and a symbol of world peace.

The structure was scheduled to be demolished with the rest of the ruins, but most of the building was intact, including the the exposed metal dome framework at its apex, delaying the demolition plans. The Dome became a subject of controversy, with some locals wanting it torn down, while others wanted to preserve it as a memorial of the bombing and a symbol of peace.  Ultimately, when the reconstruction of Hiroshima began, the skeletal remains of the building were preserved (Wikipedia: Hiroshima Peace Memorial).

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

As I cross a bridge over the Motoyasu River from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, I can see the Atomic Bomb Dome on my left.

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

The Red Bird Monument is a literary monument dedicated to Mickichi Suzuki, a distinguished novelist of the Meiji and Taisho Period, who was born in Hiroshima City. In 1918, he launched the children’s literature The Red Bird, which gave birth to the first songs and fairy tales for Japanese children.  The monument, built in 1964, serves as a symbol of Hiroshima’s recovery from the atomic bomb’s devastation and the hope for world peace.

Red Bird Monument

another monument

The Atomic Bomb Dome

Fountain near The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

A-bomb Survivor Groups: Despite the unspeakably grim living conditions in Hiroshima after the bombing, residents rose from the ashes to rebuild their lives and toiled to bring their city back.  Help came as well from elsewhere in Japan and from overseas. The road to recovery was strewn with obstacles, but the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law enacted in 1949 facilitated the gradual redevelopment of urban infrastructure.  Today, Hiroshima’s population has grown to more than one million.

Even as the city came back to life, many residents contended with severe physical and psychological problems caused by the bomb.  In 1957, the A-bomb Survivors Medical Care Law allowed the Japanese government to assist the A-bomb survivors.  This assistance has improved over the years.

Looking downriver at the A-Bomb Dome on the right

U.S. Investigation of A-bomb Illnesses: In November 1946, U.S. President Harry Truman ordered the creation of an organization to investigate the aftereffects of the atomic bomb.  In March 1947, the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) was established in Hiroshima.  The Nagasaki ABCC was established the following year.  A-bomb survivors had high expectations, hoping that the ABCC would treat their illnesses, but the ABCC performed only examinations and research.

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

Reading about the current situation regarding nuclear weapons is quite depressing.

Situations around the World regarding Nuclear Weapons: The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which includes a ban on all types of nuclear tests involving a nuclear explosion, has still not received the necessary ratification by America, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Iran, and North Korea, and therefore cannot be put into effect.  In January and September of 2016, North Korea performed underground nuclear tests.

At present, international conferences are held once every two years to promote the implementation of the Treaty; however, there are no prospects for ratification by the necessary countries.

In October of 2016, the United Nations General Assembly First Committee adopted a resolution to begin negotiations towards enacting a nuclear weapons convention. The resolution, approved by 123 nations, discusses the catastrophic humanitarian effects brought about by the use of nuclear weapons and the danger caused by their existence. Negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention began in March of 2017.

However, this resolution is opposed not only by countries possessing nuclear weapons such as America and Russia, but also by countries such as Japan and Australia, and there are various issues remaining.

*************************

My time in Hiroshima is short, but its impact is powerful.  We’re lucky that we’ve survived 72 years so far without another nuclear attack, but I fear for our world as long as powerful and crazy men continue to control nuclear arsenals the world over.  I can only hope that the world never sees another devastating attack like the ones at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the afternoon, I get on a boat near Peace Memorial Park, which takes me to the island of Miyajima.

final apartment inspection and departure to hiroshima: my one week holiday begins!   4 comments

Tuesday, August 1:  Today is my last day in my Fuchinobe Apartment. In the morning, I meet Graham for coffee and hand over my bicycle. Of course, because I give him my bike, I have to walk 20 minutes home in the rain while he rides the bike home.  I’m sad to let my trusty bicycle go, but at least I know it will have a good home. 🙂

A little before 2:50 p.m., a Westgate administrator knocks on the door for my apartment inspection; to be honest I’m a little put-off by her nosy questions and her overly thorough investigation of my apartment, almost as if she’s looking for an excuse not to return my deposit!  Of course, I have meticulously cleaned it up and don’t leave her any cause to find fault.

 

Tobi’s apartment inspection was right before mine and he said his was easy with no questions asked.  Is it because he is a man and the inspector is a Japanese young woman that he has no problems?  I can’t help but wonder.

After the inspection is over and I collect my $500 deposit, Tobi and I share a taxi to the Fuchinobe station in pouring rain. Soon we’re on the Yokohama Line. He’s on his way to Narita Airport.  I say my goodbyes to him at Shin-Yokohama, where I’ve arrived in plenty of time for my 4:49 p.m. Shinkansen.  It will take me about 3 1/2 hours to get to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen, with an arrival time of 8:26 p.m. I enjoy a small bottle of wine and a Bento box I bought at the station.  This is my first ride on the Shinkansen in my four months in Japan, so it’s very exciting to be speeding along at bullet speed through Japan’s cities and countryside.

From Hiroshima Station, I take bus #24 from 8:39-8:51, directly to Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima. I’m so tired when I get to the hotel that I crash almost immediately.

I had hoped to have one and a half days in Hiroshima, but since Westgate scheduled my apartment inspection for so late today, I will now only have one full day here. I hope to squeeze in Miyajima as well.  

My one week holiday has begun! 🙂

 

the july cocktail hour: farewell to sagamihara :-)   25 comments

Monday, July 31:  Cheers and welcome to my fourth and final cocktail hour here in Japan. We’re meeting at the local Family Mart again tonight. A few of us have already made a stop at Dai Trattoria (see below – at the end), so we’re slightly looped already.  I apologize for getting a head start without you.  Sadly, the second plastic chair here has broken; all that’s left is one plastic chair, a small lopsided stool, and a metal chair with the seat falling apart.  No matter.  We can simply stand and mingle; that makes for a better party anyway. 🙂

Please do tell me about your summer.  Have you traveled anywhere exciting over the summer months? Have you seen any good movies?  Watched any good TV shows or read any good books? Have you eaten fresh fruits and vegetables, or visited any pretty gardens?  Have you done anything exciting, or even anything quietly enjoyable?  I love how we can slow down in summer without making any excuses.  I don’t care for summer in general because of the heat and humidity, but I do like the laid-back vibe of a summer vacation.

I finished my semester teaching at the university.  On August 1, I’ll have my apartment inspection, get the 50,000 yen that was withheld from my last paycheck, and then I’ll be on the Shinkansen for Hiroshima.  I’ll travel around Japan for one week, then I’ll head back to the USA on August 8.

The biggest challenges I had to deal with my last month of teaching in Japan were: 1) marking 55 final essays; 2) dealing with the heat; 3) planning my one week trip around Japan from August 1-8; 4) trying to see all the things in the Tokyo  area I wanted to see before leaving Japan; and 5) wrapping up everything so I can leave Japan on August 8.

Here are some of the tidbits of my last month in Japan, as well as a few observations about Japanese culture.

Tuesday, July 4:  I love the Japanese postal system.  If the post office has a letter to deliver that needs a signature, or if they have a package to deliver, they leave a postal slip in your door slot and you can call them on an English-only number to arrange a time for them to try again.  They will schedule the delivery at a time that’s convenient for you.  They’ll deliver as late as 6-8 pm on a weeknight, or any time on Saturdays or Sundays, giving you a two-hour time slot.  The other thing they’ll do is come to your house to pick up a box you have to send.  Today, I arranged with the post office to pick up my first box to send back home by surface.  It’s outrageously expensive to send a package by air+sea, and even more expensive to send one by air, so I chose to send it by surface (11.5 kg) for 7,450 yen (~$68).  Add about $100 for air+sea and about $200 by air!  It’s so convenient, but then of course, the Japanese are all about convenience. 🙂

Wednesday, July 5: I have become quite a regular at Kenji’s fish restaurant, Kiyariya, which I pass as I walk my 30-minute walk home each night.  It’s not cheap, usually costing me about $16, but the food is so good that I’m happy to splurge at least once a week.  I love the eggplant dish soaked in oil with fresh grated radishes.  Tonight I get the grilled salmon and eggplant, accompanied by a cold beer. Every time I leave the restaurant, Natsumi, the server, or Kenji, the owner, walk out with me and say, “See you next week!”

Thursday, July 6: Thursday nights seem to be our nights for cocktail hours at the Family Mart.  Tonight Graham and I go; as always we enjoy ourselves over cold beer and talk of teaching and politics. 🙂  I love these nights because they’re easygoing, not at all pretentious, and cheap.  As we sit outside the Family Mart in our plastic chairs, students often walk past and stop for a chat.

Friday, July 7: My other regular place is the Indian restaurant Curry Naan, where I always enjoy vegetable curry, a HUGE naan, a salad, and cold beer that, when bought with the meal, costs only 100 yen (less than $1!). As always, Beatles music is playing on the sound system.  Tonight, it’s:

Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner
But he knew it wouldn’t last
Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona
For some California grass

Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged

I enjoy my meal in the cool dark atmosphere while listening to “Eleanor Rigby,” “I am the Walrus,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Something,” “Help,” “Yesterday,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “Lucy in the Sky with the Diamonds.”

Who would ever imagine an Indian restaurant in a Japanese city with a Japanese chef playing non-stop Beatles music?

Dinner at Curry Naan

Tuesday, July 11: One of the projects I assigned my students was to create inventions.  They were to come up with a product, create a poster, and then do a sales pitch in front of the class.  Below are the products they created, which I thought were quite fun and original. 🙂

Inventions

Click on any of the following pictures for a full-sized slide show.

 

All my students had to turn in their final essays (after one revision) by Friday, July 7.  I have had a rule while teaching in Japan that I would get all my work done, both marking and planning, during our 9-hour workdays.  I rarely take work home with me. I figure if I have to be in the office 9 hours every day, I should be able to manage my time effectively enough to do this.  As of Tuesday, July 11, I have finished marking class G essays (18).  I celebrate by having dinner at Kiyariya once again. 🙂

Wednesday, July 12: Most days, I eat lunch in the student cafeteria, where we can get cheap hot meals.  I tend to go for the soba topped with vegetable tempura for 290 yen ($2.63). The process is to go to a ticket machine where we pay for a ticket for whatever meal we want.  Then we take the ticket to the window, shown below, where we lay the ticket on the counter and wait to be served our steaming bowl of noodles. I always feel like I am in line for the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, although the ladies are always perfectly nice, unlike the actual Soup Nazi.  Usually I ask for “skoshi,” which apparently means a small amount of liquid (i.e., mostly noodles).  The ladies always know what we mean and serve us our soup accordingly.

Waiting in line for my soba with vegetable tempura

Thursday, July 13: Yet another fun Thursday happy hour at the Family Mart with Graham and Paul.

Monday, July 17: On this Monday night, which is actually a national holiday (we don’t get it off), Graham and Paul try to take me to their favorite izakaya, or Japanese gastropub.  Sadly, maybe because of the holiday, or maybe because it’s a Monday, the place is closed, so we go instead to Jonathan’s for dinner.  Jonathan’s is a lot like a Denny’s in the U.S.A.  As always, we have a fabulous time.

Tuesday, July 18: Today, I send a second box home to USA by surface.  I have to get a box from the post office, using the following Google translate message. This time it costs me 7,800 yen (~$71) for a 13kg box.

Google translation

Wednesday, July 19: My time in Japan is winding down.  I go to dinner at Kiyariya, where I enjoy grilled salmon, eggplant and beer.  I tell Kenji and Natsumi I’ll only be back in one more time.  Once again, Natsumi walks out with me and tells me they are going to miss me. 🙂

Thursday, July 20: Graham and Paul have to attend a meeting with Reiko, our curriculum adviser, about the fall semester.  The meeting goes on for quite a long time. Tobi and I wait and wait for them at the Family Mart; after a while, we give up waiting, leave, and end up having dinner at Curry Naan.  While waiting at the Family Mart, we wonder about this very strange poster on the Family Mart window.

strange sign at the Family Mart

One of my favorite snacks in Japan is onigiri; the snack is made from white rice formed into triangular or cylindrical shapes and often wrapped in nori (seaweed). My favorite onigiri are filled with salted salmon, shrimp or tuna with mayonnaise. Because of onigiri’s popularity in Japan, most convenience stores stock their onigiri with various fillings and flavors.  This is a picture of one of my favorites, shrimp with mayonnaise.

one of my favorite snacks – shrimp with mayonnaise

Friday, July 21:  On my last Friday when walking to the university, I finally stop to take a photo of these colorful houses I have passed every day. I’ve been thinking about doing this all semester, and I finally get around to it on my next to the last day of teaching.  I love the laundry hanging outside.

colorful houses I pass everyday on my way to work

Today, my “I” class wants to start taking pictures, even though it’s not even our last day.  In case you don’t remember, my “I” class is my most rambunctious and difficult to control class, the one that gives me too many challenges to count. Taken individually, they are each great, but as a group, they are out of control.

 

While Graham, Tobi and I are having lunch out at the picnic table, my two students Emiko and Rena, from my “I” class, stop by to join us and take some pictures.  These two girls were Graham’s students last year and mine this year.

 

Monday, July 24: Today is our last day of classes!  I am so excited that I never again have to walk 30 minutes to the university on steamy days, only to arrive at work to find there is little to no air-conditioning.  My classroom is always an oven upon my arrival. We have been told throughout the semester that the university must save money on energy costs since the tsunami and earthquake of 2011, which damaged the Fukushima Daiichi plant and caused a nuclear emergency. Thus, our office is always warm, and the university doesn’t turn on the air-conditioning in the classrooms until class begins.   We’re told they’re supposed to turn it on automatically at the minute class starts, and turn it off the minute class ends. However, they never do, and I always have to ask one of my students to call using the classroom phone.

For some reason the students find it really funny that I’m always hot and want the air conditioning on.  That despite them coming in dripping in sweat, fanning themselves frantically, and complaining about the heat.  As the person at the other end of the line is Japanese, I always ask my students to call.  However, we are told in one of our staff meetings that the administrative people have complained about students calling.  They say students call asking for the air-conditioning to be turned on, and then call again to ask for it to be turned off, all within the same classroom and period.  So, our program coordinator tells us we must call ourselves.  She tells us to say, “Air con mo skoshi suyoi shitte onagaishimus.” The problem with this is that the person on the other end starts rattling off some long sentences in Japanese, and I never know what they’re saying.  So I end up putting my students on the phone after all.  What a ridiculous rule!

Below are 6 of the 8 boys from Class “I” with me, pretending to make the ridiculous air-con call!

I class boys and me calling about the air conditioning

I gave each class a choice as to what we would do on our last day of class. My “I” class chose to play games and to bring their own snacks.  We played several rounds of crazy Pictionary, where team members chose mismatched slips of paper, such as “alligator — does jumping jacks.”  It’s fun, but after a while the students just want to take pictures, which they do.

 

My H class is always super organized and responsible, and they show their personality in our end-of-semester party.  They bring in a large pizza order, collect money, set up a group of tables and organize the chairs around it.  They are totally in charge, and I don’t have to lift a finger.  We all eat, laugh, and talk while they play their favorite music.  It’s my last class of the day and we have a great time.

 

My G class is my quiet class, and they plan their day in the typical “quiet” fashion that reveals their group personality. They order several pizzas which they place at the front of the class.  They also bring the movie, Frozen, which they watch quietly for the entire 90 minute class.

G class

Tuesday, July 25: On Tuesday, we go into the office to clean up all of our stuff.  After cleanup, some of us have lunch together at Jonathan’s: Rob, Tobi, Joe and me.  The others have to attend a meeting about next fall semester, but we don’t have to go as we won’t be returning to AGU.

Wednesday, July 26: On Wednesday morning I take a walk in the rain with Graham in the forest at Aihara.  In the evening, I enjoy my last meal at Kiyariya — eggplant, beer and barracuda.

 

Thursday, July 27: Today, we have individual meetings with our Program Coordinator and Curriculum Advisor near Ueno in Tokyo.  Here, we discuss the grades of individual students.  After our separate meetings, Paul and I walk to the tapas bar, Vinul’s.  On our way, we pass through Ueno Park, where we admire the lotuses blooming at Shinobazu Pond.

lotus flowers at Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park

lotus flowers at Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park

lotus flowers at Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park

lotus flowers at Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park

lotus flowers at Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park

We get a table outside at Vinul’s and snack on tapas and drink wine. Since Graham’s meeting follows ours, he joins us later.  We enjoy our fabulous farewell dinner.  Sadly, I won’t see Paul again, but I’ll see Graham on Tuesday, when I give him my bicycle.

Graham and Paul at Vinul’s

Graham, me and Paul at Vinul’s

walking to the station after Vinul’s

Monday, July 31:  One thing I haven’t written about was an encounter I had on May 6, when I went to a Meetup at the Knight’s Club in Sagamihara.  It was run by a Californian who has an English school upstairs and a bar downstairs.  There I met a fantastic Japanese lady, Reiko, who speaks perfect English and who has traveled all over the world.  She immediately added me on Facebook and we started chatting with each other.  We even spent a day shopping together on a rainy Sunday in late June.

My colleague Tobi is a single guy and I thought he and Reiko might enjoy meeting each other.  After many failed attempts to introduce them to each other, I finally gave up and just gave each of them each other’s contact information.  They finally started chatting and then met for dinner.

Tonight, I meet them at Dai Trattoria, where we enjoy a fun evening eating pizza, drinking wine, laughing and chatting.  Sadly, though I have pictures, they won’t allow me to post them. 😦

Later, Reiko takes one of the pictures she took of me and dolls me up with a silly photo app.  These are the photos she sends me.

 

Tomorrow, August 1, I’ll have my apartment inspection, leave the apartment for good, and take my first Shinkansen to Hiroshima.  I’m going to miss so much about Japan, but not my tiny rabbit hut and not my job.

Here are a few observations about Japan:

  1.  Japan has the best public transportation system I’ve ever encountered.  The trains are always on time, to the minute, so much so that you can set your clock by them.  I love how, in Tokyo, white-gloved train conductors stand on the platform, pointing left and right to check that the platform is clear as the train pulls into the station.  After the doors to the train close, they do the same routine again, followed by blowing a whistle to signal to the person driving the train.  It’s amazing to watch.
  2.  As much as I like the trains, however, I hate the crowded trains and will do almost anything to avoid them.  For example, there’s a Rapid Express Odakyu train from Machida to Shinjuku, which makes only a few stops as it makes its way to the center of Tokyo.  That train is so crowded that people almost always have to stand.  I try to avoid that train as it makes me claustrophobic.  Sometimes I pay extra for the Romancecar, which travels the same route, has reserved seats and makes no stops.  Or, I take the Yokohama Line to Nagatsuta Station, where I take the Tokyu-Den-entoshi Line to Shibuya.  I almost always get a seat on this line.
  3.  I love how Japan is so clean everywhere.  Rarely does one see a piece of trash on the street.  Everything is neat and orderly.  However, the one thing that baffles me is why there are no trash cans anywhere!  If I get a snack when I’m out and about, there is no place to throw the wrapping.  Or if I get a plastic bottle of water, there is no place to toss the bottle when I’m finished.  I must schlep my trash around with me all day.  I’ve resorted to tossing my trash in the tiny trash cans in the ladies’ restrooms.  When I told my students about my frustrations regarding this, they told me that the Japanese government worries about bombs being left in trash cans.  Thus they don’t put trash cans anywhere.  I don’t know if this is true, or if the government just doesn’t want to pay people to empty trash cans.  It’s very frustrating.
  4.  The bathrooms in Japan are fantastic.  Even public bathrooms are generally clean and well-maintained.  Rarely have I come to a dirty toilet or one without full rolls of toilet paper.  Many toilets are of the electronic variety — bidet toilets, commonly called washlets — in many places.  These offer warmed seats, as well as deodorizing and bidet washings.  Sometimes when you sit on a toilet, a sound system plays bird songs and flowing stream sounds, as if you’re out in nature.  Besides the cleanliness and fancy toilet gadgetry, the toilets are ubiquitous.  At every metro station, both inside and outside the gate, is a public toilet.  Also, 7-11s or Family Marts are on many street corners, where bathrooms are readily available for public use. Especially at tourist spots and temples, toilets are abundant.  Why is it that other countries, most notably the U.S.A., seem embarrassed to admit the need for human beings to use a toilet?? I know that on the Washington metro, there are no toilets inside or outside the gate of a station.  If a person has to go to the bathroom when riding the metro, he/she has to leave the station and find a Starbucks, a McDonald’s or some other kind of restaurant; since restaurants near the metro don’t want people using their toilets willy-nilly, they often require the patrons to buy something to get a code to open the bathroom door.  It’s utterly ridiculous not to openly recognize that human beings need to relieve themselves periodically!
  5.  I love how shopkeepers always greet people with a sing-song welcome and a bow.  The bowing continues in perpetuity, that is until the customer walks out the door of the shop.  It’s such respectful behavior toward one’s fellow human beings.  We certainly don’t have that level of kindness in the U.S. these days.
  6.  Here’s a sign I found on one of the trains in Japan: “Please move to the other side of the door immediately after alighting.”  I love it – “alighting.” 🙂
  7.  In every country where I’ve lived so far, it’s been a simple and straightforward thing to wire money home to my bank account in the U.S.A.  However, it’s quite an ordeal in Japan, at least at Japan Post, where I have my account.  They take forever to get the wire transfer set up, and then they tell you that they will need 6 or 7 days to complete the transfer.  This is unbelievable in a developed country like Japan.  I never had any problem transferring money in Oman or China (not considered developed countries), or even in Korea; in all of these countries the money was in my account within hours after I sent it.  I thought Japan Post was possibly exaggerating the time to protect themselves, but in fact, the process did take seven days!
  8.  I don’t like the workaholic nature of Japanese society.  Most people seem to commute long hours and work long hours, with little complaint.  I found my students don’t envision this life for themselves. I hated the expectations placed on us as teachers.  That’s why I was determined to keep a work-life balance, never taking work home with me.  Most of my colleagues worked during week, plus took work home with them.  I simply refused to do it, and I still managed to get all my work done.
  9. Though I generally managed to eat healthy while in Japan, I found the array of available unhealthy snacks confounding, and tempting.  I developed some bad snacking habits, especially with ice cream or pudding.  My students often acted like our classroom was a cafeteria.  They’d bring snacks, Bento boxes, ramen noodles, anything a person could eat, into the classroom, and ravenously gobble down their food throughout the class session.  I’ve never seen anything like it!

It was a short but fantastic experience living in Japan. I hope someday to return as a tourist, as there is so much to see and do.  I’m sure I barely touched the country and the culture in my four-month stay.  In addition to simply traveling around, I hope one day to do the 88-temple walk in Shikoku. 🙂

 

nikkō tamozawa imperial villa memorial park   10 comments

Sunday, July 30:  I am so tired and soggy from the rain in Nikkō that I’m tempted to forgo any more sights and simply return home.  However, I see on my map it’s not much of a detour to see the Nikkō Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park, built in 1899 as a retreat for Emperor Taisho (Prince Yoshihito at the time).  It was also used by three emperors and three princes until 1947.

According to Japan-guide.com: Tamozawa Imperial Villa was built in Nikkō from parts of a residence that originally stood in Tokyo.  At a sprawling 4,500 square meters, the building has 106 rooms. The Villa harmonizes architecture from three eras: Edo (1603-1868), Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926).

hydrangea on the grounds of Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Before being moved to Nikkō, the building was originally the Tokyo residence of a branch of the Tokugawa family and was later temporarily used as the Imperial Palace.  In Nikkō, it was enlarged into a summer residence and retreat for the Imperial Family, but it suffered neglect after World War II.

The Imperial Family is a long line of emperors who ruled Japan, with limited or symbolic authority, for some 1500 years.  It is commonly accepted that they have all descended from the same family. The imperial crest is a 16-petaled chrysanthemum flower (Japan-guide.com: Emperor).

entrance to Tamozawa Imperial Villa

The villa was opened to the public in 2000, after extensive renovation works.

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa is one of the largest remaining wooden buildings in Japan. The interior of the villa is an odd mix of Japanese and Western styles. Many floors are carpeted, and elaborate chandeliers hang from the ceilings. Yet the villa’s Japanese elements, such as sliding paper doors, painted screens, and tatami flooring are prominent as well, according to Japan-guide.com: Tamozawa Imperial Villa.

gardens on the interior

terrace

Although still impressive in size and grandeur, Tamozawa Imperial Villa currently occupies only one-third of its original area. It now functions as a museum and memorial park.

I love the painted screens that show romantic images of Japanese nature, nobility and landscape.  The painted paper sliding and cedar board doors of the Villa were transferred from the Edo-naka-yashiki residence of the Kishu Tokugawa family. At the villa, two pairs of decorated sliding doors were installed in the stair rooms on the northern side of the study area and 9 pairs of cedar board door paintings were placed on the first and second floors.  These wall paintings were works by the personal painters of the Kishu Tokugawa, as well as many other masters.  The subjects of the paintings vary widely.

painted screen

detail of painted screen

painted screen

The manicured Japanese style garden surrounding the villa is all green in late July, but its maple trees boast autumn colors in late October and early November.

garden at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gnarled tree at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

garden at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

garden at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

view of the garden from inside Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

grounds at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

By 11:15, after exploring the nooks and crannies of Tamozawa Imperial Villa, I make my way back to the Turtle Inn to pick up my bags; I left them there to hold for me after I checked out this morning.

walkway back to the Turtle Inn

little bud

Goodbye Turtle Inn

I say goodbye to the Turtle Inn and its turtle army and I’m on my way back home by 11:30.  It’s a long haul to get back to Fuchinobe, and I admit I get a little lost in Tokyo on my way home.  But I make it safely and finish packing up my two large suitcases to have them picked up tomorrow to store in the airport for a week, until August 7.  I have to get my apartment thoroughly cleaned for the inspection on Tuesday, hand my bicycle over to Graham, and then I’ll be on my way to Hiroshima.

Total steps today: 12,418 (5.26 miles).

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