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A hungry mouse's (very sweaty) adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun

A hungry mouse's (very sweaty) adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun

Jul 30th, 2017, 06:16 AM
  #41  
 
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Yes, I visited Korakuen last fall. It was more open and less manicured than most Japanese gardens. I enjoyed it, but I remember kja saying she was disappointed.

Haven't been to Hiroshima (I went to Nagasaki instead) so can't comment on sightseeing there.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 30th, 2017, 10:00 PM
  #42  
 
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Loving the report, still, MarvelousMouse, it's such a joy following along with you.

I agree on the castles, for me the exterior and grounds are the main draw. My favourite was Hikone castle, not least because we saw it in peak bloom sakura season!
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Jul 30th, 2017, 10:54 PM
  #43  
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Small note about kurashiki- mt tape (famous washi tape company) started in this region. If you're a scrapbooker, that's reason enough to add Kurashiki- it had at least two excellent washi tape stores.
Also, the cuore both restocked the towels each day and changed my sheets on the last night when they noticed I had bled on them. That's above and beyond service for a hostel!

Miyajima and Hiroshima

Originally I had planned to visit Hiroshima on the Memorial Day with a day trip to Myajima. After Kyoto, I rethought that. I can do crowds or heat but the combination of the two leads to a very cranky mouse. I was also genuinely interested in the Peace Park and It's one of those places that crowds would impact your experience.

So, I nabbed a one night stay at Myajima's Hotel Sakuraya and then went to Hiroshima the next morning. This is sufficient time for Myajima and the Peace Park, but I'd want 2-3 days if you have other interests. Or even if you want to see everything on Myajima. It's beautiful and a wonderful place to stop overnight, but I was hot. So I walked around the town area and saw the shrine and that was about it. I'm really glad I stayed overnight; I got some spectacular evening photos of the Gate.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out oysters are the regional dish of choice, so I tried them in various ways and also ate some dango for dinner. A deer attempted to share my mojito, but I had to disappoint him. I'd already finished drinking it.


Sakuraya is a nice basic family hotel that is very close to the ferry dock. My room was a traditional Japanese room; it was 5500 yen which I thought was a great deal. Admittedly, a/c is all I really care about, but my room was a nice change and it came equipped with a small table and fridge. I had my own toilet but to shower, I had to go to the shared bath in the basement. The bath itself is only accessible in the evening but they let you in to shower in the morning. No one was down there, but be aware (should you stay) that it is a public bath set up, not private stalls. There is an elevator but stairs to actually get into the hotel.

I don't think I mentioned it, but if you stay in hostels like me, you don't need to avoid traditional Japanese rooms. I actually think the tatami mats and futon make the room feel larger, and besides, nearly every bunk bed I've had on this trip has not had a real mattress. It's been a fairly thin pad usually, so the comfort of a futon and a bunk bed are about the same.

The next day, I took transit to Hiroshima station and stored my luggage there so I could visit the Peace Park. There is a boat that goes from Miyajima to the Peace Park but I didn't take it. It's a small sightseeing boat and would have been a pain with luggage. Actually, if I went back to Myajima, I would just use luggage forwarding and take an overnight bag to the island. Anyway, the boat is also much more expensive and I don't think it's faster than the ferry and trains.

I didn't have much time at the Peace Park, but that turned out fine. I only saw the A-Dome from a distance, because I wanted to be sure that I could have time for the memorials and museum. But it's not a large area, and really, unless you pause to reflect, it's easy to cover in a couple of hours.

I'm really glad I made time to go. I went mostly to see the children's memorial, which was very moving, but I also found the rest equally engrossing. The museums is small but powerful. You walk into the first room and it's a panoramic photograph of the city prior to the bombing. Everyday life in Hiroshima. Then you walk through an archway with the date of the bombing and it's a panaoramic photograph of the area- after the bombing. Devastation, distruption, rubble and death. The images do the talking. There's a central topographic overlay display that simulates the city through the bombing. I watched that three times. You wouldn't think a simple animation could be so powerful, but it has almost a physical impact on the viewer.

The bomb fell in early August of 45. By January '46, 140, 000 people had died and many more would in the decades to come, including the child that started the crane tradition. The memorial mound outside is a memorial for the 70,000 men, women, and children whose bodies were never identified, never taken home by their families. Just imagine that. Family is an extremely powerful force in Japanese society, but in any society, just imagine never knowing for sure what happened to 70,000 individuals. As I was going through this museum, 9/11 was at the forefront of my mind. Americans were so terrified and angry after that. I can't even comprehend what the post war years must have been like in Hiroshima. They had to both rebuild and become their own advocates. Today, victims of the A-bomb have access to a hospital and other services. But that was a long time in coming and they had to fight every step of the way.

I don't know, as a historian, if there was necessarily a good alternative to bombing Japan. The war was costly all around, and the Japanese government certainly shared part of the responsibility for what transpired. But the museum does an excellent job of telling the story of the people- the ordinary blameless folks whose lives were extinguished and/or permanently disrupted by the bomb. Because we tend to focus on the dead, we can sometimes miss the cost of surviving. And I tend to think that must have been much worse. The second part of the museum is dedicated to peace and the eventual (hopefully) disappearance of nuclear weapons. Hiroshima has rebuilt itself as a city of peace, and its message is both powerful and moving. I feel the same way about this as I do about the holocaust museum in DC. It may be a difficult place to take children but it should be a required school trip. Definitely go- I'm so glad I did!
marvelousmouse is offline  
Jul 31st, 2017, 01:02 AM
  #44  
 
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While I don't doubt Hiroshima would be a moving place to visit in person, I am moved by your vivid description of it - great job with your words. Miyajima sounds like a nice place to linger, perhaps in cooler weather.
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Jul 31st, 2017, 01:46 AM
  #45  
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Ah, thanks

"A nice place to linger in cooler weather" has been my feeling about nearly every place on this trip lol. And when it's more pleasant, the mosquitoes are particularly ravenous. But I am enjoying all the summer special treats at least!
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Jul 31st, 2017, 04:06 AM
  #46  
 
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Thanks for your evocative report on Hiroshima. I tend to agree with you - better to go out in a flash than linger in agony. I am conflicted about the decision to drop the bomb. I see the pressing need to demonstrate the futility of further conflict to the Japanese, but did they have to drop it on a big city? I see much less justification for Nagasaki, which is one reason I went there instead. I hadn't realized, but it was not even the intended target.
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Jul 31st, 2017, 04:34 AM
  #47  
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I feel conflicted too. I see no justification at all to have dropped the second one. I would be interested to see Nagasaki after this to compare the two places.

But the big city aspect- you know, I think it's difficult to understand the sheer magnitude of the decision they made without visiting Japan. And I'm even more conflicted than ever after having seen Hiroshima. Japan is about the size of California, right, but there really isn't much livable land at all. The cities are much larger than I expected, and a lot of Japanese culture that seems odd from a US perspective comes from the fact that they are living nearly on top of one another and have been doing so for centuries. I can believe the US didn't know the sheer level of destruction the bomb would cause- the Manhattan Project basically took 3 years and I think it was really premature to even try to bomb anywhere given the lack of knowledge of the A-Bombs effects. However- they darn well knew that they were going to kill an enormous number of civilians and that's what I have a problem with. It's a bit like living in the shadow of Rainier. It'll go off someday. The problem is not that it is likely to be a huge explosion- although we don't know- the problem is the density of population in its shadow. Any kind of eruption could be devastating. They deliberately dropped the A bomb in the dead center of a living city and that just...makes my stomach heave. In middle school text books (at least when I was in middle school) one of the justifications given was that Hiroshima played a part in military productions. I'm sure that's true. I'm sure nearly every Japanese city did. But that's not why it was bombed. They looked at the landscape and said ( basically) I bet the blast will travel even further and kill even more people than if we picked another city.

Added to that- and I don't want this to sidetrack the thread at all, it's just a thought- but one can't help but wonder how much race played a part in this. I can't see them dropping the A-bomb on Nuremberg or Paris or Rome. Yet they were willing to do so in Japan. Perhaps it was timing. But I think it had a lot more to do with the difference between how Americans viewed Western Europe and the Pacific front. (Possible that I'm reading too much into it, though. One of my interests in US history is Japanese American internment, and I don't know what's more horrific- that it happened at all or that I could see it happening again, except this time with Muslims. Aaaand I'm back to thinking that I should put the newspaper down and back away slowly for my own sanity...)
marvelousmouse is offline  
Jul 31st, 2017, 04:50 AM
  #48  
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And yes, they had a list of potential targets. Just by chance (and good weather) that those cities were bombed. And that's another reason I feel conflicted. I don't have a problem with strategic military strikes. That wasn't what this was. It was an attempt to do something devastating enough that the Japanese would be crushed. It was more psychological than anything else. Targeting munition favorites or shipyards, that I can understand. But not civilians. Not churches, hospitals, and schools.

In middle school, my history teacher showed us a fairly graphic movie about Hiroshima. It followed several individuals or families and how their liver were interwoven, before and after the bombing. The burned bodies is what stuck with me. There was a picture in the museum of a survivor whose kimono pattern had burnt into the skin. I just...can't imagine experiencing that. Horrific. She could not have been much older than me. Probably on her way to the grocer or temple.
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Jul 31st, 2017, 04:54 AM
  #49  
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How heavy does rain have to be to delay a train, out of curiousity? Because we're officially an hour late and stopped for the third time. I've ran out of reading material, caught up on social media, and very grateful I had large dinner and Starbucks at the train station...
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Jul 31st, 2017, 05:18 AM
  #50  
 
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That's surprising! Where are you headed?

". I can't see them dropping the A-bomb on Nuremberg or Paris or Rome"

Well, there was the fire bombing of Dresden, which also caused a lot of controversy, but I take your point.
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Jul 31st, 2017, 05:41 AM
  #51  
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Takayama. It would probably be more interesting if it was light out and there was actual rain to see. But I think we're following a storm or something.

Yeah, I know that Dresden was controversial and that there was a lot of damage in Europe. But not the radiation poisoning, which is kind of the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I don't know. I grew up so close to Hanford that the idea of nuclear contamination hits a little too close to home.
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Jul 31st, 2017, 07:42 PM
  #52  
 
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The second bomb was dropped because the Japanese refused to surrender. The Japanese were the aggressor during the war--they killed 2,500 people during the Pearl Harbor bombing alone, and the war went on for four years after that. Japan was an Axis power, and Emperor Hirohito aligned himself with Adolf Hitler.

I have been to both the Nagasaki and Hiroshima peace museums, and although the affects are tragic, it is difficult to look through the dilemma through modern pacifist eyes. I also visited the Kamikaze museum in Chiran, where there are videos showing the planes hitting a US warship. There are final letters on display written by the pilots to their parents. I saw a woman crying while she was reading the letters, but I thought to myself, "How about the victims?"

During the occupation of China during WWII, the Japanese soldiers raped innocent women. An excellent book on the subject is:

"Nanjing Requiem" by Ha Jin
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Jul 31st, 2017, 08:29 PM
  #53  
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I'm not at all disagreeing that the Japanese military and leadership were the aggressors and did some awful, awful things. But to me, there's a difference between hitting military installments (warships and Pearl Harbor) and bombing an urban area where innocent citizens live and work. There were less than 100 civilian casualties at Pearl. I'm not a pacifist- I'm from a military family, and I don't believe the US had any choice in going to war with Hitler and his allies. I just think the enemy doing terrible things does not justify the US doing terrible things.
marvelousmouse is offline  
Aug 1st, 2017, 03:31 AM
  #54  
 
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What mm said. WWII was a necessary war, unlike some others I could name.

However, I have also seen it written that there was a rush to drop the second bomb before a surrender because it was a different type of bomb and "they" wanted to know if it would work.

But we digress. Hope you are enjoying Takayama, mm!
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 1st, 2017, 06:43 AM
  #55  
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I am indeed! Lovely place and it's at least 10 degrees cooler! Unexpected bonus: fireworks tomorrow night
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Aug 4th, 2017, 12:53 AM
  #56  
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Takayama:

First, if you know you're going to pass through Nagoya Station at dinner time, there's no need to grab a bento for the train. Nagoya is a large, modern station, and there are several sitdown restaurants in the tower food court, including Din Tai Fung, which is where I hung out on my layover. Yum!

Second, if you go during the summer, I'd probably keep in mind that it is rarely a good idea to take the later train if you have a hotel without 24/7 reception. I've seen heavy rain warnings throughout this trip but this was the first time it actually affected me. My train stopped three times in the middle of nowhere, and we were more than two hours late into Takayama. Luckily, my hostel allowed late check in; I just had to send an email for the door code. And I had nothing planned anyway, so it was mostly just an case of too much forced immobility.

I stayed at K's Takayama, and it wasn't too far from the station. I can't speak for the dorms, again, but I was really impressed by this hostel. Will have to see if my third and final K's breaks the trend! The air conditioning and heat can only be adjusted through a fan- no temperature control in the room- but it was tolerable. They have bikes for rent for 150 yen an hour and I took full advantage of that.

Takayama is still not what I would consider a small town, but it's a rather sleepy, friendly place. There's water running all over the town, and the historic district is fun to meander through. I very much enjoyed it. Admittedly, though, a lot of my appreciation was due to the weather. It was warm but neither extremely hot nor humid. So I spent most of my time playing outdoors intead of at museums. In fact I just realized that I didn't get to the art nouveau museum, which was pretty much the reason I chose Takayama. Oh well. I definitely want to come back and spend more time in the Hida area anyway. It's beautiful. Very green and hilly and it doesn't take too long to get out among the houses and country gardens. I wish I had a few extra days (and the energy) to go see Shirakawago.

On my first day, I went to see the festival float exhibition hall. Before they built this, the floats were all scattered throughout the city in their own little barns. They put a lot of thought into the hall and it's well worth the money. One side of the hall is "street level" where you can look up at the floats, and one side of the hall has ramp that leads up to the opposite side, which gives you a birds eye view is the beautiful floats.

On my second day, I biked quite a bit, including up to Hida Folk Village. That was a mistake. It's up hill, on the edge of town, and I only had the will to drink two bottles of water and coast down the hill towards my hostel.

I went out to dinner at the One Pound Steak House. The region is known for Hida beef. Very good, and reasonable. It is neither fancy nor casual- just felt like a nice local's night out joint. If you go, though, buy bottle of wine- I ordered glass of the red and it's basically the equivalent of really cheap Italian table wine. (As I expected from the price, though.)

I went back to my hostel even though I had planned to go to the fireworks festival. I'm there lying on my bed, vegging, and then I tell myself: who are you kidding, mouse? You never pass up fireworks. So I went and caught the final half of the show, and if you're in the area, do go. It's on the river, and they really know how to do a fireworks show. Great local event. Like any local self respecting Japanese event, there were refreshment booths. I got these pancake ball things and a light up soda in a lightbulb shaped glass (totally should have passed on both, but I'm a sucker for novelty edibles).

Last day, I took the bus to Hida Folk Village which was much better than biking. Really fun interpretive museum. In the late 1950s, the sashuno-jingi or "miracle devices" arrived in Japan. As one might guess, that refers to the three most beloved appliances of the 20th century- TV, washing machine, fridge. In the span of two years, Japanese life was transformed. Many villagers abandoned their hometowns for the cities. Infrastructure changed the landscape and the tools- sleds disappeared as ordinary household items. Garments were made of thinner fabric, so they could be washed in the new machines. And finally, this is when the big hydro dams were built to feed the new machines; the dams drowned entire villages and this is how the Hida Folk village came to be. People felt that some historic buildings should be saved from the waters, so they moved some of the best examples of the area's architecture here as a way to preserve the old ways. I think this is both a great place to get an idea of Japan prior to WW2 as well as after WW2. It's a global story; history is very picturesque, but no one wants to do laundry the old fashioned way nor give up indoor electricity and plumbing.

It's more or less what I expected. Not a high tech outfit; most displays were probably revamped in the early 90s. But you can tell they've put a great deal of effort into it, and it's fairly meaty from a historian point of view. Many of the building are themed; they of course tell you about the building but it also houses specific aspects of the region's history. One building walks you through food and utensils. One building walks you through wedding traditions. Yet another through the textiles of the area and another houses the many types of sledges (sleds) used in the winter. I found it all very interesting, but I really enjoyed the textile exhibit, and the bits about how they dealt with snow and the cold. This is something I would visit first thing- it explains and gives you the words and context for the various remnants of the old ways you'll see in the area. Your children can also pay to play games or feed the carp and ducks. (All right, so I also did the last. Twice.) I did the whole thing in about two hours but I was there mostly for the history, and think if you've got curious kids, this is easily a 4-6 hour ordeal.

My specific area of interest is domestic object history, and I loved this museum for that. They had the irori (traditional hearth) of course, and also old wash houses, laundry devices, lumber tools, food preparation, etc.

Best thing I ate in Takayama: Hida beef nigiri, just look for the line in old town. So delicious.

I was sad to leave Takayama, but the train ride to Kanazawa was beautiful, and I definitely want to come back and explore the Hida in depth someday!
marvelousmouse is offline  
Aug 4th, 2017, 05:01 AM
  #57  
 
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Well,if you missed the AN museum and Shirakawa-go, clearly you have to go back, lol. Seriously, I understand the desire to enjoy some nicer weather.
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 4th, 2017, 06:35 AM
  #58  
 
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>>the train ride to Kanazawa was beautiful

via Toyama or Nagoya?
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Aug 4th, 2017, 07:46 AM
  #59  
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Toyama. Two local trains there, and then super express Toyama to Kanazawa. Nagoya did not come up as an option, I don't think.

And the weather just made it so hard to be inside!
marvelousmouse is offline  
Aug 4th, 2017, 09:40 AM
  #60  
 
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That change at Iotani was from JR Central to JR East. How would you compare the beauty of the two legs, the to Toyama leg vs from Toyama to Kanazawa?
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