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-   -   Travelgirl's Trip of a Lifetime (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/travelgirls-trip-of-a-lifetime-623665/)

HappyCheesehead Jun 27th, 2006 05:57 PM

and mine would also say...can't remember names - I meant to say Travelgirl, LOL!

LoveItaly Jun 27th, 2006 06:12 PM

travelgirl, I have said from time to time that trip reports here on Fodor's are often so much better than articles in travel magazines. Your ongoing trip report certainly falls in that catagory.

But no napkin on my lap..oh my..that might be a problem, lol.

I like everyone else is so enjoying mentally travelling with you and your family, thank you for your generosity in taking the time to post while on your trip.

LCBoniti Jun 27th, 2006 08:17 PM

Hey, HappyCheesehead - are you really in Wisc. or just wishing you were? I'm from Appleton but living in SoCal now. Hoping to go back for a visit this fall for the first time in almost 40 years.

Sorry to hijack the thread - just curious! (And just a temporary hijack as I am loving this trip report too much to sidetrack for long!)

Linda

kswl Jun 28th, 2006 04:03 AM

Enjoying your report so much, travelgirl2! Your children are very lucky!

When we were in Japan last year, we were repeatedly told what side of trains to get on in order to catch sight of Fuji-san. The mountain is undeniably lovely, but the awe with which it is regarded is what interests me about it. The Japanese have an almost mystical reverence for nature which shows in every aspect of their culture. That is a good thing for US kids to be exposed to, IMO. Our son came back from that trip with a much better understanding of the Kyoto Treaty from contact with Japanese.

LindyE Jun 28th, 2006 08:06 AM

Wow! What a great report. We are enjoying every word. Thanks for sharing!

HappyCheesehead Jun 28th, 2006 08:48 AM

Hiya LCBoniti:

Yeppers - I live here in Wisconsin. I was born and raised in Wausau, and my hubby and I laugh that we "did time" in Illinois before he was transferred back to WI for his job. We live just outside of Madison now, in Sun Prairie. My DH spends lots of time in Appleton.

You've only been gone 40 years?? Hmmmm... when you come back I wonder if you will think WI has changed, LOL!

travelgirl2 Jun 29th, 2006 01:58 AM

Day 8 Ė Day Trip to Hiroshima

We wake to a rainy, gloomy day. In checking the weather, we learn that the forecast is for rain for the next several days. So far, it has rained just about every day of our trip. The temperature is comfortable, around 75-80 or so, but it is wet and humid.

We get money at the post office. I am glad to have found out from Fodorís posters that this is the best place to get money in Japan. The ATM is easy to use, with instructions in English.

We catch the train at 11:30 am for the approx. 2 hour ride to Hiroshima. It is very convenient today to be staying in the train station. The round trip fare to Hiroshima for the 4 of us is about 77000 yen. This is about $650. Public transportation in Japan is easy and efficient, but it isnít cheap. We briefly discuss whether we should spend the money for a day trip. Luckily, we decide to go ahead and purchase the tickets. Once on the train, it is nice to be traveling without any luggage, unlike our previous trip from Tokyo.

When we arrive at Hiroshima, we look for the streetcar stop. A man sees us looking at a map and comes over to us. He motions for us to follow him and leads us out of the station and points the way to the streetcar stop. We are appreciative, because we would never have found the stop without some help. At the streetcar office, we ask for a map in English. This helps us to figure out which car to take. You pay 150 yen at the end of the ride, dropping it in the box as you exit. The conductor motions to us to show him our change before dropping it in. He approves and we drop the coins. Each stop is numbered on the map and also on a sign at each stop, so it is easy to know when to get off.

Our first stop is the atomic dome. It is the twisted remains of a building, showing the damage done by the first atomic bomb. It is an iconic image. The people of Hiroshima debated whether to leave it or knock it down, as it served as a painful reminder to many people. They eventually decided that it would remain as a symbol so that no one would forget what happened. Hiroshima became dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons. This park is called the Peace Park.

We wander slowly through the outdoor park. There are several statues. There is a childrenís statue, with thousands of folded paper cranes enclosed in glass cases. There is an eternal flame. It is very quiet and a great place for contemplation. And there is so much to contemplate here.

We reach a museum building which is dedicated to the victims, the survivors and their stories. At the end, there are individual kiosks at which to sit and read through stories from various survivors. All 4 of us sit here for about an hour, just reading and reading. It is very moving. Many of the stories are from people who were children or teenagers at the time and tell of where they were, what they saw, how they searched for their missing family members, how they were injured, how they experienced the complete chaos in the aftermath of the bombing, how they survived afterward without their families, etc.

We proceed to the main museum building. The audio tour is very good here. We follow along and read the signs as well. This museum tells the entire story, from the Japanese perspective, of the atomic bombís development, the choice of Hiroshima by the US military, the history of Hiroshima, the effect on the people of Hiroshima of the bomb, the aftereffects of radiation, the peopleís attempts to promote peace, etc. There are some gruesome pictures of people with radiation burns and some sobering exhibits with peopleís charred personal belongings.

The presentation is mostly balanced, at least more than I expected. There is a reference to the mistaken policies of Japanís government at the time. I wonder about the objectivity and accuracy of a reference to the US needing to use the bomb in order to justify the expense of the Manhattan Project to the public.

I feel a little odd here. It is so ironic to be visiting a city which our country bombed, in a museum dedicated to the events. The Japanese people for the most part either smile at us or ignore us, but I still feel a little unsettled. I feel that a few people are staring at us as if to ask why we are here. There are many Americans here today. It is important for our children to be here, to see and feel the effects of war on real people. We spend 4 hours touring the gardens and museums and I am glad for the experience.

Afterwards, we walk down a shopping street. For block after block, the entire street is covered, making it seem like a huge mall. It is loud and bright and bustling. None of us are shoppers really. At a shop selling all sorts of luggage, backpacks, etc., we buy a very nice canvas bag large enough to hold our foldup umbrellas and a guidebook. We stop and have okonomiyaki, a Hiroshima specialty which is compared to pizza. It is basically two flat crepes, cooked with an egg and stuffed with fillings. We have cabbage, noodles and bacon. Everyone likes theirs, but I donít care for it at all. But the restaurant is welcoming and it is fun watching the cooks at the counter. And the sake is good.

DS1 has a pedometer which his friend gave it to him as a going-away present. It shows that we have walked 10 miles today.

We drag ourselves back to the train station and unsuccessfully try to exchange our tickets for an earlier train. There is a great shop at the Hiroshima train station, called Jupiter, which sells all sorts of imported foods. We buy a Snickers bar and some Lindt chocolates. Pepperidge Farm milanos and Walkerís shortbread cookies. Then, we catch the 9:05 pm train and get back to our hotel at 11:00 pm. Itís been a long and emotionally draining day.

travelgirl2 Jun 29th, 2006 02:14 AM

Hello, Wisconsin-ites, past present and future, and all others:

OK, OK. My calligraphy also said I was kind. (I think maybe that is what they say when they would really like to laugh at your work and say you are just a sloppy, hopeless mess.)

But DH really is kind. And, I'm not just saying that because DMIL (dear mother-in-law) and DFIL (dear father-in-law) are reading along... Hi DMIL and DFIL.

I'd like to say hi to DM (dear mother). Now, she is reading along too.

We will be meeting everyone in Italy later this summer, so you will hear more about everyone then, if you are still following along. We're just one big happy family :)

marina_v Jun 29th, 2006 03:21 AM

I'm making a trip too with two friends but in Spain, in Valencia, it's a very beautiful city where you can find a lot of activities to do! try it if you can!

marina_v Jun 29th, 2006 03:21 AM

www.valenciaestademoda.com

janisj Jun 29th, 2006 05:31 AM

marina_v: You just register and post to several threads unrelated to Spain in any way - simply to advertise your tacky website.

Advertising isn't allowed on here . . . . .

travelgirls2: Loving this. You started in Europe and are going to end up in Europe again. But w/ so much of this being in Asia - are you also posting to the Asia board? It would really by of interest over there too . . . . .

travelgirl2 Jun 29th, 2006 06:32 AM

Thanks janisj. Yes, I posted a notice over on the Asia board letting them know this would be on the Europe board.

dorkforcemom Jun 29th, 2006 06:54 AM

Fascinating, entertaining trip report - I'm in awe of the planning you must have undertaken. I have trouble planning a trip from point A to point B and back!

Meredith Jun 29th, 2006 07:43 AM

Hi, Travelgirl2,

I haven't had a chance to actually read your report yet, but after briefly skimming over it, I know I want to absorb every single word. So, I am bookmarking this for later...

Happy and safe travels!

Meredith

MissZiegfeld Jun 29th, 2006 07:58 AM

bookmarking,i want to read this!

nevermind Jun 29th, 2006 08:25 AM

Travelgirl, keep the reports coming!! What an adventure you are on!!!

LCBoniti Jun 29th, 2006 08:55 AM

Travelgirl -

What a fantastic, fascinating report about Hiroshima! That must have been incredibly moving and a priceless experience for your children.

I'm amazed that the public transportation as you describe it is so easy! Coordinating numbers . . . so much easier than looking out the window for "Pisa Centrale" or whatever!

Thanks again and I'm looking forward to "meeting" the rest of your family as your travels continue.

Best regards,
Linda

SeaUrchin Jun 29th, 2006 09:09 AM

Yes, stil enjoying the report very much. I keep checking for a new installment. What a wonderful trip for a wonderful family!! More please!

LowCountryIslander Jun 29th, 2006 10:19 AM

Loving this trip report! You are providing your sons with an amazing experience!

Can't wait for the next installment...it will keep me going until my one month "romp" through Central Europe in September!

tower Jun 29th, 2006 03:18 PM

travgirl.....the piece on Hiroshima triggered a long ago memory for me...as I wrote before, I was a 17-year old enlistee and ended up in Japan for two years (1946-48). En route from Tokyo to Kyushu, there were two hundred young kids on board the army-run train (very few railroad routes had been rebuilt by that time) and we stopped in Hiroshima, about a mile from Ground Zero...the city was still "hot" so we were not allowed to leave the platform to go into the "hot" area...but just imagine this...200 young recruits, first glimpse of Hiroshima (only 8 months after the bomb fell)...standing on the platform, looking at the sight of a ttoally destroyed city..not a word, not a whisper...for about ten minutes! Then a sergeant yelled.."get your a---es on board!" Still no words came forth. The most dramatic scene one could imagine at this place and time!

Stu T.(p.S. Truman's decision to drop the bombs over Hiroshma and Nagasaki..right or wrong, probably saved more than a million lives (US and Japanese)...including mine.)

travelgirl2 Jun 29th, 2006 05:24 PM

Stu T. - You've brought me to tears. Picturing all those young kids, just a few years older than my own children, makes my heart break. Thank you for your service to our country. - Travelgirl2

gomiki Jun 29th, 2006 06:03 PM

travgirl, I love following your report. What an amazing adventure for you and your family.

And Stu T...thank you for your post. It adds so much to the picture. And I thank you for your service.

LCBoniti Jun 30th, 2006 07:05 AM

Thank you, Stu T - That's all I can say.
Linda

GirlTravel Jun 30th, 2006 07:13 AM

TravGirl2-I've been to Japan many times, love it-but Hiroshima only once-spent 1 night and then, couldn't wait to get out of there-the vibe there is so-well, unsettling, is I guess one way to describe it, I'm not sure I'd even recommend it as a destination to travelers to Japan, but Americans, in particular, feel they need to make a pilgrimage there.

tower Jun 30th, 2006 09:47 AM

For all the kind words above, thank you. But let's get back to this great Trip Report...TravGirl...keep it humming and coming!
Stu T.

hawaiiantraveler Jun 30th, 2006 10:15 AM

travelgirl2

Enjoying your report. We stayed at the Kyoto Granvia in March. So many options(eating, transportation) are available from that hotels location. Glad you chose it. Loved it and all of Kyoto! Looking forward to your next post

Aloha!

jm0754 Jun 30th, 2006 10:46 AM

Bookmarking

jspowell Jun 30th, 2006 05:40 PM

I can't wait for the nest installment....!!!

massagediva Jun 30th, 2006 07:40 PM

I'm planning to go to Japan in '07,so I'm soaking up all of the great information.
You're giving your children(and yourself) a real treasure in this trip.
How old are your DS's?

girlonthego Jun 30th, 2006 07:53 PM

Great report!! I am finding your trip so far so interesting. You are really getting something so much more than most. The cooking lesson sounded so neat. My girls are close to your kids ages (12 and 13) so I can relate. It is a really great age to travel with them. I am envious!! Keep telling your story!!

massagediva Jun 30th, 2006 07:59 PM

Oh,I see.Your sons are 11 and 13. Lucky kids!

SandyBrit Jul 1st, 2006 04:14 PM

travelgirl2 - I am still with you and so enjoying your wonderful and informative report.

I am also in awe of the planning it must have taken to pull this off.

You shared how expensive the fruit was that you purchased. Is this true of most food and drink items? How much for a bottle of water?

Sandy

Meredith Jul 1st, 2006 07:14 PM

Wow, what a great trip report!!

Travelgirl, where are you? I want to hear more!

StLSusan Jul 1st, 2006 08:19 PM

How exciting to travel along this way!
Kudos for you finding time to do this but how memorable the journal will be to all for the rest of your lives!
Nothing like your initial impressions...fun for all of us too!
Also I am SO impressed with how well this is organized...
Now next.....?

redhead119 Jul 1st, 2006 11:03 PM

Hi travelgirl2,

We just returned from a 2-week vacation to Japan last Monday. (6/26) We also had our kids DS 11, and DD 9, as well as grandma who grew up in Tokyo. Looks like we were in Tokyo at the same time as you.
Anyhow, we also went to Kyoto, stayed two nights. My daughter discovered a couple of toilets there and in Tokyo that not only have the phony flushing sound button, but also one that plays music! She's never spent so much time taking care of business. My husband was also so impressed with the potties, that he now wants to import three of these for our home...Also, in search of napkins at restaurants, I found them at the end of the table in a cup. I went a meal or two with only the "wet nap", and was relieved to find napkins in front of me.
Had to laugh about the taxis. Until I read your post, I didn't realize the doors closed on their own. It took two days for me to realize they opened on their own...I bet the drivers will try to avoid gaijin for awhile...sorry all!

We too went to Hiroshima, but stayed two nights. We were there just before you, from 6/18 to 6/20. We spent the whole afternoon at the Peace Park, and were as moved as you. It was so sad, but also important to see what really happened that day. I learned so little about it when I was in school. My husband's aunt who has lived in Japan all her life, came along with us to Kyoto and Hiroshima, for her first time. She simply wept when she watched the videos of the survivors, now older people, talking about their experiences that day. I couldn't understand a word they were saying, but my husband and I were teary eyed anyway, just watching her reaction. All of us, including our kids, read the accounts of the survivors in the Memorial Museum, and looked up my husband's family name in the archives. After 1 1/2 hours, we were asked to leave, as they had closed. My 9 and 11 year old, were moved and fascinated by the whole experience that afternoon. I'm so glad they were able to see it.

While at the Children's Memorial,I picked up forms and tags for their schools, so if their teachers are interested, they can send in folded cranes representing their schools and community.
You must be in China by now. Looking forward to more of your adventure....

travelgirl2 Jul 2nd, 2006 08:23 AM

Day 9 Ė Kyoto Ė Walking Tour

Oooh - musical toilets. I wish I'd seen those. Yes, Hiroshima is quite an experience, isn't it?

Regarding prices: I mentioned the cost of the perfect fruit, which was about $22, because it was such an anomaly. While in Japan, I think you can spend very little or quite a lot on meals. Our simpler meals usually cost around $25 for the 4 of us (pastry/yogurt/sandwich breakfast with juice and coffee at the French bakery, soba lunch). Our larger or fancier meals are usually around $45-60. We donít visit anywhere very upscale for meals while in Japan. We often have our biggest meal at lunchtime, which is much more economical. I canít remember the price of a water bottle exactly, but I think it was maybe $1.50 or so?? I found the conversion a little difficult in Japan. I just divided the price by 100 and figured it would be a little less than that.

------------------------------------

This morning, we relaxed in the hotel lobby with a continental breakfast consisting of a soy yogurt drink, pastry and tea. This really is a beautiful hotel, with lovely views over the modernistic train station. The service is impeccable. Everyone is very polite and accommodating. There is no problem with any request we make.

At 10:00 am, we go outside to meet up with Johnnie Hillwalker (also known as Hajime Hirooka). He leads a walking tour of Kyoto. I heard about him on Fodorís and we also picked up a brochure at WAK Japan. The tour is 5+ hours long and costs 2000 yen for the adults, 1000 yen for DS1 (13 years old) and is free for DS2 (11 years old).

I highly recommend this tour. It is given Mon, Wed and Fri, March through November. No reservation is required. The website is: http://web.kyoto-inet.or.jp/people/h-s-love/

Johnny takes us to the Higashi-Honganji Temple, a large Buddhist center. We sit on tatami mats while he tells us about Buddhism. As we leave, a group of people dressed in black enter for a funeral. We move on to the Sho-Seien Garden, where he tells us a bit of history. We see a couple of Shinto shrines along the way and learn about the Shinto religion. We pass a Geisha area, and actually see a Geisha.

We also stop and look into several peoplesí home workshops: prayer beads, tatami mats, pottery, etc. We make a stop at a fan shop and see the workers in the back room painstakingly assembling the fans. Some people on the tour purchase fans, but there is absolutely no pressure to buy. Along the way, we have a brief stop at a teahouse for tea and a pastry. We taste a piece of vegetarian inari sushi (itís good). I am very surprised when DS2 has a second piece of inari sushi. We do not stop for lunch. The tour ends at 3:30 pm. Amazingly, all 30 or so people continue for the entire tour Ė no one drops out.

The tour is very enjoyable. We all think Johnnie is cute. He has picked places to speak to us where he is easily visible and easily heard, even with 30 people along. The walking pace is slow and there are often places to sit and rest at the various stops. He has an engaging and humorous way of telling stories.

He tells us that the Buddha to which the Japanese people pray is the one who will take the dead to paradise. Therefore, Buddhism in Japan is focused on death. Shinto-ism is the religion for the living. That is why many Japanese are both Buddhist and Shinto.

He explains that many of the large religious places that tourists visit are maintained by the Japanese government for tourism. No people actually belong to the large tourist sites. The places he is taking us are actively supported by the people who belong to that religion. He takes us to his Shinto shrine. We also go to a cemetery, which is very interesting, but full of mosquitoes. DS2 and I get at least a dozen bites on the ankles.

The handicraft stops were interesting. People were very diligently working on very precise crafts, often while sitting on the floor all day. Johnnie said that most of the young people do not want to continue this lifestyle and are moving away from Kyoto.

Johnnie gave us a detailed map, so we could continue the walk, going into what he said were even more interesting areas of Kyoto. After the tour, we stopped at Azalea for a very late lunch. The setting was okay, but the food was disappointing. DS1 amuses us, though, when he requests the traditional Japanese lunch, while the rest of us order meat or pasta or Thai curry. After lunch, DH decides to continue the walk, using Johnnieís map. The rest of us take a taxi back to the hotel where we read, work on our Fodorís postings, etc. In total, we still managed to walk another 10 miles today.

kmkrnn Jul 2nd, 2006 01:38 PM

I am really enjoying the on going travellog. What a great variety of oppotunities you are giving the boys. I am making sure Bob reads this to spur him on to Japan for our next trip maybe.. thanks for a great report

paula1470 Jul 2nd, 2006 01:40 PM

travelgirl-I am loving your reports. What an amazing opportunity for your family especially your 2 sons. I am impressed with how great your boys travel and adjust.

I haven't been on the European forum for awhile mostly US but I have book marked this and look forward to your next installment.

Ibaketoo Jul 2nd, 2006 05:37 PM

What a wonderful travel diary!!! May I ask if you are dragging around a laptop the whole time?

ShaeC Jul 2nd, 2006 07:03 PM

marking so I can keep following! excellent


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