So…yeah. This is a restaurant we walked past in Kumamoto. We would have gone in but were too terrified of what we might end up ordering. I mean, cabbages are disgusting.
After leaving Takayama, we took a couple of trains farther south to Hiroshima. It’s a very nice city, with wide streets and super easy to navigate. We arrived pretty late in the day, so we didn’t do much that evening. We found a terrible “Irish” pub, ordered some overpriced beers and then, not remotely justifiably drunk enough, went and did this:
The next day, we visited the Peace Memorial Museum, located right near the epicenter of where the atomic bomb was dropped. This is a model of what the surrounding area looked like before the bomb:
Going into the museum, I obviously knew on an intellectual level how obliterating the bomb was, but seeing photos and actual articles from victims gave me such a more visceral sense of the horror of it. This isn’t a bad thing; it really drives home the devastation of it all. When you look at victims’ nails and skin, or concrete steps with a man’s shadow burned into it from the thermal rays of the bomb, you can’t un-see those things or forget about them five minutes after leaving the museum.
The memorial park is a truly peaceful place. We wandered around the grounds for a little bit.
We took a short day trip to Miyajima, an island about an hour away (by tram, train, and ferry) from Hiroshima. It was a beautiful island, but OH MY GOD SO COLD. Like, well into the -15 range. So cold that my hands eventually curled up into little frozen claws. We wandered around, teeth chattering, and hung out with some of the adorable wild deer.
So cute and tame! We also took a ropeway (cable car) up to Mount Misen. The view from the top was amazing.
There was also a temple up there and Buddha statuettes everywhere.
After descending, we walked over to what Miyajima is most well-known for. Itsukushima Shrine is very famous in Japan, and the red torii (entrance) gate is an iconic Japanese symbol.
There have been shrines at this location since around the 12th century, though this one was built in the 16th century. We really wanted to be there when the tide was in, to see it “floating”, but it never came in far enough. As the sun started to set, snow started coming down really fast and we made a hasty retreat.
The next morning, we took a train ride to Kagoshima, only about an hour away. We only had one full day there, so didn’t do a lot of sightseeing, but we did take a ferry over to Sakurajima, an active volcano with a surprising number of people living around it.
The main reason for going over there was to visit a highly recommended onsen set on the side of the volcano. The onsen has a shrine within it, so for this reason, you are required to wear white robes in the water. Anyone who knows me well will recognize how much this pleased my nevernude sensibilities. This photo isn’t ours; we were too shy to bring a camera in. Hopefully I’m not violating some sort of sacred blogging ethical code by including it:
(from this website)
As you can see, it was the worst. On opposite day! I think I love that joke too much.
But seriously, watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean in a hot spring with steam rising off the top of the water ranks up there as one of the best experiences of my life. Especially because I didn’t have to be naked.
Kumamoto was up next, where we stayed in a hostel with this absolutely frightening fish:
Again, we had a pretty low-key stay here. The highlight was visiting Kumamoto Castle, which rests atop a hill overlooking the city.
There were a few different buildings here, all of which are reconstructions. Also, the cherry blossoms were slowly starting to emerge.
I so badly wish we were going to be here for the explosion of all the buds in a few weeks, but you can’t win them all. Or, as in the case of me with computers, you can never ever ever own a laptop and not spill some type of liquid on it, thereby causing it to break. That’s right, I broke my THIRD laptop in a row by spilling beer on it. I am such a dum-dum. Please cross your fingers that the Apple store in Kyoto will be able to do something.
Two quick stories demonstrating why Japanese people are the nicest:
1) On our second day in Hiroshima, Mark woke up with a super-irritated eye. He could barely see, so I went out in search of eyedrops. I ended up having to walk pretty far to find a drugstore, and when I went in and asked, the lady working there said she had them and went to find them for me. Unfortunately, she didn’t have them, but explained to me where I could get them (a few stores down). I thanked her and left the store; she then proceeded to walk me to the store I needed and made sure I had found them before leaving. How nice is that? What a lovely person.
2) In Kumamoto we went to the post office to mail some letters. I was taking some money out of the ATM while Mark went up to the counter to buy stamps. The following exchange occurred:
Mark: Konnichiwa! Can I buy some stamps to send this to Canada?
Post Office Lady: (Something in Japanese which Mark interprets to mean, “Do you speak Japanese?”)
Mark: No, haha (nervous laughter).
POL: (Figures out stamps we need, takes money, gives change).
Mark: Arigato gozaimasu! (Thank you)
POL: (Something in Japanese)
Mark: (With confused, apologetic grin on his face) Sorry?
POL: (In English) I said, “Your Japanese is excellent!!!”
I love Japan. Until next time, please remember us like this:
For more pictures from Japan, click here.