Where does the time go? All of a sudden it has been three days without a blog. The first of those I spent mostly on the bus, in my super comfy seat. We stopped at services several times, to give us tourists a good overview of them, and got to Hiroshima a little after six. I checked in, met Jan the Giant (I was making my bed when he came in, so didn’t spot his height, then in conversation he mentioned people here always stare at someone 6’7″. It wasn’t till the next day that I saw him standing up and even forewarned I nearly commented on his height), Johan the Frenchman and we settled in to await a Jens, James and Jean to compete the set. They never arrived, and the next day we had three more Germans, Robert, Martin and Sebastian.
Wednesday I spent exploring Hiroshima itself, mostly the A bomb dome and peace park. The museum there, with a token entry fee of ¥50, is excellent. The first building – and it’s worth knowing there is another one when you’re in it – gives an overview, coloured sombre by the music playing over the 3 minute video that greets you on entry. Particularly moving, I thought, were the letters sent by the mayor of Hiroshima to every nuclear power whenever they carry out a nuclear test. A real sense of flailing in the wind. The second building has the personal testimonies, some pictures and fragments of clothing, which is gruelling, gory and heartbreaking. Everything is presented very matter of factly, no sense that Hiroshima was victim of an unjustified act necessarily, though the balder the statement the more effective (if only people would learn that in a twitter and Facebook age). The exhibit on the nonproliferation treaty presents the lovely catch 22, that the treaty was set up to lock countries into not producing weapons, but of course those with them already can keep them. The tone of press coverage in the UK generally either ignores our own weapons, or implicitly suggests that of course we’re okay with them, but if those nasty Iranians got hold of them, well, what would they be thinking? Why would a country subject to sanctions and surrounded by enemies want the ultimate weapon anyway?
That evening the giant, the Germans, Johan and I went out for dinner. We were recommended an ‘all you can eat, all you can drink’ place in town and I was standing nearest the map as she explained its location so did the route finding. Surprisingly we got there, and Jan has studied in Japan (as well as boarding school in Wales, man of the world) so had enough Japanese to work out which floor our restaurant was on. We had an hour’s wait, worried we wouldn’t make enough out of the limitless offering but they offered to extend last orders and we stayed. Johan and I chatted happily to start with, but as the wait grew longer one of the Germans shut down, half asleep, and chats were shorter. When we were finally allowed to a table and brought the barbecue cookers, there was much silence and cooking of meat.
Then there was sake, and the chat grew louder. Fabulous – a bargain at ¥3000. How we’d have fared without the giant’s Japanese I’m not sure. He insisted he didn’t know what he was doing, but knew enough to order beer, rice and ‘the tasty beef’ so we got plenty of food and variety. Strips of beef (Canadian, apparently, not the good Japanese stuff), fatty fish, sausage.
We had a final beer by the river, enjoying the fact that you can do that at 1am in autumn, in shorts.
Today I went to Miyajima. Takumi had mentioned it and given me some info back in Tokyo so I knew it was an area of beauty, and the ‘floating gate’ looks fantastic. Still, the tree covered hilltops and temple-infested ground are just stunning. Travel is via train or tram to Miyajima-Guchi – tram is cheaper, I think – and then ferry to the island, from right outside the station. Although it is busy enough that JR have two ferries in perpetual motion between shore and island, and another company has three, it is a place where you can always find a spot on your own if you want one. There are three different routes up the hill for the view; given time I would have taken the one through Omoto park, which was almost deserted, but a hangover had delayed my start and I wanted to get back to buy a bus ticket to Fukuoka. If you don’t fancy waking, there’s a ropeway, which makes me think of the rope bridge at the giant’s causeway, but is actually a cable car. The deer here are very tame. Over tame, really, as years of feeding have made them approach people for food. I sat in the square outside the ferry port to have lunch before I got into wilder areas but was soon bothered by a friendly deer. I told him to **** off but then, just as when asking a pigeon directions the other day, realised my mistake – Japanese animal, why would they speak English? We indulged in a low energy, low speed pursuit across the square before I finished my food and could bin the remains and blend into the crowd.
Should have been there longer. But a beautiful trip. Arriving back at Hiroshima, via a train chat with Mohammed from Tajikistan, over here to study harvest management, I figured I might as well use my sightseeing bus pass. It was a freebie – or an optional extra I’d accidentally signed up for – with my coach trip. It’s not a vintage tour, no real info, but takes you to the good spots and, if you take advantage of hopping on and off, a good way to get about. For me, just a ride round the city and then off near the bus station. ¥200 for a trip, ¥400 all day pass. I got my ticket and headed back, snoozy but determined to run back to Central Park (recced from the bus) to do my session. Racing round it in the dark was great, and I hit 7-11 for dinner filled with the elation of a day in which I’d done all I set out to, onward plans fixed, and the life affirming feeling of air rushing through my lungs after a tough 20x400m session. Talking that evening I heard of one more deal for foreigners, the Star alliance Japan air pass, which allows you to take any domestic flight with ANA for ¥10000. There’s another scheme for ¥13000, so careful what you search for. The perfect way to see Okinawa and the small islands, as the ‘cheap’ airlines fly to the main island and then you have to change, whereas ANA go to the smaller ones direct.