Monday, January 7, 2008

Winter Holiday--Hiroshima/Miyajima

Well, as previously stated, I have returned from holiday to Mito. I truly enjoyed getting the opportunity to see many new parts of Japan! I must say, however, that being away from Mito, made me appreciate Mito a lot more than I would have thought! It made me realize how much I just really like Mito.

Okay, so the long awaited holiday update. Here is the rundown on the Hiroshima portion...I will try to give you details without being long winded. We shall see how that goes...

First, just so you know a bit of background information, I will introduce you to the "characters" in my story. My traveling mates were Kendon Murrell and Leah Calder. Kendon is also from Oklahoma and has been here about 9 months. Leah is from Canada and has been here for about a year and a half. Leah is much further along in her study of Japanese than either Kendon or myself, and she did a fantastic job in some tight spots on the language factor.

So, on with the story.

On the morning of December 26, I was feeling many things. Tired (from staying up too late), wide awake (from excitement), and dread (from fear that I may have forgotten something important like underwear or something). I would like to make just a brief side note on the packing issue. I would like to say that all 3 of us went for 11 days and only packed one hiking bag a piece. That is impressive if I do say so myself. With 2 girls in the group, that is impressive! Ok, so back to the story. I enjoyed my first Shinkansen ride. Let me just say that this is the way to travel! Don't get me wrong...I love to fly, but seriously, this is comfortable! I have long legs, and slouch and I could still cross my legs in comfort!! That is quite an accomplishment! The train is extremely smooth and goes about 186mph! I was pumped! We were on our way to Hiroshima in comfort aboard the Shinkansen. We passed right by Mt. Fuji and it was beautifully covered in snow.

We arrived in Hiroshima mid-afternoon and were ready to hit the road running. Ok, well not running, but we walked fast. Can you blame us? We had packs on and no sports bra! I don't think running was in the near future! ha ha Anyway, we found our way through buses to our Youth Hostel. Unfortunately, the bus only took us so far. We had to walk the rest of the way, and it was all up a steep hill, but it was absolutely beautiful! I loved the view over Hiroshima. The sunsets were beautiful, and I am sure that the sunrises were too (I didn't see them). ha ha Ok, so that is the arrival portion.

So, I mentioned that we stayed in the Hiroshima Youth Hostel. This is a fantastic and inexpensive way to travel in my opinion. There were many people that we got to meet and get to know in the hostels. We ended up traveling with two people, Adam and Kimry, for our first full day in Hiroshima. Right now, I will tell you a bit about the Hostel lifestyle. It is basic..nothing fancy. However, it is inexpensive and easy to book. The part that I had to get used to was the public bath. This is my first public bath experience and I must admit that I was extremely nervous about it heading into the trip. Ok, so before anybody freaks out, I will explain the public bath. The bath sits in the front lobby of the hostel and it is mixed nude bathing. ha ha. Just kidding! Someone probably just had a heart attack..oops! Ok, no seriously it is NOT mixed bathing or in the front lobby. So basically, you have a womens bath and a mens bath. You go in and take a shower and then get into a hot tub of sorts. I've never liked the idea of a bathing suit until the moment came that I had to go to the bath. I quickly realized that I am much more self-conscious than I would have ever thought. Anyway, I did it and it wasn't horrible, but its not really my cup of tea. A lot of my friends love Onsens (public baths), but I don't know if I will be going again anytime soon. However, because of this (and other factors), I have come back and am putting myself on a workout routine. I have to get into better shape!

Ok, so moving on to Hiroshima...the city and sites! I must say that this city, in my opinion, was fantastic! When I travel, whether it be back home in the States or here in Japan, I always try to figure out if I could live in that place that I am visiting. The list is relatively short, but what can I say, I am picky! Well, Hiroshima has now made it on to that list. I truly enjoyed Hiroshima. Obviously, the history of Hiroshima stands alone in its own category of reasons. Besides the history though, the people of Hiroshima are truly kind and welcoming people. Its a very large coastal city, but it doesn't present itself as such. It felt to me, more like a down home type of town. The people are simple without being boring, the scenery is beautiful without being ostentatious and the city is inviting without being commercial. Need I say more? Ok, well I will anyway. Hiroshima was easily one of my top places that I had to go before I left Japan. It lived up to my expectations. There is a lot to see and do, but my favorite was the A-Bomb Dome and museum. I have always enjoyed WWII history and have done some reports and studies on the atomic bombs, so obviously this was of great interest to me. It's hard to explain the feeling that I got while at the Dome and museum. As I walked the grounds of the A-Bomb dome and museum, I almost had an odd feeling of guilt. Being an American, walking on this sacred ground, gave me a sense of guilt, sadness, and hope at the same time. It may seem odd that I would feel a sense of hope from this place, but as I walked this place and then looked at the city of Hiroshima now surrounding it that is exactly what I felt. Like I said, it is hard to describe, but all of these combined definitely left me in awe and a bit speechless. After I was able to walk away and think more about what happened on those two days more than 60 years ago, I have come to the conclusion that I had before I walked those sacred grounds. The decision to drop the atomic bomb, in my opinion, was the right thing to do. The museum was extremely interesting to me in the way that it was presented. I was very impressed with the objectivity with which the information was presented. Yes, obviously, the museum was filled with emotion and hurt and some points of hate, but all were shown and presented with historic objective points of view. As you can most likely tell, I was very impressed by the museum and surrounding grounds. This would be a place that I would recommend to anyone traveling over here!

Ok, also while in Hiroshima, we visited the Hiroshima Castle. This was a beautiful castle originally built on a sand bar. At the time that it was built, the idea to build on a sand bar was a very foreign concept in Japan. It was one of the first to be built this way in Japan. It was a very pretty place and from the top you could overlook the city. I really enjoyed this. Oh and we also got to do a bit of dressing up (please see pictures page)! That was pretty cool.

So, all of the previously mentioned information was just from one day in Hiroshima. What did we do on the second day in Hiroshima? Well, we took a ferry out to Miyajima Island. You may have seen pictures of a "floating torii." If so, that is Miyajima. It is beautiful! In all actuality, the torii is not floating, it just has that appearance. The o-torii is the entrance to the shrine. When the tide is in it becomes surrounded with water. When the tide goes out, you are able to walk out to the torii. The tide was in the entire time that we were on the island so were not able to walk out there but we got some fantastic pictures. It was really rainy the day that we went out there so some of the pictures turned out really well!

Ok, well I said that I was going to try and keep it as short as possible, but I must say that I got to see a lot and want to share as much as I can with you! I am going to break it down by places so that it isn't quite as overwhelming, plus I am getting tired of typing at this point. I am going to post the pictures of Hiroshima and Miyajima on the pictures page so please go and check them out. I will post more on the other places that I visited in the coming days!

I hope you enjoy! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the comments section.

Sayonara for now!

1 comment:

Carrie Anne said...

sounds like you had a great time! i love reading this stuff! i'm extremely jealous about the whole hiroshima bit but maybe i'll come visit some day! :)
oh and here's a side note--can you believe eddie sutton!? geesh.