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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



Summer Holiday 2006 - Day 7

Continuing with my summer holiday saga... up to Day 7 now!

Beppu Hotel view, 6:40 AM, August 11

We woke early on Friday in Beppu with the aim of getting ourselves to Hiroshima before the best part of the day was gone. We were again rewarded with a beautiful view from our hotel room balcony as you see in the picture above. We didn't have the best of weather for our time in Beppu, but this view left me with an overall good impression.

A train ride from Beppu took us through to Kokura, where we transferred to a Bullet Train, which promptly saw us leave the long Kyushu leg of our summer holiday behind as we arrived in Honshu by mid-morning. We had just one day planned here, so aimed to squeeze in the two main attractions: Miyajima and the Hiroshima Peace Dome and and museum about the nuclear bombs.

We aimed to visit Miyajima first. In Japan there are three scenic spots ("nihon sankei") which were for some reason selected as "the three most beautiful" in Japan. Miyajima is one of these places. Matsushima in Miyagi prefecture (Northern Honshu) is another, which I have visited twice, and the other is a beach in Kyoto, I hear. Matsushima was quite good I thought, but I've heard the one in Kyoto is "over-rated".

Miyajima is an island near Hiroshima where there is a famous shrine which is built in shallow waters of the Seto inland sea. It was easy to get there from the city center, just take the JR line to get to the ferry port, and you're there pretty fast. There are JR ferries coming and going pretty much every 10 minutes so there's no need to worry about the schedules, and it's just a quick hop over to the island.
Besides the shrine, today there are also huge volumes of tourist shops selling "momiji manju" and other local souvenirs, as well as heaps and heaps of little deer. During our time in Yakushima, Kana had told me that the deer there were really cute compared to the ones in Miyajima. That's a fairly accurate description, as the ones in Miyajima are basically scavengers waiting for doting tourists to give them a snack, and the place is covered in pooh as a result. They are much easier shots for the camera than the critters on Yakushima though, being accustomed to human activity (above).

The most well-known site of Miyajima, at least in my mind, is the Torii entrance to the shrine, situated in the sea.

Besides the Torii, there is the main shrine beyond that, which also sits in the water as well. Apparently when the tide goes out, you can actually walk around in the sand, but we found ourselves there with plenty of water about to prevent us. Instead we walked around inside the shrine complex (quite large too), and took lots of photos like all the other tourists:

Shrine at Miyajima

We eventually headed back to the streets of tourist shops where I sampled a cream momiji manju. Very good it was too, and so I bought a box of them as a souvenir to take to the office.

It was probably around 2pm by the time we arrived back at Hiroshima, and we found ourselves walking from a train station along the tram route, over a bridge and then along a scenic walkway beside a river. The point of all this was to go to the Peace Park, see the memorial and museum there. As we came closer we could hear a thunder storm drawing near as well, and just as it started to rain a little we found the building with the dome which was apparently directly under the point where the bomb was detonated. The thunder storm was starting to get ominous, so we hurried to the museum.

There is not much that needs to be said here. No more nuclear weapons please, and let's get rid of what we've got.

After I guess 3 hours in the museum, we found that the rain had stopped and so took another look at the Peace Memorial monuments in the park, and then headed back to the city.

That evening we first checked ourselves into our hotel (which was quite cheap and reasonable), and asked the reception man about where we could find some nice Okonomiyaki restaurants. Okonomiyaki is one of my original favourite Japanese cuisines, although lately I've been steering more towards fish based dishes. The reception guy told us of a couple of places: one close to the hotel, one that was really tasty, and another building which was had nothing but okonomiyaki restaurants inside (probably where all the tourists go). We decided to go to the latter, which was probably a 15 minute walk from the hotel to the other side of town.

When we got there, indeed we found it was a building that was full of okonomiyaki restaurants. "Okonomiyaki Paradise". With so many shops to choose from, how to decide which would be tasty? We went to the 4th floor first, and took a look around. Some of the shops were full of people already, where as some were almost empty, and the staff were beckoning us inside. Would you take up such an offer? I wasn't that hungry just yet, and convinced Kana that we should check around on the 3rd floor first. Eventually we decided that the shops on the 4th floor were probably a better bet, and we picked an almost full one, thinking the taste should be ok. The staff were some middle aged guys who looked what they knew what they were doing, where as the staff at some of the other emptier places were a little dodgy looking. They whipped up our orders in a jiffy:
Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki: basically a mix of cabbage, soba, some other goodies, okonomiyaki sauce and onions. Yummy!

We got back to the hotel and checked with reception about how long it would take to get to the ferry port from there. In the morning we planned to head over to Kana's hometown of Matsuyama. "About 30 minutes" we were told by the reception guy, but he didn't seem like he really knew what he was talking about. And indeed, that was the case as we found out the next morning...

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