Some travels

So, this one is a little update on some travelling I’ve done recently..
I made use of the ever so lovely seishun 18-kippu, valid for any 5 days travel in a certain period, for a mere 90 euros.
I travelled to Hiroshima first with a stopover at Himeji on the way. Himeji itself isn’t all that big but the castle is really famous as it’s a UNESCO world heritage site, being one of the few castles in Japan that has managed to keep so much of its original structure, and is one of the top 3 in Japan (along with Nagoya castle, wink wink). It was very pretty, but after a while, as with temples, many castles start looking alike.

I reached Hiroshima in the evening and went out to get some okonomiyaki.
Okonomiyaki is like pancakes in that it has batter made of flour and egg and water, but it isn’t like pancakes because it is stuffed with cabbage and other various toppings. Two of the most famous kinds of okonomiyaki are Hiroshima-style and Osaka-style. Hiroshima-style clearly consists of 2 layers of batter – one layer is placed on a hot plate, cabbage, soba (Japanese noodles) and other ingredients such as meat or squid is added, then a layer is placed on top and then an egg on top of that. The layers along with the soba makes it unique (as well as extremely filling!). Osaka-style is where everything is mixed together (no soba but again choice of ingredients) and then fried on a hot plate on both sides. On top of both styles, they then pile okonomiyaki-sauce and mayonnaise. YUM!
Even stranger – in Hiroshima they have a place called okonomiyaki-mura, or okonomiyaki village, where there are 16 different stalls on 3 floors all selling okonomiyaki. They all probably taste the same. Gotta love the Japanese!
The next morning I packed in the peace park and the museum along with miyajima on the same day – not too stressful to do.
For those not very interested in history Hiroshima was the first place the US bombed with an A-bomb at 8.15am August 8th, 1945. About 2 hours later they bombed Nagasaki (not the original second target), which eventually led Japanese to surrender at the end of WWII. They now have a huge park with monuments and a museum. I’ve been to Nagasaki but the 2nd floor of the museum in Hiroshima really grips you. It’s the personal stories, of fathers who donated their kids school uniform, all that was left of their 8-year-old children. It’s the imagery of people walking away with their flesh melted off their arms because of the 2000 degree celcius heat. Not very uplifting. But gripping.
I saw Miyajima for sunset. It’s a tori gate to a temple on the island just off of Hiroshima’s coast, but one of the reasons it’s so famous is because the guy who designed it placed it so that at high tide, it looks like a floating gate. I, however, went for sunset, and caught it at low tide. It was still very pretty though!
The next day I went to Okayama, stopping at Tomonora (sleeping little fishing town where Hayao Miyazaki got his inspiration for Ponyo) and Kurashiki (with a little Venice-esque canal) on the way. Okayama itself isn’t very thrilling but I went to see the Seto bridge – you go through Kojima to see it. And it’s so worth it – it’s this ridiculously long bridge, and it’s hard to describe it but it’s pretty amazing to see. I didn’t stay for sunset, something I am still kicking myself for, 2 weeks later.

I just came back from another short little trip to Kobe and Osaka. I’ve admittedly never been to either, despite being here for so long. I really enjoyed Kobe, it has a very relaxed feel to it, and some of the older houses in the Kitano district, built over 50 years ago, are very pretty. I saw some of the cherry blossoms which were beautiful. All the Japanese love Kobe, they think it so international but I have to admit, I agree that it is very nice, with a good atmosphere too.
Osaka, on the other hand, I was not at all impressed with. I did some shopping, stayed at a capsule hotel, and went to see Kings of Convenience live (awesome gig! Though the Japanese were a little on the quiet side, to be expected) and when I went to look at some touristy stuff I left immediately. Apart from the nightlife and the shopping it’s really not worth your time. Soulless.

But a quick word on the cherry blossoms – they are incredibly beautiful! I went to see them at Iwakura (my favourite on with the canal and the cherry blossoms draping over it), Okazaki (they were too scattered out) and then I had a hanami -cherry blossoms party – at Tsurumai park. This party is basically an excuse for Japanese to get drunk outside during the daytime, but the cherry blossoms are pretty amazing, when you see about 100 of them in full bloom… checking out the castle tomorrow and then the season’s pretty much over…

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