Monday: Hiroshima and Miyajima

We all got up early and headed out at 7:00 am to the PeacePark.  We didn’t know if the streetcars would be crowded, and so we walked.  We’d seen a 7-11 the day before and that was our initial destination—we were out of cash and credit cards just aren’t used much in Japan.  Even the Koyasan Heritage rail passes were a cash only purchase.  (At least we won’t be coming home to huge credit card bills!)

The 7-11 ATM takes foreign cards, which is why we headed there.  We each grabbed a drink and a pastry and gobbled our breakfast before heading on our way.   The PeaceMemorial Park was only about a 10 minute walk from the convenience store.  As we got closer to the park, it was clear there was a lot going on.  We could hear a man shouting over a microphone system—from the few words we could pick out, it seemed like an anti-nuclear demonstration, which would make sense, given the location and the day.

Stan had seen the Dome the evening before, as our streetcar had gone past it.  I missed it, though, and so my first view was as we crossed the bridge.  We took some pictures, of course, but mostly I just marveled that anything had survived at all.  It was a sobering view and I was surprised that there were people taking souvenir pictures using the Dome as a backdrop; it somehow seemed too solemn of a building and a feeling of the weight of its tragic history didn’t lend itself to a “look—we were here!” type of picture.  We all photographed the Dome, but it somehow seemed it would be trivializing it to treat it as a “photo op” tourist spot instead of the silent testimony of what was and a strong symbol of what one hopes will never be repeated.

There was an 8:00 ceremony, but we couldn’t get close enough to see it.  There were television monitors around the park, though, and we were able to view the ceremony that way.  At 8:15, silence fell over the park—and across the nation, I’m told.

Around the PeacePark, there were lots of school children in uniform, and many of them were taking surveys and practicing their English while doing so.  I think I participated in 3 different surveys for different groups.

We were also invited to a tea ceremony; the young woman asked if we had time to join a group for tea and a Japanese sweet.  It was a room with rows of chairs for seating, but there weren’t four seats together, and we were seated up front.  At first, I wasn’t sure if we were being shown to a table (to sit on the floor) or a bench.  The woman guiding us pantomimed sitting, so we sat down, at the very front, where we couldn’t watch the people around us to see what to do next!   We were brought sweets fairly soon.  One appeared to be hard sugar in the shape of a crane and the other was stuffed with some sort of bean paste.  The woman who invited us came to check if we’d had our tea yet, and assured us it would come soon.

We were seated directly in front of the woman doing the tea ceremony.  It took several minutes to make a single cup of tea, and the woman who appeared to be the master of ceremonies served two of those cups to us (Stan and Bethy).  There was also tea being served that was from “in the back”.  That part was very well organized, with people standing at the end of each row with fingers up to indicate how many tea servings were needed.  After a while, we left (Jennica and I never got tea, which was fine with me, as I don’t care for tea that much.)  The woman who invited us asked how our tea was and we assured her we enjoyed it very much.  It was clearly a tea ceremony to promote peace and I was glad we were invited.

There was an exhibit of the story of the girl who made 1000 paper cranes—she had gotten leukemia after the A-Bomb, and decided that making 1000 paper cranes would bring about her recovery,  That wasn’t successful, but her schoolmates started a campaign to build a permanent children’s memorial at the Peace Park and there are still long strands  of cranes being brought to the park.  While reading about <fill in name>, both Stan and I were handed flyers about a presentation being given in English–stories from people who had survived the A-Bomb.

We found the meeting room right as the presentation started.  There were four speakers, each of whom was very moving.

After the presentation, Stan and Bethy went to the PeaceMuseum, which Jennica and I chose to skip.  I’ll probably always wonder if that was the right decision.  I found the whole PeaceMemorial Park to be so emotional that I’m not sure if I could have handled the museum.

For lunch, we stumbled across a Ramen place.  A nice pair of women saw that we couldn’t understand the menu at all, so they offered to help and described the choices to us: salty and not fatty, salty and fatty, and so on.  What one of the women was eating looked terrific, but the menu had three chili peppers.  They kindly ordered it for Stan and Bethy—and then ordered it “not hot” for me!  It turned out that the hot part that was left off on mine was too hot for Stan and he scooped it out and on to the plate his rice ball and come on.  We ended up with 4 rice balls (one each) and a plate of brown rice.  I’m not exactly sure why the woman gave me the plate of brown rice, but I enjoyed it!  Jennica and Bethy split my rice ball, which would have been too much rice for me.

The proprietor at our ryokan had directed us to take the streetcar to a stop where we could transfer to a JR train to Miyajimaguchi.  Fortunately, the signs made that transfer really easy.  At Miyajimaguchi,we headed towards the ferry.  It was a nice little town and we would have liked to explore it and thought we might do so when we returned from Miyajima.  (Unfortunately, everything was shut down when we got back from the island)

On the ferry, we took pictures of the torii gate, but I don’t think we’ll be keeping any of those, since we got much better pictures later when we actually were able to walk up to the torii gate at low tide.  Before we went to the <fill in name> shrine or gate, though, we all wanted to ride the ropeway—and the last trip was at 5:00 with a last return time of 5:30.  It was past 4:30 by this point, so after getting ice cream (a family has to have its priorities), we followed the signs to the ropeway.  There was a store advertising that they sold tickets there so we bought our tickets and learned there was a shuttle in two minutes that would take us to the station where the rope way starts.
The shuttle bus ride was jarring, but we were glad we caught it since we were so tight on time.  The ropeway was in two segments in different types of hanging cars.  The first car sat 6 (they said 8, but they would have had to have been very small people).  We transferred to the second part of the ropeway.  Those cars were bigger and a group of 15 or 20 of us stood as we rode the ropeway as high as it would go.   We didn’t make it all the way to the top of Mt Misen—that would have required hiking, which we just didn’t have time for if we were going to catch the 5:30 shuttle back down. We definitely didn’t want to walk all the way down!   (It was at least 5:15 before we even got to the final station.)

As we were headed outside from the ropeway station, announcements started telling us to head to the terminal to catch the final shuttle.  Stan wanted time to take some pictures (the view on the way up was vast—you could see the water and Hiroshima on the other side.)  The whole thing of Stan heading out to take pictures while announcements of last car were being made me very nervous.  I would have felt better if I’d had my ticket back down—I decided that next time I wanted my own ticket!   I didn’t go up to the observation platform, but the view from the ropeway itself was lovely.

I thought we’d have to walk back down from the beginning ropeway stop, but a sign showed that there was a 15:50 shuttle (last one of the day) and we were just in time to get on it.  It was full, and we had to stand, but it was easier than walking down!  I hated feeling as if I was being “lazy”, but we were walking a lot, and sometimes it seemed like a good idea to find a less energetic way to travel, just to save our strength for later.

Jennica and I wandered into a shop—and Stan and Bethy didn’t see us do it.  We each picked out a folding fan and a coordinating fan holder. The flat non-folding fans work just fine—it’s that they’re difficult to get out of the my bag to use.  Add on to that that Jennica’s bag isn’t shaped right to hold one of the non-folding fans, which means I have her fan, my fan, and sometimes, Stan’s fan.  We also found a shirt we thought Jordan would like—t-shirts aren’t that big here, even as souvenirs, but this one looked good.

By this point, we had no idea where Stan and Bethy were, so we started walking down towards the main part of town and the shrine itself. (We never got to go inside the shrine or its Treasure House, unfortunately.)  As we were walking down towards the gate, Stan found us—he’d gone all the way to the train station and back up to where we caught the shuttle bus to the ropeway station without seeing us.  We’re not sure how he missed us, but we do tend to imitate tomato soup from time to time, so it wasn’t totally surprising.

Bethy was already down by the torii gate taking pictures.  It was low tide and we could walk right up to the gate.  We took pictures of the gate from multiple angles, including some with us in them. I wish we’d been able to see it at high tide as well as low tide, but in order to have gotten there that early, we’d have had to skip hearing the survivors of the A-Bomb.  This trip has been full of those sorts of trade-offs.  There’s just only so much you can see when you’re only in a city for a few days.  Even if we’d had another day in each place, we’d still be making choices.

Took the street car back.  It took longer than starting at the JR train and then switching to the street car closer to Hiroshima, but it was simpler—we got on, found seats, and didn’t have to transfer.  We went one stop further than our ryokan so that we could find a restaurant—all of us wanted dinner before heading back to sleep.

there weren’t a lot of choices (and I’m not sure we could tell a place was restaurant unless it had food and prices out front!)  We say a place called Deep Dish and we decided to try it.  I had a Caesar salad with bacon—which was served with a pair of scissors to cup up the long single piece of thick bacon!  If you had asked me 10 days ago if I could eat salad with chopsticks, I’d have said no—but now that we’ve been here over a week, I didn’t really have any problem.

Jennica had a popcorn shrimp plate, Bethy had something called a pizza, and Stan had a pork dish.  (Bethy put Tabasco on her pizza, which seemed odd, but apparently she’s been doing it for the last 4 months.