Tuesday, August 18, 2009
This weekend I had the opportunity to go to Hiroshima, "literally wide island" although it is neither an island nor unusually wide. From my town by highway it should only be about two and a half hours to get to Hiroshima City.
It is one of several places in Japan that has given me a strange, almost surrealistic feeling when returning to. The first time I went to Japan was in High School with my beloved Sensei and a motley gang of high school friends. At that time I had no concept that I would ever return to this country. The whole trip was like a dream- I got to explore a country with which I was enthralled and see all its best parts and homestay with the nicest family. I was at a very different stage of my life then- getting over hard times and getting stronger for better times. My second trip to Japan was another step- I was there for a few months to study. It still wasn't reality yet- I was living with a host family who took very good care of me and I was only there for a few months- long enough to enjoy but short enough not to have to adapt very much. Now I am almost an adult. I am here for a year living on my own, working on my own, and speaking almost exclusively Japanese. I am returning to places I went years ago which I never thought I would see again. It's a decidedly odd feeling.
Anyway, all nostalgia aside, it was a fun trip. The other two Jets, Litha and Ian, as well as James the Canadian English teacher and I all packed in to James's car and braved the windy windy roads. We first went to the Peace Park.
It was pretty crowded, so the full gravity of the place's history was tempered a bit with annoyance that we couldn't see anything. For lunch we stopped for Okonomiyaki お好みやけ, a specialty food of Hiroshima. (In Japan every region has its own specialty foods. Before you ask, Okuizumo's is a beef dish.) Literally an as-you-like it pancake, okonomiyake usually has noodles, egg, meat, and special sauce all on top a pancake type thing. I had never eaten it before because Okonomiyake usually always has meat. I ordered the vegetable one and picked around the inevitable bacon. Sigh, meat eaters. It was pretty tasty- I really like the sauce. The boys ordered the assorted one which had everything in it- meat, squid, shrimp, eggs, noodles, etc.
After that we walked around Hondori, a ceilinged street packed with shops. It was so nice to go shopping, even though I didn't make any purchases. It's just nice to look at merchandise aimed at my generation for a change (Okuizumo definitely has a lot of older people).We went to Uniqlo- the Gap of Japan, and I lusted over a red cardigan sweater. I also saw Octopus Army, perhaps one of the best names for a clothing store ever. For dinner we ate at Subway which was the closest to American food I'd eaten since July 23rd. Although I ordered a shrimp and avocado sandwich with wasabi soy sauce dressing- decidedly different than my favorite toasted veggie sub- I decided to pretend I was in just in California.
The trip back was kind of brutal- we decided to "save time" by finding the highway back.
Only trouble was, we didn't know how to find the highway and, even if we found it, we didn't know which direction to take on it. So our return trip took four hours. Four hours of windy roads and mountains and fast speeds to make up for slow time. It was all I could do not to lose my cookies. Unfortunately Ian was not so lucky. For the update on this funny story wait for my next blog, "the aftermath". You will not be disappointed.
All in all it was a really fun trip. The guys are funny, Hiroshima is awesome, and getting out of Okuizumo was fabulous. (Love you, Okuizumo.)
I should probably explain the pictures. The first is one of the many statues around the Peace Park. In honor of the story of S adako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, pilgrims to the park sometimes fold a thousand paper cranes and leave them at a statue. When I went in high school we did that for our lost friend, David DeMay. The second is the Atom Bomb Dome, one of the only remaining structures after the blast. The third is a statue for Sadako. Third and fourth come "vegetable" and assorted okonomiyaki. Fifth is the entrance to Hondori. Check out the links for more info.