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  • Day7

    A sobering place to visit

    August 15, 2016 in Japan ⋅ 🌧 28 °C

    Monday morning at Naoshima was fine and warm again. So far this trip we have been blessed with great weather and no rain.

    Breakfast at Benesse House was excellent, just like everything else about the place. The hotel runs shuttle buses around the island each time one rolls up to the front of the hotel the 2 porters bow deeply to the bus and to each passenger as they get off. Once in the hotel they can't do enough for you. Even when the bus leaves the porters bow as it drives off. People here are very polite.

    After breakfast we went to the Chi Chu Art Museum I mentioned yesterday. No queues and it was really interesting. They have 5 Claude Monet water lily paintings so they have created a small garden out the front that was inspired by the paintings. The gallery itself is cleverly designed so the paintings are actually displayed using natural light. There were artworks by a couple of other artists in the same building. One was an illusion where you are admitted in groups of 8 people, you have to take your shoes off and are shuffled into a room with a flight of 8 steps going up and a blue coloured box projected onto the wall at the top. The guide asks you to climb to the top of the steps and to 'keep going'. Only when you get close do you realise the blue box is actually a room you step into, very clever.

    Another artist had a highly polished ball of granite about 6 ft in diameter but the arrangement of the skylights made for some incredible reflections on the surface of the stone. Once again very well done.

    We finished at the museum and went back to meet the shuttle bus back to Benesse House. By then the queue of people was a hundred metres long so very glad we went when we did. We collected our bags, checked out and headed for Miyanoura Port to catch the ferry back to Uno. The ferry was no where near as crowded as it was the day before so we grabbed a seat near the window and watched the Seto Sea go by.

    It was a pretty uneventful trip and we made it across to the train station at Uno in time to catch the train back to Chayamachi and on to Okayama.

    Once at Okayama we visited the JR office to finish booking some of the Shinkansen trips and for the first time we couldn't get on the train we wanted but no problems we just get the same one 30 mins later - gotta love the Japanese!

    Anyway we sorted out our bookings and headed for the Shinkansen platform. We were standing on the platform at Okayama waiting for our train when a guard came along and asked us where we were from and gave us some origami paper, very friendly bloke. As always our train was on time.

    We were going to Hiroshima.

    I always wanted to visit having been to Pearl Harbor and seen where the war in the Pacific started I wanted to go to Hiroshima and see where it ended.

    The trip from Okayama to Hiroshima took less than an hour and the very helpful lady at the Information counter directed us to the bus where we could use our Japanese Rail pass to get to the hotel ... or as I should rightly say Ryokan.

    A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese guest house so it was shoes off as you came into the foyer. The staff were very helpful taking our bags - though there were only 2 very slight Japanese ladies on the desk and despite their protests I couldn't let them try and lift our suitcases. They explained the rules about shoes and how things work in a guest house.

    We were taken up to our room and it was a traditional Japanese room with tatami mats on the floor, a very low table, and the traditional screens. It was fantastic, T and I both wanted to experience traditional hospitality and this was it. We booked in for dinner and breakfast and went exploring.

    When we were in Kyoto I talked about a stunning gold building in a centuries old garden. Hiroshima's building was equally stunning but there was no gold and no centuries old garden. Just a ruin.

    The Ryokan was just across the road from the famous dome where the A-bomb was dropped. Walking around looking at the building brings home the scale of destruction, most of the city was flattened. The dome building survived because the blast was pretty much directly above so the roof and all the floors were obliterated but most of the walls remained standing.

    The dome building is on a river and just across the river was the Peace Park with memorials to various groups. One of the most poignant was the Childrens Memorial. Sadako Sasaki was two years old when she was exposed to the blast but was largely uninjured. She developed leukemia at eleven years of age and while she was sick started folding paper cranes as there is a legend that anyone who folds 1000 paper cranes will be granted a wish by the Gods. Unfortunately she passed away aged 12 but since then the paper crane has become the symbol of peace in Hiroshima with thousands of them being sent there from children all over the world. Now the Childrens' Memorial has a metal version of the paper crane and a bell visitors can ring.

    One of the more moving things as we were walking around was watching and listening to a man pray before the mound where unknown victims' ashes are interred.

    The main memorial where Barack Obama laid a wreath a few years ago is close by along with the flame that will only go out when nuclear weapons no longer exist. The main memorial, flame, and dome building are all in a line.

    The underlying message in Hiroshima was not about who was right and who was wrong rather it was simply Never Again.

    We wandered around some of the streets of Hiroshima encountering a friendly local who startled us by saying 'Have a good day' as he walked past. Not sure he knew any other english.

    We headed back to the Ryokan for dinner. As I said it was a traditional Japanese dinner in our room. A lady in a Kimono laid out all the plates and food - there was a lot of food so T and I got comfy on the floor and hooked in. We didn't know what everything was and in what order we should be eating it so we simply decided the order she brought them in was the best idea.

    After dinner T rested up while I went for a walk around the Peace Park again and by the time I made it back the staff had cleared up dinner and made our beds. Traditional Japanese beds of a thin mattress on the floor with a light quilt. It was quite comfortable.

    Tomorrow were are off to the birth place of Toyota.
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