Japan 2012 Travel Diary, Day 8

japan2012logo-day08

Kyoto wound down the temperature on the day we left, to the point where Wifey and I both rugged up in warm jackets as we made the trip from Karasuma-Oike to Kyoto Station. Once we had transferred we hopped onto the Shinkansen to make our way to Hiroshima. Since we were using the JR Rail Pass to cover the trip, we jumped on one of the Sakura trains to get from Kyoto to Osaka (technically Shin-Osaka since that’s the name of the station), then we caught another Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima. The reason for the two-step process is because only selected Shinkansen travel directly between Kyoto and Hiroshima and these aren’t covered by the rail pass (e.g. the Nozomi train). Still, in total we spent less than two hours for the trip.

We were a little disappointed that Wifey and I weren’t able to get adjoining seats on the Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima part of the trip as all adjoining seats were all booked up, which saw my other half next to a Japanese woman who seemed inclined to partake in the great Japanese tradition of sleeping while on public transport, which left me next to salaryman enjoying some classic Golgo 13 manga. What eventuated was pretty unexpected though, as he started up a conversation on the way to practice his English, which was an unexpected but a really interesting experience. I asked him a few questions on where he was from, Japanese etiquette and the language, and he in turn asked about where I came from and what we’ve up to in Japan. Things took a nerdy turn when we got onto the topic of music and amplifiers, and it was awesome to have a chat to someone with a huge deal of enthusiasm for music and playback equipment, especially since he runs some amazing equipment (delicious tube amps and what-not) as part of his business in the music industry.

We got into Hiroshima at around midday, and the temperature was noticeably warmer than Kyoto, once again throwing off any attempt we made to normalise to the weather patterns over here. We caught the number 1 street car (exit the Shinkansen area, turn right and follow the prompts to the bus and tram service) for Â¥150 each to the station nearest our one-night stopover hotel, the ANA Crowne Plaza. After dumping our bags we wandered out back into the sunshine (stripping off jackets) and started the trek to the Peace Park. We stopped in at a Japanese restaurant on the way to grab a bite – I jumped aboard the udon train again and grabbed a set that consisted of delicious udon with some shredded pork and a pair of local onigiri; Wifey indulged in some mis-based udon with croquets and onigiri. We then continued the walk over to the museum and encountered a veritable small village of Japanese students that had arrived via a contingent of tour buses. We walked in alongside them, bought our tickets, then walked through the doors.

The Hiroshima Peace Park is an altogether sobering yet morbidly fascinating experience. It’s difficult to articulate what it means to walk through the museum, read the stories and watch the footage, but upon leaving you are surrounded by a revulsion for war and the indiscriminate power of atomic warfare. There are displays and scale models of Hiroshima before and after the blast, clothing and other household goods recovered in the aftermath, copies of letters from noted leaders in the sciences and politics that cover the call to action for research into atomic warfare and subsequent protestations of the way in which the research was utilised, the content of which is beyond the scope of this blog – having double-majored in history and Japanese studies at Uni with a general interest in the two World Wars last century, I could wax lyrical on this topic for ages!

What was particularly interesting was the museum’s specific notation of the gaps in Japan’s national education curriculum around the global conflict that resulted in World War 2, as while I was aware of this due to my prior studies, it was refreshing to see this publicly acknowledged in the museum. Again, discussion on how this should be addressed is definitely beyond the scope of this commentary (and to be honest, this discussion isn’t only pertinent to Japan – the US and Australian primary and secondary school curriculums are also lacking in many respects around World War 1 and 2, especially due to how the Cold War’s political environment has had a lasting effect on how different country’s contributions to the conflict are taught), but it was enlightening nonetheless.

Outside the museum are extensive green areas and gardens, and while Wifey and I were walking around we were approached by a lot of young Japanese students so they could practice their English for us as part of what looked to be an assignment given to them by their teachers. Part of the questions that had been assigned to them included what we thought was the most impressive thing about Hiroshima – each time I answered by the Peace Park, but I was tempted to put down the big Book Off near Hondori but decided to answer honestly instead of being cheeky 🙂 We found they seemed to gravitate towards me, not too sure why – maybe it was the ranga beard or the nerdy t-shirt. The funny part was after they finished asking questions I’d thank them in Japanese or say some other quip as they left, and they all seemed quite surprised I could speak any of the language! There were a couple of instances where a couple of groups I swear were about to come up to us, but then giggled and ran off. All in all, it was pretty funny and good fun.

Across one of the rivers nearby was the remains of one of the buildings that survived the blast, and it was awe-inspiring and humbling to walk past it. I’ve always advocated that anyone in favour of nuclear warfare should go and watch Isao Takahata’s powerful Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies), but after visiting the Peace Park, I would also add that to the agenda.

Once we had finished wandering through the parklands surrounding the museum we headed to Hondori, one of the more prominent shopping districts in Hiroshima. After checking out a couple of ¥100 shops and hobby stores we came across a Taito Game Station arcade, so of course we had to drop in 🙂

Like most of the arcades in Japan, it was a multi-story affair with different games cropping up thematically on each floor. The first two floors were crane games, then after that it got interesting. I ended up settling on a round of Darius Burst, a 4-player cooperative horizontal shmup that runs over three screens for a massive panoramic playing field. After tanking pretty quickly, the allure of Super Street Fighter 4 AE caught me, so I inserted ¥100 and managed to get two credits off it owing to a special happening that week.

Now I’ve probably mentioned it earlier, but I’m not very good at SSF4AE – I haven’t invested enough time into it to be any kind of reasonable, so I’ve settled into being comfortable with my status as a Ken scrub 🙂 That being said, at one stage a Japanese gamer sat on the opposite side to challenge me with Ryu, and I managed to actually win the match (as in both rounds)! After chatting with Hollo from Super Gaijin Ultra Gamer and finding out that Japanese players will often go easy on you for round 2 in fighting games only to take you down in the final round, it was pretty cool that I managed to actually win a full match (was very close though!!).

However, it was short lived when he jumped in as Juri and tore me a new arsehole, but still, it was so much fun. Despite arcades in Japan having a no-photos policy, Wifey did it gaijin style and took a few snaps using her phone and a bit of footage of me losing, so that was also pretty awesome (even though I lost, because it was in a Japanese arcade) 🙂 On the way out I tried my hand at one of the crane games, but failed. Still, the awesomeness won out, absolutely!

At this stage it was getting late in the afternoon and well after the 2pm check-in time for our room, so after walking the length of Hondori we unintentionally took the scenic route back to the hotel, only getting lost once or twice, before finding our way back there. After getting settled in I left Wifey to have some rest (her cold was still kicking pretty hard at this stage) and wondered up the road to visit the Super Bazaar Book Off near Hondori. This place was indeed massive, so this time I thought I’d look for some LDs in addition to games. While I didn’t find any, I did unintentionally walk into two different porn sections before finding the anime and game art books, eventually securing myself a You’re Under Arrest art book that focused purely on the OVAs, which was awesome. From there it was down to the game section, where I nabbed a handful of PSone titles for a pittance, as well as a couple of carts that were pretty inexpensive. After dropping back to the hotel to check on Wifey, it was comfort food time so back up the road to Hondori to drop into Lotteria for our first take on Japanese burgers. With some food and a couple of drinks from some vending machines on the way to the hotel (with a stop at a convenience store for some throat lozenges), we finished up the night tucking into our food and watching a movie before getting some sleep.

To view all posts on the Japan 2012 Travel Diary, just use the 2012 Japan Trip tag, as the whole series will be added to it over time.