Hiroshima

HIROSHIMA

Hiroshima is famous for pretty much one reason, and nothing lets you forget about it more than being in the city itself. Almost every site on the tourist map emphasizes peace.

Peace Gardens, Peace Museum, Peace Park, Peace walk…and of course the entire city is littered with swans and cranes, the birds that symbolize peace.

The main center of Hiroshima is bordered by two big and very muddy rivers that once acted as a moat for the castle inside of it. If you walk around in a circle, you will find yourself surrounded by national tea gardens.

We enjoy some authentic Japanese Cheetoes while staying high and dry from the gigantic snakes that would cross our paths.

On the West side of the city center is the remade Hiroshima Castle, a beatiful, large cabin-like castle overlooking another moat.

In the park surrouding the castle there are the first remains of charred stone blocks from Hiroshima.

The A-Bomb Dome, a gigantic federal building that happened to be Ground Zero of the Atomic blast:

As Vivian said, “Wow, you guys did really good job!” I couldn’t help thinking the same thing. Seeing the building made the atmoic blast even more frightful, “super-effective” in any form of macro-warfare.

Just aside the Dome were many peace-oriented statues, museums and monuments, including this “Children’s Monument” that features paper cranes from thousands of children’s classrooms across the world

Indeed, Hiroshima seems to have some strange desire to break your heart while you’re there, and if you’re American, feel some deep sense of guilt that immediately must be justified with the statement: “Well, they weren’t playing very nice either!” Or otherwise shrug your shoulders in a “what-can-you-do” manner.

Not a lot to report on the nightlife, drinking stories all sound the same after awhile…

 

Traveling 2007 – August 8, KYOTO

Kyoto!

Kyoto is the most well known city in Japan for shrines, historical sites and traditional villages. It’s a city that’s thousands of years old and was once the Imperial Capital of Japan, and has only maintained its stature with a booming night-life and tourist industry.

Basically, when it comes to preserved cultural heritage sites, Kyoto is where people go to look at a past way of life, while being constantly confronted with the hyper-real Japanese culture of today.

We came straight from Osaka, uncertain of what to see but certain that Kyoto wouldn’t disappoint. We quickly found English-speaking people to help us, a rarity in Japan, and headed straight for the temples.

As in Korea, at tourist sites it’s expected that  journeyers march for some time up a steep hill while being ritually picked off by “specialty” retailers. It took us about an hour but after that mess we came across a sprawling temple area of preserved country-side and villages

The differences in Korean and Japanese architecture with temples is staggering. The Japanese are well known perveyers of subtlety, matching dark browns with black and white, while Korean temples feature meretricious colors that are both vivid and distracting.

Though to say Japanese temples are fully “subtle” is not entirely accurate. Their Buddhas, most made from solid granite, are far bigger than the statues within the penninsula

Here you can see a Big Buddha next to a high utility van, and the statue is far further back as well. Here’s the same statue shot from beneath the fence where we couldn’t get in;

Another difference in Korean and Japanese architecture is the growing necessity in Koreans to begin building up, rather than out. While Japan overall is a bit overpopulated, at least we can still go to some cities and still see this:

While in Korea there would be a multitude of high-rise apartments blocking the skyline like behemoth concrete blocks.

At any rate, the night-life was a riot, though since Kyoto is a bit of a tourist city, it was overpriced as well. As usual we spent most of the time twisting through labyrinthine sidestreets, cutting into Japanese brothels and slithering past with women in traditional geisha attire and make-up.

At night, the temples were still enthralling.