Nakatsugawa, Magome and Tsumago

A full day’s travel from Hiroshima to Nakatsgawa via Nagoya meant arriving too late to do much the day before. As well as collecting some walks information we did have time for a quick look at the wonderful displays of artworks (plus food, local sweet delicacies etc) at the Tourist Information Centre in Nakatsugawa.

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So after our buffet breakfast we took two buses to reach the start of our main planned walk for the day at the hill town of Magome. Lots of tourists joined us by leaving the bus in Magome

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but after walking up through the somewhat touristy section we found only a few other walkers with us. Into the forest we went. Quite often we had streams of water running near the path. From time to time we passed through small hamlets.

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A couple of times we crossed over the streams as we walked.

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At one point when we were quite high up we came to a series of raised boardwalks which were signposted asking us for our own safety to stay on the boardwalk not go near the soft edges.

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Near the end we were challenged by a stony downhill section.

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After that we crossed a bridge at the edge of a small farming hamlet.

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One of the houses even had the rice drying on a rack.

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Here are some photos of Tsumago, our end destination for the walk, which prides itself on the main row of well maintained/restored houses, It was also where we ate our lunch.

 

 

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Miyajima Island

Following our sober, reflective time at the Peace Park we jumped on a Green route bus and made our way to the station. There we boarded a train for Miyajima-Guchi station. On our arrival we just followed the crowd down to the wharf only to see a JR boat heading off towards the island. However it wasn’t that long before another returned and we were on our way. Sadly it was a really misty grey sky, one of the rare days like it we had experienced in Japan.

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As we approached the island we noticed not only the famous orange tori gate in the water but to our dismay some grey scaffolding around one of its pillars, as if it had a broken leg.

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On leaving the boat hundreds of us grouped towards the town. However when many took the turn towards the commercial centre of the town we kept to the waterfront promenade. Here we encountered the first of many deer, just like we had in Nara previously.

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At the point we had a good view to the tori gate. Quite a few stand up paddle boarders were there and the occasional boat ferrying tourists around the nearby waters.

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We passed by the main temple as it was being cleaned and there was already a huge queue.  Perhaps we would have a better view of the tori gate from the other side of the little inlet in which it was positioned. Around we walked. Very few people had come this way so I was even able to set up our camera on timer and take an old fashioned version of the ‘selfie’ with the tori gate in the background.

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Our travel mascot, Kirby, also posed for a photo. You can see how mournful he was about the weather and the scaffolding too.

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At one point Karen had thought we might even take a ropeway (cable car) up one of the mountains above the main town but due to the misty, cloudy weather it would have been a waste of money only to see clouds. So we headed back towards the commercial centre to look for some lunch. Along the way we came to the back of the temple complex so I leant over the wall to take a photo with the five level pagoda in the background.

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After I took it Karen pointed out a huge spider web and a rather large colourful spider in it.

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Nearer to town a surprise sighting of a wedding couple being transported in a rickshaw took our eye.

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Once in town we browsed around the cafes and food stalls. In the end we purchased a few skewers of grilled chicken, prawns and vegetables. Karen was also delighted to find this huge soft toy version of Totoro from Gibli movie, My Neighbour Totoro.

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We we also spotted this huge wooden spoon, a symbol of the island, on display.

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Given the cloudy weather it was no use waiting for a sunset that wasn’t going to happen so we headed back to the wharf. As it turned out a few hundred others had the same idea as you can see from this queue.

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The good news was that the ships were able to carry hundreds at a time and we returned via the next train to Hiroshima.

Return to Hiroshima’s Peace Park

The following morning after breakfast we joined the Orange route hop on hop off bus near our hotel and travelled around to the Peace Park again.

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Our first stop was the National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims.

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We made our way down to a large circular room with a pictorial representation of Hiroshima at the time of the bombing. Below this the wall was composed of over 140000 tiles representing the people who were killed. Upstairs another room had photos and details of those who were known. This is a small percentage of the victims but the vast majority were blank as the victims were never identified.

Once outside we passed the Peace Flame again. It is cupped in two large ‘hands’.

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From there we went up to the Children’s Peace Memorial. It is here that thousands upon thousands of paper origami cranes are encased in display cabinets. Stemming from bombing victim Sadako Sasakiho who was two when the bombing occurred. At 11 years of age she developed leukaemia. She decided to fold 1000 origami cranes. The crane is a Japanese symbol of longevity and happiness. She died before completing her aim but her classmates finished the rest. Thousands of children from all over the world have folded and sent cranes here.

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Whilst there we witnessed a school peace ceremony by some older students patiently watched on by a much younger group of students.

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Also a crane delivery by some very young students, who would be flat out understanding the symbolism of what they have done in making their cranes. Perhaps I am underestimating the message they receive in their class. It was very moving watching the two ceremonies.

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It is such a tragedy that WW2 ended in this way with so many civilians being bombed. At the time, clearly America believed in what they were doing in bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki but hopefully there is a lot of regret now for their role in history just as Japan acknowledges and regrets their role of wrongdoing as an aggressor.

“All we are saying is Give Peace a Chance.” – John Lennon

Hello from Hiroshima

After our first Shinkansen trip we arrived mid afternoon in Hiroshima. Once we had settled in we took off for a walk to see some of the sights. First stop was Hiroshima castle in the middle of a beautiful park. Th original castle dated back to 1589 but needless to say after being bombed this one is a reconstruction completed in 1958.

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From there we jumped onto one of the hop on hop off buses that tours the city. The good news was our Japan Rail passes covered it. We left the bus at the A bomb dome just as the sun was fading.

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Built in 1915 as a hall it was one of the few things that partly survived. Lots of school students were checking it out too.

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It was quite eerie being there as the sun set and the floodlighting came on.

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From there we walked down into the Peace Park past the Children’s Peace Monument which wasn’t lit, down to the cenotaph and the Flame of Peace. At the cenotaph a few wreaths had recently been laid. We could read in English the one from Denmark and one from the USA. We would return here the following day to see more.

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As we left the area we moved into a well lit shopping and restaurant sector of the city. Karen had read about the famous local pancake, Okonomiyaki, which sounded similar but different to what we had tried in Osaka. My cousin Andrew had recommended a whole building where lots of little food stalls with attached bars made Okonomiyaki. After a bit of looking we found it. We started on one floor but it was crowded with groups of school students. The same on the next floor but the third floor was fine. We looked around for a stall with an English menu. A husband and wife team welcomed us to their stall, Hirochan. We read the menu and soon made our choices. On a huge hot griddle in front of us they were cooking up orders.

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Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake with layers of noodles, cabbage and whatever you order with it.

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When our orders were cooked they partly chopped it up, but like in Osaka give you a cutting tool along with chopsticks to eat it with. It was really good.

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We chatted with a young Swiiss couple as we ate and drank. We were joined around the bar by quite a few locals/Japanese travellers trying Okonomiyaki too. The whole place had a lovely friendly atmosphere and we really enjoyed the evening.

Himeji castle

En-route from Osaka to Hiroshima we decided to break the journey and visit Himeji castle, an imposing castle dating back to the late 1500s but renovated in recent times. From the station we walked through the shopping street in the correct direction. Along the way we saw this bridal couple, a bit of a bonus, as they were in traditional dress using traditional transport.

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However on reaching the outer park area of the castle we missed any directional signs and went right when apparently we should have turned left.

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This resulted in us almost doing a complete circuit of the gardens surrounding the castle. It wasn’t all bad as I ended up with a rather nice reflection photo of the castle in the moat’s waters.

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After completing a ten minute walk we finally came to the front of the castle. Along with many others we took out our camera and did our best to take a good photo.

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Just after I snapped away a young guy approached us and asked if we would like him to take a photo with both of us in it. We accepted his kind offer.

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Then he had a request for us. He explained he worked for NHK TV. Would we mind being in a promotional video segment. Out of curiosity we agreed. Over to the cameraman and sound lady we went. It was for a show promoting travel in Kansai region. We had to jump up and shout out, “Kansai up!” After three takes they were happy and thanked us. Any reader with cable TV should look for us on NHK at 19:30 on the 28th of October for an amusing moment at our expense. Here’s the crew in the next photo after finishing with another couple who they had roped in.

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After that I walked around to the left to come closer to the castle. I took one more photo of this impressive castle

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before we headed back to the station for our train Hiroshima. Given that a fair section of the castle was covered in scaffolding we didn’t feel we missed much by not having time to go in and explore further but it was well worth stopping in Himeji.

Our first Shinkansen trip.

Arriving at the right time at the right platform was just the start of successfully boarding our 9:18 to Himeji from Osaka. The second part we were blissfully unaware of until a young British couple helped us out. Always check to see if the Shinkansen has 8 or 16 cars because it makes a big difference to which part of the platform you will be queueing at to board the train. On our ticket it told us car 5 and our seats 4a and b. At the last moment we had to move to a totally different part of the the platform thanks to this information. On we jumped with our cases and made our way to our seats.

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As the train very quickly accelerated I just had time to take a photo of the Umeda Skytower.

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At Himeji we left our first Shinkansen and visited the famous 1580 castle. (See the next post for more on this.)

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From Himeji we boarded this rather colourful purple Shinkansen. Unfortunately this lady also wanted a photo as it arrived.

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We had barely found our seats and the train was hitting a fast speed. Sometimes there were tunnels but at other times we had half a view like this. Railings or barriers are built to cut down on the noise I guess.

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At other times we actually could see most of the cities, towns and countryside as we sped along.

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It was certainly a good experience to travel the Shinkansen and as we continue our trip around Japan we will have many more such trips. One thing I have learnt though is that it’s hard to type as the train goes along, especially on a bend at amazing speeds.

Nara

The ancient capital of Nara was a short train trip from Osaka. So we decided to head there for a day trip. Nowadays it’s better known for being the home of the largest wooden temple Todai-Ji which houses a massive bronze Buddha known as Daibutsu. The train trip on the Kintetau line took just on forty minutes. From the station we joined the masses of school students and other visitors walking to the huge temple. It didn’t take long for us to spot some of the famous, and far too numerous, deer in an adjoining park.

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As we approached the temple entry we were a bit surprised to see a wooden boat on a lake.

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We paid our entry fee and approached the door to the main temple through a haze of incense. The giant Buddha was certainly huge but due to the darkness and a bit of an incense haze it was hard to make out all the detail.

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This side view shows him in a better light.

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Movement around the temple was in a clockwise direction. Next to the giant Buddha was another gilt bodhisattva, Kokuzo Bosatsu, to whom students pray for wisdom and memory to help with their studies.

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The next statues we saw were fierce looking guardians of wisdom.

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After exiting the temple we walked up towards a complex of sub-temples. Along the way we passed a massive bell with an equally large pole to ring it.

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Here is is the Nigatsu-do building.

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From its’ balcony we had an excellent view of Nara and the surrounding plain.

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We continued our circuit walk and passed this small temple

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and many of these lanterns, which I love photographing, especially when they have moss or small plants growing on them.

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The last part of the walk saw us going through a couple of the parks with the ubiquitous deer just waiting to be fed and/or photographed.

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Nara was a town of contrasts with the tourist flocking to the well known sights but you could also walk peacefully in the gardens and parks away from the crowds if you chose, as we did.