Hiroshima

We spent an afternoon at the Peace Park and Memorial Museum in Hiroshima. It evokes very vividly the destruction wrought on the city when the atomic bomb was dropped on the morning of 6th August 1945.

Perhaps the most emotive place of all is the Childrens Peace Monument, which was erected in memory of a little girl – Sadako Sasaki who died from leukaemia following radiation exposure. When first ill she believed that if she could fold 1000 origami cranes she would cure herself. She never managed it. Near the monument are multiple glass cases containing cranes that people have sent from around the world as a gesture in support of peace. While we were there several parties of Japanese schoolchildren came and seemed to perform a simple ceremony before laying some paper cranes at the foot of the monument.

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Come on you Carps!

Tomorrow is our last day in japan. I am looking forward to a baseball match we are going to see. It is the Tokyo Yakult Swallows vs the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Carp play in red and swallows play in blue. I can not wait for the match. There are plenty of shops to buy gear to go to the match in. They seem to support there team alot. Today we went to the Atomic bomb dome and learned alot about the history of Hiroshima. It must have been terrible. One girl who did not get killed in the bombing and beleived that if she made a thousand oragarmi cranes she would live. Unfortunatley, she did not live to make that many but she made a fair amount. In her coffin were all of the cranes she had made. i also found out that the atomic bomb’s centre was around 1000000 degrees! That must have been painful!

New Experiences – update

After visiting Sanjusangen Temple yesterday I’m able to update you on further technological developments in the Japanese sanitary-ware department. The highlight of the visit in the girls’ eyes was not the vast hall housing 1001 images of Kannon the god of Mercy but the toilets.

They discovered that some toilets have a button to press that plays music to disguise the sound of urination plus another which will spray your bottom with warm water to aid in the cleansing process. They were squealing with excitement about it all!

East meets West

Obviously Japan is a country where the native language is very much different to anything we are used to, with alphabet(s) totally different from European ones. But it isn’t hard to travel about, buy meals and so on. For starters, there is English writing everywhere. Plus the Japanese are just so polite and eager to help. Then they do actually speak some English too.

But as you might expect the mix of East and West throws up some incongruous combinations. This was highlighted today when we went into a kimono shop in Nara. Beautiful fabrics and attentive staff in a spotless store. The music playing in the background? “Always look on the bright side of life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian…

Arigatou gozaimasu!

I’m completely overwhelmed by the politeness of the Japanese people. Every encounter is heavily punctuated by smiling,bowing and liberal thank yous (arigatou gozaimasu). It’s a very pleasant experience¬† – one I could get used to. Likewise the cleanliness. There seem to be armies of people on duty in public places ensuring the highest standards of hygeine. In Kyoto station there is someone whose job appears to consist of wiping down the handrails on all the escalators.

Another more unsettling manifestation of the Japanese proocupation with hygeine is the use of surgical face masks. At first I thought there had been an outbreak of SARS that had passed me by but it transpires that people wear facemasks when they have a cold to avoid passing infection on.