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Published: October 2nd 2017
Just to begin, one of the few downsides to life in Japan is the lack of street names and house numbers.....there aren’t any!! Hard to believe in this country of perfection, accuracy and convenience, but it is so.
But, back on the road....after the long march of Kumano.......and the rain...it all turned out sunny, I went to the beach....
Then it was on to a lovely seaside town, Shirahama, more fabulous tiny bars and funny people, really made to feel at home. And a very nice little bay with great beach. It's pretty deserted, still the low season for tourists I guess.....but I think it's all quiet down south. The youth have gone to the city for work and life, the old remain.
It's Tuesday and I'm not due in Hiroshima until Wednesday so I take the Shinkansen as far south as I can, Kagoshima, the famous volcano on the island just offshore dominates the skyline. The airbnb is actually a hotel where Yuki has a couple of special rooms, all very japchic decor, confusing but cool, and right in the heart of the entertainment precinct. Yes, hundreds more little bars, huge pachinko slot palaces,
titty bars and hotels.......I stick with the tiny bars, that’s small bars.
In the morning long lines of desperado punters lining up outside the pachinko places....waiting anxiously for the 10am opening.....throwing their money into the slots...faaark.....It was suggested to me that they are fronts for North Korea and a nice little earner...hmmm
And then back to Hiroshima, aaaah, where to start? One of the best airbnb experiences ever! Yosuke and Haruyo are such wonderful hosts, lots of long talks and insights into the Japanese psych, especially women's issues and cultural mores......to understand the similarities and differences between Japan, VN and Oz....contrasts, similarities!
There is no avoiding the omnipresent horrific history of this city. At the Peace Park the iconic dome, last time I was here it was being reinforced, now it looks sort of phoney but still central to the narrative. Everywhere photos, memorials, stories, films, paintings, replicas of the most tortuous terrible events, very heavy on the heart and tears.... Haru told me her mother's brother, although aways from the centre, died 14 days after the blast, like so many, from radiation poisoning. An artist, he had managed to draw some pictures
which are now part of a large collection of survivors' art, more harrowing in their childlike simplicity, stick figures and the like, you can sense their total incomprehension of what had happened. No experience of war, no predictions of annihilation no stories of hell could come close to explaining this!
However, the people of Hiroshima have moved on (sorry for that shit expression) stayed, rebuilt, raised families, it's another big clean bustling city, beautiful out along the river where Y&H have their lovely cosy very different little timber A-frame house, local shops and schools, I take the local train into town, jump the ferry out to Miyajima island, the high tide flooded ancient gateway, Itsukushima Shrine.....and a beer and 2 large bbq oysters from the exact same stall as in 2001.
Very sorry to leave and determined to come back! This time I'm visitor 105 at Yosuke and Haru's Airbnb, Haru has photos of all their guests....so cool!
A long day on the trains all the way from Hiroshima to Sapporo, +2,000 kms in 20 hours.....but the 300kph shower and some sleep, some reading......then.....arriving in the dark, pissing down rain, lost
3 days of the KK in track shoes...
taxi, finally into the 7th floor apartment of my cat loving IT geek host. You don't want to know!
But it's been fine, one of the problems of having such really good Airbnb experiences is when you have the ordinary ones....one's expectations dashed and crashed. A few observations, Sapporo and general:
Public transport has announcements in Japanese and English.....on a semi crowded train 3 schoolgirls got on and we're fooling around, when the English announcement came on they chanted it exactly in time and pronunciation, then looked at me and we all cracked up. The grown ups exhibited classic Japanese polite indifference.
They are pretty tolerant of youth, they need them! The aging population is a real worry. A girl sitting in the seats reserved for old, infirm, pregnant, etc was gently reminded by an old guy of her position, she ignored him, engrossed in her Iphone social app.....he shrugged and smiled.
The ambulances have lights, sirens, buzzers and voice! A recording yells out as they rush along....."get out of the fucking way!!" .....not certain of my translation but....
Sumo guys don't take
trams, the tramstops in the middle of the road are about 400mm wide, cars and trucks whipping by on the outside, pull in the gut as the tram slides in. Danger factor in the red zone.
Street work guards: whippersnippering along the river in Hiroshima, chain sawing a tree in Osaka, roadworks in Sapporo, each gang of 2-3 workers has 3 or 4 guards, vigilantly shepherding pedestrians around or signalling to the workers to cease and desist while we pass. Safety consciousness to 11 but the constant life threatening tram stops....wtf?
Everywhere the most wonderful public dunnies, what more can I say?
Everyone, well, everyone over 20, is extremely polite and courteous but sniffing is ok.....on the crowded tram, usually someone beauty-challenged, ghastly runny nose and 10secondly slurpy noisy snivelling snotsucking, enough to make a well brought up lad choke.....have to move away...aaarrrggghhh....
But, like VN, you can crunch your pickles, slurp your food, drink from the bowl, pig out big time....all good!
Surprisingly few solar panels on houses.....hmmmm......but then I see the massive hectare arrays, good for whole towns.
of flattish pitched roofs south of Sapporo and this is under snow 6 months of the year...?
Sapporo is a very pretty city, great tram service and metro and busses, lovely little flower beds on many streets....who maintains them I wonder, the council or the householders? They look so individual I suspect the latter.
And don't get me started on the food festival....I reckon I was there 7 times......the famous Genghis Khan bbq mutton, fish, oysters, beers and wines....the best from all over Hokkaido, small villages bringing their local best to town. And a super relaxed friendly uncrowded atmosphere
Another longish day on the trains to Yokohama, it's the limited express to Hakodate, only 210 kph, then the Shinkansen to Tokyo. We're following the coast and it looks pretty windswept, the houses look like they're ready to brace for a storm regularly. Hokkaido is very flat with abrupt big mountains, no half measures.
I realise we are going to pass Fukushima.......but the train dives into a really long tunnel
And it's fall, or Autumn as we say in English, the leaves are staring to turn, it will
be pretty pretty in a few weeks.
But this lack of street names and house numbers has me stuffed.....the airbnb guy in Sapporo even gave me the coordinates for googlemap so I knew when to tell the taxi to stop, but it was in the middle of the road....which fucking building? At least he answered his phone when I rang and came down to fetch me....in the lobby of the building, around the corner and through the first set of doors is this Japanese charactered mural....See, he tells me, I sent you a photo of this!.....
Off to Tokyo for the last week.....
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