Today we travel to Hiroshima.
As we wait outside the hotel for our taxi we see a group of girls walk past along the footpath in single file, on their way to work. There is perfectly even spacing between them, and they are all identically dressed. They look like robots. We don’t think they’re too keen on individualism here in Japan. We've rarely seen anyone wearing outlandish clothes, or with unusual hairstyles, or even behaving unusually. Everyone just seems happy to conform and fit in.
We decide to have breakfast at the station. I’m still hungry after last night‘s tofu hamburger fiasco, and I suggest to Issy that we have breakfast at McDonald's. She knows that I hate McDonald's, so she assumes that I’m joking. I assure her that I’m perfectly serious, and then add that I think I must be suffering from Substantial Meal Withdrawal Syndrome. I‘m not sure that this is an officially recognised medical condition, but if it is, I’m sure that I must have it. I‘ve never yearned for McDonald's before in my life, but I drool as I wait patiently in line for my Big Mac and fries. For the first time after we’ve
eaten a meal in Japan I feel full. I don’t even feel sick. I think that Substantial Meal Withdrawal Syndrome might be a real condition.
As we stand on the station platform we get a close look at the front end of our Shinkansen bullet train. It is very streamlined, and the front looks like the front of a Concorde. The windows on the carriages are small, and also look a lot like those on a plane. I wonder why this is. I thought that the windows on a plane were small to stop them breaking and all the passengers getting sucked into outer space, but it seems a bit unlikely that this could happen on a train. Maybe they just want the passengers to feel like they’re on a plane. The bullet trains travel at speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour, and we cover the 360 kilometres from Kyoto to Hiroshima in a bit over an hour and a half, despite making quite a few stops along the way.
It’s a grey drizzly day, so Issy decides to stay at the hotel while I go exploring. I see some trams in the street outside the station. They apparently call them street cars here, but they look just like the trams back in Melbourne. I climb on one that looks like it might be headed in the general direction of Hiroshima Castle.
The Castle is surrounded by a massive moat, and its main tower is a five storey museum. The original castle was built in the 1590s, and was the home of the daimyos, or local shogunate rulers, during the Edo Period. Like virtually everything else here, it was destroyed by the atomic bomb blast in 1945, and the current structure is a recreation of the original. I can’t see too much from the top of the tower through the cloud and drizzle, but this certainly seems to be the only old looking building around the middle of Hiroshima, which is probably no great surprise given the events of 1945. It’s more than 70 years ago now, but the spectre of that horrific event still seems to be everywhere here.
I’m keen to have a substantial meal in Japan that isn’t McDonald's, and we’ve heard that okonomyaki is a local Hiroshima specialty. This is a delicious thick heavy Japanese pancake that I’ve had at Japanese restaurants in Melbourne. I spy an okonomyaki restaurant about a minute’s walk from the hotel, and we head for it. The restaurant looks full, and there is a sheet of paper outside the front door with a pen attached to it, which we assume must be a waiting list. There are four columns on the sheet of paper, but all the headings are in Japanese, and so are all the entries that other people have filled in below them. We assume that at least one of the columns must be for our names. We’ve got no idea what the other columns are for, so we just write “Dave” in the first column, leave the other columns blank, and hope for the best. The word “Dave” looks very odd in amongst a page that is otherwise filled with Japanese characters. I’ve heard stories about people signing pieces of paper in a language they don’t understand, and later discovering that they’ve inadvertently agreed to donate all their worldly goods to a religious sect. I hope that that hasn’t just happened to us. After a few minutes we’re summoned to our table. The okonomyaki is delicious, and very filling.
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