Iwakuni bus adventure with okonomiyaki and a side order of white snakes

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September 24th 2016
Published: September 24th 2016
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Iwakuni bus adventure with a side order of albino snakes please

Usually when I leave a country to go home I'm looking forward to eating something different. You know, when you leave a country that doesn't clean its water properly you can't wait to have fresh fruit or you're sick of curry or something. When I get home this time it'll be different as I'll be craving Japanese food!

Second thing before we get started on today's activities-face masks. Walking round in one of those looks no fun to me so I don't think I'll be joining in. I can understand people wearing them if flu or ebola is rife or, as someone explained, if the pollen is particularly bad for hay fever sufferers or even if the pollution is really bad. But wearing them out in the country with no prevalent diseases around and no pollen...no thank you. It may help you live an extra minute but if I had to spend that extra minute wearing a face mask I think I'd forgo it thanks. There aren't as many people wearing face masks here as I expected but maybe it will get worse when we get to Tokyo.

For now we are still based in Hiroshima and today's plan was to spend about four hundred hours travelling to spend 27 seconds on a cat island. Our route had been planned out before we got here but the costs of ferries was much higher than expected when Claire looked it up last night. A lot higher. And it was at least three trains, a tram and two ferries to get there and then the ferry only holds 34 people and might not go even if you can fit on. And it only runs twice a day.....

So we changed plans, but mainly because of the cost.

Thankfully we have seen three cats today so it's kept Claire happy. We have also seen a pushchair designed specifically for dogs and seen lots of people carrying their canine companions. This hasn't made me happy. This is ridiculous. Stop it. Now.

Tram, train, bus. That was a hell of a cut down from the planned route today but the bus part made us a tad apprehensive. Thankfully we're quite adept at this Japan place now and were soon alongside the five-humped Kintai-kyo bridge. We'd bought a combined ticket which included a few things including walking over the bridge (it was free when we walked back as the ticket office had closed).

A pretty impressive bridge we took some pictures and I hopefully got some good heron shots as well as some of an old fisherman. We hadn't been on a cable car since yesterday so we were itching to take another one and we were soon crammed into an overfilled car to get to the top of the hill where we visited Iwakuni castle.

Castles here are about as similar to British castles as chocolate hobnobs are to those vile garibaldi things. They start out the same but veer off in completely differrent directions-both fantastic though. Unlike those vile garibaldi things.

We could go into this one and it contained a few swords and things as we climbed to the observatory at the top. The view was fantastic and well worth the few stairs we clambered up to get there. As we were taking some pictures of the castle from the outside (including some arty farty ones with a toadstool in them.....) we spotted an animal amongst the bushes. No idea what it was, a mongoose maybe, but we attempted to get some shots of it and watched it for a while. It's nice to see these things out in the wild.

After having a look at a rather unspectacular mechanical clock it was time to head back down the ropeway, as they call cable cars here. This time it was a bit emptier and I was able to breathe but not able to fart and get away with it. So I did the former but not the latter.

Food was the next aim as Claire said it was okay for me to eat despite having an ice cream earlier which she said was my lunch. I tried a lotus root croquette and it was okay. The stall holder said there was pork in there when Claire asked if it was veggie but I saw no signs. It was okay.

We are struggling still to find veggie things for Claire. Lots of places have pictures but you can't tell or don't know if they have meat or fish in them. Bonito fish flakes are used in many things so it's tricky, particularly when there's no Japanese word for vegetarian. My friend Toyo sent me something to say and show people so when we were ushered into a restaurant we were able to get the message across.

I had a platter of local food which was okay. Nice to try it all but it wasn't spectacular and Claire felt the same about her ramen noodle bowl. There is no concession to Westerners by the way-you don't get a knife, fork or spoon here. It's chopsticks even for soup so don't come here if you're not prepared to eat like a local! (You pick the bowl up to drink the liquid in the soup by the way)

We wandered round the pleasant park, saw an old traditional house with tatami mats and sliding doors then headed for the white snake museum. As usual the maps here area a bit odd but we eventually found an entire museum dedicated to albino snakes.

It was only ¥200 to get in and there was a strange short animated film in one room before we entered the main part. Which was about as big as our living room. There were bits and bobs about the snakes, some things with buttons that would probably have been interesting if we'd understood them and a tank with a few whitish snakes in it. Apparently the snakes are considered lucky and people come here in the hope that they will make them successful in business.

Claire has a phobia of snakes but after all the cat nonsense I've had to put up with she was kind and brave enough to come in with me. She didn't look very happy or comfortable about it though.... I think it was worth what we paid but it was probably the smallest museum I've ever been in.

We then headed for a walk through cherry blossom trees to a bamboo grove. Obviously it wasn't the time of year for cherry blossom and the route was ruined by a party of loudmouthed Americans having a barbecue in a none-barbecue area while dropping cans on the floor and generally winding me up. We walked the other way and found the bamboo grove. We went inside but didn't stay long as we were being bitten to buggery. I sent the insects in the direction of the noisy Yanks but it only seemed to make them louder as they started singing. Gits.

We sterlingly negotiated the bus back to the train station and then just missed the next train back. Sometimes you wish the trains would be just a tad late....but no, not even by a minute so we waited for the next train and didn't realise it had left from a different platform until it was too late. We caught the next one though and were soon heading back to Hiroshima where I had been promised more food, this time the local delicacy Okomoniyaki which is a sort of savoury pancake.

Or so I was lead to believe. The actual 'pancake' bit looked more like an omelette but I'm not complaining. It's cooked on a sort of teppenyaki griddle with noodles, cabbage and beansprouts with sauce and your choice of topping. I had fried squid, Claire had cheese and it was very, very nice. Next time I'm in Hiroshima I'll be having more for sure.

It also contained pork but didn't mention that anywhere and yes they did have an English menu. Luckily Claire had said she didn't want meat or fish but it just shows how difficult being a veggie is as a tourist. She did join me in trying Pocari Sweat but wishes she hadn't. It's nicer than it sounds. But not by much.

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