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Published: March 28th 2019
We arrived in Hiroshima an evening earlier than expected and as a result had to find a place to stay. We found the Matsui Garden Hotel on lastminute.com and once there were reminded what a pleasure it can be to stay in a decent hotel - nothing flash but a good business hotel. Good room and WiFi and good location at a reasonable price. Then off to find a close by restaurant with good reviews that we found online, Izakaya.
We got close and asked some locals where it was as the signage outside was all in Japanese. They were very helpful and managed to take us back to our hotel before we persuaded them we were going in the wrong direction. Needless to say 15 minutes later we were back at the place we met them and found the restaurant. Lovely couple but worse sense of direction than me!
The restaurant was tiny and as we entered the waiter/cook/bottle washer was nonplussed that a couple of noneJapanese were in there at all.
As he couldn’t speak English and our Japanese didn’t stretch much beyond thank you we were in trouble. A few drawings and imitations
if animals later and we managed to to order some food, (ordering the sake was easier).
The atmosphere and food were terrific and we got on well with both guys behind the bar as they made fun of us to everyone else. We had agreed to have some fish. They served us with a platter of raw fish to which Sue panicked & asked for tempura. They took it away, fried it & re served it, delicious!
The sake was served in a glass sitting in a small box. They pour it in front of you until it overflows into the box. As you start to empty your glass you top it up with what is in the box.
We then walked to the more neon part of Hiroshima to Jazz Mingus. In a shopping mall and up the stairs this was a gem of a place to find. Again a small bar but more modern and glass and posters of artists all round. At ten o’clock the guy behind the bar stood up and picked up a double bass and another guy picked up a sax and they started playing. Terrific sound in what is probably the
most intimate setting we have listened to live music in. The audience was us & two Japanese. Definitely worth finding, however there was no entrance fee but we had a shock when we came to pay the bill!
The following day we walked through the Peace Park to the Peace Museum.
If you are ever in this part of the world this is a must.
As you walk around the area and then the museum you start to get a feeling of the impact of the bombing on the country, the city and individual lives in a way that brings it to life no matter what you knew about it before.
The whole thing is understated but no less powerful emotionally for that. It’s always difficult to grasp big numbers (140,000) when talking about war but the way this is put across helps you do that while bringing out the individual stories of death and destruction and the strength of humans to endure all that’s thrown at them.
I’m not ashamed to say I was openly crying as I read some of the diaries and stories as we went round.
never happen again for all our sake.
After the Peace Museum we set off to Miyajima island via Hiroshima castle and a little boat trip round the moat.
After passing the train station we got off, crossed the platform and went back the other way- oops. It was then a short ferry ride across to the island and the Itsukushima floating Torii shrine was visible from the ferry.
We walked over, to get a better view of the shrine and some pics, passing a few deer in the street on the way, then back to Kyoto.
Ōsaka was about an hour away so we decided to spend an afternoon there via the Kyoto Art Museum.
Once we got to Ōsaka it took 20 minutes just to get from our train to an underground train - these stations are huge above and below ground!
Coming up for air in the Namba area we found the Japan we were expecting- noisy, very busy, neon lights, sounds and smells. Fantastic for a while then a tad tiring particularly in a grey dank day.
Some great sites and quirky places too as we wandered around, including
a tiny Cat and jazz shop housing all thing jazz but with a cat influence. Another phenomenon we had seen elsewhere but more obvious here is the pet cafes (cat, owl and dog).
Next day another train journey out to Nara. About an hour away and on a sunny day we spent the day walking through the town and park with very tame deer. There was an old Japanese house which we entered and were taken round by a guide who was very informative. We wandered around the old town & ended up at the sake distillery for a sake tasting. Six different sakes for 500 yen plus we got to keep the glasses/ tasty and a bargain. While we were there we spoke with a polish couple who recommended a tiny restaurant called Kura.
We eventually found it but the sign on the door said full, no seats available. So of course we ignored it and managed to persuade them to book us in an hour later. Result.
It was a great little place where everyone sits around the bar and because it is so intimate you end up talking to everyone whether Japanese or
foreigners. At various points we were talking with a Japanese businessmen and 2 Japanese chemists, an English guy from Brighton who was working in Tokyo, an economist from Minnesota, a programmer from London etc. Great evening and great food.
Back to Kyoto much later than expected and then off on our final bullet train the following morning to Tokyo for our last night in Japan. And hurrah this one had WiFi.
Back by lunchtime dropped the bags off at the hotel and grabbed a subway & a Monorail to Mori museum digital lab exhibition - on the way losing my subway ticket, having a minor panic as I thought I had also lost my phone but Sue was holding it so all of a sudden losing the ticket didn’t matter so much!
Riding the monorail across to the Mori museum above the city meant we got the see a different view of the city.
Having already bought the tickets online we ended up having to walk to the back of a 200metre line to queue to get in. You would have thought the digital lab and the museum in this great land of technology would come
up with timed entry rather than just taking your money and still making you queue! Bonkers
Oh and you get to the end of the queue and find another one almost as long inside - ouch.
Brilliant exhibition though - all digital art and constantly changing, difficult to describe but if you are in Tokyo you should go. Not done this much queuing since Disneyland! Sure the queues would have been shorter first thing.
Back to the hotel and goodbye Japan - enjoyable but not an easy place to get around with a few real high lights & mixed weather. Worth coming to though ( although we would choose a warmer month if we did it again!) & we only caught the start of the blossom.
Next Singapore on our way home. And it was good to put shorts on again and bask in sunshine and heat for a while (until it was too hot and sticky of course).
We arrived in the evening, grabbed some food & walked to The Raffles hotel. When we were here 30 years ago we tried to get into Raffles and it was shut for refurbishment. So you
guessed it, it was shut for refurbishment once again!! What are the odds of that?
Nothing to be done so we wandered back but then saw that the long bar was still open - hurrah, but it had closed 15 minutes ago- boo.
Next day we went across to Sands Sky Park via a walk around China Town. This wasn’t there when we last came 30 years ago - (nor was much of Singapore). A great view from the top once we were up there in the sun. We met a rancher from Texas called Ray who ended up showing us his ‘kill’. I said we don’t really do hunting in Guildford and for some reason he was a tad surprised! Nice guy but a little strange, no prizes for guessing who he voted for.
As we spoke the weather changed from bright sunshine and oppressive heat, then mist and full blown cloud ( almost a white out) then the sky let rip with thunder, lightning and pouring rain. We had to have another drink!
After a wander round shopping malls to keep out of the rain (torrential) we went back to the YMCA for a
That evening we walked to Raffles again this time early enough to get in. The long bar has a great feel to it - regal and civilised but not pretentious. Sue had the Singapore Sling and I had a Mule ( named after John Wayne and as my dad was a fan I thought I would raise a glass).
Final day of this part of our travels after 4.5 months away we had 16 hours left in Singapore before flying home.
So first port of call was a visit to ‘Gardens by the Bay’. What a fantastic place with two domed areas one for Mediterranean type flowers and the other for mountainous plants, creepers and cacti. But the Supertrees and the walkway between them was the highlight.
We then wandered round the bay and went to the ‘highest craft brewery in the world’ - apparently- at level 33. Recommended by Sue’s tennis buddy Jo Cockerill who is living in Singapore but was back in Guildford.
From there a quick taxi to the electronics area for Sue to look for a new lens - Happy Birthday for May!!!
Back to pack then out again
for a few hours back towards the esplanade and across the water from the sands hotel again. Sue wanted to take some pictures of the buildings as the light changed and also when the light show began.
Great show to finish our tour before catching our plane.
UK here we come ........,,to be fair we have already arrived but the blog is late!
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