JAPAN BLOG 05
Wednesday April 11, 2018
At 8:15 in the morning, August 6, 1945, in the final hours of WW2, an atomic bomb exploded without warning in the skies over Hiroshima, turning the city into blackened, flattened wasteland of smoking rubble, and raining indiscriminate death and destruction on its civilian population. Final toll: 200,000 – 70% of them children, women and the elderly (many killed instantly by the massive blast, many more dying slowly and lingeringly from burns and radiation).
Three days later, at two minutes past 11, August 9, 1945, in a blinding flash of light and a thunderous, terrifying roar, a second bomb was detonated fatally above the city of Nagasaki. The grim statistics this time: 73,000 dead – 75,000 injured – 120,000 left homeless.
Like most Kiwis of our generation, we’ve known for ages of these Japanese place-names and what they signify. But this week, as we’ve visited the vibrant, charming, attractive cities that have arisen from the ashes, we Mad Midlifers been confronted with and challenged by the grim statistics, the horrifying photos, the heart-breaking stories … and forced to think again about the sheer insanity of war and our planet’s desperate need for peace.
Delivered from Kyoto to Hiroshima by a 330kph bullet-train, we found ourselves amongst wide boulevards and welcoming people. It was cold and wet when we toured the sobering Peace Memorial Park & Museum and grabbed photos of the Atomic Bomb Dome (the only structure left standing in the area where the first bomb exploded). But the rain only added to the atmosphere … as did the small group of Japanese ladies, singing beautiful peace-songs under their dripping umbrellas.
The following morning (Saturday) we braved shivering temperatures and took a short ferry ride out to Miyajima Island, a small wooded outcrop on the Seto Inland Sea. There we eyeballed the famous Torii Gate, entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine, and known worldwide for seeming to float on the sea. We rode the Mt Misen Ropeway (gondola) for some up-high grey-sky views … visited the Daishon Temple, a sacred historic complex deep in the forest … inspected the Five Story Pagoda, a stunning vermillion-coloured masterpiece built in 1407 … witnessed a wedding … and shopped for souvenirs and yummy hot food (like the local speciality: okonomiyaki rolls) in Omotesando Street, the liveliest place in Miyajima.
Sunday found us another 90 minutes by bullet-train to the south, in the city of Nagasaki – today a unique Japanese gem that begged us to explore. We spent the afternoon studying more horror-photos and artefacts in the Atomic Bomb Museum … checking out the lovely sculptures displayed in the Peace Park (including a stunning stainless-steel Maori peace-cloak donated by Aotearoa New Zealand) … and reflecting on the moving message conveyed by a 10-tonne bronze peace-statue at the top of the Park.
Our hearts joined with the good people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in feeling, thinking, praying, hoping: “No more! Never again!”
That evening we rode a gondola up the Mt Inasa Ropeway to a magnificent observation platform (333 metres above sea level) when spectacular night-time views and another yummy Japanese feast awaited us. And the following morning we rode a rockin’ rollin’ ferry across a choppy sea to Hashima Island: once a bustling coal-mining community, now an abandoned ghostly attraction – recognised by UNESCO and known as Gunkanjima (‘battleship island’) because of its ship-like silhouette.
FINAL RANDOM THOUGHTS: Believe it or not, our Mad Midlife Adventure in Japan is over! We arrived back in Godzone yesterday morning and were greeted by a drenching downpour (the tail-end of a tornado).
Over the past two-and-a-half weeks, Japan has wowed us and impressed us – an even-better-than-expected travel experience that we’re not likely to forget. The people we met couldn’t have been more friendly, courteous, welcoming. The infrastructure, everywhere we went, blew us away, with hi-tech road-and rail systems that make New Zealand seem Third World. The facilities, without exception, were spotless and hygienic – and we’ve all come home wanting the combination toilets-&-bidets we encountered (and played with, of course!) in every hotel and public loo. The streets & parks are clean-as, free of rubbish and rubbish-bins (the public are taught to take their rubbish home with them). And the scenic beauty throughout our trip kept cameras running hot – gorgeous gardens, exquisite flowers, manicured shrubs, and of course those stunning ever-present cherry-blossoms.
The food was an adventure all in itself, and we literally ate our way around Japan – whether sushi (we even made our own) … or sashimi (thinly sliced raw fish and meat) … or shabu-shabu (cooked piece-by-piece in a hotpot, and eaten with dipping sauce) … or tempura (battered and deep-fried delicacies) … or yakitori (skewered and grilled chicken or pork) … or kaiseki (an intricate multi-course meal, with each item served in a tiny dish) … or eat-as-much-as-you-can-get-on-your-chopsticks Japanese buffet – all of it fresh and healthy and non-fattening.
We’ve had a BALL, we really have … and we’ve got memories and photos to prove it!
So “Sayonara, Japan!” Goodbye – and thank you!
PEOPLE-NEWS: Some last-minute Yellow Duckies have quacked their way into the hands of proud new owners …
- EVELYN scored our ‘Mixing Her Drinks’ Award at breakfast the other morning – for pouring herself what she thought was a nice big glass of water, only to discover it was a nice big glass of sake (potent Japanese rice-wine). Evelyn is still giggling.
- PATTY ran away with another ducky plus our ‘Cards Anyone?’ Award – for losing her hotel key-card not once but twice in the same day, requiring her to seek replacements from the reception-desk. (Turns out she found the missing cards later – in her bra!)
- HEATHER B won our late-entry ‘Make It Unclick’ Award – for attempting (not once or twice but 10 times, according to her husband) to vacate her seat on successive coaches without first un-clipping her seatbelt. (If you don’t believe me, she’ll show you the bruises!)
Yours bloggedly – JOHN
P.S. Our upcoming 2019 TOURS are filling nicely. But there’s still room for you – why don’t you join us?
- in March 2019 we’re off to Vietnam & Cambodia for an eye-opening tour plus luxury river-cruise: MIDLIFE MADNESS ON THE MEKONG
- in May 2019 we’ll enjoy a grand tour in the colourful lands of flamenco, sangria and tapas: MIDLIFE MADNESS IN SPAIN & PORTUGAL
- in Sept 2019 we’ve schedule a rail-adventure through the Canadian Rockies plus a luxury cruise up the glacier-clad shores of Alaska: MIDLIFE MADNESS IN ALASKA
For more details and a free Tour InfoPack, phone Glen (our booking manager at House of Travel Ellerslie) on 0800 323 333 … or email firstname.lastname@example.org.