Friday, 30 September 2011
Calvin and I finally had time to hunt down a tennis club, and with our snazzy second hand rackets, we found one (after 2 hours of driving!) We played for a while, when a the man who owned the tennis club came out and explained that he used to play for the Japanese national team and was a proffesional in America! He gave us free lessons, free sports drinks and chatted to us about tennis for ages! It was so nice to meet someone so friendly, and it was nice to know the tennis club is that cool!
Monday, 26 September 2011
We made the massive, extremely long trip up to Yamaguchi, where we collected Julianne from the station, and then Brent came over. We had such a nice time, we did some Kareoke...where everyone sang reeeeallly badly, and then we went out to this second hand store that was open 24 hours! Keri bought bags and I finally got hold of some tennis rackets, which means Calvin and I can play now!
Iwakuni has an American military base, so there are bound to be a lot of Western influences there. In all the guide books, it mentions Mike's Mexican restaurant, and many of the south Yamaguchi JETs have already been there. We arrived when it was closed, but waited an hour till it was open. It was quite expensive, 900 yen for a margarita, but it was so unbelievably worth it. It was like the Irish bar....it smelt and tasted just like home!
Back down at the bottom, Jessica wanted to visit the maple grove which is relevant because her surname is Maple and the Iwakuni/Hiroshima area is quite famous for Maples. Only one of the trees was beginning to change, but it was so beautiful all ready! In October and November, more and more leaves will change and turn the whole countryside beautiful!
The view from the top was really beautiful. You could see a little more than from the cable car too. The highlight was being able to see Shin-Iwakuni station, the shinkasen station. We waited untill we saw a Nozomi train come through, they travel at 300km/hour and are over a quarter of a mile long! It was great, but very hard to photograph! Down in the park, we had a little short wait for the cable car, and we discovered this very odd, mechanical clock tower...with strange birds inside it! Jessica said she had seen it chime, but it looked pretty strange! Maybe it is one of those things you just have to see! However, it did look pretty snazzy in the sunlight!
There is a lovely park at the top of the mountain where the cable car lets you off, and we wandered over to the castle. It was up quite a few steps...and we giggled over all the Japanese girls getting up the stairs in 3 inch heels! And I thought I wore impractical shoes! There wasn't much inside the castle, apart from some more samaurai armour, but we were determined to get to the top!
U From seeing the white snakes, we took the cable car up to the castle. It was a really good package, across the bridge, up the cable car, and entry to the castle. It was cheap too!The view in Iwakuni was unbelievable...you could really see for ever! We saw the bridge, all the mountains, and all the way over to the American air/navy base. I really loved how beautiful Iwakuni was, a bit like Hiroshima, a new city mixed really well with lovely old towns!
Sunday, 25 September 2011
Iwakuni is famous for snakes...white snakes in particular. I couldn't understand the description about why white snakes come from Iwakuni, or why they are kept and bred there, but I do know that they were a major tourist attraction! They have quite beady, red eyes...which were quite creepy in my opinion! They were up against the glass, so I got to get a good photo of the creepy little guy! It did inspire a lot of White Snake (the band) references all day!
A little bit of a walk from the bridge is a forest of bamboo. Bamboo is VERY Japanese...and I was quite excited to go and see some! It was a small little forest, but still fun none the less. We did realise at the end, that it was roped off, and we probably shouldn't have been there, but I was glad we went and saw some, took some photos and whatnot. I really liked the way that the light bounced off the trees, and how it filtered down to the ground. There were lots of mosquitoes, and I got eaten alive in such a short time, but the photos were certainly worth it!
We walked around after ice cream, looking at the pretty parks, and trying to take group photos, quite unsuccessfully....so we wandered over to where they have these White snakes....theyre creepy...but apparently its an Iwakuni thing that you just have to see! Snakes don't bother me...it's more the red eyes! Walking around the town was nice, it is very quaint and reminds me a little bit of Hagi!
After you get across the bridge, there is a soft ice cream shop (what the Japanese call Soft Cream) which has 100 flavours...they have some seriously weird ones! The place is quite famous apparently, and has even been on TV show! I had chocolate almond, I know Jessica had cinnamon, and it was very yummy! We went and sat in the park by the bridge and ate them because it was such a sunny day!
We took a very late train back to Waki, where Emily lives, and stayed at her super lovely apartement! I really loved it, and came home determined to clean mine and make it that nice! The next day we met Keri and went to Iwakuni, which is very famous for it's bridge. I'm sure there is something special about the construction....but I missed that part...and well...it's just pretty! And so picturesque and lovely!
We found Keri and Ciaran in Hiroshima, with their friend Taro (?) and we all went to Ciaran's favourite place away from home, Molly Mulligans, the irish bar. I didn't realise I missed home so much, it even smelt like home...and they had pie! Pie, and chips, and mashed potatoes! And proper vinegar! I hate vinegar, but darn, was it good!
We got to the memorial museum before it shut too...its a very ugly modern building in the park, but more important is whats inside it. You never really can understand the scale of the attack untill you go there. They have movies, and drawings, and accounts and artifacts from people who lived there, from kids that were affected, from buildings that were warped and so on. I think the hardest part for me was the bit all about the physics of atomic bombs. That science is something so important for the future of the world...something which can really change the world...and it was used for bad things....and it makes people afraid to hear about radiation, and it isn't always something bad...just in this case it was.
On such a beautiful day, we went to the Peace Park...where people can go, sit somewhere in the park, and look through the memorial arc through to the A bomb dome. There is also an eternal flame there for all the victims of the Atomic Bomb. It was full of people when we went...a major tourist place for people who visit the city for sure!
After the castle, we made our way through the underground shopping village to the A dome. I think if most people come to Hiroshima, they want to see the symbol of where the world's first atomic bomb went off. I was a lot more shocked than I thought I would be....there is something so final about seeing a building so mangled, but left exactly as it was over 50 years ago. It is such a sad thing in Japan's history. I know Hiroshima is really big on nuclear disarmmament now, so it is a poignant reminder of what happens when science is used for destruction.
There were at least 6 flights of double stairs all the way to the castle, and boy was it tiring - but we made it to the top, for the lovely view! After the typhoon,the weather was getting better, and was a nice mild, sunny day, so we could see for miles and miles! It was great to see the moat from up there, it was great to be in such an ancient building in such a modern city!
The castle is used as some sort of Samurai sword and armour museum. It also has a bit on how castles are constructed, and the different places you can see them within Japan. But possibly the most exciting bit was the dressing up like a Samaurai! Jessica is good fun and always up for a laugh. She not only put on the helmet, but the whole outfit!
It's common knowledge that I love posts, lamps, benches and anything nice and symmetrical. I haven't found many benches to take photos of in Japan, so I was very pleased that, right outside the door of the castle, were these poles, which were barriers to stop people falling into the moat down below. The castle is up on a hill and is surrounded by a massive moat.......waaaaaay down low. It's a great view from up there, but apparently the view from the top is even better!
Hiroshima is a lovely city, I was so impressed by it, and Emily is a very good tour guide! She took us to Hiroshima Castle - my first standing one (Hagi is just ruins) in Japan so far! It's set in this park full of beautiful trees. It was great, big and imposing, and there were lots of steps all the way up to the top!
On Saturday, I met Jessica at Yamaguchi and then we took a very long, long slow train to Iwakuni, to meet Emily, and then onto Hiroshima. We made it to the station - where they have an international store, and then we did a little shopping! We got Starbucks, which is great when you don't see it so often! Jessica was especially excited, as she hadn't had a Starbucks since she got here! The white chocolate mocha is super lovely, but at the moment there is also a Apple Crumble latte!
Thursday, 22 September 2011
Usually, I collect postcards from places I visit all over the world...but it seems that in Japan...postcards really arent that popular! I had to get something else to collect, so I decided on cell phone charms. Everyone has one (at least) on their phone...even boys! I filled up my phone pretty much in the first 3 weeks in Japan...but now they are attached to my keys and other things. I try and get one from every new place I go...my favourites are the ICOCA Platapus/Bird thing which I just got this weekend in Kyoto, and the Fukuoka Bean (which I didnt try while I was there but is still cute!) I'm not sure what I will do with them after....but at least they are small and cute!
I havent gotten to see Tom and Jamie since my very first week in Japan. Isn't that awful. They are both starting their 4th year here in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and, as far as everyone tells me, are the best of friends! When I first moved to Hagi, they came down and helped me find my way around, and had dinner with us! So nice of them! So it was good to get to see them again, and see Nagato, where they live. It seems bigger than Hagi and with more amenities, but maybe it is just spread out! They are also going to Hiroshima this weekend so maybe I can see them there!
The speech contest was at this place called Rapport Yuya, kind of a community arts centre, with a stage and study rooms and such. It's this really cool circular building, and has floor to ceiling windows, and it was such a lovely view! These are taken through the glass, but I still think theyre grand. What a beautiful prefecture I live in!
I went out to Nagato for my first speech contest! Everyone was so lovely to me today, Amariah came to get me from the station, one of his JTEs collected us, and the speech contest went great. I even got a lift home from a lovely lady who lives in Hagi. It was so nice to see the boys...Nagato isnt super far, but enough out of the way that we dont see them often! So I was super excited to see them, and I thought they all looked lovely all smart!
Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Gavin and I went out Monday morning to the International Magna Museum...it was supposed to be so cool and it certainly didn't dissapoint! Most people were there just to read all the millions of books they had there, but they had cartoonists, and artists to create Manga versions of you, as well as a whole bunch of history things too!
After the gates, a long trek home, and many phone calls to locate people, we ended up on a long long bus to Gion. It is famous for the Geisha district, but we really only ended up going for a dinner at an Italian restaurant. The food was good, we got a whole floor to ourselves, and had a great discussion on everything from the Universe to Consciousness! It was awesome! Next time I shall have to go back and see some of the more important things in Gion though! So as I was leaving, I quickly snapped a photo of one of the many lanterns!
Right near the end of our very massive trek, which had taken us several hours instead of just one....the sun came out. It really made everything so beautiful, and the whole area was bathed in this lovely yellow-orange light! I think these were probably the best photos I took allllllll weekend! I just loved them! It really reminded me how lucky I am to be in Japan, surrounded by beautiful things, lovely people, and some really awesome culture!
Gosh, yet another photo of someone taking a photo....but there is a story behind this one too! All up the mountain there were these places to sit, rest, have a drink from the vending machine (yes, up on a mountain) or maybe buy a little shrine to leave somewhere. It was full of little tiny gift stores. But people actually live up this far on the mountain, and there were tons of cats there too! This was one that actually did not move between us going up the shrine, and it was still there when we decended...it was very patient! I find that all Japanese cats just sit there and allow you to take their photo...in England the cats would run away! Pretty sure it is because they are Kawaii and they know it!
I dont often take photos of people taking photos, but Gavin has a serious thing about it...I'm pretty sure he does it unconsciously! Because of how many visitors there were at this shrine, there were rows and rows and rows of little white paper wishes. I again, have no clue about them, but there were tons at every little stop up the mountain! Gavin got a pretty awesome photo of me taking a photo of the wishes....but recreating it with him was pretty hard! The best thing about photos is that noone can quite do it the same! I quite like it none the less, but the best thing about the photo, is that Gavin has a 60D just like me! And for once, I actually knew how to use mine! It's quite snazzy seeing someone else with one! We totally had the coolest cameras there!