“大声を上げた僕達”

4/3/12   –   21:31

Apologies. If I don’t write this entry now then I will never get around to writing it and I’ll fall into the cycle of playing catch-up with this blog. Not cool. You know what else isn’t cool? My lack of postage. Last week was midterms and since then the work hasn’t stopped piling up so that’s why I’ve been MIA for a bit. I can’t promise regular entries, but I do assure you that the blog is still alive. That’s the best you’re gonna get as of right now, ごめんなさい orz.

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This entry will detail the latter half of my spring break which was spent not on a bicycle, but still traveling around the country. I went back to Shiga one more time at the behest of my speaking partner who works part time at a ski resort on a mountain there. [I think I’ve stated this before.] Except when I went, my speaking partner was conveniently … in Korea. So I got to play around on a snowy mountain while Marisa and her sister snowboarded like the pros they are.

Being too cheap to rent snow-wear and a board, I specifically asked speaking partner if “Snow Land,” the area reserved specifically for children [don’t judge me] was available for adults as well. She had said yes and I rode the rope-way up with the sole goal of sitting on top of a snowy hill and subsequently sliding down it.

Mission accomplished.

There was actually a pile of packed snow on top of the hill which I intended on making into a working igloo while Marisa was on the slopes. However, I instead found out that packed snow contains chunks of ice. Or, in a metaphor more suitable for Floridians like myself–much like sand contains rocks/shells. I don’t know how eskimos do it. >:| Or coal-miners. Or sculptors for that matter. Breaking up solids is hard work, man.

Among other things I realized:

– I could not ever snowboard. I’m too scared of dying.

– As much as they say to the contrary, adults are ultimately not welcome in Snow Land. The stares gave it all away.

– If I could pick one place to live in Japan among the places I’ve visited so far, it’d probably be a Kyoto suburb. Now that I’ve spent sufficient time around snow, I realize I’d never want to live in it. During the winter months, I like to be inside and warm where it smells like apple cinnamon… except I feel like no house in Japan smells like that. But mine would. And it would be perfect.

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The next part of my trip involved Saori taking us around Hiroshima, her home-prefecture. I went with Julia and we had a day to ourselves in Hiroshima city proper before heading to Saori’s house in Fukuyama City.

As everybody [who ain’t ignant] knows, Hiroshima was the site of the first atomic bomb used on human targets. As such, everything was destroyed except the 原爆ドーム which stands in the middle of the city as a reminder that we have the power to destroy the entire planet in one go if we wanted to. And that’s sort of scary. /hungergames.

Also, the dome sits in the middle of a large peace park with monuments dedicated to preserving peace and encouraging visitors to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. These include the Sadako Sasaki monument on the right there. Her 1000 crane story and her fight against radiation-induced leukemia have spawned millions of cranes for peace.

As we walked through the park and the downtown area of Hiroshima city, I kept thinking to myself “wow, everything is so neatly manicured and pedestrian accessible.” Then I realized that the city was planned that way. It’s strange to be in a place where almost everything is under 60 years old surrounded by a country where almost everything is over 600.

The museum was especially sad. There were lots of exhibits of children’s objects and photographs of bomb victims just covered in burns. I felt the same as I did when i visited Dachau in Germany. That makes sense seeing as concentration camps and the atomic bomb sites were the two major focal points of distilled human suffering during World War II. I also found it interesting that I felt sad, but not guilty. I feel sad for the victims because I am human, but I don’t feel guilty because I am American.

In any case, I feel like whenever any foreigner comes to Hiroshima, all they can think about is the bomb. And that’s unfortunate because Hiroshima is so much more than that. Namely: oysters, Okonomiyaki, and Itsukushima Shrine!

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is the foil to Osaka-style and the nation is split into two camps basically concerning the best way to eat this “Japanese Pizza,” which as an English translation is a gross oversimplification and incredibly wrong. Don’t tell the folks back in 大阪府, but I think I may like Hiroshima style better, lol.

Our last stop in Hiroshima proper was actually a bit out of the city aka Miyajima aka Itsukushima. I’m not even actually sure of the actual name. It’s been one of Julia’s goals to come to this shrine ever since before coming to Japan.

And I can say that my familiarity with the establishment stretches back years and years as well. My connection is a little less deep, however, seeing as i randomly picked an image of the shrine’s “floating” torii gate as an identification code for one of my online accounts. Our excitement can be, and was stated as follows:

Julia: “Oh my God, it’s my dream 神社! This is actually happening!”

Me: “Oh my God, it’s like I’m logging into my account… but in REAL LIFE! This is actually happening!”

Needless to say, I felt really lame, lol.

Although not as lame as I felt when I realized the tide would be out when we got there. Booooooo. So the famous floating torii gate of Julia’s dreams/my cyber-reality was not actually floating. Instead, we got to go and touch it which was pretty cool. Except for these nasty sea critters clinging to the wood. Also, people like to throw coins at the gate apparently.

In order to make it up to us in some fashion, the shrine lit up beautifully in the setting sun and deer were walking around on the beach which made for some nice pictures. Also, I pulled a good omikuji from the shrine and bought an o-mamori for good luck on exams which I can now say worked because I passed all of my midterms. Hurrah.

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The train took two hours to get to Fukuyama station and Saori and her mother met us there. We were then whisked away in a car to their house where Saori’s mom made every effort to make us feel at home. To include an array of Japanese dishes for dinner the two nights we stayed there. I can not thank them enough.

Our whirlwind tour included Fukuyama Castle, the town of Onomichi (famous for sakura and ramen but not together), and a couple of temples, one on top of a mountain and the other on a cliff overlooking the sea and plastered on the inside with images of breasts [yeah. really.]. We were also joined by Saori’s high school friends and they’re just as crazy as Saori is so it was a good time all in all.

There were mountains to be climbed. [I’m not a very good rock climber] There was mochi to be made [I am a very good mochi-eater]. And there were kimono to be worn [Julia is good at pretending to be a fan dancer and also an angry Japanese mother] [I am not very good at being Genji from the Genji Monogatari or being a strict Japanese father].

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After all this running about the country, I feel like I have run out of places to go that are both financially feasible and of sufficient interest to merit heading out for a few days. Okinawa and Sapporo are really the only places I have left on my list and I don’t have enough money to get me over there. So I think for the remainder of my two months here I’ll probably stay around the Kansai area between Osaka and Kyoto. Not that I have a problem with that.

The cherry blossom season is actually coming up soon so expect a few entries about 花見 shenanigans in the  Kansai area.

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The Friday after midterms were over, I had gone out to an izakaya with Andrea, Tina, and our friend Katsuya who insisted that we try every strange meat on the menu. Most of them were run of the mill by now: gizzard, goat, frog, heart, liver, etc. but it was my first time ever having 馬刺し or horse meat sashimi. If I were to describe the taste, it would taste like raw beef smells with a little more gaminess. We had a girl from Kumamoto Prefecture with us where this dish is a delicacy and she even said it was top notch. Well, I mean, if I had to try it once, it better have been good, right?

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