Monday, May 19, 2008


I'm obviously not posting regularly, so I've decided to retire this blog. I've (so far) stopped short of deleting it, for sentimental reasons.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Japan part 2

We got into Hiroshima around four p.m. and had to rush around a bit to find a hotel (did, tourist office was very helpful) and get to the peace park before it closed at five-thirty. We did that, and I enjoyed the peace museum a lot, since it's rare that one gets to touch history that closely (in this case, roof tiles exposed to the a-bomb blast), and it's been a long time that I've seen any moderate and unbiased discussion of WWII, basically saying "everyone was bad, and here's an example of the worst damage ever caused by a single weapon. So why don't we just try to not do any of that again?" 

Following the a-bomb site, which is marked by a nice little plaque on a marble block – I stood next to it and looked upwards, which Marc told me not to do – we strolled another thirty meters up the street to the baseball stadium to get tickets for the night's Hiroshima-Toyo Carp game. First we made a quick stop at the convenience store for some drinks and snacks we planned to smuggle into the game, only to find the locals carrying out massive bags full of stuff. Obviously not as greedy as our own are the Japanese baseball stadiums. The game itself was boring, which is saying a lot because I usually watch baseball and enjoy it, but the J-league pitchers take what seems like forever between each pitch, so that killed any intensity. The crowd itself was worth the admission fee, all chanting and clapping together, waving huge banners, and with a trumpet section. There was even a cheering section of the opposing team's fans, which was dutifully allowed to trumpet and cheer when their team was up to bat. We couldn't stay for the whole game, since we planned to leave the next day. When we left it was the top of the seventh and the game had already reached the 3-plus hour mark.

So, after taking the train all the way across Honshu one day, we came back halfway to Kyoto the next day. Stopping there at midday we had enough time to see some of the temples. We skipped the castle in favour of the Kinkakuji, a smallish pavilion covered almost entirely in gold leaf, set next to a nice pond (as are so many of the temples); then we proceeded to Ryohanji zen buddhist temple, which has one of those rock gardens that make such great office gifts in miniature. Personally I wasn't impressed with the rock garden, which had been raked into a rather predictable pattern: straight lines lengthwise and individual ovals around the stone islands. I had figured that a sect adhering to the idea of sudden enlightenment through unexpected means would do something a little more wacky, or at least that "stillness" shouldn't be a synonym for "dull". But alas, it seems nobody was feeling particularly creative, and apparently it's always raked into that pattern. Following the temple we took a walk on a little path lined with bamboo, on the way to which we found some great little craft shops and some black sesame ice cream which had a sort of unappetising grey colour but was nonetheless a good purchase. Better than the temples on all counts.

After that we caught a late train north to Kanazawa where Marc's friend Nahoko met us at the station. We stayed with her for a few days, saw Kanazawa castle (which was left to mostly burn down in the late 1800s because nobody wanted anything to do with samurai culture at the time, and then partially rebuilt about ten years ago) and the nearby gardens (very bucolic).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Some Life Left - pt 1

Marc told me yesterday that he actually checks this blog every so often, "just to see how long it's been since you last updated it." I suppose that means I have to keep writing.

Before I start, some helpful facts about Tokyo:

Exchange rate is about 115 yen to the Canadian dollar. This is a multi-year low for the yen.

The average price of a fast-food lunch is 500-600 yen.

A metro day pass costs 1000 yen. 

Today was the Akihabara electronics area, which was much less chaotic than the Shanghai equivalent, and much more expansive. But it was harder to find what you wanted, since things were arranged in proper order and separated into sections. If it's all crammed into one small glass case in a 3 foot by 5 foot stall, you can spot what you want right away; or move on to the next one. 

After that, lunch (katsudon -- pork schnitzel and rice) we got on the subway and went to the Edo-Tokyo museum. This has some old stuff and some info about the history of the city, and how it developed from Edo into its modern form. The building itself is rather odd, looking like a giant concrete torii (the typical Japanese gate). Inside, ok but not that great. They didn't ask for ID when asking for the student rate, though.

End part 1