Long time no see-- or as the title says in Japanese 'Hisashiburi'. The Chinese New Year began this past weekend and I am going to take this of a do-over to the New Year. I feel like people need the month of January to settle back in after the holidays and the added pressure of being a perfect human because of NY Resolutions is just never a successful combo. Plus so far I am not all that impressed with 2017 (mostly Trump related) so I am thinking the New Year could do with a solid refresh. I haven't really made any resolutions or goals yet, and I have definitely been slacking on this 'ol blogo. So, as of now I am going to try and stick to some Chinese New Years Resolutions, one of which will be more frequent updating and sharing of pictures-- I have a large backlog!
To start off, here is a quick recap of my trip to Hiroshima at the beginning of the year with Cedric.
The fun started before we even arrived in Hiroshima-- and it was shinkansen-sational. The Bullet Train runs as far south as Fukuoka and is so. flippin. cool. Although protip: the cost differential for non reserved vs reserved seats is 150% worth it. It's probably only about $10 and when we took the train from Fukuoka to Hiroshima it was standing room only and despite how cool a train going 300km/hour is, it is significantly less cool standing in a windowless corridor by the bathrooms for 2 hours pressed up against other people after a 14 hour flight. The return trip was much more enjoyable with reserved seats and ridiculous amounts of leg room enjoying the countryside zooming by but mostly just sleeping due to jet lag. I wouldn't take the shinkansen all the time as it is usually actually cheaper to fly. But taking the train is significantly more convenient and not to mention just cool.
Hiroshima is one of my favourite places I have visited in Japan so far. I think I enjoy cities that are a bit less crowded and touristy, and more relaxed. So while I enjoyed Osaka and Kyoto, so far places like Fukuoka and Hiroshima are what have really stood out to me in what make Japan special. Hiroshima seemed extremely walkable and from our AirBnB we could access all of the sites and train station very easily on foot. We also rented some city bikes one afternoon and zipped along the river to the port on beautiful paved paths with stunning city views.
We arrived just after New Years (正月 - Oshogatsu) which is a very big deal in Japan. There are many traditions for New Years one of which is the first visit to the shrine (Hastumode). At the shrine people pray, purchase various items for luck including New Years fortunes. Below is a photo of me tying my New Years fortune (that I couldn't read until the nice owner of this amazing cocktail bar translated it) up with others.
If planning a trip to Hiroshima you will soon find that it is necessary to add 'tourism' or 'attractions' to a Google search as the name alone will only pull up information about the Atomic Bomb. This is a key part of the city's history and identity, but I also enjoy that the city today is so much more. The Peace Memorial Park is a beautiful place full of monuments and natural features celebrating peace. I enjoy that now it is a space where people come together to spend a good time: people were picnicing, riding bikes, playing frisbee and strolling around on a beautiful sunny January day. It was nice to see this place that was once the epicentre of devastation and destruction in WWII is now a space of happiness and enjoyment.
My favourite part of the park was a monument to Sadako and her thousand paper cranes. At the base of the Children's monument are closed-in spaces where people from around the world bring paper cranes by the thousands in hopes of their wishes being granted. I read about this story in elementary school and seeing this monument in real life was incredible. I can compare this to my visit to the Anne Frank Haus is Amsterdam-- a place only read about it stories as a child coming to life. Cranes are scattered throughout the park and the brilliant rainbow colours peaking out from every corner just adds to the pleasant atmosphere of hope and peace in the park.
Of course I need to talk about the food. Hiroshima's specialties include Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Luckily for the world, there is Okonomi-mura !!! Okonomi-mura (translation: Okonomi-town) is 4 floors of just okonomiyaki restaurants (translation: heaven). I have no idea how people pick where to eat except by randomly sitting down at one, but I was not disappointed with either place we had (yeah we went there more than once...). Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is a bit different than Osaka style okonomiyaki and people will ask you which you prefer-- relationships are formed and broken on this preference (just kidding). There are a few key differences between the two. Hiroshima style is made with a noodle layer nestled in with all the other goodness so I found it to be a little less dense than Osaka style. While I enjoyed these noodles, I almost felt like there was too much going on and I personally prefer Osaka style. But who am I kidding, I will eat whatever okonomiyaki is put in front of me because it is the food of gods. Other food highlights included Hiroshima style tsukemen and really tasty Indian food.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Hiroshima for a quick 2-3 day stopover for anyone planning a visit to Japan (hint hint come visit). It was easily accessible and is a nice break from the bigger sites of Tokyo and Osaka.
Next up, Mireille's trip to the moon (or Unzen but they both look pretty similar to me).