Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hiroshima

Last Monday I left Takatsuki and took the shinkansen to Hiroshima. On the way I stopped by Takarazuka (I think) to see the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum. Totally worth the side trip. He's the guy who drew Astro Boy and many other very popular cartoons, and is considered the father of Japanese anime. They had displayed hundreds of his drawings, which were absolutely gorgeous.
When I arrived in Hiroshima, I took the streetcar as per the directions I had been given from the World Friendship Center, a house run by a non-profit anti-war organization. I had all my luggage, and needed to find which way was south. I guess I looked like I needed help! And that's how I met the young girl who introduced me to some of the nicest people I've ever met. After getting to my accomodations, I met her at the Spanish restaurant owned by her friend. Coincidentally, the other guest at the Friendship Center, an Aussie, had also found these people and was already there! The next night, we were invited to dinner by the restaurant owner, and it turned out to be an elaborate birthday party at her friend's restaurant. We were not permitted to pay for any of this, despite our objections. In the course of this, I met an artist who the next day took me to the museum at his expense. The Japanese are incredibly polite and will often pay for things, but these people were beyond anything I've ever encountered.
I had gone to Hiroshima like most gaijin, looking to make some sort of pilgrimage and atone for the horror inflicted on that city by my country. But when I got there I saw this would be not only impossible, but unnecessary. I went to the Peace Park, and saw many people honoring the dead, but also saw children running around, old men playing board games, and people picknicking. The most serious-looking folks were all foreigners. I suppose if you lived in a place with such a terrible past, by now you would have no choice but to move on. Of course, the people of Hiroshima will never forget their past. But I hear that in Japan there is gaining momentum for increased use of the Self-Defense Forces, changing the pacifist clause in the constitution, and some are even calling for Japan to develop its own nuclear weapons. I'm sure the Japanese are concerned about North Korea, but to many inside and outside Japan, this is unthinkable. We can't forget the horror of Hiroshima's past. Even as the present-day city is a beautiful, bustling port with ordinary citizens living ordinary lives, art museums and parks, ramen shops and shopping arcades, in the midst of this normalcy, the Peace Park and the A-Bomb Dome are a constant reminder for the world of the horrible stupidity of war. We need to honor the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the best way to do so is by insuring that such tragedies are never repeated. The people I met in Hiroshima in no way harbored any resentment towards Americans because of what had happened. So there is no need for us to feel guilty on their account. Instead we should feel guilt because we continue to keep nuclear weapons and make war all over the world. Discontinuing these policies would be the best way to atone for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Pillows

Today in Osaka I got to see the band I'm somewhat obsessed with, The Pillows. The show was sold out, but fortunately scalpers work the same in Japan as in the states. I paid an arm and a leg, but I wouldn't have missed this show for anything. And it was great! No opening acts, but they did 3 encores. The mosh pit was good- like the Tokyo subway at rush hour but jumping. But different mosh manners than other shows I've seen- the girls especially were very aggressive! I wish my Japanese was better so I had understood what they said between songs, but all in all a great show.

Link

Friday, April 14, 2006

Kyoto and Nara

Actually, I'm in Tokyo now, but spent the week seeing Kyoto- contemporary art, temples, and ancient Asian art- and Nara- deer and the giant Buddha temple. My tutor Mari's family have been showing me wonderful Japanese hospitality. Yesterday I went with her Mom to a local bath which had an electric pool- yes, it's just what it sounds like. I didn't have the nerve to try takoyaki, the regional delicacy of griddle-cooked octopus and dough balls. I don't like octopus, but they look so good! I changed my plans for this weekend and now I'm going back to Osaka tomorrow, so maybe I'll have some then. Between Osaka/Kyoto and Tokyo you ride on the shinkansen- the train that goes 200 miles per hour. It actually doesn't seem that fast, but you can tell it's faster than a regular train for sure! Well that's it for now.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Black Eggs and Mount Fuji

Back in Shinjuku- Tokyo- after two days in Hakone at ryokans- Japanese-style inns. Hakone is touristy, but country, with beautiful rugged mountains and lots of cedars and also a volcanic dome. Which is where the sulfur mines are and the black eggs are made. Boiled in the hot springs, they turn black on the outside. Other than that, like a hard-boiled egg. Also had wasabi ice cream, which is pretty much like you'd imagine! The ryokans Manami and I stayed at each had onsen- baths, one natural hot spring, one not. But I liked the fake one better because it had a sauna too. The food was great, but way too much for me to eat all at once, and the schedule is very rigid considering how much you pay to stay there. We took a cable car across the mountain to get to the volcano, and as we crested the top, suddenly Mount Fuji appeared, and wow, it's incredible. The mountains we were in were already bigger than in North Carolina, but Fuji even at its distance dwarfed them all. After that, we came back to the city and went to the Ninja Restaurant for dinner with Manami's friend. It was expensive, but the price included some great entertainment, and the Ninja theme was done to perfection except that the music was the worst kind of elevator pop crap! Now I'm at a manga cafe, where you can rent manga and stay all night and obviously use the net. I have an hour to kill until I can check in at a capsule hotel (which also has a sauna!) and I just ran into a guy from San Fransisco, so we're gonna go out for a drink. And this cigarette smoke is killing me, so that's all for now. Sayounara!

Link

Saturday, April 01, 2006

More From Japan

Yesterday I spent viewing the gorgeous cherry blossoms and shopping in Shinjuku. Then I met Manami for a movie which was so crowded we had to sit on the floor in the very front. Also had my first experience of the sardine-can trains- I never thought that many people could fit in a space that size. The day before, I had gone to an open-air museum in a nearby park with my Aunt Michelle and her 3 little kids. They wanted to go to Dennys for dinner so we did, but if we go out today I really need to get some sushi. The onigiri rice balls are good, but I havent had real sushi yet. Its a little cold here so I bought a sweatshirt that says something about it still being ok to import beef, and has cute cows on it. Also did karaoke the other night- this couple I met wanted to do "Stand By Me" so how could I say no? And the apostrophe on this keyboard isnt working anymore. And, my sister Kiki is pregnant, on a totally different note! But now Im off to somewhere...