Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Hiroshima Japan

I have to say that I really didn't want to come here.. I remember so vividly the images from the a-bomb at school.. Clearly can still see the black and white photos of children running down the street naked and injured with a flattened city behind them.. On top of that, I remember our lesson wasn't about destruction of people and families, it was about the marvel of science discovery!!  SICK!!!

This piece is directly across from the building, children holding a dove..  over 200,000 people wiped out that day...

So I did stop at Hiroshima.. it was after a very long day riding, and worked out perfectly to find the backpackers and know I had a cheap place to stay..  so happens to be right by the Peace Park and remaining remnant building..

I also was worried there might be residual radiation still hanging around? I don't know, would be question #800 I should probably google.

Ha, just googled it and this is what I found:

Residual radiation (Note 1) appeared as the initial radiation subsided. About 80% of the total amount of residual radiation was released within 24 hours of the bombing. One study found that a person standing at the hypocenter 24 hours after the bombing would have received only one thousandth the dose of residual radiation that would have been received by a person who was there right after the bomb exploded. One week later, the dose would be only one millionth the original dose. (Note 2) In other words, residual radiation levels fell very rapidly.

Today, the background radiation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is the same as the average amount of natural radiation present anywhere on Earth. It is not enough to affect human health.

Note 1) Residual radiation is radiation induced by radioactive substances produced after the bomb exploded (including radioactive by-products of fission), the uranium that did not undergo fission, and atomic nuclei (in soil, rubble, and other materials) that became radioactive after being struck by initial radiation.

Note 2) Based on calculations of gamma radiation released due to induced radioactivity.

Anyway I did stay the night.. got in quite late - in the POURING RAIN!!  and checked in.

I have noticed throughout my journey in Japan that it is an odd day out to see a westerner around here.  But I finally found them.. The backpackers was chocker block full of Americans!!!

Gave me good reason to hide out in my little space and work on a blog..

Did my early morning walk as usual, and when I was looking at the building/ruin, a Japanese man stopped and asked if he could help me.. I said no, I am just looking..  He said, "USA"??  I said "No, Australia"..  He looked like he might have a bit of an attitude, and I didn't know what I would have said if I admitted to being born in America..

But I did ask him if the Hiroshima people have moved on and forgiven the USA?  or is it still hard??

He said, "It is very very hard.. still very hard.."   I wanted to cry, but we moved on...

I told you I didn't want to come here!  So I packed up early and took off..

Not without noticing their messages for PEACE!!!
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Monday, 28 June 2010

Takayama to Kyoto

After a nice sleep in the backpackers that Hiroyuki drove me to, I got up for an early morning walk.  I always enjoy exploring places before the town wakes up...  seems more peaceful and special that way..

Found my way into the old town Takayama

How do I always find little animals in trouble?  I came across 3 little birds who must have tried their luck at first flight and they are not ready..

These little guys were too close to the running curb water, and I was worried.

I tried to get them away, and one jumped right into the fast flowing water.  I know you are not to touch the birds, but he was a gonner if I didn't throw my hand in and scoop him up quickly.

I didn't know what to do with them.. so I recruited some shop owners who hadn't opened up for the day yet.  (Using sign language of coarse)

They were really nice and thought quickly by getting a box to put them in..

Whew!  Day saved.. I hope anyway... hope Mother bird takes over from here...

Very rainy day, but time to hit the road..

I pack up and head north, hoping to avoid all the big cities on the other side of the island (Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, etc.)

Onto the expressway, and into the never ending tunnels.  The biggest one was over 10 km long!  I liked this tunnel, however I did get a bit faint around the middle.  I wonder since it is so far from each end that the air gets thin?  Is this possible?  I was breathing in and out so heavy, not seeming to get enough air.  Plus the car fumes maybe accumulate there?  Don't know but I was a bit worried for a while..

Got up to the top and thought I best get off the expressway... don't like the fast cars..  However, the smaller roads are all just stop and start and very very slow.. I was getting nowhere.. So I went back onto to the expressway.. 

I know I want to get to Fukuoka and Kyoshu Prefecture, so I decided just to expressway myself there asap!

After many checking of the map, I made a decision to head into all the nasty city connections that I tried so hard and traveled so far to avoid..

Finally got to Kyoto for the night.. not willing to navigate the confusing streets again, I take to the hotel next to the exit... I get off, and they didn't look like anywhere I would stay.. then I drove and drove and didn't find anything better.. for about an hour!  I was so tired and just wanted to stop, but I got back onto the expressway to find another option.  Saw a hotel and got off again.  It was another Love Hotel.  

Since I know how they work I went for it.  Only 500 yen more than the youth hostel, and they are so much bigger and cleaner, so why not?  Only thing I don't like is being trapped inside, but I knew I was tired enough I would sleep through it.

Got up at 5:30 and packed up.  Since you don't actually see anybody to check in, you just pick the lit up room.. when I did go to pay in the room machine, it said 11,600 yen!!!  I paniced!!  The sign downstairs said $4250 yen for 17:00 to 11:00.

I rang on the phone by pressing all the buttons, a man answered and talked away in Japanese, I tried and tried and tried to get him to just come to room 703 and open the door.  He kept talking, and I was getting to where my voice was changing and he finally came.. whew!  I was really scared that time, so much I was shaking...he was not going to understand to let me out the door!

He took me to his office to pay, and he gave me a bill for $7600 yen.  Still too much!  I took him downstairs to the sign I saw, he saw I was upset, and he gave me a good slap on the shoulder and said "Hai"  (yes!)

Whew!  After I told him I was from Australia, he offered me drink... his wife came out and offered me to sit and have breakfast with them.. very nice, but I just wanted to go.

Sorry for the blurry picture, the humidity is crazy here!

But they were like caring parents, watching me pack up my bike.. wife ran upstairs and brought me down some candy to take on the road.. All from the love hotel!!  There are more than one forms of love coming from that place!  
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Friday, 25 June 2010

Matsumoto Castle Japan - On the bike again..!

Friday morning, a wonderful big breakfast made by Midori, and it's time to pack up the bike and start heading south.

The quintessential Mum - making sure I have something to eat on the road..  ;-)  I love it..

Grandpa checks out the bike.

I try my best to explain that pannier is where my computer lives..

They gave me some more detailed maps, since my Garmin gps does not work here.. but wonderful Hiroyuki decides to take a day off work and escort me to the next town on his KTM 640 Adventure!

He has several bikes to choose from..  there are 3 more not pictured here, 2 of them are in the house! The ones he and Midori rode on their 15 month honeymoon..

First stop is to get me some motorcycle insurance.. I had great advice from an American born Japanese rider about details for riding in Japan.  On his website..  http://www2.gol.com/users/chrisl/japan/

Everything worked well except one, and that was insurance.  I printed out his pre-made request in Japanese, and after 4 shops in Tokyo and many phone calls to other shops from my helper in English at a hotel, we got nowhere.

So today, with Hiroyuki's help, we got a "No" as well at the first shop, but the second shop came through.. Hallelujah!

And how cool is this guy at the shop!!

Off we go on the most gorgeous mountain ride!  I have never ridden in mountains before.. so I was a bit slow.. as usual!  Very steep downhill hairpin turns, with all my gear was something to be careful about I reckon!

The amount of concentration needed for all the gear shifting and speed adjustments and trying my best not to go over the edge.. it was scary!  I think it is good for the brain to have to be calculating that much, so the brain doesn't get too lazy... this is how I justified sticking through it when it was getting a bit tough.. ;-)

I wish I had photos along the road to share, there were that many "wow!"  moments along the way.. the snow capped mountains, massive waterfalls, gorgeous little alpine villages with old traditional Japanese homes... what an amazing ride!!

If anyone is planning on riding to Japan, this was the most beautiful ride ever, and I highly recommend it!!

I will share this photo, even though I shouldn't.. taken by Hiroyuki..  it just made me laugh so hard - not much I can say to defend myself....

Finally made it to a little town for a fuel stop..

We then ride into Matsumoto, an interesting town with a bit of history.. Matsumoto Castle..

Matsumoto Castle (Matsumoto Jo) is one of four castles designated as National Treasures of Japan the oldest castle donjon of which remains in Japan. Because of the elegant black roof, Matsumoto Castle is sometimes called Crow Castle.

Hiro explains to me that Japan used to be divided into over 100 little countries, and the Castle had an Emperor and many warriors for protection. 

I seriously don't understand how the warriors could fight effectively wearing all that metal.. 

As usual with Japanese custom, no shoes on inside!  I take my big motorcycle boots off and thought they held them at the entrance, but we instread put them in a bag and have to carry them..  

Gee whiz I am spoiled, Hiro carried my boots!!  Such a kind man, and as much as I tried, he wouldn't let me carry my boots.. He says, "My job to carry boots, your job to take photos.."  I can do that, but not without feeling horribly guilty!

Thank you Hiroyuki, I really enjoyed visiting the castle, I love history!

Now it's time for lunch!  Still learning for me, Hiro helps me order a hot dish this time instead of cold.. I asked for vegetables, this is what I got..

Mountain vegetables with Udon noodles.  I didn't recognize anything but the noodles, but it was darn good!!  I loved it!  And Hiro ordered exactly what Midori and I had for lunch the day before.. cold Soba..

After lunch, on to our final destination for the day, where I am now.... Takayama.. he knows a man here who has affordable hostel, and with his iphone gps, we drove straight to it... Hiro, can you escort me through the rest of the country please!  It is so convenient!! ;-)

Bike parked at the entry door, put the cover on and settle in..  Hiro has a coffee before he starts the long journey back to his home, back through all those gorgeous mountains and endless tunnels!  I find this a cozy little alpine town, and unpack and head out for a beautiful peaceful evening walk.. Another great day in the life of Sherri Jo...
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Nagano Japan - A Day out with Midori

Ok, after school drop-off, Midori wants to show me around.. we decide to go to Zenkouji Temple in Nagano City..

The majority of Japanese people are buddhists..

(Photo:  Sometimes I hate being reminded how bow-legged I am!!)

Anyway, this ancient temple was so big and beautiful made of wood.

Some info I looked up: Zenkouji is a non-sectarian temple whose religious leaders (a priest and a priestess) share the responsibility for rituals. It is not affiliated with any one particular sect of Buddhism so all are welcome, regardless of gender, creed or religious belief (for this reason, amongst others, the temple was a centerpiece during the 1998 Winter Olympics). Its hidden image is the focus that transcends idol worship, howsoever the faith is practised here.

This is the guard at the gate...if everyone is accepted, his services might not be needed, but he is one good looking figure!  Such nicely carved muscles!!.. :-)

After visiting the temple, Midori wants to show me her favorite ice cream shop.. we order Green Tea Ice cream.  As a long time lover of green tea, I'm in!

Next we are off to Soba noodle shop.  I love Soba noodles, and I cook with them often in Australia.  Here they make the noodles in the window and then we went in for lunch.

Midori explains the Japanese favorite soba style is to eat it cold.. the waitress looks at me and explains to Midori in Japanese that most foreigners don't like soba cold, so Midori asks me if I prefer hot soba.  I told her I want to experience culture competely and by doing that I want to eat what she eats!

Cold soba it is!!  And I liked it!!  It comes  on the bamboo strainers, and Midori teaches me the best way to eat it.  A little side dish with onion and wasabi, you add to you soy sauce.  Then dip the soba in the mixture, and more or less slurp it into your mouth..

They kindly ask if I would like western cutlery, and I said no.. of coarse!  Not the first time I used chop sticks, but not being good at it, I was slow, but I did it!  It was a really good lunch, so much filled me right up!

But wait, there's more!!

On our way back to the car, Midori wants me to try one more thing.  On the way out from the temple, there is a little side building where many Japanese people were sitting.  We decide to have a taste of what they are selling, and it is a really yummy fermented rice drink, with a side of tea.

How I made room to fit that in too I don't know, but we did it..

A real authentic taste of Japanese food... thank you Midori!!  I have been here a few days, and even though most restaurants have pictures of what to order, I still don't know what it is, so I tend to go back to my tuna or egg sandwich for 2 bucks at the 7/11 shop.

Now I can order my food with confidence!!

Next we stop by Midori's parents house.. What a lovely couple!  As soon as we arrive, her Dad is speaking away to me in Japanese, I don't understand a word of coarse, and he gets up and takes us over to his game table.  I'm not sure if he was asking if I know how or want to play?  But then his wife came over and it was game on..

(Photo by Midori)

Dad very intently plays the game... Mum is able to play the game, hold a conversation with Midori hardly looking at the board, and still wins!!

Midori explains that she is glad they play this game as it is good exercise for the brain power.. they also make hand painted greeting cards and origami.  We didn't stay long, but they so kindly gave me lots of Japanese treats.  Hand made cloth sandals from Dad, a red cow good luck charm I wear on my belt, and another red cow origami from Mom.. I am getting a full experience of Japanese culture and truly loving their lifestyle!

Last major Japanese experience of the day, I do not have photos to show you... sorry, but we were naked!!!

She took me to a Japanese Bath House with hot springs..  very common all through Japan, being such a volcanic area.

So after a long hot day, a good soak in the spring water does my body good...

After the bath it's out for another meal to Hiroyuki's favorite sushi restaurant.  I did not grow up on fish, and raw fish is a challenge for me, but I did try one as promised..

Luckily they make a nice salad and vegetables..  I was okay with raw fish, but one was enough.. and after that huge lunch today, Sherri Jo is well fed by the Nagahara family!  We fit a lot of authentic Japanese culture into one day, I am amazed how gracious they are to show me so so much! Thank you for the experience!
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