A Travellerspoint blog


Peace Memorial Park

This morning we caught another bullet train from Kyoto to Hiroshima which took just over an hour and a half. We skipped breakfast in order to make it to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to check out the Peace Memorial Ceremony at 8:15 am. This was the exact time that the bomb was dropped 64 years ago. This park is dedicated to the memories and over 140,000 victims of the nuclear attack that happened on August 6, 1945. Hiroshima was the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack. The park was built on an open field that was created by the explosion. Today is the anniversary of this attack which is why the ceremony is happening. We are very lucky to be here today to witness this event. The purpose of the Peace Memorial Park is to not only memorialize the victims, but also to establish the memory of nuclear horrors and advocate world peace. There were many hibakusha in attendance. Hibakusha is the name given to the survivor’s of the attack. As soon as the clock hit 8:15, the air raid sirens sounded, a minute of silence followed, and then we heard appeals for peace by the mayor of Hiroshima. We took some time to check out the park and saw a lot of amazing monuments and structures.

We started with the Memorial Cenotaph which is a concrete, saddle-shaped monument that covers a cenotaph and holds all of the names of the people that were killed in the attack.


Inside of this monument we saw the A-bomb dome, which is the the skeletal ruins of the former Industrial Promotion Hall. It is the building closest to the hypocenter of the nuclear bomb that remained at least partially standing. It was left how it was after the bombing in memory of the casualties.


We also saw the Peace Flame which is another monument to the victims of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The flame has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964, and will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Next we moved onto the children’s peace monument which is a statue dedicated to the memory of the children who died as a result of the bombing. The statue is of a girl with outstretched arms with a folded paper crane rising above her. The statue is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki a young girl who died from radiation from the bomb. She believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes she would be cured. To this day, people from around the world fold cranes and send them to Hiroshima where they are placed near the statue. The statue had a massive collection of folded cranes surrounding it. I remember hearing this story when I was in Elementary school. I wouldn’t be able to even attempt to fold a crane now. It was very sad to experience this monument.


We decided to move on to the Rest House which was another building that was bombed in the attack. The building was built as the Taishoya Kimono Shop in March, 1929. And the building had been used as a distributing station of the fuel since the shortage of the fuel in June, 1944. On August 6, 1945, when the bomb exploded, the roof was crushed, the interior destroyed, and everything consumable burned except in the basement. Thirty six people were killed in the building and one person had survived in the basement.


We passed by the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound which is a large, grass-covered knoll that contains the ashes of 70 thousand unidentified victims of the bomb. After passing this mound, we went on to see the Gates of Peace which contains 6 gates covered with the word “peace” in 49 languages from around the world.


We took a break and went for some food. We wanted to kill some time before going back to the park for the lantern ceremony. About a half hour before dusk, we went back to Peace Park as the ceremony was to begin and continue through dusk. The lantern ceremony is held to send off the spirits of the victims of the bombing on lanterns with peace messages onto the waters of the Motoyasu River. Japans Buddhists believe the souls of their ancestors visit them every year so they put out lanterns to guide the spirits and when the visit ends the lantern is set adrift to light the path back to heaven. Each lantern is a symbol of a personal commitment to create peace in this world and hopes for the future. This experience was surreal and I would recommend everyone who has the chance to see it, to take the opportunity to do so.


We took our time getting back to our hotel; we didn’t want our trip to end!! Tomorrow we head back to Tokyo to catch our flight home.

Posted by JAPANTVT10 12:10 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Tetsugaku Michi (Philosopher’s path) walking tour

Today we decided to check out the Tetsugaku Michi (Philosopher’s path). This path has an amazing history and we were all very excited to see if we would experience a feeling of peace while walking on it. Philosopher Professor Kitaro Nishida and the economist Professor Hajime Kawakami resided in this neighborhood, and would walk this path frequently, lost in thought. Nearly all professors at that time lived near the university, creating a place where they could meet and mingle without regard for their respective specializations. At the same time, there was a place close at hand where they could go to be by themselves, and just think. The Philosopher's Path is quiet walk from Ginkakuji back to the center of town. It follows a tree lined stream with bridges weaving back and forth over it. We found it incredibly peaceful and easy to get lost in our thoughts. We decided to separate from each other so we could experience the path on our own and be left with our own contemplations. The path follows a canal that is lined with hundreds of cherry trees. Japan is well known for Cherry blossom trees and this path captures the best of the best. We had never seen such beautiful, well-kept landscape. The path is approximately 1.5 km long and takes about 30 minutes to complete. There was a big crowd when we went which made it a little harder to stay in our own thoughts. It would have been nice to see it at night, when people weren’t there to break our concentration. We all met up and headed to our hotel to get ready for a night out on the town.


After researching nightclubs and attempting to ask the locals what spots were the most popular, we decided to check out Club Metro. Club Metro is located inside the Keihan Marutamachi Station and is one of the most interesting places any of us have ever seen! They have a different theme night every night. We happened to come during the drag queen show which is apparently only held once a month. Although Club metro is not a gay club, there seemed to be an abundance of cross dressing going on! They played drum n’ bass and every hour a featured live indie pop band would come on. What a great experience!

Posted by JAPANTVT10 12:21 Archived in Japan Comments (0)


Dinner at Aki's!

Dinner at Aki’s!

While in Kyoto our good friend Aki invited us over to his house for dinner with his family. Before we headed over to his house he went over some Japanese etiquette with us. Though Japan is one of the most modern cities in the world they still hold on to traditional values and respect.
Inside Japanese homes it is expected that you will wear slippers, the host will provide them and you change into them when you enter the home. You should where the slippers throughout the home except on a tatami floors, you should only walk on tatami floors with socks or barefoot. If you need to use the bathroom there are separate slippers for use just in the bathroom.

Shaking hands is very uncommon in Japan however exceptions are made for foreigners the proper way to greet someone is to bow. In Imperial times the lower class person was to bow deeper and longer than the higher class person. If you are greeting someone on a tatami floor you should kneel down and then bow. Nowadays the expectations have been relaxed and small head nod is acceptable.

With any culture there are rules and manners to be followed when it comes to eating. Japan has a lengthy list of proper etiquette for meals. Before eating you should say “itadakimasu” which means “I gratefully receive” and after eating you it is customary to say “deshita”, translated to English means “Thank you for the meal”. In situations where you are sharing dishes with other individuals use the end of your chopsticks that you are not eating with to move the item to your plate. Chopsticks come with a lot of their own rules. Do not stick your chopsticks into rice, this is something that is only done at funerals, as well do not pass food from chopsticks to chopsticks this is also something only done at funerals. It is rude to point with chopsticks, through them in the air, or play with them. If you are not using your chopsticks lay them down in front of you with the tips pointing to the left. Make sure to practice your chopstick skills before you leave since knives and forks are only used for Western foods.

In Japan it is common to sit on the floor while eating, and believe it or not they even have rules for sitting properly! The formal way of sitting for both genders is called the seiza position, this is where you sit with your legs folded under and sit on them. The casual way for woman only to sit is to sit down with your legs to the same side, for men only the casual position is to sit cross legged. Aki told us not to sit without being told where when we dinner is served. In Japan they have etiquette for seating arrangements. The most important guest in the home sits the farthest away from the entrance this seat is known as the kamiza. Your host will sit in the shimoza position, the seat closest to the entrance.

Needless to say all the rules seemed very overwhelming to us, but we were grateful that Aki explained them to us so we didn’t offend his family or embarrass ourselves! After a busy day we were excited to experience a home cooked Japanese meal!

Posted by JAPANTVT10 10:58 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Checking out Accommodation

Unique types of accommodation in Japan

This morning we got up early and met with a local friend of ours. I worked with Aki for years in Calgary so it was nice to have someone we know and trust that also speaks English show us around. We wanted him to show us the unique styles of accommodation that Japan has to offer. We wanted to learn about the different styles as well as the proper etiquette when staying at them. First Aki wanted us to see the Ryokans which are traditional Japanese Inns. These are the Japanese version of a bed and breakfast. The rooms don't have beds, but are covered with 'tatami' matting on which you place a bedroll. You are usually offered a hot cup of green Japanese tea when you first arrive. Some forms of etiquette to follow when staying at a Ryokan include taking your shoes off before entering the room, there are slippers waiting for you that you should slip into before you walk on the tatami (reed mat flooring) and bathing before dinner. When bathing in the public bath, take off your clothes and leave them with your drying towel in the changing room. Take a small towel and go into the bathing room. The public bath is only for soaking your body, while cleaning your body is done in the area outside the bath. There are a few things to expect when staying at a Ryokan that you should be prepared for. Maids often enter your room either unannounced or after quickly knocking during your stay. This is a normal practice at a Ryokan. Often there is clothing provided for you such as a yukata or cotton robe that is provided for you to wear in your room, around the Ryokan, and if you want, you can wear it together with your geta if you want to take a short walk near the Ryokan. If it is cold outside, a tanzen (outer robe) is provided to keep you warm. When bathing in the public bath, remember that these baths can often be very hot. If the bath is too hot for you, try to enter it slowly and move as little as possible (the more you move, the more the water is stirred and the hotter it gets). In the evening, the maid will either serve your dinner in your room or else you will be served in the Ryokans dining room. When you have finished eating, the maid may clean your room and prepare the futon (quilt bedding) for you to sleep on. There can also be a curfew time since front desks at Ryokans generally close early. If you are planning to stay out late, confirm the curfew time. You will be served breakfast in either your room or the dining area. Ryokans cost anywhere from 8,000 to 40,000 Yen per room, per night, which is about $93.00 - $467.00 Canadian.


Next, we moved on to check out the night capsule. This is an extremely cheap option when staying in the heart of big cities in Japan. These are designed mainly for business men and don’t cater well to women, children or couples. The hotel reception looks like any other hotel reception. Always remember to take your shoes off before you walk in, and place them in one of the lockers in the lobby. Upstairs, there are several floors of fiberglass sleeping capsules, each floor with their own locker room and shared showers. You change in the locker room and put your clothes and bags into your locker. Your capsule has radio, alarm clock and TV, and a screen or curtain pulls over the capsule entrance for privacy. Capsule’s usually cost about 3,000 to 4,000 Yen per night which is about $35 to $46 Canadian.


Aki was a little hesitant to show us the following place, but we assured him that we were all very open-minded people. This type of accommodation is called a “Love Hotel” which is not meant for tourists to lodge. Love hotels are visited by couples who wish to enjoy some undisturbed time together. These rooms are rented for 2-3 hours during the day or can be rented for an overnight stay. Love hotels can usually be identified using symbols such as hearts and the offer of a room rate for a "rest". The period of a "rest" varies, typically ranging from one to three hours. Cheaper daytime off-peak rates are common. In general, reservations are not possible, leaving the hotel will forfeit access to the room, and overnight stay rates only become available after 10pm. Entrances are discreet and interaction with staff is minimized, with rooms often selected from a panel of buttons and the bill settled by pneumatic tube (which is that weird cylinder thing pushed through tubes by compressed air, those who have seen the movie “Elf” may remember this being a way they sent mail to the mail room), automatic cash machines, or a pair of hands behind a pane of frosted glass. These room rates obviously vary in price, usually anywhere from 6,000 to 12,000 depending on the amount of time that you rent the room for. This equals about $70 to $140 Canadian.


Finally we got to the Temple lodgings. These are referred to as Shukubo which is an accommodation facility that is part of a Japanese temple or shrine. A Shukubo lets you feel the culture and history of Japan. Shukubo is similar to traditional Japanese inns, and anyone can stay regardless of his or her religion. In temples, you can join in their Zen meditation. Also, in some shukubo, shojin ryori (vegetarian meal for monks) is served. Many temples require that you be accompanied by a Japanese person and that you speak Japanese yourself. One of the best places to experience a night at a temple is Mount Koya. Temple lodging can cost anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 Yen per night and Temples do not accept credit card payments. This amounts to about $58 to $180 Canadian.


Now we're off for some well needed R&R!

Posted by JAPANTVT10 12:22 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Shopping then En Route to Kyoto

After a great and much needed rest, we decide to spend the day shopping for souvenirs. We also wanted to check out Ginza, a high end shopping district in Tokyo. We obviously couldn’t afford to buy anything but it was incredible to see. Aside from Louis Vuitton’s massive department store shown below, there were so many things to keep our eyes busy. Two of our favorite sites were the Ginza Wako which was built in 1932 and the clock tower of the Ginza Wako building is the symbol of the Ginza, inside sits elaborate jewelry and other luxury items and the Sony Building which displays the latest products made by Sony and also has some restaurants and cafes where you can find the $10 cup of coffee. We were a little depressed after this visit because we couldn’t buy anything we wanted. However, after we hit the souvenir shops, we were quickly cured of this depression as the souvenirs were very fairly prices and we all picked up a bag full of goodies. Among these goodies were folding fans, fancy chopsticks, tea cups, photo books and postcard sets.



We finally headed down to the train station to take the Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train to) Kyoto. This train goes from 210km/hour to 300 km/hour and makes travelling a breeze. We purchased a 7-day pass in order to reserve seats for us on the train; this saved us a lot of money, time and hassle by doing so. I would recommend for anyone to pre purchase their tickets online. Below is a picture of the train route. The train ride took about 2 hours and 20 minutes to get to Kyoto, we arrived at 9:20 pm and decided to grab some food and call it a night.


Posted by JAPANTVT10 12:25 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

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