Originally, we were going to stay in Matsue for three nights, and travel from there to Miyajima on Tuesday. While researching what I wanted to see during the trip, I saw how close Miyajima was to Hiroshima, and that the A-Bomb Dome still stood in Hiroshima today. (Also, normal radiation levels.)
Since I didn't really see how we'd spend two and a half days in Matsue, and since I wanted to see the A-Bomb Dome, I suggested we spend some time in Hiroshima. And got my wish.
( Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the atomic bomb; Hiroshima Castle and atom bomb trees )
All in all I'm very glad I went.
The rest of the photos are here.
Our original plan was to take the shinkansen to Hiroshima -- a 3-4 leg trip. Then we found there was a direct bus from Mitsue to Hiroshima, which would be cheaper, faster, and less of a hassle with transfers. Unfortunately, even though the morning's bus was nearly empty, they were very strict with luggage size/weight limits.
It turns out that there's a very cheap and efficient way to send your luggage across Japan, called takkyubin. My parents had already used that several times, to send their luggage to the next hotel before traveling lightly themselves. I put my laptop, all my camera gear, and a few days' worth of clothes in my backpack + camera bag, and we shipped my suitcase to the hotel in Nara.
i loves me some castles... neuschwanstein, salzburg, and that small castle in spain on that island in that river. himeji is definitely up there, if not at the top. apparently it was bombed twice but survived. most likely due to near misses rather than uber architecture.
i think this wall was in kagemusha. definitely saw some familiar courtyards where the horsemen ride out in ran.
i like wide angle lenses.
the sakura were much prettier once i had my allergies mostly under control.
in unrelated news, i just got a boxful of small, medium, and large slave unit shirts, since our first order is pretty much down to a handful of larges and a ton of x-larges.
i remembered going to toy stores in japan as a boy; back then they were vast expanses with towering shelves full of wonder and magic.
now they're cramped, crowded shops with chintzy overpriced items with more nostalgic value than actual playability.
i liked the old version better.
We've been waking up early... 4am or so. On Tuesday I took the opportunity to take some photos out the window before dawn; on Wednesday we went to the Tsukiji fish market.
[Tsukiji fish market]:
We left at 4:45 to get on the 5am train; we arrived at 5:30ish and walked through the chaos that is the fish market in the early hours to the maguro auction. This is a warehouse room full of pallets with maguro (tuna) lined up from wall to wall. Buyers inspect the fish, looking inside the abdominal cavities, examining the quality of the meat where the tail has been lopped off (and placed inside the tuna's head through the gills for safekeeping). The auctioneer calls out in that nonstop frenetic chanting auctioneer way and buyers raise their hands: one finger, usually beaten by someone with two fingers raised. Each fish takes less than a half minute to sell.
One of the smaller fish sold for 12 million yen (approximately 120,000USD); one of the larger fish sold for 30 million yen (~300,000USD). Coupla those and you've got a house in San Francisco. You might want to ask for a short escrow, though.
The entire auction was over by 6am.
Then we walked around the place, which was full of every type of seafood imagineable. We had to constantly dodge motorized carts; not happy shiny electric robotic carts with friendly anthropomorphic personalities and permanent smiles rolling amiably along in a line, but gas-powered fish-laden contraptions appearing from nowhere, steered by madmen, roaring to and from every direction as they cut between slower traffic and crates, trying to zig and zag to find the quickest route to move fish from Point A to Point B.
I'm surprised I didn't see (or become involved in) some sort of collision.
They cut the frozen tunas with a table saw. The fresh tunas, however, involved several huge knives, including a knife so long that its maker must have had his penis length mocked by someone with a sword. Probably as tall or taller than me. The knife, that is.
I was a bit disappointed to see them carefully slicing the tuna rather than going all kendo kiai as someone slo-mo tosses the tuna up, the knife making several simultaneous blinding arcing blurs, the tuna landing gently in perfectly cut steaks. Still, it was cool.
Afterwards we stopped in a teeny tiny sushi joint (one of several) and had the freshest sushi I've ever had.
(Which reminds me: when we went to a Korean restaurant, I finally found a food my father wouldn't try: beef sashimi, which he finds unappetizing. I pointed out that he has cleaned a fish and eaten sashimi then and there; it's totally a mind thing. Then again, I didn't feel like eating steak or burgers outside the arena after witnessing the bullfights in Spain. I bet there are people out there who can eat rare steak after visiting slaughterhouses that would get squicked out by the fish market. Or even sashimi in general.)
Yesterday (Tuesday), we took the train to ICU, where my parents met, dated, and got married. Monday was their 45th anniversary [!]. It was cool seeing the campus after only hearing about it in stories. Lots of cherry blossoms.
Speaking of, the cherry blossoms are beautiful. I believe they're also responsible for the increase in my (and a significant number of locals') allergies, however.
This is the part of Tokyo where my father grew up, "one of several downtowns" as he put it. We walked around the station last night so I could get my bearings. The east side definitely looks more like I pictured Tokyo before my visit. I made the walk without pulling out my camera, but I did reference quite a number of places where I'd like to return, camera in hand.
We visited the Canon store here, where I tried a number of lenses and bodies I hadn't tried before, including some that aren't available in the US yet. The bodies probably aren't localized for English yet, but I'm thinking about picking up a lens or two. It's a disease.
We went up to a few viewing spots in skyscrapers which are open to the public. Pretty, but they definitely don't allow for good nighttime photography; the interior lights cause way too much glare on the windows.
Everywhere downtown it's apparent what a precious commodity real estate is. Hotel lobbies are spacious, but mostly up (vertically). And everything gets so crowded. The walkways are spacious after hours, but during rush hour they're packed. Certain elevators, trains: packed. The common surgical masks make sense since there's nowhere to turn to sneeze or cough away from everyone else. I did get a sudden urge to mimic that Rad Girls sketch where they went into an elevator with a whoopee cushion and a stink spray. Probably not as funny once you take into account the events from 13 years ago.
And now, after jumping around chronologically through the events of the past day and a half, and with my parents passed out in the mid-morning sun, I think I'm going to go downstairs for some more pictures.