As I got off the train the day before in Hiroshima and headed towards the “You Are Here.” map on a wall in the station, I met Ceci from San Francisco. We caught up yesterday after some considerable confusion with the tram and train systems, and with the port of departure for the ferry. We headed out to Miyajima island to see the famous torii gate that occupies a small bay there. Of course, it’s best if you’re there when the tide is in, but we didn’t make it, so here’s a not-so-picture-postcard photo of the O-Torii. Miyajima also has a five-story pagoda and a shrine that sits on pillars in the water.
The photo below is from a sign on the trail up Mt. Misen on Miyajima. I used my sinus infection as an excuse not to take the four-hour hike up to the top and back. Ceci didn’t complain. Neither of us could figure out exactly what the sign meant. Big words are generally easier to translate than small words like “by,” “at,” and “for,” and Japanese doesn’t have any equivalent for many of our small words, like the definite and indefinite articles “the,” and “a.” This type of thing exists everywhere in Japan. Very often it is meant for Japanese audiences, but it makes for interesting reading for us as well.
After getting back to Hiroshima, we went to a building that houses twenty or thirty very small restaurants, almost like booths at a flea-market. All of which specialize in one thing: okonomiyaki, Hiroshima-style. Sometimes thought of as a type of cabbage pancake, at least in Hiroshima they’re a thin but normal pancake with heaps of stuff on top. I think mine had cabbage, sprouts, bacon, shrimp, squid, fried noodles, an egg, some oyster sauce and green onions, plus probably some other things I missed as the chef was constructing it in front of us. I think of it as the Japanese version of a Nick Tahou’s Garbage Plate, and think it would be a big hit with the 2 AM crowd in America. I almost ordered a second one, but I didn’t know if I could finish it. Once again a situation where solo travelers have friends for one day at a time, I had fun with Ceci and I hope she has a great trip.
This morning I packed up and went to the Hiroshima Peace Park on the way to the ferry terminal. It’s a strange thing to be in a city that, to Americans at least, is completely identified with its former destruction by the first the atomic bomb. In contrast with that image, this is a large, modern, thriving city. If not for the ruins of one remaining building, some memorials, some foreign tourists, and classes of Japanese schoolchildren on field trips, there would be no sign that anything so significant had ever happened here. This is the first place I’ve been where the foreign tourists outnumbered the Japanese tourists. Everywhere else we we’ve been outnumbered by no less than ten to one. In Japan, the crane symbolizes long life.