US Forces Give The Nod

Hiroshima. Golden Week has finished, so life was returning to normal. Banks were open (finally) and things were just humming along fine. The Hiroshima Youth Hostel is really good. For 1600yen a night, which has been my cheapest stay so far. I now discover the YH in Himeji was 700yen a night, which is about AU$8.50. And it didn’t seem too bad what what I had heard. Oh well.

My kanji skills are improving. After my trouble with the entrance/exit, I’ve finally created my first sentence/phrase using kanji.

In my room at the Hiroshima YH is a guy named Tom. He’s American. He’s also very, very large. And as with most Americans, conversations seem to only go one way.

I remember in highschool, this policy came out that in English we were to do more public speaking because someone high up in the education system had been watching too much TV, and everytime an American on the street was interviewed they’d seem really eloquent in their answer. So, we had to do more public speaking so we would be just as good. In reality Americans are more like Charlie, one of Rob’s ex-girlfriends in High Fidelity. She’d talk all night, and talk utter crap. And not listen to anyone. Really. So, I don’t think I want to be as eloquent as an American.

The expression is (I can’t get the kanji to work, so look it up yourself):

yama no kuchi

The first ideogram: “yama” means Mountain. The last: “kuchi” means Mouth. The one in the middle: “no” is a gramatical construct (that you actually pronounce in Japanese,) something like possessive apostrophe s in English. So a direct translation would be “Mountain’s Mouth” or “Mouth of the Mountain.” It’s one of those double meaning expressions that so often appear with kanji. But it is, effectively my generic name for fat Americans now. “Kochira wa yama no kuchi desu.”

It rained. Did the Peace Museum and Atomic Bomb Dome. Don’t think I can really say much about it. But it really made me come out and and want to do something to change the world. One thing I did learn was that China, the US (with England) and Russia are still doing nuclear testing, just not the big kaboom sort. It is suprising to see who’s got the bomb.

We’ll all go together when we go.

Hiroshima is really good. I quite like it here. I got caught my two Mormons on the way to the bus centre to go back to the YH. I had a good chat, didn’t rip into them too much. The main missionary was an American bloke, who looked Asian which threw me, considering he had very little Japanese language skills. I should have done a “I don’t speak English” thing too him, but I wasn’t fast enough. Maybe one day they’ll learn the truth about the relationship between Whites, Blacks and Asians from the original text of the BOM (Book of Mormon).

Found this Bangladesh shop selling stuff for fundraising. One of the volunteers (a Bangladeshi) who I chatted to out the front was wearing a Nike shirt. I commented on the oxmoron of it.

The Hiroshima food speciality is Okonomiyaki. Japanese pancake. They’re really good, and here they make them with noodles. Trust me, they’re great. Very filling. There’s this building with 3 floors of pokey little Okonomiyaki resturants. Did the 4th floor the first night, the 3rd floor the next and the 2nd floor to finish with. Very oshii.

There’s this shrine down south of here on an island called Miyajima. It’s one of the top 3 sightseeing spots in Japan, although Fuji-san isn’t one of the other two. I think Mt. Fuji is in a super-class of it’s own. Anyway, most people say you really need to go at high tide, because the floating torii gate and shrine are in water at only high-tide, and the rest of the time – stinky mud. So the newspaper says high-tide is 12:30 (noon.) Okay. I can hande that. Get there. Low tide is 13:27. No idea what’s happening, so I check for the next day. High tide 8:27 (morning). So I try and make the mad dash to get there early the next day. Mostly made it, but for the full effect you need to be there at high tide (note to self: I am a lazy slob.) not one and a half hours later. Also, all the pictures on postcards and books have this bright red gate and buildings. But wait a sec, this thing is a dirty grey/red. Lets check those pictures again. Oh, where’s that building in the background, and those ones too. I think the photos were taken about 20 years ago when the torii was newly renovated. Bummer. But I liked it.

Have been meeting more people. Met a retired military American officer and his wife. I decided not to discuss the finer points of American foreign policy with him at this point of our short relationship. But have been meeting lots, and lots of Candians. I don’t know why.

Quite a few English backpackers as well. These two sisters today, who are staying at the YH had done 6 months in India, China and a few others and then Japan. Now that’s a trip. India sounds really cheap. My budget for a week, would last a month there and that’d be a generous month as well.

Had this Candian girl ask me if I was a New Zealander or Australian. She was wearing a cap with Canada on it. I should have asked if she was from the 51st state of the US. We had a chat about how, as an Australian I can hear a Kiwi frum fufty puces. Just as she could pick a yank from, gosh, you know, like, I don’t know, maybe 50 yards, what do you think?

Almost had to use a squat toilet today, but was saved in time when I found a Western Toilet, which I was very, very thankful of.

I had bought this two day pass for the tram, ferry and ropeway (cable car.) Considering I got value for money the first day, I got excellent value using it the second day. Probably one of the best buys I had for vouchers. It makes up for the zen 500yen from Kyoto.

The ropeway goes to the top of Miyajima, and gives you a view over the other side towards the inland sea. All these really good looking islands with yellow sandy beaches on them. I’ve only just discovered how to get to them and I have to leave Hiroshima for Kyushu. Perhaps in Kyushu I’ll get to go to a sandy beach, on a fine day and go swimming in my underwear. But there were supposed to be these monkeys at the top. Boths days there was a sign saying they had gone into the forest to feed (and I’m sure the second day, it was exactly the same as from the day before.) I’m beginning to think there were no monkeys.

I’ve been getting more through the Kafka. I still don’t fully understand it. Perhaps that’s the point.

Off to Kyushu and the final part of my trip. I’ve been thinking about a few lists of things I need to think about, so here’s the start of my first one.

Top n things I won’t miss from Japan

  1. The smell of raw sewage: in Australia we have breather pipes high up for the sewage lines. Here, they are at ground level. In Tokyo, every now and then I’d walk around a corner at be hit with the smell of raw sewage.
  2. Smoking: they are about 10 years behind New South Wales in anti-smoking laws.

Like I said, it’s a start. Well, as much as I love being in a place called “I Love You,” I must go and eat, pack and get ready to go to Kyushu tomorrow. I can either catch a ferry (catamaran), or the train. The ferry is about twice as expensive, but takes less time and drops me in Beppu, which is like the Las Vagas of Onsens (Hot Springs). The train will take me where ever I want to go, but much, much slower. Which doesn’t bother me, but were talking about 6 hours travel so I might either pay for the ferry, or cough up the cash for the Shinkansen (which will cost about the same as the ferry in the end.)

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