Hi everyone, it’s been some time since my last blog entry. I know the end of the month is quickly approaching and you all were waiting for me to post something new and exiting. It’s taken some time, but this blog post is strategically placed, believe it or not, since I just came back from a trip to Hiroshima! So now, without further adieu, I would like to share my experiences in both Osaka and Hiroshima.
Osaka- November 2-5
’Twas the first weekend of November when I left the house,
A Thursday morning, not to return until Sunday night. Friday was a day off (as we say here, yasumi 休み, it just means break) for something called “culture day”. Didn’t concern me much, just that I didn’t have school so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to spend some time outside of Tokyo exploring another city I had wanted to visit. My friend had mentioned that she wanted to come with me, but since the college students had a break most of that week, she was able to leave earlier that morning to arrive before I did. Yeah, we arrived separately. Our airbnb host thought it was hilarious. I had to go to class that day, so I took an afternoon shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka. Getting to Osaka was alright, the train ride was a cool three hours, but it went by quickly. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a reserved seat, so by the time I got to the unreserved car, there were no more window seats. Still, it was alright. I tried napping. Shinkansen seats recline pretty far.
I arrived in the evening and met up with my friend who was already at the airbnb. We got curry at a nearby shop by recommendation from our airbnb host who’s friend is the owner, and had a great time there listening to some of his stories. We walked around that night even though we were told the area we were staying in (WHICH, by the way, I was not told ahead of time… not that it would really make any difference) was considered to be “the most dangerous area in all of Japan” aka we were living in the Japanese ghetto for a weekend. Apparently, Yakuza still live there. Of course, it was all very safe still. First of all, it’s Japan. Second of all, this reputation came from years ago when perhaps there was more violence, drugs, Yakuza presence, etc. Things change. The area was fine. There were a lot of homeless people, a sight you don’t see much in Tokyo, since there is a lot of government assistance in Osaka. Maybe that’s why people think it’s dangerous. But still, you’re telling that to people from America. We could handle it. Never once did we feel unsafe.
Neither my friend or I wanted to have a stressful weekend, so we had a list of things it would be nice to see. If we got there, great. If not, no big deal. Nothing was timed and everything was spontaneous, so we decided to walk everywhere instead of take the train. It would take more time, but we had all the time in the world. Plus, the weekend was meant for exploring. We would make our way somewhere eventually, but if we wanted to check out the road with all the fancy lights, we’d check it out. First we walked to Tsutenkaku which was close to where we were staying. The plan was to go up since I really love observatories, but the line was a bit long and we didn’t feel like waiting that long. No big deal, we got pictures from outside. From there, our next destination was Osaka Castle. Osaka Castle was about an hour away by foot, but like I said before, we didn’t go directly there. We took several detours, stopping by shops and taking turns off course. The castle was absolutely gorgeous. Inside, it’s actually a museum, but on the top level, there is an observatory area. We got there at a nice time in the afternoon when the sun was beginning to set casting a nice glow upon the city. Walking back towards our area (“our”…. yes we decided it’s our neighborhood now since we know people who own shops. We’re regulars), it was only natural to stop by Dotonbori. We hung out by the water and took a picture by the glico man like every other tourist. While in Osaka, we visited a few shrines. I always really love seeing these areas of nature and peacefulness in the middle of cities. We also went to the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts to see the Magic of Animation exhibit displayed there.
Three nights in Osaka seemed to go by very quickly. It was sad leaving, as we had made many new friends from our adventures through the city. It is well known here that people from Osaka are very friendly. I had never heard of that before my trip there, but since returning to Tokyo I can tell the difference. Still, it’s always really nice to get back to Tokyo. While my friend prefers Osaka since it has a much more laidback feel, I prefer Tokyo with its expansive landscape and hectic style.
Hiroshima- November 24-26
November truly has been the month of travel for me, with this being the second weekend I spent outside of Tokyo. The time spent in Hiroshima was less than the time I spent in Osaka and it was much more packed with structure, so it was really tiring. Still, I learned a lot and had a great time. This trip was also with the CIEE college students! It was nice to have time to spend bonding with them.
Our first day in Hiroshima was all about the education about what happened when the city was bombed in 1945. The day began at the Peace Museum, followed by a lecture courtesy of Dr. Robert Jacobs who works at the Peace Institute there. His presentation was really interesting, explaining a lot about the bombing and the difference between how the story is presented in Japan versus the United States. The story as taught in America, he said, focuses more on the scientific advancements and ends with the bombing, as that was the final product of all of the research and hard work. By contrast, in Japan the story taught here focuses on how the city suffered and had to work to rebuild itself. It focuses on the effect the bomb had on people. After lunch, we had the privilege to hear Keiko Ogura speak about her experience as a survivor of the bombing. Her story was difficult to listen to, especially since it makes the situation so much more visual for us, a group of young adults from another country. She was positive though, and it made me really happy that she was finally able to tell her story. She said a lot of survivors were shunned in the years following the war, so it kept a lot of people silenced, herself included. Now though, people are finding the courage to tell their stories about what happened and the effect it had on their lives. On their city. That afternoon, we walked around Peace Park visiting the Children’s Peace Monument, the Rest House, and the A-Bomb Dome.
Our second and final day began early, as we had to catch a bus that would take us to the ferry which would bring us to Miyajima Island. Miyajima, for those of you who do not know, is an island close to Hiroshima and it is the home to the famous Itsukushima Shrine which is where the big gate in the water is. Almost instantly after arriving on the island we were welcomed by one of the best things about the island- the friendly deer! They were super photogenic and I loved it a lot. The shrine was really unique, as it was right on the beach. After visiting the shrine, we took cable cars up the mountain for a very scenic view of not only Hiroshima, but additional islands in the distance.
Both Hiroshima and Osaka are well known for their famous dish, okonomiyaki. However, it is a highly debated topic that many have disputed throughout the years. Since I have gone to both cities and eaten the okonomiyaki at each respectively, the results are in. Personally, I like the okonomiyaki from Osaka better. We can discuss this if you disagree.