I woke on Day 2 to another gray and drizzly day, something of a theme for weather where I am right now. After writing a blog post and eating a fine breakfast from 7-11, I decide to get out of Okayama and take the shinkansen over to Hiroshima, only about 45 minutes away by bullet train.
Hiroshima is more of a proper big city than Okayama, something over a million people I think. There’s a lot more foreign tourists here, and for obvious reasons. Hiroshima’s infamy as the first ever target of a nuclear weapon is an unenviable way to attract visitors, but I have to admit, it’s the reason why I came here.
A tram takes me from the train station to the memorial park where others from all over gather together in the rain to see the ruins of the old prefectural building whose structure survived the a-bomb blast.
The park is dotted with different small memorials. One of them is dedicated to the thousands of children who were killed, who had all been mobilized as auxiliary laborers as the war entered a final desperate phase.
I buy a ticket to go inside the big museum at the opposite end of the park. It’s very crowded, but the exhibits inside are sobering and somber, placing a wet blanket over what could have otherwise been a loud gathering of multinational people and families vying for a glimpse at artifacts from a deadly point in history. Charred clothes, twisted steel, a thousand tiny origami cranes.
It’s sad to think of how many lives were destroyed in WW2, not just from the a-bomb, but everything in total. Soldiers, civilians, people from all walks of life were casualties. It makes me thankful that today, we live in an age of relative peace where such things are only the memories of history, and not a daily reality for most.
The day stretches into the afternoon and I go searching for lunch; something warm and fulfilling to feed the soul and warm my heart on a cool and wet day. I spend a long time walking around the streets of Hiroshima, just exploring at my whims. There are some nice covered outdoor shopping malls, restaurants, everything under the sun. Or, clouds, in this case.
Hiroshima is known for it’s okonomiyaki, kind of Japanese comfort food crazy goodness, so I find a restaurant selling it and take a seat at the counter where the cooks are busy preparing the food for a number of like-minded customers, trying to get out of the drizzle. Okonomiyaki is kind of like… a Japanese quesadilla? A flour paste crust with a filling of noodles and basically anything else you want. I got the DX Deluxe because I feel like going for broke. It had: squid, pork, udon noodles, egg, green onions, some other form of asian greens, a few more ingredients I can remember, and a savory and salty sauce to top it all off. God was it amazing.
Seated next to me is an older Japanese woman who greets me with a smile. When I experiment with my limited Japanese to tell the cooks that I like the food, she lights up and leans in to talk to me. We eat together and have an extended, albeit simple, conversation, me practicing my Japanese and she, practicing her English. We introduce ourselves (she’s Yukiko), talk about where we live, how old we are, who our family is. I show her a picture of myself and my siblings, saying how old they are in Japanese and she reads it back to me in English. It was actually a delightful moment, and a huge confidence builder for me, because my language skills are basic at best and my American accent often gets in the way.
Yukiko tells me that she’s 75 years old. I laugh and say “75? But you’re so beautiful!” in Japanese, and Yukiko gets a big laugh out of that. One of the happiest memories I’ve made so far.
After lunch I go out exploring for more adventure and come across a Japanese video arcade. 6 stories tall. Each story with a different focus on different kinds of games. It’s a bombardment to the senses, but also familiar at the same time. I spend a few hundred yen playing a few racing games and a crane catcher (yes, just as much of a rip off as in the states).
As the afternoon begins to wane into evening, I wander back towards the train station. As I get closer, I notice more and more people around me sporting bright red baseball jerseys, congregating and flowing in a single direction. Oh snap, a baseball game? I LOVE baseball! I decide to follow them, leading me away from the train station and to Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium, home of the Hiroshima Carp! I buy myself a cheap upper-deck seat for about $16 and head on inside. Tonight’s opponent, the Yakult Swallows. Funny how the Carps’ logo looks exactly like the Cincinnati Reds. Hmmmm…
As the game gets going, the crowd gets super into it. They have a pep band on the opposite side of the field and they lead the crowd in fight songs and chants for each and every player. I’ve never seen so many people so into a baseball game, except for maybe the World Series game I went to. It’s a delightfully familiar and yet distinctly japanese experience. Instead of hot dogs, people buy steaming hot bowls of ramen.
The Carp actually take a no-hitter into the 9th inning! But on the second to last our a ground ball sneaks into the outfield, spoiling the potential for a historic win. Still, the Carp hang on to win 4-1, and the entire crows release carp-shaped balloons into the sky in celebration.
Sitting next to me is a charming Venezuelan / Colombian couple who I speak to at length through the whole game. Jose and Priscilia. Priscilia is a Venezuelan who left her home country to Colombia when shit started going downhill, a lawyer by trade, she now runs her own business selling Korean cosmetics in South America. They both speak English quite well, and we talk about all topics over the few hours we spend together. I wish them both all the best as they continue their own journey through Japan.
It’s late when my train returns me to Okayama, so I got to bed without writing a post. I’m actually lagging behind a day or so on posts, but I’ll do my best to catch up as things continue forward. This weekend is all about going to see some racing! Stay tuned for all the action in the next post.