Monday, June 17, 2013

Honshu-Shikoku Bike Trip and Hiroshima

And I thought I had taken my last trip in Japan!!  Turns out I was way wrong, and I'm probably STILL not done!!

Kane, Tania, Nichole, Billy, Patrick, Tiffany, Josh

On June 14th I left school and headed straight to Beppu to pick up my friends Josh and Kane and drive to Kitsuki, where I left my car and rode in Nichole's van to Hiroshima.  There were six of us in the car including Patrick and Billy.  We joined our 7th at the Hana Hostel in Horoshima.  Kane's wife, Tania, checked into the hostel for us since she had to go to Osaka earlier that day for a visa.  I always forget what an international group I travel in.  

Tania is from Mexico City and is married to Kane who is from Canada along with Patrick.  Billy is Asian but he is from New Zealand.  Josh is from upstate NY and Nichole and I are from Florida, USA.  We all got together this weekend to cycle from Onomichi City on the island of Honshu over the 7- bridges to Imabari on the island of Shikoku.  

Can you see me on the left?
We rented bicycles in Onomichi (Honshu, Japan) and set out in the pouring rain.  At first I was in denial that we were going through with this cycling trip in the rain, but once we were wet it was no big deal, and for me some wonderful dormant memories were drawn out; I remember riding my bike in the rain many afternoons as a kid in Florida.  The course from Onomichi to Imabari (Shikoku, Japan) is 70 km (43.5 miles), plus a little extra for losing our way and an extra 5k getting from the end of the course to our hotel.  It was a pretty long trip for me considering that I am not a regular cyclist.  I have to admit I needed some pretty intense encouragement.  I got really down about being a handicap for my team.  But everyone was great and uplifting and we got there together in really good spirits.  

I thought to myself what a great group of people I was with, every one of them wonderful team players.  I mean it.  Nichole, Josh, Kane, Patrick, and Billy could've finished the course in almost half the time without me, but each one of them was so encouraging and without a trace of impatience about me or Tania being less practiced.  They waited for us and circled back and never made us feel like we were weighing them down.  I couldn't have asked for a nicer group of friends to share this experience with.

 The bridges were impressive and I am not overstating when I call the landscape paradisiacal.  I said to Tania that I cannot believe I've never read about Shikoku in National Geographic or travel magazines.  I had never heard of it in my life until I came to Japan, and that island is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  Islands everywhere, clouds sitting in the valleys, a solitary fisherman on a rock in the middle of a turquoise inlet, crystal clear ocean waters, swirling tides, lush green mountains.  The scenery was pretty remarkable.

We crossed the 7- bridges stopping a few times for konbini snacks, to eat from fruit trees, to patch up Tania, and to take pictures of snails, crabs, and landscape.  We stopped once for mikan soft cream.  Yum.  We were SOAKED.  It was nice at the end when the blue sky started to come through the cracks and we dried out, but my shoes and socks stayed miserably soggy.  At the end of the course we stopped to find a map to the hotel and we wound our way through the town passing onsen and restaurants, and for me a calico kitten, that we wanted to stop for.  But we had to get there and just BE FINISHED.  We did get there.  Our hotel had a nice little sento (public bath), so the boys and we girls went off to our baths and came back refreshed, but still totally exhausted.  We needed FOOD.  The guys all wore their yukata robes from the hotel and we girls pretty much wore our pajamas to an izakaya restaurant.  We had a great smattering of sushi, mushrooms, fried cheese, bacon-wrapped asparagus, gobo beef salad, potato salad, and beer.  We were clean and fed and ready to collapse motionless onto our futons.  After a stop at the konbini for ice cream we made it back to the hotel and relaxed in our giant tatami room.   

I was in pain.  It was so bad that I was taking the elevator up and down and we were only on the 2nd floor.  I'm still not sure what kind of pain I was experiencing.  It didn't feel like muscle pain.  It was a deep ache in my thighs and knees and it was bordering on unbearable.  I put on some muscle patches and took some aspirin-type medicine that made no difference.  I couldn't sleep until I dulled one area of pain -my knees- with 2 cold beers.  I awoke in the middle of the night from the pain.  I hobbled downstairs to ask for ice but no one was there.  It hurt so bad I just stayed in the lobby and slept on the couch.  Waking up some time later, I took the elevator up and tried to sleep.  Josh finally went to the lobby and bought 2 cold waters out of the machine so I could "ice" my legs and get some sleep.  The next day I stayed on a better version of aspirin and I made it through without too much more pain.

I couldn't do anymore cycling and neither could Tania, so we made plans to wait for the others in Hiroshima, but we had to ride our bikes to the rental location, about 5k.  We had a lot of fun singing songs and stopping for breakfast.  Nichole, Josh, Kane, Billy and Patrick got back on the course around 10:30am and Tania and I walked for about an hour to the bus that would take us to Hiroshima.  The bridge was so huge that the bus stop was in the middle.  The bridge has lanes for cars, motorbikes, walkers, and cyclists.  We curled up in a little patch of shade to shield ourselves from the blistering Japan sun, and finally boarded the bus and took a 2 hour nap to Hiroshima.  Sure beat cycling for 10 hours on beat up knees!!    

My newest addition to my Starbucks mug collection

Tania and I saw the building in this picture that has been preserved since August 6th of 1945 when the United States destroyed Hiroshima, Japan with the atomic bomb.  This building stood, along with a few others scattered over the area.  The 30 people inside this building at the time of the attack died instantly.  Many others that I learned about inside the museum weren't as lucky.  So many children made it home that day, but were burned so badly that they died that night.  The museum has tattered and bloody child-size uniforms laid out in cases.  A 3-year old boy who had been riding his tricycle outside died, and his father thought that he was so young and shouldn't be away from home, alone in a grave, so his father buried him in the back yard with his tricycle.  Several decades later his body was relocated to the family tomb, and the tricycle that had spent 30 years buried with him was there for me to see.  Many parents could never find their children after the bomb, so days later they collected bones from their children's schools and treated them as their own child's remains.  I read letters from a young man's journal.  He had a strong desire to live, but he was so frustrated to be sick and dying from radiation poisoning.  He blamed himself for being too tired to fight, and he died.  People of all ages walked through the streets with their skin falling off.  Approximately 70,000 people died in Hiroshima on that day alone and up to 130,000 more from burns, illness, and cancers.  And why, do you think?  Because the Japanese army was committing acts against humanity?  Because the United States needed to justify the money it had spent on the project?  Who really knows?

...Is the reason of consequence?  I think that is the most important question.  Being in this place and experiencing the museum naturally made me think about nuclear weapons and if they should be used at all.  Could any reason justify the use of nuclear weapons again?  Japan answers that question with a resounding, "No."  The United States answers, "Yes."       

A picture of Hiroshima after the bomb.  The area razed by wind and heat had been covered in closely set houses, businesses, and schools.

The Peace Park in Hiroshima has many statues devoted to peace and to those who died.  The museum recounts stories of the war and the political situation and shows pictures and models of the city before and after the bomb.  There are belongings encased:  Watches, student bags and uniforms, shoes, the singed locks a mother kept from her daughter that died...  I'm sensitive and after a while I stopped looking so closely so as not to get sick.  

The building that stood after the bomb
 I felt some sort of responsibility as an American to visit both Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  Now I have and I'm very glad I did both to gain a better understanding of what happened in those cities and to experience and learn to believe in the Japanese advocacy of peace.  I say "to believe in" because hearing about Japan's policies regarding nuclear war and being in the cities where it happened are different things.  Seeing the letters from people adds a dimension of sincerity that you don't get when you think Japan is peaceful because America forced peace on them.  America forced acquiescence; not peace.  To know there are monuments to peace and then to see them and read about how they came up (paid for by classmates of a dying girl or the families of WW2 victims) gives me a reason to believe that the Japanese people earnestly embrace and embody a world aimed at a peaceful existence. 

This monument is dedicated to the mobilized students who died.

 In America, talk of peace seems like just talk.  It's like Christmas in Japan.  In Japan, Santa is everywhere and Christmas lights hang from businesses... but it's not the same.  The spirit is missing.  That unified feeling of something deeper doesn't accompany the decorations.  In America when "peace" is discussed on the news or in politics, it feels like just words said because they sound good.  It's hard for the spirit of peace to thrive in the holding area for nuclear weapons.  

This flame burns day and night.  It will continue until there are no more nuclear weapons in the world.

The monument in this picture was my favorite for beauty.  A tranquil pond filled with lotus flowers surrounds the bell which has the continents etched into it with no country boundaries.  When you ring it, you pray for world peace.

I saw so many beautiful things and made wonderful memories with my friends on this trip.  I experienced so much in just one weekend.  


From Japan,


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

What a fucking bitch. Not only do you think killing Japanese people is funny, but won't even talk about it on your blog, remove the picture, or e-mail me in private.

What a disgusting person you are. You should kill yourself.