Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hiroshima 広島

Yay! A weekend trip to Hiroshima!

We had a three day weekend, so we traveled to Hiroshima via train and shinkansen, getting there in only two hours time. Nice! Above is our short shinkansen ride, below is Aioi Road at night.

We arrived in time for dinner, so we headed out in search of Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, and found Chinchikurin, a happening restaurant near the Hon-dori Shopping Arcade.

Above is the chef making our dinner, below is the okonomiyaki. Hiroshima-style consists of a thin crepe-like pancake, noodles, cabbage, and a scrambled egg topped with okonomiyaki sauce and nori (toasted seaweed), and usually with pork (but not for us).

The weather was particularly fine, so we took a walk over to the A-bomb dome to view it at night.

For me, the eerie nighttime lighting of the structure makes it loom larger, and creates a more powerful image than viewing it during the day.

On Friday we headed out to Miyajima.

The island is famous for oysters, so we tried some for lunch. Above is one of the many stalls selling oysters, below is our oyster rice bowl lunch.

On the central street on the island...

We ate some Momiji Manju, little cakes filled with chocolate, custard, or red bean paste. Yum!

Joe with one of the many deer that inhabit the island.

The Seto Inland Sea....

The famous tori at Itsukushima Shrine.

Joe and I in front of the tori. When I went to Itsukushima in 2007, we visited at low tide, so the tori was surrounded by sand and mud. This time, we made sure to check the tide charts.

Scenery from inside the shrine.

A woman praying at the shrine.

The tori as viewed from inside the Honden, or main hall, of the shrine.

More views from the shrine.

The shrine itself is placed on the tidal flat (not sunk down to the bedrock). This is a view from the central pier. I love the reflection of the tori on the water.

What lovely hair....

Joe inside the shrine.

A cool portrait sculpture at the temple next to the shrine.

We walked to the top of the hill to see the pagoda up close.

Along the shore after touring the temple.

Looking back at the island from the ferry.

Back at the ferry station, Samurai Joe.

Riding the lovely Hiroshima streetcars.

For dinner we found the awesome Vegan Cafe, housed inside a yoga studio. We had Mushroom Pasta and Black Sesame Rissotto. Yummy!!

Joe inside the cafe.

At night we hit up the club Jamaica, which had house djs spinning.

At the club. It appears as if nobody is there, but it became quite packed at about midnight.

On Saturday we had a leisurely coffee shop and people watching breakfast in central Hiroshima before heading to the Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art to see Dorodoro doron: The Uncanny World in Folk and Contemporary Art in Asia.

After leaving the museum, we walked through the surrounding park, checking out some early spring blossoms.

We walked down to the Peace Park area and had lunch at the fantastic outdoor Cafe Ponte.

After lunch we toured the Peace Memorial Museum.

The exhibits inside the museum cover the history of the events surrounding the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, the effects of radiation, and issues related to nuclear arms. It is a powerful place, to say the least.

After touring the museum we walked around the Peace Memorial Park. Inside the cenotaph the names of the bombing victims are listed, currently the number is over 220,000. The a-bomb dome is visible in the distance.

Hoping for peace....

A few of the thousands of paper cranes left at the Peace Park by schoolchildren and other groups.

At the end of a fantastic weekend.

Our last stop in Hiroshima was for ice cream. Yay!

Boarding the streetcar to go back to the station.

Hiroshima is one of my favorite cities in Japan. The people are super friendly and the city is vibrant and full of life. Despite the horrors of the past, Hiroshima has a great vitality and is an inspiring place.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sumo 相撲

On Sunday March 8 we went to the Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka. The tournaments occur six times a year, three times in Tokyo, once in Fukuoka, once in Nagoya, and once in Osaka (for a helpful beginer's guide to sumo click here). As we approached the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium we saw the crowds outside awaiting the arrival of their favorite rikishi (wrestler). From up close the size of the rikishi was amazing, according to the program most of them were over 6 foot and near 300 pounds.

Inside the gymnasium, we took our seats and watched the Juryo Division matches (lower division) for about an hour.

At about 3:30 the Ring Entering Ceremony began. The rikishi all wore beautifully embroidered aprons and entered the ring, walking around the circle as their names were announced. It was interesting to see how many rikishi are from Mongolia and Eastern Europe.

More ring entering ceremony...

...and some more ring entering ceremony.

Then the Makuuchi Division matches began. The rikishi in the photo below was particularly huge, this was taken just after he won his match.

Joe watching the tournament.

Of course there was limited edition Hello Kitty, and of course I bought one. Here she's dressed as the Yokozuna is during the Ring Entering Ceremony, complete with the super-heavy hemp rope belt and paper ornaments.

More tournament action...

... and some more. We were seated in the upper-level seats (read: cheaper seats), but the closer boxes had Japanese-style floor seating and tea service.

Later in the day the matches became more exciting, as the higher ranked rikishi were the last to wrestle.

Me watching the tournament.

Some of the ritual that happened before each match. While the rikishi would wrestle for only about a minute, they would stare each other down and have a little psycholgical battle for about four mintues prior to their match.

The higher ranked rikishi had sponsors, and the sponsor banners were paraded around the ring before the match. This rikishi had Hello Kitty as a sponsor! The Kitty banner is the first one. Another rikishi had McDonalds as his sole sponsor, they paraded about five banners.

More of the pre-match ritual.

The score board. The rikishi are listed as either East or West (top or bottom on the board), and the winner of the match has a red light next to their name. This photo was taken during the last match, so both names have the red light.

After the tournament, me and a foamcore cut out of one of the more popular rikishi.

The tournament flags outside of the gymnasium at the end of the tournament. There were drums played from atop the gymnasium to announce the end of the days matches. All in all, I found sumo to be much more interesting than I thought it would be. It was Joe's idea to go to the tournament, so I give credit to him for peaking my interest in the sport. The ritual of the tournament was facinating, and I enjoyed the rhythm of the day.

As we walked back to the subway we came across a Mexican restaurant near Namba Station, in the Hips Building. I forgot the name, but it was fantastic!