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Chasing Sakura in Japan Part 2

Fukuoka & Hiroshima

rain 50 °F

At 5:15 am the phone rang and it was time to start the day. Packed my bag, downstairs for the shuttle. Once at the airport I re-packed. Jetstar Japan only allows a 5 kilo carry-on for free and that would be difficult. I put my laptop under my arm, camera plus book in my hand covered by my jacket. A lot of trouble for nothing. The lady at Jetstar looked my bag and gave me a boarding pass. Did not bother to weight my bag. I found a quiet spot and re-packed. Everything I could not do w/o went into my day bag, the rest into my main bag. We left on time, arrived on time and I was in Fukuoka. Masa was the guy running the hostel I would stay at. The instructions were to take the JR train from the airport to Hakata station, out the West exit and walk to the Royal Park Hotel. That was the closest landmark and he would come get me. This was the first time I needed the rental phone. I found the Royal Park and called Masa. Within 5 minutes he was there. The hostel is only a block away on the 11th floor of an office building, He checked me in and took me to the dorm for men. There are about 15 individual sleeping compartments and probably 10 were vacant at 11 am. I picked the one I thought would be the quietest and got ready for a day of sightseeing. I met Ryan, a guy from Texas in the common area. He is now living in Japan and knows his way around not only Fukuoka but all of Japan. Ryan said he was walking back to the Hakata station for lunch at the food court. I walked with him and we parted ways at the station. I had decided to visit Fukuoka Castle Ruins and Maizaru Park. I found the right train and got off close to the park. I have a Fukuoka map and just walked the streets until I found the park. There is a lake close to the entrance but it is too cold for anyone to rent the boats that are available. I found a few cherry blossom trees that were just starting to turn and got a few photos.
I saw a large Chinese Tour group heading across the street and fell in behind them. This is where I saw the difference between cultures. About half of the group made it across the street before the light changed. The ones left behind started to jaywalk to catch up with the group. But, there was a Japanese crossing guard stationed there and he shouted at them to get back on the sidewalk. Several Chinese decided to ignore him and cross anyway. That brought a response from the crossing guard! He ran into the street and forced all the jaywalkers back. The Chinese Tour guide must have shouted to stay there and he would wait for them. The Japanese follow the rules. They do not jaywalk, litter, run red lights, talk on their phones on trains, buses, etc. The Chinese? Not so much. Once across the street, I followed them to the Fukuoka Castle Ruins. It must have been impressive at one time, but not now. Several of the main walls are still standing, just not the upper sections. There is a nice view from the top and everyone trudges up the stairs. Unfortunately, most of the trees have not changed yet, so I did not get the photo all of us wanted: a sea of cherry blossoms with the city in the background. I did see plenty of Japanese groups picnicking under the trees even though they did not have blossoms on them yet. They spread their blankets, have their food and drink regardless if the cherry trees cooperate. They came for a Hanami Party and they would have one regardless of a lack of blossoms. I took some photos of them enjoying the decent weather under the trees. Several waved me over but just smiled and politely declined. Sitting on the ground is way too difficult for me at this stage of my life. I did not need young Japanese seeing an old American man struggling to sit on the ground! After walking the castle, I did see a few ladies dressed in traditional kimonos posing by the one cherry tree that was starting to change. Like everywhere else now, she was taking a 'selfie'. I walked back to the lake and got a few more of Hanami parties.

I followed my map and walked towards the subway station. Before I got to the subway station I found a 7-11 for my lunch. Egg salad sand, chocolate milk plus a carrot I had brought with me. Back to Hakata station, I walked to the bus station next to it. I wanted to find out times and prices to Hiroshima, my next city. Back at the hostel I took a shower and got on my laptop. Had some tea and killed time in the common room. There is no kitchen but they do have a kettle and a microwave. Enough to get by if you do buy some food at the store. Ryan came in around 5 pm and told me he was going over to Crossfit at 6 pm. He would be back around 7:30 and go out to dinner. I told him I would be here and went back to e-mailing and reading. He wanted to eat at a place more upscale than I wanted to pay so he walked with me to a grocery store a few blocks from the hostel. I bought noodles, carrots, bread, bananas. Back to the hostel, I used the microwave to fix my noodles, tea plus some bread. There are 4-5 chairs plus a couch for sitting. Masa also has a computer table and chair. This makes it easy to get online and use your laptop. A guy from San Francisco came into the common room and told me he was going around the world during the next year. He had plenty of good stories and travel advice so we chatted until 11 pm. The capsule is tall enough to sit up and read, a light, decent mattress, dark and quiet. Way better dorm experience than in Matsumoto. I like Brian, his kitchen is first rate, but the common area is difficult for those not used to sitting on the floor. Same with the futon bed in his dorm. At this stage of my life I need a Western style bed and chairs for sitting. I took my sleep pill and called it a night.

I was up around 7 am when I heard a guy moving around. I did not get any light clues because my capsule was not close to a window. Had some tea, bread, banana and try to decide what I wanted to do. The weather was good for Japan, cool, mostly sunny. Masa suggested Uminonakamichi Seaside Park for flowers, trees and a small zoo. He showed me on a map how to get there. I would rather walk around a park than a museum or the Fukuoka Tower. A short walk back to Hakata station, buy the ticket for the train, 460 yen and found the right platform. It was about a 40 minute train ride but I had all day so there was no hurry. The seaside park is almost the last stop on this route. I paid the 410 yen and entered the park I got a map and saw just how big the park. It is huge and many rent bicycles for the day. Plus they have a bus that makes a loop around the main parts of the park. I decided to walk and followed the map to the flower gardens. Huge swatches of flowers planted by type. The tulips were really colorful and were arranged by a small lake. After the flowers, I walked past the kid's playground and headed for the zoo. There were cherry trees along the path but most were not in bloom. I found the zoo and felt my legs starting to tire. I sat and watched the monkeys, flamingos for 20 minutes to rest. It is really designed for families. The kids would find in interesting but not adults. I checked my park map and decided there was nothing else I wanted to see. The park is 4 kilometers long and I was at the far end when I decided to leave. Now I wish I had rented a bike. I trudged back to the entrance and rested for awhile. The train runs about every 30 minutes and I had just missed one. I needed to rest anyway so was not disturbed by the wait. Uminonakamichi Park just has ticket machines, no people. I found the 460 yen button and bought my ticket. It does not matter if you get it wrong. There is always a fare adjustment option if you buy the wrong ticket. Once back at Hakata, I went to the 100 Yen Store. Just like our Dollar Stores, everything is 100 yen. I bought some noodles, bread and walked to the hostel. The dorm room was empty so I did some stretching, my sit-ups and then took a shower. Changed clothes and then hit the common room. I used the microwave to heat the noodles, kettle for tea and had my dinner. The SF guy came in and we talked about our day in Fukuoka. At 10 pm I crawled into my capsule, read a bit until I was sleepy and then lights out.

I got up at 6:30 am and packed my bags. It was rainy and cool during my walk to the bus station. I bought a ticket for Hiroshima, 4,000 yen and waited for the bus. Like all buses and trains in Japan, it left right on time. There are several short rest stops before we got into Hiroshima. I had some bread and carrots left so I ate that on the way. Around noon, we got into the bus station in Hiroshima. It was raining pretty hard so I headed quickly to the train station. I found the VC and got a tram map plus a sightseeing handout. I had the directions to the hostel and followed them. Hiroshima has a tram system downtown and I got on the red line or tram #2 to the Honkama-Cho stop, 160 yen. It is the next stop after the Atomic Bomb Dome (Peace Park) stop. I found the restaurant/bar owned by the same guys that run Tsuruya GH. Kenta gave me an umbrella and we walked to the hostel. He showed me to the male dorm and I picked a lower bunk that I thought would have the most privacy. Kenta gave me the access code to get back into the GH. A Chinese girl was sitting at the small counter and I asked her if she knew where a grocery store was located. They don't have anything in the hostel but a microwave. No kettle, cups, plates, spoons, nothing. It looks like I will be eating egg salad, carrots, bananas in Hiroshima. We walked to the store and I decided to buy noodles in a bowl. I can microwave it and I have a plastic fork, spoon with me. Noodles, bread, carrots for 600 yen and we walk back in the rain. I shower, clean up and change into my PJs. I am not going sightseeing in a pouring rain. After microwaving my noodles, I have that plus bread for lunch. I got online and sent some e-mails plus read about Hiroshima sightseeing. A few new guys come to the hostel and I have someone to chat with. That is how we killed the day. At 7 pm I fixed the other bowl of noodles and ate at the counter. I think it is so spartan because they want everyone to head for their bar for drinks and meals. And that is what most of the others do. I did my stretching, sit-ups while the place was deserted. Read until sleepy and bed at 10 pm. I did not get a very good night's sleep as one guy snored all night. A serious problem when in a dorm room.

I was up at 6:30 am and did my stretching out in the small lobby area. Pascal from Germany wanted to go to Miyajima Island and that was my plan as well. They serve a decent BF at their bar, egg, pancakes, fruit, tea for 300 yen starting at 8 am. After eating, Pascal left his bag there as he is moving on later today. We walked to the tram, then over to the subway. It is 500 yen R/T ticket to the island and a faster way than taking the tram. It is a nice day and hoards of people are getting on the ferry for the island. They run every 15 minutes as it is a short ride to Miyajima. We walked with the crowd and head for the best view of the famous Torii Gate. As we got closer, I see a couple on the beach in traditional Japanese attire. They are taking wedding photos with the Torii Gate in the background. I got in position to get a good shot of them but had to wait while the photographer's assistants made sure everything was perfect. I waited at least 10 minutes while they fiddled and fussed around with the couple. Finally, they got out of the way and I got a decent shot of the bride & groom. Pascal and I kept walking with thousands of others towards the Torii gate. I had him take a few of me with the gate in the background. Once we had that shot we paid a small fee to enter the Itsukushima Shrine area. It looked like Disneyland there were so many people lining up for tickets. The Japanese all stop at a purification trough to purify themselves by pouring water over each hand and rinsing their mouth. Since I am not following the Shinto religion, we gave it a pass. We walked the temple area and I spot a few cherry blossom trees up a hill. This is where we parted ways and I never saw Pascal again. He wanted to go for a several hour hike and I just wanted some photos of the cherry trees, temple and the deer that roam the island looking for food. I got all the shots I wanted and headed back to the ferry.

Off the ferry, back on the subway, then the tram to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. I was running out of energy so I stopped at the 7-11 close to Peace Park and had a sandwich. Once at Peace Park, I was getting a shot of the famous Atomic Bomb Dome that survived the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945 when I heard an American tour guide giving his spiel. He had a group of older Brits following him around the park. I just joined the group and learned about the bombing, the aftermath and the history behind some of the other memorials scattered in Peace Park. A took what photos I could including one tree that was starting to bloom. We toured the Children's Peace Monument, the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound, the Peace Clock and the Memorial Cenotaph. After the tour was over he encouraged us to go thru theHiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I was there and most likely will never be in Peace Park again so I joined the Brits and paid the 200 yen to tour the museum. I should have passed. It was wall to wall people from the time I entered until I left. All you could do is shuffle along with the crowd. There are mostly photos of Hiroshima before and after the bomb. Stories of those who died that day and those that survived until radiation sickness killed them. As soon as I could step around the crowd, I left the museum walked out and had a bit more breathing room. The museum tells a powerful story and certainly wants to leave the visitor with the message that atomic weapons should never be used again. I think all of us agree on that. What is not displayed is why Japan was bombed by nuclear weapons in the the first place. Without Pearl Harbor, the utter rape of China and Japanese soldiers fighting the almost the last man on many islands, the US would not have felt the need to end the war with nuclear weapons. I walked towards my dorm and took a few photos of some cherry trees just starting to bloom along the canal. A stop at 7-11 for a sand and one at the grocery store for noodles, bread. Once back at the dorm at 5 pm, I got in my stretching and sit-ups, shower, change clothes. The place was almost deserted at 5 pm. By 6 pm a few new guests started arriving so I had someone to talk to. At 7 pm I had my noodles, bread and socialized until everyone left for the bar. Read my book, got on my laptop, took my pill at 10 pm and my day was over.

Posted by vegasmike6 12:38 Archived in Japan

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Another good read Mike,looks like you had some nice weather over there as well !


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