I've been somewhat lazy about blogging recently, so I'm getting my act together in preparation for a busy two weeks. After a long long loooong 5 month intermission, Gabby is visiting again on Sunday and I'm so excited!! We'll be going to Beppu, Nagasaki and Fukuoka, but I'm actually looking forward even more till next week when we'll just work and chill at home together. The every day things like cooking dinner and watching movies are what I miss the most and it'll be so great to show my life and friends here. Just 3 days to go!
I've been missing the UK and the comforts of home a fair bit recently. Particularly, sandwiches, the BBC, being able to run my own errands, daffodils everywhere, creme eggs, high street shops as opposed to monolithic malls, hot water taps - etc. But most of all I'm realising what an important influence my family are in my life and how much I miss spending time with them. So it was really good to look over these pictures again and remember the last leg of our Christmas trip
We spent 2 nights in Hiroshima and 1 on Miyajima, a nearby island. On our first afternoon we made our way to the Peace Memorial Museum and, of course, the Atomic Bomb Dome.
Visiting this kind of historical place - one marking unbelievable tragedy and loss - is always a strange experience. Do you take pictures? If so, do you smile? (I've got to say I was a bit bewildered by the tourists making ecstatic faces and throwing up the peace sign in front of the dome or gruesome waxworks in the museum). In some ways it's a museum like any other with a gift shop, a place to eat your lunch, but its also so utterly loaded. The museum was thorough, balanced and absolutely unflinching.
The Peace Park was full of symbols of hope and cooperation, and one display featured dozens and dozens of letters from Hiroshima to various nations, urging for nuclear disarmament.
Back at our hotel, we enjoyed some gorgeous sushi and sashimi. Our final course was, I thought, a creme brulee-type dessert, but turned out to be a warm, eggy jelly that tasted of brine. Lavly.
Tired out by days of walking up to 14km, our second day in Hiroshima was wonderfully sunny and relaxed. We took the tram to Hiroshima Jo, often called Carp Castle (my cup runneth over!) and wandered through its museums and shinto shrine.
Never turn down a chance to play dress-up.
In the afternoon we proceeded to a gorgeous exhibition of Japanese painting, and wondered about the Uniqlo's taste in models.
Lunch was of course the Hiroshima speciality, okonomiyaki. We ate at Okonomi-mura, a 3 floored place containing numerous separate okonomiyaki stalls and variations. Despite looking kind of run down and seedy from the outside, the food was fantastic.
We had a quiet night of Sherlock and room service, and set off bright and early the next day for the last part of our trip: Miyajima. Only a train, ferry and taxi away, we found our treat of a ryokan nestled in the woods in the middle of the island. It was everything I'd always imagined about living in Japan! Like in Nara, tame deer grazed around the river and carp ponds and cedars made a rushing noise outside our windows.
Cue disbelief and joy ^^
In some ways Miyajima is like an island-Nara, full of temples and shrines and delicious food stalls.
The main event was, of course, Itsukushima Shrine, with its famous floating torii gate.
Really, guys? Ah, modern love.
This is pretty much my idea of paradise.
We bought postcards from this grand old dame and warmed ourselves with a sweet soupy drink made from azuki beans, a Japanese winter favourite.
As the light faded we journeyed up the hillside via winding paths and cable cars.
What awaited us at the top has got to be the best view I've seen in Japan so far - misty island receding into the horizon, cedars, slopes and sunset.
But the view from our room wasn't too bad either :)
We settled into enjoying our ryokan experience to the full. Naturally that meant posing for photographs like austere 19th century nobility.
But they couldn't keep it up for long
Once changed into our very comfortable yukata, we were ushered into the next room by a lovely maid, and sat down to a ridiculously beautiful traditional Japanese meal. It was my first ever Michelin-starred meal I think, and as you can probably tell, we couldn't quite believe we were really there.
We sat at our little desks and were served course after course, each one whisked away as soon as we finished eating.
The second oyster I've ever had - the first being consumed at a rather inebriated Roman-style dinner party given by a Latin classmate in high school - and it was delicious!
After a couple of hours, we felt indeed like extravagant Roman emperors and could only take a few small bites of the last course. Green tea and and recuperation were in order. We trooped down to the outdoor onsens, and came back to find our futon laid out for us. It was really the perfect, relaxing, traditional end to our trip, and something I'll never forget.
Dad's architectural journal of the trip!