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Showing posts with label Hiroshima. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hiroshima. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima Anniversary 2014

広島

The atomic dome in HiroshimaToday, August 6th is the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and three years on from Japan's latest, on-going nuclear disaster in Fukushima on March 11, 2011, which still remains to be resolved.

Indeed, the present LDP government plans to gradually reopen Japan's nuclear reactors which were shut down in the wake of the 2011 disaster.

The government has also re-interpreted Japan's post war constitution to allow Japan's military greater wiggle-room to take part in conflict.

Ceremonies will take place in Hiroshima Peace Park as usual and throughout Japan to remember the approximately 140,000 victims of Japan's first but not only nuclear disaster.

The attack on Nagasaki occurred three days later on 9th August, 1945. Around 50,000 people are expected to attend the event in Hiroshima this year.


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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Hiroshima Garden Palace Hotel

ホテル 広島ガーデンパレス

The Hiroshima Garden Palace Hotel in Hiroshima on the Shinkansen-guchi side of Hiroshima Station is part of a chain of Garden Palace Hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya, Sapporo, Kanazawa, Osaka and Fukuoka.

Hiroshima Garden Palace Hotel, Japan


The rooms at the Hiroshima Garden Palace Hotels are clean and functional with both LAN and WiFi internet connections. There is a choice of western or Japanese-style breakfast at the restaurant on the ground floor near reception.

The Garden Palace Hotel in Hiroshima is a short walk from Hiroshima Station, very close to the highway bus station. Walk through the station to the South Exit to reach the tram stop. The Garden Palace is also very close to the Hotel Crystal Hiroshima and the Urbain Hiroshima Executive.

Hiroshima Garden Palace Hotel, Japan


The Hiroshima Garden Palace Hotel
1-15 Hikarimachi
Higashi-ku
Hiroshima 732-0052
Tel: 082 262 1122
Garden Palace Hiroshima Map

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Monday, March 03, 2014

Hiroshima Trams

広電

The Hiroshima Electric Railway or Hiroden runs the trams (streetcars) in Hiroshima city and Hiroshima Prefecture, the longest and most used streetcar network in Japan.

Hiroshima streetcar, Hiroshima city

There are six tram lines in central Hiroshima and over 270 trams from all over Japan as well as some from Europe, which makes a ride on Hiroshima's trams a popular tourist activity. The Green Mover Max tram that runs on the network is the first tram wholly built in Japan. Hiroshima's trams were imported from overseas beforehand.

The eight numbers for the trams are:

# 1 (Orange) runs from Hiroshima Station to Hiroshima Port
# 2 (Red) runs from Hiroshima Station to Miyajima-guchi
# 3 (Blue) runs from Nishi-Hiroshima Station to Hiroshima Port
# 5 (Green) runs from Hiroshima Station to Hiroshima Port
# 6 (Yellow) runs from Hiroshima Station to Eba
# 7 (Dark Green) runs from Yokogawa Station to Hiroden honsha-mae
# 8 (Pink) runs from Yokogawa Station to Eba
# 7 (Gray) runs from Hachobori to Hakushima

Hiroshima Trams


A one day "Trip Card" for the Hiroshima streetcar costs 600 yen or 840 yen with the Miyajima Matsudai Kisen tourist ferry to Miyajima (*not valid on the JR ferry).

A two day "Trip Card" for streetcars, ferry and ropeway from Momijidani to Shishi-iwa is 2000 yen.

Hiroshima Trams

All major IC cards such as Suica, Manaca or Pasmo can be used on Hiroshima's trams. "Trip Cards" can be purchased at Hiroshima Station, various hotels around town or from the tram driver.

Inner city flat fare for the streetcar in Hiroshima is 150 yen.



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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Hiroshima Atom Bomb Anniversary 2013

広島

The atomic dome in HiroshimaToday, August 6th is the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and two years on from Japan's latest, on-going nuclear disaster in Fukushima on March 11, 2011.

Ceremonies take place in Hiroshima Peace Park as usual and throughout Japan to remember the approximately 140,000 victims of Japan's first but not only nuclear disaster.

The attack on Nagasaki occurred three days later on 9th August, 1945. Around 50,000 people are expected to attend the event in Hiroshima. Former US Ambassador John Roos was the first US Ambassador to attend the event in 2010.


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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Beach Combing on Katsurahama Beach

Living in Southern California, I have always held a great affinity toward the beach and have spent many a pleasant day on the sand and in the sea.

Katsurahama Beach, Kochi, Shikoku, Japan


Whenever I visit Japan I am interested in seeing the beaches in whatever locality I happen to stay. I have picked up smooth beach glass on the wet sands of Hiroshima and I have waded in the warm waters of the Sea of Japan near Kanazawa.

There I saw families drive their cars up to the water's edge, set up picnics, and cast fishing lines into the sea. It is an overwhelming feeling sometimes when life seems so idyllic.

In early November my daughter and I were in Kochi, the land of Sakamoto Ryoma and many wonderful sites. It is well worth your time to visit Katsurahama Beach and the surrounding locale.

Sea urchin on Katsurahama Beach, Kochi


The natural beauty of the area is striking. From above, the beach is framed by tall, stately pines. Walking down the path we heard the sound of the ocean grow louder and witnessed the waves crashing against some monumental rocks and the sea spray shooting into the air.

We crossed the sand to the shore and peered closely at the sand and gravel at our feet - and there we saw hundreds of tiny sea shells. We could not help but gasp at this wonder.

At home we do not see many shells on the local beaches. In addition, many beaches are protected by state and national regulations which prohibit the collecting of natural flora and fauna.

So to be at a beach where we were allowed to engage in beach combing seemed a minor miracle. We spent an unspecified time lost in a world of discovery. Afterward we took lots of pictures, and still feeling incredibly giddy we sent video footage from my iPhone to various innocent and unsuspecting friends in the USA.

Sponge Bob

The most crazed spectacle I sent to my younger daughter, Kendra. Channeling "SpongeBob SquarePants Episode #39a "Jellyfish Hunter," I began "Hey all you people, hey all you people, won't you listen to me... I've just been to Kochi, it's no ordinary city, it's the bestest city in Japaaaaaaaan!!!"

Recently I inquired about the existence of this regretful lapse of judgment and was told, "It's in my files." Well, hopefully it is lost in those files, for my sake and that of the fine city of Kochi, Japan.

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Iwami Kagura Train & Iwami Kagura Line

石見神楽電車

Recently JR West unveiled a new livery for a train that runs in Shimane along the Japan Sea coast, the Iwami Kagura Train.



Iwami, the old name of the province that is now the western part of Shimane Prefecture, is home to a very popular and dynamic style of kagura, a type of folk dance theater popular is some areas of Japan but virtually unknown in others.

The two car train is decorated on the outside with masked characters from some of the dances: Ebisu, red demons, fox demons, the god Susano-o & the eight-headed serpent Yamata no Orochi.

There is no decoration on the inside of the train. The train is an Aqualiner, an express that runs on the Sanin Line between Masuda in the west of Shimane to Yonago just across the border in Tottori. Strangely it does not run on the newly named Iwami Kagura Line.

Ebisu Station, Iwami Kagura Line, Shimane


Iwami Kagura Line is the new name for the Sanko Line which runs from the Sanin Line Gotsu Station on the Japan Sea coast to Miyoshi in the mountains of northern Hiroshima where it connects with the Geibi Line to Hiroshima and Niimi, and the Fukuen Line for Fuchu.

The 108 kilometer Sanko Line opened in 1930 though the central section was not completed until 1970.

Railway Bridge, Gonokawa River, Shimane, Japan


The Iwami Kagura Line follows the Gonokawa River, the longest river in West Japan, and the five trains a day leisurely crisscross the river many times taking almost three and a half hours to complete the journey passing right through the heart of Iwami Kagura country.

As the Iwami Kagura Line each of the 35 stations has been given a name of one of the dances in the Iwami kagura repertoire, and a large signboard displays a photo from the dance as performed by a kagura group from close to the station and an explanation of the dances story is also displayed.

Oeyama Station, Iwami Kagura Line, Japan


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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hiroshima Station

広島駅

Hiroshima Station is the main point of access for train travelers to Hiroshima city. The main JR Hiroshima Station is situated in Minami-ku just to the north of the Enko-gawa River.

Hiroshima Station, Hiroshima


Hiroshima Station is a main stop on the Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Hakata Station in Fukuoka and all Shinkansen trains on this route stop here.

There are two exits to Hiroshima Station the north exit which connects to the Hiroshima airport limousine bus station and the scheduled sightseeing bus station. The south exit in the ASSE Building is close to the Hiroshima street car stop, the local Hiroshima bus station and a large taxi rank.

Shinkansen at Hiroshima Station


Other railway lines connecting from Hiroshima are the Sanyo Main Line for Miyajimaguchi, the historic town of Iwakuni and Tokuyama, the Geibi Line for Shiwaguchi and Miyoshi, the commuter Kabe Line for Omachi, Midorii and Kabe and the Kure Line for the port city of Kure, Hiro, and Takehara.

Hiroshima Station signboard


A Tourist Information Center is located right near the exit of the Shinkansen platforms with maps in English and other languages and there is another Tourist Information Center (Tel: 261 1877) in the ASSE building.

Inside the station buildings are a number of cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops including an Italian restaurant with outdoor seating. The Fukuya Department Store is also just outside the south exit of Hiroshima Station.

There are long distance limousine buses from Hiroshima Station to Tokyo Station, Nagoya Station, Yokohama Station, Osaka Station, Takamatsu and Hiroshima Airport.

Hiroshima Station ticket gates


There are a number of car rental places close to Hiroshima Station including Orix, Toyota and Japaren.

Hotels in the Ekimae area include the Hiroshima Garden Palace, the 90-room APA Hotel Hiroshima Ekimae, the Hiroshima Intelligent Hotel, Hotel Granvia Hiroshima, the 238-room Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel, the 250-room Hotel New Hiroden and Business Hotel Yorishiro.

The Hiroshima Ekimae market (Aiyu Market) is a small traditional shotengai market selling local fish, dried seaweed and fruit and vegetables.


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Monday, August 13, 2012

Driving in Japan Videos

浜田-広島

If you want to get a good idea of what it is like driving in Japan then the Youtube channel below gives you a good idea. Whole routes are filmed and speeded up to give you an excellent idea of Japanese road conditions, traffic and the surrounding countryside and cityscapes.



Each of the over 400 routes on the drivemovie channel comes complete with a google map and a route broken down into sections. This Hamada in Shimane Prefecture on the Japan Sea coast to Hiroshima on the Pacific coast is a favorite.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

67th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki

長崎, 原子爆弾

Nagasaki Peace Memorial

Today, August 9th is the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, the second city in Japan after Hiroshima, three days earlier to be devastated by a nuclear device dropped by the Americans.

It is estimated that as a result of the attack on Nagasaki over 140,000 people lost their lives: 70,000 people were killed as a direct result of the bombing and a further 70,000 later died of subsequent radioactivity-related illnesses.

The day will be marked by solemn memorial services in the port city including an annual address by the Mayor of Nagasaki as he delivers a Peace Declaration to the World.

The 10m-tall Peace Statue pictured above is by local sculptor Seibou Kitamura, who was born in Nagasaki Prefecture. The statue's right hand points upwards to the sky in the direction of the falling bomb as the left hand extended sideways symbolizes hope for eternal peace.


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Monday, August 06, 2012

Hiroshima Bomb Anniversary 2012

広島

The atomic dome in HiroshimaToday, August 6th is the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and a year on from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima on March 11, 2011.

Ceremonies take place in Hiroshima Peace Park and throughout Japan to remember the approximately 140,000 victims of Japan's first but not only nuclear disaster. Around 50,000 people are expected to attend the event in Hiroshima.

A debate is now being joined in the streets by demonstrators lead by Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto protesting against the continued use of nuclear energy in Japan.

The city of Hiroshima relied on a nuclear power plant on the Japan Sea coast of Shimane Prefecture for much of its power before it was shut down in the wake of the events in Fukushima.


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Monday, November 28, 2011

Top Three in Japan

三景

The custom of making lists of the top three things in Japan supposedly goes back to the sankei list of the Three Best Views thought up by the Confucian scholar and thinker Hayashi Razan (1583-1657) in 1643.

Razan's Three Best Views are Amanohashidate on the Japan Sea Coast in Kyoto Prefecture, Matsushima, near Sendai in Miyagi and the island and shrine at Miyajima outside Hiroshima.

Miyajima, Hiroshima


Since the Edo Period, Top Three Lists have grown up for just about everything from Famous Japanese Castles (Nagoya Castle Nagoya, Osaka Castle and Kumamoto Castle), the Top Three Japanese Gardens (Kairakuen in Mito [see video below], Kanazawa's Kenrokuen and Korakuen in Okayama).


There are Japan Top Threes for night views (Nagasaki viewed from Mt Inasa, Hakodate from Mt Hakodate and the neon of Kobe and Osaka seen from Mt Rokko), Chinatowns in Japan (Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki), caves (Akiyoshi-do, Ryuga-do and Ryusen-do), festivals (Gion Matsuri, Kanda and Sanno Matsuri, Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka), hot springs (Atami, Beppu, Shirahama), Disney characters (Mickey, Minnie and Pluto), Top Three Theme Parks (Huis Ten Bosch, Nagashima Spa Land, Meiji Mura), Top Three Oden (Egg, Daikon, Konnyaku) - I made the last few up, but you see what I mean, as basically anything can be put into a Top Three in Japan list.

Do you have any suggestions for a new Top Three in Japan list?

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Memorial Cathedral of World Peace Hiroshima

世界平和記念聖堂

The Memorial Cathedral of World Peace in Hiroshima grew from the ashes of the Noboricho parish church that was destroyed in the atomic bombing of August 6, 1945.

The German pastor of the church, the Reverend Hugo Lassalle, was wounded in the bombing but determined to rebuild his church as a memorial to world peace.

Memorial Cathedral of World Peace Hiroshima


Gaining the blessing of Pope Pius XII in Rome, Lassalle collected contributions from all around the world to obtain the funds to build the new Memorial Cathedral of World Peace, which was completed on 6 August 1954 and was designed by Japanese architect Murano Togo. Specific gifts from overseas include the pipe organ from Cologne in Germany. Laselle became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1948 taking the name of Enomiya Mabiki.

Mass is said in Japanese, Portuguese, Tagalog and English.

The Memorial Cathedral of World Peace is located 10 minutes on foot south west of Hiroshima Station and close to Kanayamacho (Ginzancho) Station.

The Memorial Cathedral of World Peace
4-42 Nobori-cho
Naka-ku
Hiroshima
Tel: 082-221-0621

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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Anniversary of Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima

広島

The anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima on the 6th August 1945 and Nagasaki, three days later, on 9th August, will have special resonance this year following the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. The days and months that have followed the mega-earthquake and tsunami of March 11 and the subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima reactor have brought stories of increased radiation in the affected area, radioactive cesium being found in local cows and school yards suffering from dangerous levels of radiation.

The atomic dome in HiroshimaJapan's first nuclear disaster occurred on this day 66 years ago and ceremonies take place in Hiroshima Peace Park and throughout Japan to remember the approximately 140,000 recorded victims.

At 8.15am on August 6 1945 the US B-29 bomber "Enola Gay" dropped the world's first atomic attack on a populated area.
The 3m long, 4 ton "Little Boy" bomb unleashed on Hiroshima carried 50kg of uranium 235 and the fission of 1kg of uranium released the equivalent of 16,000 tons of high explosive, well-nigh flattening the southern port city.

An interesting side story to the end of the war is this account of downed American airmen being saved from execution, just after the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.



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Sunday, January 23, 2011

BBC comedy quiz show QI draws complaint from Japanese embassy

広島

The following video from the BBC comedy quiz show QI, hosted by Stephen Fry, drew an official complaint from the Japanese Embassy in London and an equally quick apology from the BBC.

Fry portrayed Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a survivor of both nuclear bombs dropped on Japan during WWII, as the "unluckiest man in the world."



Yamaguchi, who died aged 93 last year of stomach cancer, was badly burned by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima while on business in the port city, but managed to take a train to his hometown of Nagasaki, where he experienced the second bomb to be dropped on Japan by American forces.

It is supposed that around 100 people were subject to the same "double bombing" experience at the time.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Books on Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Attack

広島

Today is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.

Remembrance ceremonies will take place in Hiroshima's Peace Park and in other towns and cities in Japan throughout the day and night to honor the approximately 140,000 victims of the world's first atomic bomb attack. Three days later a second bomb was dropped on the historic city of Nagasaki on the western coast of Kyushu, effectively ending the Pacific War.

Thousand Origami Cranes

There is an extensive canon of literature surrounding this pivotal event in history by both Japanese and foreign writers, including such works as the comic book Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by American novelist Eleanor Coerr, which tells the tragic story of Sadako Sasaki, who died from leukemia in 1955 brought on by radiation poisoning from the Hiroshima atomic bomb and Masuji Ibuse's harrowing Black Rain, based on actual diaries kept of the event.

Other recommended books include John Hersey's excellent Hiroshima - an account of six men and women who survived against all odds and Last Train From Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino with eyewitness accounts of those who experienced the atomic explosions firsthand including Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who endured and survived both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Diamond City Hiroshima

エオンモール広島府中ソレイユ

Last Saturday afternoon I spent a couple of hours at Hiroshima's Diamond City Soleil in Fuchu, just east of central Hiroshima.

Diamond City Hiroshima

Advertising itself as the biggest shopping mall in western Japan and Shikoku, a title also claimed by Shimonoseki's Sea Mall, it actually changed it's name last year to Aeon Mall Hiroshimafuchu Soleil, but everyone still refers to it as Diamond City.

Diamond City Hiroshima

Built on the site of a former Kirin Beer factory, and opened in 2004, this cathedral of consumption offers more than 65,000 sq. metres of retail space spread over three floors purveying all manner of goods and services in 200 establishments.

Personally, I don't much like shopping, in fact I hate shopping, tending more to the freegan end of the consumption scale, but for those who enjoy shopping, and that seems to be most Japanese, there is a wide enough range of stores and products for sale to satisfy the most avid shopaholic.

Diamond City Hiroshima

As well as shops there is an 11-screen movie theater, a huge games-center cum pachinko parlor, and a large variety of eating establishments.

Even though it was a Saturday, it didn't feel crowded or hectic. The only money I spent was in Freshness Burger, an almost empty burger joint that has authentic burgers and decent fries. A few metres away people were standing in lines to purchase McDonald's inferior products.

The Kirin Beer connection manifests itself in the large smokestack sculpture in front of the main entrance, an information desk (with help in English) made out of a big copper brewing vat, and the Kirin Beer Park, a beer garden-restauarant-park that serves, not surprisingly, only Kirin beers. Across from the entrance is a small Kirin brewery that offers guided tours and explanations of the beer making process.

Access
Diamond City Soleil
Tenjingawa JR station (one stop east of Hiroshima Station)
Over 4,000 free parking spaces.

2-1-1 Fuchu Town
Aki-gun
Hiroshima-ken
Tel: 082 561 0001

There is a 100 yen bus from the Shinkansen-guchi Exit of Hiroshima Station.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Mount Misen

弥山

At 535m, Mount Misen is the highest point on the island of Miyajima. The island has been particularly sacred since ancient times, and for a long time humans were not permitted to live on it. One of the side-effects of this has been that the forests of Miyajima have never been logged; it is virgin forest, something quite rare in Japan. The forest and Mt. Misen are included within the World Heritage site along with the more famous Itsukushima Jinja.

Mount Misen


There are two ways to get to the top of Misen; walking, or ropeway and walking. The ropeway begins at the top of Momijidani Park, a ten minute walk from Itsukushima Shrine, or you can take the frequent free shuttle bus. In the fall the park is a blaze of maple leaves.

Mount Misen

A one-way ticket costs 1,000 yen, and the first leg up to Kayatani Station (367m) is by small car. The second and shorter leg is in much larger cars, and takes you up to Shishiiwa Station at 430m. There is a viewing platform here with fine views over the island, across to Hiroshima, and along the Inland Sea. From here to the summit of Misen is about a 30 minute walk.

Mount Misen

Near the summit there are a cluster of small temples. Kobo Daishi (Kukai), the founder of Shingon Buddhism, stayed on the mountaintop in 805 on his way back from studying in China.

Mount Misen

In the Reika-do Hall is a fire that is said was lit originally by Kobo Daishi himself more than 1200 years ago. The flame at the Hiroshima Peace Park was lit from this fire. As well as the numerous temples and buildings there are also lots of small altars and shrines to Inari, Jizo, etc scattered around the mountaintop in rock crevices and under overhanging rocks.

The summit itself is exposed rock and has an observation tower for views.

Mount Misen

If you want to climb Misen on foot, there are 3 trails, though the Daisho-in route is closed for repairs and will be for some years yet. The Momojidani course is the shortest route up, starting in Momojidani Park and following the valley up for about 2.6km, taking 2 hours or less. The longer, more scenic route starts in Omoto Park. It's a little longer in length and time.

There is a free, comprehensive map and guide to Mt. Misen and the trails available from numerous locations around Miyajima.


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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Yamato Museum Kure Hiroshima

大和ミュージアム

When launched in 1940, the battleship Yamato was the biggest warship in the world. 263 meters long, with a displacement of 65,000 tonnes, she had numerous unique and innovative features, including the biggest naval guns in the world that fired 1.36 tonne shells from its 18.1 inch barrels, but it was also largely obsolete as the day of the battleship had passed to be replaced by aircraft carrier groups.


Yamato Museum

The Yamato saw very little action, and was sunk by U.S. Navy aircraft in April 1945 on its final mission, a suicide mission to defend Okinawa that cost the lives of almost all its full complement of 3,000 crew.

Yamato Museum

In 2005 the movie "Yamato" (Otoko-tachi no Yamato in Japanese) was released and was very popular. Like almost all Japanese World War II movies it focused on the suffering and sacrifice of Japanese, and not on their victims.

In April 2005, on the anniversary of the sinking of the Yamato, a new museum opened in Kure, Hiroshima, once the largest naval shipyard in the Orient, and where the Yamato was built.

Yamato Museum

Outside the museum are artifacts taken from the wreck after it was discovered in 1985, including one of the huge guns and a propeller, but the centerpiece of the museum is a 1:10 scale model of the battleship.

At 26 meters in length, it is impressive, and cost 200 million yen, being built by the same company that built the original.

The museum also has displays on the history of shipbuilding in Kure, a floor of mainly interactive displays on the science and technology of ships, a room including a 2-man kamikaze sub, a Mitsubishi Zero, and other war materials.

Yamato Museum

Incidentally, this is an almost exact copy of a room at the museum in the infamous Yasakuni Shrine. There are also models and displays on the hugely popular anime series Space Battleship Yamato, wherein the Yamato is resurrected and converted into a spaceship and used to defend Earth. The original anime was more popular in Japan than Star Wars.

The Yamato Museum is a 5 minute walk from JR Kure Station. Closed on Tuesdays, entrance is 500 yen for adults. Hours are 9am-6pm.

Adjacent to the Yamato Museum is the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Museum. Entrance is free, and the highlight is entering the Akishio, a 76 meter long Ashio Class submarine built in 1985.


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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Miyajima Hiroshima

宮島

The cherry blossoms have arrived on Miyajima this week. While this UNESCO World Heritage Site is more famous for its displays of autumn colors, there are plenty of cherry blossoms to be seen along the streets and at Omoto Park and along the nature walk that winds its way along the hills just above the small town.

Miyajima

The deer of Miyajima are well known, and to my mind are a lot more "genki" (lively) than the deer of Nara, probably owing to the fact that the Miyajima deer live in the forested mountains and only come down into the town to be fed by the hordes of tourists.

Miyajima genki deer

From Hiroshima Station, take the JR Line to Miyajima-guchi. It costs 400 yen, and the ride takes about 25 minutes. From there you will take a short ferry ride to the island.

Cherry blossoms at Miyajima

Another option is to take street car line #2, which runs from Hiroshima Station past the Atomic Dome and on to Miyajima-guchi, the final stop. It costs 270 yen from Hiroshima, but takes more than an hour.

Miyajima

If you are going to be traveling in and around Hiroshima, a one-day pass for the street cars is a very convenient and reasonable option. The one-day pass is 840 yen for adults and is also good for the ferry ride.

The ferry takes 10 minutes and is 170 yen one-way.


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Thursday, February 14, 2008

JR Kisuki Line

木次線

Japanese Rural rail lines. Part 1 JR Kisuki Line

JR Kisuki Line

For getting from A to B quickly and conveniently, Japan's Shinkansen and Express rail networks are second to none, albeit at a hefty price, but for those who actually enjoy traveling, for those who feel that the journey is at least as important as the destination, Japan's rural rail lines have much to offer.

The trains travel at slow speed, allowing you the pleasure of taking in some wonderful scenery, and your fellow passengers are more likely to engage in conversation with you than on the commuter trains. The intimacy extends even further, as the trains literally pass through people's back yards, again affording glimpses of life quite different to that of the cities.

JR Kisuki Line carriage


Most of the rural lines are single track, and usually single carriage trains, and the downside is that they don't run very often, but with some judicious planning it's possible to spend days, or weeks, leisurely criss-crossing a less visited Japan in comfort.

One such line is the JR Kisuki Line.

Starting at JR Shinji (San-in Line), on the shore of Lake Shinji (Japan's 8th largest lake), in Shimane, the train travels 82 kilometers to terminate at Bingo-Ochiai station high in the mountains of Hiroshima, near where the 3 prefectures of Hiroshima, Shimane, and Tottori meet.

For most of the way the line follows the Hi River, passing through the area known as Okuizumo (Inner Izumo) an area that is the setting for one of Japan's oldest myths, the story of Susano defeating the 8-headed serpent, Yamata no Orochi, and thereby winning the hand of a local "princess". There are numerous sites in the area connected with the myth and its characters, as well as a couple of folklore museums, and museums on sword-making and iron-forging, as the Yamata no Orochi myth is linked to the discovery of iron in this area in ancient times.

Views from the JR Kisuki Line

There are plenty of onsens in the area, with Kisuki and Izumo Yokota having many. Kisuki is also known for its dairy products and its cherry blossoms along the riverbank.

When the train reaches Izumo Sakana, at 564 metres, it stops for 15 minutes to let the passengers alight and sample the healing waters of a sacred spring in the station. The waters are famous in this part of the world, with one restaraunter driving more than an hour each-way to fill his car with barrels of the water for use in his restaurant.

Izumo Sakana spring

The mountains around Izumo Sakane are very steep, so to get up them the train now shunts up a series of switchbacks, one of only 3 in all of Japan. After the 3rd switchback the train pauses to allow the passengers to literally look directly down at the station 150 metres below.

The train continues to ascend along a wide curve until Miinohara station, at 726 meters the highest station in the JR West network, until finally reaching Bingo-Ochiai. Once a busy rail junction, with turntable, engine sheds, water tower, and engineers and staff living around the station, it is now deserted and unmanned. This type of station is known as a Hikyou station, a "secluded" station, and is very popular with Japanese train enthusiasts, of which there are many.

The journey takes 2 hours and 45 minutes, and a single ticket is 1,450 yen

From here you can take a Geibi Line train either to Miyoshi, then on the Hiroshima City, or to Niimi in Okayama Prefecture.

The Okuizumo Orochigo is a special tourist train that runs on this line, with open windows and wooden tables and benches that runs daily from April to June, and on weekends and holidays from July to November.

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