Weeknote 0024

  • Still in Japan. Next stop: Kanazawa.
  • Japanese hotels, I’m finding, don’t have wardrobes. They have a rail, parallel to one wall, with four coathangers. Travelling with about a weeks’ worth of evermore crumpled clothing, I’d love to let the air get at it. My t-shirts still smell like aeroplane fuselage. I spuriously packed shampoo; next time, I’m bringing a clothesrail.
  • It’s also proving hard to ‘go out for dinner’. There’s not much in the way of casual dining, unless you count casual drinking, and restaurants tend to be booked up. Fallen foul of that a couple of times. Need to make a point of eating at lunch, quite early. I’ll get the hang of it.
  • One restaurant I was pleased to find and book into was the exceptional and plant-based Love For All. That name, reminiscent of the hempcloth-and-dreadlock dross in Camden, belies its superior dining experience. Fanciest things I’ve eaten for a while. Lovely.
  • It’s very rare that I find a hat that fits. But as the top half of my face was quite red, it was worth another go. And wouldn’t you know, two showed up at once in the camping consession I was passing in some department store into which I’d wandered. So I guess I’m a hat guy now.
    Kenroku-en garden, Kanazawa
  • Took in Kanazawa’s star attractions: Kenroku-en garden followed the castle park. Like every other ancient building, it has stood there for hundreds of years while having also been built within the last 20. There’s a refreshing honesty to the Japanese approach of maintaining, restoring or just rebuilding these treasures once they’ve fallen over or most often burned down. A building remains, despite having been entirely rebuilt ten times.
  • Another marvellous Shinkansen, covering 365 miles (roughly London to Edinburgh) in four hours.
    Peace dome, Hiroshima
  • Hiroshima station has two stamps. One depicts the peace gardens, the other features okonomiyaki, a griddled savoury pancake with ingredients including Worcestershire sauce. It seems right not to cram these ideas into one. There’s the Hiroshima forever reeling from the horror of the A-bomb that killed 140,000 people. Then there’s the bustling Hiroshima that stands today.
  • Arrived in the middle of the flower festival. Roads closed; stalls and people everywhere. The city’s name carries such sombre baggage, so it was stunning to arrive into such vibrancy. A highlight was a community samba band, thumping loudly across the Peace Park. Peace, it seems, needn’t be peaceful.
  • The displays in the Peace Memorial Museum uses the most direct language. It is a stark place and I admit there were some sections where I couldn’t linger. One sentence has stuck with me: “nuclear weapons and humankind cannot coexist indefinitely”.
  • Took a tourist boat out to the island of Miyajima, known for its large Torii arch standing in a shallow bay. The place is teetering, but still just on the right side of, the line between rural community and being overrun by tourism. There is no Hilton, yet, but there’s also barely a shop that isn’t all souvenirs. It was very hot.
  • Happened upon a good CaliMex place. I’m comfortable not eating Japanese quisine every day.
  • Onward to Osaka, somewhere I’d been keen to revisit. Had a really good time here. Immediately went up to the large red ferris-wheel on top of the HEP Five department store. Other highlights included a long time accumulating more stationery at Itoya, excellent sushi at Kantaro, Pokemon and Nintendo stores, and a hotel both with a proper clothes-rail and (on request) an additional ten hangers! It’s the little things.
    Super Nintendo World
  • A whole day spent at Universal Studios Japan. It must be at least 30 years since I went to a theme park, but Super Nintendo World seemed too good to miss. And it was certainly the highlight: the Mariokart ride, a mix of high-tech trickery and augmented reality.
  • That’s this week’s Japanthology. Join me next week for the trip home including a sneaky layover.