Sunday, 30 March 2014

Hiroshima & the extraordinary Peace Park...

I had such limited time but simply knew I had to do Hiroshima - firstly I realised it was something I could not omit from my trip to JP, without a doubt it would be an exceptional memorable experience; secondly, via Kyoto the journey via bullet train is 1 hour 45 as opposed to 4 hours from Tokyo- a big incentive obviously. And thirdly - last year I was fortunate enough to do the PR for a beautiful play called Sadako, created by Jaqueline Dommisse and the late Peter Hayes from the Hearts & Eyes Collective...a truly beautiful piece of theatre using Japanese style bunraku puppets (created by Janni Younge) and telling the moving tale about little Sadako Sasaki and the 1000 paper cranes. It really impacted me and believe it or not, that was the beginning of my dreamings of Japan. I can hardly believe I was there - standing in awe at the various monuments to Sadako who died from leukemia (radiation fallout), and seeing the various memorials to global peace - an unforgettable experience. The memorial remembers areas, not only people and children - everything that was blown into obilvion when the bomb dropped on 6 August 1945 - the park covers 122000m2 in a neighbourhood of the Nakajima district. A blessing for me was that the cherry blossoms (Sakura) were out, properly, covering the tree branches like thick balls of cotton wool...my best.... I never expected to see them and I'll never forget this day, on so many levels.

The A Bomb Memorial...a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1996. May we never (again) experience a nuclear explosion...

Walking across the river towards the park...the Sakura in full bloom..

The Children's Peace Monument...that's. Sadako holding a crane aloft...

I rang the bell attached to the golden crane inside the monument...

The Cenotaph monument to the A Bomb victims, some 220000 people lost their lives that day, and thousands more afterwards...

Memorial Tower, dedicated to mobilized students (see www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp for more)...

Looking down from the bridge, the A Bomb memorial at left...

New life and hope in the foreground, and in the background the remains of a terrifying time...

I was so blessed to see the Sakura out in full bloom as well...totally unexpected and what an incredible feeling to walk beneath them....they are unique and quite magical to me...

Paper origami cranes, as per what you can see in the tower image, hanging behind the statue (mobilized students pic)...

Directions: Once you get to Hiroshima station (on the JR Line), take the South exit and head for the number 2 or 6 tram (costs 150Y) and get off at the A Bomb done stop, about a 1.5km ride. Any probs, head for the ? Which is information- they are so helpful, as always, all over Japan.

 

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A day that met with vivid vermillion & a serene Zen garden

You know how planned tours can be...a bit same old, same old - a big yawn some of the time. And then something amazing comes along and all is forgiven. Yesterday's tour was like that. I was on a walkabout that took us to a few interesting places but it was the Fushimi Inari Shinto shrine and the Gion area that did it for me. The shrine, in Fushimi-ku in Kyoto, is done up in vivid vermillion, and is the hugest I've seen so far, winding all the way up to the top of the hill, via a seemingly endless path of torii structures that are donated by Japanese businesses to bring them good luck.

Fushimi Inari Shrine...

Walking the tunnel of thousands of torii pillars...


 
 

And then beautiful Gion, the oldest Geisha district ...Kyoto...pale pink cherry blossoms...(apologies re the pics, the day got dark and grey )

 

And the most beautiful willows...

 

In Geisha outfits...(not real Geishas though)...

A real junior Geisha...(junior Geisha's wear the higher heels)...

 

Old streets...

 

 

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Saturday, 29 March 2014

Kyoto Station, an architectural masterpiece...

I was early meeting the walkabout tour today so spent 2 hours exploring the Kyoto Station, Japan's second largest that includes a shopping mall (The Cube), Isetan department store, government offices & more. It was designed by architect Hiroshi Hara and opened in 1997, Kyoto's 1200th anniversary. The 15 Storey building is glass and steel, very futiristic - I felt like I was in 2080 or somewhere way in the ahead years. Considering Kyoto isn't a very 'out there' city in terms of massive skyscrapers and innovative architecture and with many cultural hertitage sites, the arrival of the uber modern station inspired other high rise developments like the Kyocera building - they say the city's landscape has never quite been the same since. I, for one, am totally in awe of the Kyoto Station. I am sure people saw me gawking and grinning like a daft person. The pics tell all....

The Happy Terrace on the topmost level ...
And those admiring the bamboo surrounded terrace garden...
The observation deck...
...Where you'll find a calm space to have your sushi in peace...

So if you're doing the bullet train whilst in Japan, make sure you stop at Kyoto, if only to stare at what surrounds you...

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Friday, 28 March 2014

Kyoto outskirts, first of 3 days...

So I only just got here and bee lined for the walkway along the river. The cherry blossoms are more evident here than in Tokyo but I want to see way more- lots of them- dense pink and white flowering trees everywhere please...let's see what the next 2 days bring me. Meantime, I'm exploring the area...I'm out of the main part of of the city, in Shogoin...very pretty but without the blossoms a bit whatever...
City Hall...
A Shrine...
Blossoming Sakura...
Over the bridge...
The ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) where I'm staying...
Send you tomorrow...
Kyoto is 3 hours from Tokyo on the bullet train (JR Pass)..

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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Tokyo~ a royal garden, another shrine or two, a swan & Ginza..

I walked up the steps like Scarlett did in Lost in Translation. The Meiji Shrine in Shibuya, the largest of the Tokyo Shinto shrines, circa 1921, is made of cypress and copper and surrounded by 175 hectares of evergreen forest - that's about 120,000 trees - and the imposing torii pillars at the entrance are said to be the biggest in the country. The original shrine was destroyed in WWll air raids, rebuilt, and completed in 1958. But enough of the shrines already so I moved on to more camouflage green, you know that wintery colour, this time at the Imperial Palace Gardens, a bit disappointingly dull though as the Sakura trees weren't in bloom. The other trees were also still bare, and on top of that it was a bit of a grey day with rain forecast for the evening. I'd only recommend a visit to those (and any other Japanese gardens) in the cherry blossom season which is early spring, or in summer - that must be exquisite. I spotted a lone swan paddling about in the moat- worried a bit about him for being on his own like that (can I get over my animal stresses already).
Up next, Ginza- upmarket without being stuffy with top end shops and a huge iStore. Here there is no such thing as a till; each salesperson has an iPhone that doubles up as a c/c machine so business is done toute suite! Needless to say I left armed with more Apple things that can't be found in SA.

The Meijii shrine and the torii (pillars) at the entrance...
A beautiful shaped roof I thought ...


Prayers on wooden tablets...
Barrels of sake gifted to the shrine...
And onto things royal ~ The Imperial Palace moat, a few eager Sakura trees and the lone swan...
Walking through the Imperial Palace Gardens...
An imperial pose maybe ?

That swan again, see him between the branches...where's his mate I wonder...
Sakura in bloom on the street in Ginza...
Back at Senso-ji Shrine, this time in the late afternoon...in Asakusa
Geisha ladies checking out their selfies...
More of Senso-ji...see the smoke plume? If you stand there and let it waft over you, you'll be made well they say...
Ginza...the Young Tower Clock, a sculpture by Taro Okamoto...
More of Ginza..

At the MoMA store in the fascinating SONY Experience building, Ginza. This is a must- visit destination especially if you have kids or are still a kid...
The iStore in Ginza, designed by the firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson...the inside is average except for the glass elevators but the outside is fabulous...

Another satisfying day in Tokyo....

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