Thursday, May 25, 2006

last stop: this town

kyoto: 12:59 a.m., friday, may 26
utah: 9:59 a.m., thursday, may 25

as i sit here in my yukata, typing away, my sister [also in her yukata] searches through her biology as she does an on-line quiz on my dad's computer, the only one that has internet access, and tim [again, yukata-ed] sits on his roll away bed and looks through the gifts he received today. two hours ago, i could hardly see how i could make it home awake. now, i'm feeling alright.

today was our day in hiroshima.before i go any further, i would like to kneel on the floor, bring my head to the ground, and, in the humblest japanese i know, confess to the shinto gods that i have stupidly tried to plan too much to do in one day, and pray that they may remove their curses from upon me as i remove activities from our schedule in an attempt to have time to actually enjoy what we are doing.
i have no priest to wave willow branches over me in purification, so i will have to trust that will be sufficient.

yes, today was our day to visit hiroshima. it started out great, with us leaving in time [well, 30 minutes past schedule, still in good time] and the family wandering into a nice little bakery while i was buying bullet train tickets. thus, our breakfast consisted of wonderful pastries, usually filled with cremes and other lovely things.

the ride to hiroshima was literally a trip down memory lane, albeit at 150 mph. going west of kyoto, we passed through areas that i served in, which i pointed out to the moderate interest of my parents. the bullet trains really are like a first class airplane, with seats that are wonderfully large and provide ample leg room, a soft chime when nearing each stop, and a uniformed girl who walks through whilst pushing a cart, offering drinks, candy, and toys in soft japanese.
my mom bought chocolate covered almonds from her. a chocolate-loving companion once pointed out that, despite having created infinite wonders in the realm of bread, the japanese have taken chocolate and either put it in bar form or dippedalmonds in it, thereby assuming that they have reached the culinary perfection ofthe chocolate sector. no peanut butter cups, no candy bars, just chocolate covered almonds.
off the soapbox, they were rather good chocolate covered almonds.

in between the passing of said box of chocolates, my sister studied microbiology, mom and i looked through a book of 'must see in kyoto' [i highly recommend it and its accompanying series, should you visit this land], tim was lost in his ipod, while dad enjoyed the quickly passing scenery, occasionally pulling out the video camera to record something he thought was neat. much to the frustration of my mother, my dad finds scenery to be the main strength of a camcorder.

reaching hiroshima was a reminder for me, the new single mother of four. to describe what happens, i will relate our experience coming back from the peace museum and heading to the next venture, an island:
when i think, 'we hopoff the streetcar and running to catch the next train, i imagine reaching the station and hopping on the waiting train [because i researched this last night], with a quick stop in the bathroom if need be, and perchance a flurry through the convenience store for a bottle of 'pocari sweat' [yes.] reality, however, was different: we get to the station and captain dynamo [a.k.a. 'jeff'] runs to find out where the train is to go to miyajima, while pointing the kids into a quick convenience store. for whatever reason, i generally don't think much about food or restrooms when i am traveling [indiana jones never did either, why should i? same with jack bauer], but i concede that my family does like to eat and that this short stop would be a good time to get food before we get on the train. everyone buys food they think they can enjoy [i get a rice cake wrapped in seaweed, a cheese flavoredcake with a design of the northern island in it, and a 'morinaga' chocolate bar, the best in japan], and we are off. except that mom reminds that dad says he wanted to stop at mcdonald's. ok, a hamburger doesn't take but a small moment. soon, however,they are all gathered around the counter, where the manager has presented an english menu [odd, since the names are pretty much the same: cheese burger = 'cheezu ba-ga-']and who seems to speak as much english as my sister does japanese. mom and sister run off to the restrooms while dad waits for the food and tim wanders around to proclaim his love of this country and potential future plans to move here some day. our food is presented in a bag the size of a grocery bag and dad hands it to me so that he, too, can run off to the restroom. when everyone is back, it is obvious that we have too much food to take on the train [japan has a thing about not walking and eating at the same time; i don't know the consensus regarding eating on the trains], and even if we could find room in the busy restraurant, smoking is allowed, and the food is already going to kill us fast enough. the small plaza in front of the station is agreed upon, and we sit down next to some flirting teenage kids and amidst pigeons who are thrilled that mom throws bits of her bun to them from time to time.
as i enjoy my mcchicken sandwich, surprisingly well-sized and tasty for being on the100 yen menu, i ponder why i am the way i am; why did i get so frustrated with the above situation? i wasn't angry, but i felt myself getting short with people, both inside and out.

that's kind of the way things went, and i think i will be a good mother when the time comes.

as for the sights and sites hiroshima, the atomic bomb dome is like no other place on the face of the round earth. the building was one of the few sites remaining after 'little boy's' blast only because the bomb went off directly above; tim can explain to you more about how that works. visiting, it is easy to wonder, should we take pictures? do we smile in such photos? like so many other questions of culture, it is best to watch what the natives do. when they are smiles for the shots, i think it's ok for us, too.

however, you are not here for long before a junior high student will come up to you and ask to interview your in thickly-accented english. for, you see, this is part of their homework, to find an english speaker and ask them some questions. this interrogation ranges from 'what is your special talent' [making chocolate chip cookies], to 'are you good at rock paper scissors' [i'm a pro] to 'what do you think of the war in iraq' [i never got asked that one]. and often they ask to take a picture with you at the end. this was really cool at first, but when each of us were on our fourth or fifth one and hadn't made it to the musuem yet, it was starting to get old [i began answering 'why did you come to hiroshima' with 'to do your homework']. the group of elementary school kids who just wanted me to sign their notebooks was fun, though. i felt like i was famous.

the peace museum itself is one you could spend hours at. reading history and documents of the time leading up to august 1945, seeing video of the actual blast, artifacts and remnants of the event, the man's shadow burned onto the sidewalk, and pictures taken at ground zero just hours after is intriguing. then to remember that this is not some history museum in minnesota about europe, but that you are HERE. that the spot you are now standing on is that empty wasteland on the post-blast model on the first floor. only one other city in the world can come close to such a claim. tim, with his study of nuclear physics and its power, found the museum very difficult emotinally and had to hurry through it.

that would have been a good day, but we had come this far, it would be a shame not to visit miyajima, one of the three most beautiful places in japan. so another ride in the streetcar, dinner at the station [see above], hop on a train and then 10 minutes on a ferry, and we see the big shinto torii gate in the water. really pretty cool and one of THE most picturesque images of the land of the rising sun. like nikko, this soon became a race against time, although becky had time to get some pictures with her byu bookstore bag and a very, very friendly deer, as well as the rest of us to get shots before the sun was all the way gone. and we saw a tanuki.

but we had a long ways to go to get home, and japan is not a country for late night public transportation [having the missionary rule of 'be home by 9:30', you never really think about these sort of things]. the bullet train ran only to osaka, which is about 30 minutes south of kyoto; nevermind us being tired and sleep most of the way to osaka, from there [now about 11 p.m.], we had to find a regular train to get us to kyoto station. tired and exhausted, we arrive in kyoto station and make our way down to the subway, only to find that we missed the last subway to our hotel by seven minutes... had we just made that other ferry off miyajima, could we have made it? as we consider the day's chain of events, mom suggests we blame the school kids at hiroshima. works for me.

taxis in japan are expensive, but after midnight, they are really your only hope. the driver would accept four people, but not five. dad and tim went ahead and managed to have a conversation with their driver while i conversed with our driver. i feel like my japanese is getting sloppy and i could proper it up [while becky understands a surprising amount], but this guy was chatty and we had a great time, despite me using horrible grammar and probably speaking more rudely than i ever intended at times.

now, it's late, i'm really, really, tired, and glad to sleep.

tanuki at ev'n
living fluffy 'mid the shrine
girls get excited


L'Afro said...

How does it work out
that a guy can be a mom
(one Y chromosome)

Em said...

Jeff, it sounds like you're making a great "mom" if only because you are learning to be flexible with your plans. I hope your family appreciates it!