Japan Part 6

Day 8 & 9

We had our last free breakfast at the Super Hotel in Kyoto and said goodbye to the quirky little sign in the bathroom:

It should say something like, 'To reduce waste, cleaning staff will only replace empty toilet rolls.'

Then checked-out and took a taxi to the station. To get to Hiroshima, we needed to first take a bullet train to Osaka:

And then changed to another bullet train (because most of the bullet trains we could ride on our railpass coming from Tokyo terminate at Osaka and most of the trains coming from Hakata terminate at Hiroshima).

At Osaka, we hopped on one of the slowest bullet trains that stops at all the stations and had a leisurely journey down to Hiroshima. Because the train was so slow, there were hardly any people on it and M seized the opportunity to take a video of me confessing my sins as a less than exemplary slave girl. He took this video that I uploaded a few months ago, remember?

At one of the many stops I also got off the train and snapped some pics:

A glass hamster box for smokers

Then I bought some drinks to wash down the dorayaki (sweet red bean paste sandwiched between two pancakes) we nibbled on for morning tea:

Apple qoo and low-sugar canned coffee - I haven't seen screw-top cans outside of Japan, have you?

We left our suitcases in coin lockers at the station in Hiroshima – taking only the bare necessities (change of clothes) for our overnight stay on Miyajima island as lugging suitcases around peace park would not be pleasant. We headed first for the peace park and the atomic bomb museum by tram.

You may have seen an email thing going around a while ago about Hiroshima 64 years after the bomb (bustling, bright city) and comparing it to Detroit (derelict, post-apocalyptic). I received it from about four different people. It’s got some very flashy pics like this:

And this:

Unfortunately, this is not Hiroshima. It’s actually photos of Yokohama taken from the Landmark Tower. I lived there for several years and could see these buildings from my lounge room window so I did find it amusing. Hiroshima is not quite as flashy as this, but it’s still a very large city of  about 3 million people and if the peace park and a-bomb dome weren’t there, you’d never know anything happened.

Getting off the tram at the peace park stop, the first thing you see is the very famous a-bomb dome:

Just a few metres away from this is where the Shima hospital was, which was the actual epicentre.

The park was filled with families enjoying the cherry blossoms and the mild weather. We strolled over to the museum and had a look through the displays and items on display like the famous brick wall with the imprint of a crouching person burned into it and the wristwatch that stopped as the bomb exploded at 8:15am:

I’d been to the museum about 10 years before and I remembered some disturbing body parts and things on display at that time, but they seem to have removed them (thank god…)

After our sobering experience, we wandered down a nearby shopping arcade in search of a place to grab some lunch and M ended up chasing after some girls in lolita costumes and it was about the fastest I’ve ever seen him move…

We were aiming for an okonomiyaki (often called a ‘Japanese pancake’) experience as that’s what you have to have when you go to Hiroshima. I got a bit lost wandering the back streets:

Causing M to have an explosion along the lines of ,’Where the fuck is this place because I’m not walking any further!!!’ but we eventually found it and headed in for a late lunch.

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki involves sandwiching egg noodles, cabbage, sprouts & usually pork or seafood between a thin layer of egg and batter and topping with sauce, mayo and seaweed powder:

Before sauce, mayo & other toppings were added

After lunch it was time to head back to the station and catch a local train down to the port so we could catch the ferry over to Miyajima island.

I’d booked us a night on the island at what I like to call ‘as-close-as-traditional-style-accommodation-as-I-could-get-without-the-need-for-sleeping-and-eating-on-the-floor ‘ a.k.a. The Kinsui Villa. All accommodation on the island is quite pricey (unless you go for hostels or places half-way up the mountain) and after trolling the internet for quite a while, I managed to find a plan on a Japanese travel site that fell within my budget. Funnily enough, it was an enmusubi plan that is designed to ‘bring couples together’ and included some sparkling wine, two charms for ‘relationship luck’, a souvenir photo and a map of the ‘love hot spots’ on the island along with the usual dinner & breakfast.

After informing M of the details of our accommodation, he dubbed Miyajima ‘the love island’ and although it’s much more famous for the UNESCO world heritage listed Itsukushimajinja Shrine, he has been known as nothing more than the ‘love island’ in this house.

On the ferry we had a good view of the ‘floating’ shrine gate:

The hotel was a few steps from the ferry terminal (another reason I picked it) and soon we were seated in the lobby (which highly amused M) and I was filling in the guest registration card:

Then we were given all our ‘love’ goodies and I went over to their yukata area and picked a yukata for my stay (which I modelled for M once we got back to the room):

They have water-view rooms and mountain-view rooms. Being that I was on a budget, I’d booked a mountain-view room:

The bathroom was much less ‘submarine’ than our hotel in Kyoto which kept M happy and he also had another bum-washing toilet so he was content:

Before dinner I went off for a hot spring in their very scenic public bath, leaving M to nap.

Generally, in traditional-style accommodation they will either serve you dinner in your room on a low table and you sit on the floor or in a big tatami room where you sit on the floor. The villa had a big tatami room, but with tables and chairs in it (reason three I picked it):

The menu for our 8 course set dinner was provided:

And I order M some beer and started chowing down on starters:

Assorted sashimi and egg tofu

Then there was eel:

Oyster gratin:

Kamameshi rice with mountain vegetables served in the pot:

Pork salad with sesame dressing:

I chowed it all down with their extensive sake selection behind me:

Dessert was creme brulee with strawberries, grape & soft chocolate:

Then it was a bit of an early night for both of us with me soaking up more Japanese tv. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d be quite happy to have a holiday in Japan with just a seven-eleven and a tv at my disposal.

Next morning was breakfast at 9am.

An assortment of fish, veggies, miso soup, rice and yoghurt with blueberry sauce.

The coffee, tea and juice was self-service:

Bonus pic for chloe 🙂 ...and no animal bits following...

I dutifully ladled out the miso soup for both of us:

With the left-over miso soup, M decided to get master chefly and put the raw eggs into it  (you’re supposed to have them raw over the warm rice):

This caused the wait staff to point and dissolve into laughter and I’m sure ‘the stupid foreigners’ were the talk of the hotel for some time to come. After breakfast I went and had another bath in the hot spring and had the whole place to myself.

Then it was time to check-out and head to the ferry. On the way, we ran into one of the  bambi-look-alike island residents:

You might notice that we totally failed to visit the shrine or the scenic streets of Miyajima or go to any of the multitudes of crafts and food stores that litter the area from the ferry terminal to the shrine. M ‘wasn’t in the mood’ for anything and just wanted to be on the road. So on the road we got. I was a bit peeved that we’d gone out of our way to visit the island and have a ‘traditional’ experience,  whereas we could have just stayed in a cheap hotel in Hiroshima, but anyway. The night had cost $350 for both of us (including the breakfast & dinner) but I’d had two nice meals and a fantastic hot spring so I really couldn’t complain.

I was hoping to visit one of the momiji manjyu (maple-leaf red bean cake) stores that are famous on Miyajima, but not being able to, had to settle for some bought at a place near the ferry terminal. I did manage to snag some still-warm custard ones which I later scoffed on the train to Osaka and I bought a couple of boxes of the cakes to give to friends back in Tokyo.

Then it was back to Hiroshima to pick up our suitcases and catch the bullet train to Osaka.

Part 7 to come…

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4 thoughts on “Japan Part 6

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  1. I read this at work, and got ALL kinds of giddy over “my” bonus pictures. Leslie, the woman I work with, piped up with, “You’re so funny sometimes.”

    Hmph.

    BUT YAY. Bonus pictures for ME and… holy hell… a LIVE animal!

    *wins*

    But. Now I have a question. At the beginning, when you told us the sign translation is wrong… That made me think. WHY is sooooooooo much translation wrong? I mean, we have entire websites dedicated to laughing at the terrible translation.

    How can it be THAT hard? They make it seem like finding an English translation is the holy fucking grail. It can’t be THAT hard. Because, while I DO think you are a genius, I don’t think you accomplished some unattainable feat worthy of mention in the record books by properly (or at least way MORE properly) translating that sign…

    Or is it just a matter of, I dunno, not wanting to pay any money to have correct translations? Using software or something instead of a person? Because, I mean, even an English speaker who didn’t speak a single word of Japanese could look at that translation and say, “Nah, dude, that’s not right at ALL. Try again.” And anyone who studied Japanese could probably FIX the translation, like you did! (I mean, I know I could do this task in any Spanish speaking country. My Spanish is not amazing, but I easily could spend all day translating instructions from Spanish to English with no problem and no where NEAR the amount of insane errors…)

    HELP ME UNDERSTAND!

    1. I’ve always wondered that, too. Even here in Germany they fuck up English all the time. Like the announcements on the subway system.

      How hard could it be to find a native speaker to proofread something for 30 seconds?!?!?

    2. In a nutshell:

      Because translation is really, really, really hard and people think it should be easy.

      Most of my experiences with Japanese companies have taught me several things:
      1. They don’t want to spend any more money than is absolutely necessary
      2. They don’t want to admit that their English sucks
      3. People who say they ‘know’ English, don’t
      4. At the end of the day, as long as it ‘looks like English’ they don’t really care whether it’s understandable or not

      It’s often the case that they’ll send the English that needs to be translated to someone on the staff who wrote ‘English skills: good’ on their CV and who actually knows fuck-all. That person will then put it through an online translator and that messed up English that comes out will be used. They just don’t want the hassle of finding a proof-reader or paying them.

      Another big problem is being able to speak the language doesn’t make you a good translator.

      If you did a literal translation of the sign, it would be this:

      Because we want you to use the toilet paper until the very end of the roll, we don’t change the rolls early. If the roll needs changing, please do it yourself. We thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

      To me as an English speaker, this sounds ridiculously verbose and ‘durrrrr’ so I would never translate it in this way. But in Japanese, that verbosity is perfectly fine because it’s a given that a new roll of toilet paper will be provided in the room for each new guest and some sort of an explanation needs to be given. Culturally there is a difference there and you need to understand that to do the translation justice.

      It’s generally ‘knowing’ what works and what doesn’t work that makes the difference between a good translation and a bad one. Language is ridiculously complex and machines just can’t do it.

      Now I’m sounding all geeky and anal, aren’t I?

      1. Not to me you don’t. And then there is the additional complication of the fact that modern Japanese has borrowed a lot of words from English, but they don’t always use them exactly the same way (so even a literal translation of something which is already sort of in English often makes little sense to an English speaker). I’ve also noticed the reverse in English-speaking “otaku” culture, where they use a lot of Japanese words wrong (hell, they even usually use “otaku” wrong).

        And then there is the issue that a modern computer could still translate languages very accurately, even with the complexity involved, if all human cultures used some sort of universal linguistic conceptual scheme. Despite some general tendencies, they really don’t.

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