Ok, so that whole "I'm going to be better about blogging in Italy," thing was a blatant bold faced lie, apparently, considering we've been in Italy a week and a half now and I'm still on Japan in blog world, which feels like a lifetime ago.
So, whoops. But whatever, no one is surprised.
Here is the rest of Japan, kinda abbreviated (kind of not), because I gotta move this train along - I have too many pizza and gelato photos to get to (Jk. Its more like a million panoramics of Italian countryside that may or may not include annoyed faces from Adam because I'm taking yet another photo)!!
By the way, I've had some espresso. Can you tell??
Hiroshima & Miyajima
After Osaka we headed further south to Hiroshima. We went to the Peace Memorial Museum immediately after checking into our nearby AirB&B and learned allllllll kinds of things, like how our AirB&B is almost exactly under the hypocenter of where the bomb went off. Innnnteresting. Nothing's radioactive anymore, but still, that was fascinating and a bit surreal to see the map.
The museum in general was interesting (as I'm sure Obama agreed, as he was there a week later, clearly following us on our trip. Creeper). They took a very neutral stance on how and why the bomb was dropped, mainly just showing the timeline, the effect the bomb had on the city and its people, and pushing for peace and disarmament. One completely non-fun fact: at that time most middle and high school aged kids were pulled out of school and put on demolition duty, tearing down buildings to create firewalls to protect specific parts of the city from the Allies air raids. So...a TON of kids, something like 8,000, were immediately killed. Sigh. The first part of the museum was mostly shredded school uniforms from kids that died.
Side-note: we've now been to quite a few exhibits and museums focusing on war and seriously, it's fascinating to see how other countries relay and present events. No shock here, but most interesting was Vietnam -especially the Hanoi Hilton. Their revisionist history of housing American POWs made it seem like a non-stop party of games and hilarity. Look how much fun everyone is having! Basketball and volleyball all the time! Look at how kind we were to pull John McCain out of the water (not shown, immediate bayonetting right after the photo)! I mean really, after seeing their exhibit im really not sure what John Mccain was going on about. Seemed like vacation, eh!?
Hey, it was war, we were bombing them, I get it, but their version of things in the museum was....fascinating.
Hiroshima's OTHER claim to fame is something way more pleasant, a delicious snack called okonomiyaki. Its even fun to say! Go ahead, try it out! OH-ko-no-mo-yahh-kee. You don't even know what it is and you want one, don't you!?
This street food is different depending on where you get it, but in Hiroshima, it's basically a bunch of soba or udon noodles pan fried into one cake/like form, with a bunch of delicious stuff on top, like a mix of egg, vegetables, pork, and sauces. Sounds kinda weird, but trust me. Good stuff. And the place we went had hot griddles on the table. They didn't cook the okonomiyaki on our table, the griddles were there just to keep them warm. Amazing. Now that is service.
We also day tripped to Miyojima, an island close by. This island is known for a couple things, mostly deer, mountain views, grilled oysters, and a huge shrine in the water that is approachable at low tide, and appears to be floating at high tide.
And yes, I said deer. I don't know how this came to be, but in a totally bizarro world, the deer here are as docile and approachable as puppies. Except they are large deer.
At one point I went to put a bag that had food trash in my backpack and I looked up to see that I had a small herd surrounding me. It was weird, cool, and terrifying at the same time.
We also hiked up a mountain via cable car, hiked down via now-destroyed knees, and ate oysters and cookies. All in all, would recommend.
From Hiroshima we sought to escape the city for mountains and hoped to go to isolated and beautiful Koyosan, but couldnt find a place to stay that wasnt $500, so we went to a nearby mountain area called Yoshino. This mountain has a crap ton of cherry blossoms in the spring and is probably madness to see in April. It's all green now though, without a blossom in sight (as we knew, going in), so we had a pretty quiet experience. Except there was a random race going on the mountain that weekend, which at first really confused me because it just looked like the temples had made a deal to be sponsored by The North Face. Which was really confusing for all my preconceived notions of Buddhism. But nope, there was a race starting here.
We also stayed at our first traditional Japanese inn, which are called ryokans. Ours was something like TWO HUNDRED years old (no big deal). The room was spacious, you sleep on futons and fluffy comforters, and awesome little pillows stuffed with buckwheat hull. I want one for home. Everything in your neck back and head is supported. I loved that little pillow.
However, also standard in a ryokan are shared bathrooms, showers, and onsens (communal, but gender separated hot spring baths). Allllllll of which, Mr. Adam Kanner, was super excited about. Or he hated it. It was one of the two, I forget. All of which is hilarious (strictly in theory, anyway, not really funny in reality), because this place was his idea.
Anyway, I loved it, the bathrooms were clean and beautiful (and you know my feeling on Japanese toilets and these were no exceptions) and the shared showers were really clean and beautiful. And they give you yukata to wear around and to the showers that are super comfortable, so, win. What's a yukata? Well, it's this:
Also - it's important to note when I say shared showers, I mean SHARED. Like, there is zero privacy. The idea is that the onsen -- the bath (big awesome hot tub), has super-good-for-you minerals and you 1) need to be naked to have no barrier to get the goodness (or dirty the water with your bathing suit), 2) you need to completely shower and clean yourself before getting in the onsen to also not dirty the water, so, 3) you're naked in all scenarios, so why would there be privacy for showers.
I had experienced a pretty big (also naked) traditional bath house in Korea before, so I had already bypassed the weirdness barrier and felt fine about doing this again. But guess what?? No need to be brave, the two times I went into the onsen/showered, NO ONE ELSE was there. And I just had this big, beautiful hot hot hot tub to myself to enjoy the night stars (was outdoors, but with a high privacy wall). And it was pretty great. I think Adam waited to shower until the next city, ha.
We also had a traditional japanese dinner that consisted of approximately 78 courses of somewhat unidentifiable food, but was beautiful and mostly delicious. Because of a language barrier we had no idea what we were doing, but it was definitely an experience.
We also went on a hike here. It was ok. Best part of the hike was getting a group call from Jennifer, Jon and Emily in Nashville (yay!).
Magome / Tsumago
These are two old-school mountain post towns located along an old road that lead from Kyoto to Tokyo. Post towns were where rich peeps stocked up on food, horses, samurai, entourages (ok, I dont know about the last two, but maybe).
These two preserved towns are a mere 7km away from each other and it's a total thing to walk the walk in between. So we did the thing! It rocked: easy hike, beautiful quaint old Japanese mountain towns, cool mountain scenery. It was the kind of mountain town I think we were hoping Yoshino was, but wasn't. Yoshino was still cool, just different.
We also stayed at an inn in Magome, but it was a bit more casual than the last one, and run by a Filipino woman who spoke english. We had a traditional dinner there as well but this time we had some guidance. Score! Also we ate raw horse, and it was delicious.
At this little lodge we met an older Aussie man who was hiking everywhere and was awesome but made us (me) feel lazy and want to hike more of Japan, and the next day we met two guys who had been traveling for 1)8 months and 2) 2 years (!!). They met while touring North Korea. Hilarious. We had a good train ride with them and got a sweet Rome restaurant tip from one of them. They were both nearing the end of their traveling time and they were TIRED. And wow, I do not blame them.
Went back to Tokyo to fly out, and on our last night, we went to a bar we had visited on one of our first nights. The group behind us was taking a ton of photos, so we obviously photo-bombed them. Turns out that was an ok move because then we all became friends and chatted up the guy in the middle, who turned out to be from New Zealand, and told me he had the same shirt. New Zealand!!
Then we flew out!!! See ya, Japan, buongiorno, Roma!