Golden week is a week long holiday in the beginning of May about…. Now I have to actually figure out what it was about, let me check. It’s made up of four holidays. Showa Day honors the birthday of Emperor Showa (April 29) who reigned for 63 “turbulent” years and is a day to reflect on hardship. Next is Constitutional Memorial Day on May 3, honoring the constitution written on May 3, 1947. Then is Greenery day on May 4th, which used to be Showa day but that was moved, which harkens back to the above emperor’s love of plants, and people are supposed to commune with nature, but apparently is just thought of an additional day to celebrate and justify the week off. Last is Children’s Day on May 5th, or more commonly Boy’s day (Girl’s day is in March), which is to respect Children’s personalities and celebrate their happiness. Thanks Wikipedia. For Ex-Pats, Golden Week is a time to celebrate having a week off the grueling Japanese work schedule and most get out of the country to avoid the crowds.
We did so much this will take a few posts to cover.
Our first night we were in Tooyoka, just a little past Kyoto. There isn’t much in Tooyoka, but it has great proximity to the amazing Northern/Western (I’m never sure how to describe it) coast.
First up were the amazing caves, created from volcanos.
Then was the bright blue ocean and rugged coast line
There were some flags for Boys Day.
We found a great temple on top of a hill that overhang the ocean. I could have stayed there. There was a beautiful tree in bloom but sadly I couldn’t identify.
Then was the town we drove through which had groups of people standing on each corner, clapping and cheering at passing by cars. We couldn’t figure it out.
One thing I’ve been surprised about is how much trash we find on beaches.
Another thing which we frequently find are old ladies gardening on hill sides. They are the epitome of the Japanese equivalent of a babushka. We weren’t entirely this was legal as it was a national park.
We past some fishing boats with the hugest light bulbs I’ve ever seen. It was incredible.
Next was Tottori Dunes, the largest Dunes in Japan. Sadly, we didn’t find it terribly impressive as Michigan has some HUGE dunes. There were also a bunch of really rude Chinese tourists. I mention this because whenever Brian and I mention we encountered a rude person to Japanese friend, they always say the person was probably Chinese. We’ve been doubtful because it happens to often but in this case they were totally right. Also, that is a camel.
Next to the dune(s) was the sand museum, which changes exhibits every year. This year was the United States of America. I especially liked the piece dedicated to Jackson Pollack which had a splatter paint effect on the side. Amazing.
That evening we pulled into Yonago for dinner, climbed up a hill with a castle ruin on top, next to a lake and watched the sunset. The hazy mountain in the top left photo is the one we were going to climb the next day!
We struggled to find our hotel, but eventually noticed Brian’s name on the outside. A pretty cool way to welcome someone!
Our hotel was right next to a cool little shrine. The blue awning is the hotel and the Torii is the shrine. The grey Skyline GTR right in front is our car.
We went to see a light house, which was nice but not special. When we drove back through the town a lady was hanging the freshly caught squid. Although I don’t want to eat it, it was super cool to see.
Then we climbed Mt. Daisen. It was amazing! It was about three hours round trip. There were some sections where we had to climb up snow banks. It was hard to get back down them, so I sat down and slid! It was really fun!
At the bottom of the hill is Daisenji temple. There were a bunch of animal statues, cow and horse.
Next was Bitchū Matsuyama Castle, known for being an original castle (there are 12 remaining) and because it is the highest above sea level. We got there at closing, but the grounds remain open. The folks at the desk were super concerned about us because as it turns up, it’s up a tall hill. They shuttle people up it on a bus, and then you still have to walk 20 minutes to get to it.
And some more flags for Boys Day.
The next day we went to Hiroshima (which by the way is pronounced He-Row-She-Ma, not her-o-shim-a). We drove past the peace park on our way to find parking and a frog jumped down my throat and my eyes began to prick. I could tell immediately it was going to be a long day.
We walked through the Peace Park to get to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I think it says a lot about Japan that it isn’t called the “Atomic Bomb Museum”. It’s unfortunate, but the museum is currently under construction and it’s in a temporary location (which is still a part of the complex it is normally in). Hopefully that explains my disappointment in the museum. I was frustrated by the written explanations that went along with the artifacts. They repeated themselves over and over. The same facts, the same section of the timeline. The audio guide repeated, verbatim, the same information which was on the panels, which was extra frustrating. Apart from that, the artifacts were heart breaking and grounding and turned the story into reality. Clothes that were ripped and burned, with blood stains. Horrifying. Coins and glass that had been melted together, posts that were bent, pavement with heat shadows on it.
To me though, it was one of the smallest displays that hit me the hardest. Growing up I read “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” every year and learned to fold cranes. She was trying to fold 1000 paper cranes because it is believed that doing so will make your wish come true. Her wish was to be healed from leukemia from radiation that she got when she was 2 years old, 1 mile away from the central point of the atomic bomb blast. She died at 12 years old. This historical fiction story was a part of my childhood. It hit me like a ton of bricks to see 20 of the cranes she folded out of medicine wrappers. They were bright and shiny and the size of my finger nails.
We then went to walk through the park.
This is the children’s memorial, which was started by funds raised by Sadako’s classmates.
It was incredible to see the cranes in boxes, filled to the brim with cranes sent from all over the world. People arrange the cranes into pictures and those are also displayed in the boxes.
Next was the Genbaku Dome, also known as the A-Bomb known, or the Peace Memorial. It was located 160 meters from the hypocenter, which was the bridge that crosses the river just up stream from the location we took this photo. They’ve fortified it throughout the years, but there are still pieces of concrete hanging from it and bricks scattered across the yard.
We then took a boat down the river to Miyajima Island. There were deer! They wanted to eat everything. I was very conflicted with my desire to pet them. But they are wild! But they are cute!
Then we went to the Pagoda at Senjokaku Hall.
Then we saw the beautiful floating shrine! It’s not really floating….
We went to Daisho-in Temple on the foot of Mt. Misen. There were lots of tiny buddah’s that people had knit tiny hats and scarves for. We went into the strangest part of the temple. It was very dark and had a huge variety of statues that you could pray to. The main alter also had canned peaches and orange. Strange.
And then so much more happened! But that has to wait for the next post because I’m already getting so behind!