A bit of Honshu: Hiroshima, Kurashiki, Tokyo

On this bus, train, and boat trip from Kyoto to Tokyo (oh so different from my bicycle tour from Tokyo to Kyoto many years ago!), we took Japan’s famous shinkansen twice. Even though 12 countries now have high speed rail networks (and they’re all countries I’ve been to), it was my first time taking a high speed train.

Looks pretty cool, doesn’t it?

IMG_20231118_103647 by bryandkeith on flickr

The longer trip we took was about three hours from Okayama to Tokyo. Turns out to be about the same distance as the 10.5 hour bus ride that Ferda and I took from Çorum to Antalya two months earlier. Moving right along — certainly the farthest I’ve ever traveled overland in three hours.

Our first high speed train took us one morning from Kyoto to Hiroshima. Our first stop in Hiroshima, as I suppose it should be, was the ground-level epicenter of the August 6, 1945 atomic bomb explosion. Little Boy was detonated 600m above this spot (at the group of people in front of the white car):

It was 600m above this spot that the first atomic bomb was detonated in war. by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231111_144322 by bryandkeith on flickr

Nearby is the Peace Memorial Park where this one pre-bomb building, dubbed A-bomb Dome, is still standing:

A-bomb Dome by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231111_160040 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231111_140412 by bryandkeith on flickr

As a gesture of peace children fold origami paper cranes, here collected in the shape of the kanji for “peace”:

IMG_20231111_140130 by bryandkeith on flickr

And here’s Ferda after an origami paper crane folding lesson:

Paper crane origami lesson by bryandkeith on flickr

One might think that the onsite museum with post-blast photos and quotes from survivors could be emotionally taxing. It wasn’t. It was simply way too crowded.

In a less-crowded section of the museum I was able to read a bit about the development of the bomb (if you haven’t read the Richard Rhodes book, do) and a discussion about why the bomb was dropped. I’m familiar with the arguments about whether ultimately the bomb saved lives, but that wasn’t mentioned here. The main reason given was that the US public needed justification for spending so much money. Yikes.

On the way back to our very conveniently located hotel at the Hiroshima main station, Ferda and I paused at the Hiroshima Castle in the setting sun.

IMG_20231111_161633 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231111_162300 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231111_162336 by bryandkeith on flickr

I suppose a visit to Hiroshima is not complete without visiting Itsukushima (aka Miyajima) Island. You know, the torii gate in the water that we’ve all seen photos of?

IMG_20231113_080422 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231112_104327 by bryandkeith on flickr

I’ve always kind of wondered what the big deal is. The shrine is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is (a bit) more than just the torii gate.

IMG_20231112_105245 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231112_105120 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231112_110220 by bryandkeith on flickr

You can walk up the hill and get a different view of the torii gate:

IMG_20231112_113538 by bryandkeith on flickr

The “Esoteric Sect” (Vajrayana?) Buddhist temple just above the main tourist area is worth a look.

IMG_20231112_121820 by bryandkeith on flickr

especially if you’re into cute little statues with hats.

IMG_20231112_122041 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231112_121002 by bryandkeith on flickr

That’s Itsukushima.

I had always associated Hiroshima with okonomiyaki so I was surprised to see so many okonomiyaki places in Osaka. Turns out it’s a rivalry between those two cities for the best okonomiyaki. We tried it for the first time in Hiroshima.

okonomiyaki by bryandkeith on flickr

The verdict? Japanese-style fried noodles with lots of calories, not very exciting. Maybe if you’re very hungry after a day of cycling touring?

I certainly prefer Japanese bento. Here’s an excellent one in Okayama on our way to Kurashiki.

IMG_20231115_125824 by bryandkeith on flickr

The first thing we did in Kurashiki was a couple quick museum visits, one with Western art (including paintings by Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso, Gauguin, Monet) and another with Japanese folk art.

The other thing to do in Kurashiki is to sit and enjoy the preserved old town.

IMG_20231115_161844 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231115_150353 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231116_080226 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231115_162045 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231115_174113 by bryandkeith on flickr

Now time for that previously mentioned shinkansen from Okayama to Tokyo. How lucky we had decent weather for a high speed view of Mt. Fuji. I caught a low speed view of the mountain when bicycling between Tokyo and Kofu years ago, but the mountain didn’t stay out of the clouds long that day. My Dad walked up to the summit in 1968.

IMG_20231118_130827 by bryandkeith on flickr

On our first evening in the world’s most populated metropolis, Ferda, my Dad, and I went to a 4.5 hour kabuki performance. It was actually three separate shows with two substantial intermissions. Here are the posters advertising the shows we went to:

Posters advertising the kabuki that we went to by bryandkeith on flickr

The sets and costumes for kabuki are super elaborate. Unfortunately my Dad can’t see well enough to really appreciate that aspect. He particularly enjoyed the second and third shows which had lots of music. The first show was a take on the 47 ronin story prominently featuring bushido (samurai honor), both of which (bushido and the 47 ronin) we learned about on this tour from Aki and Ed. Also, the daimyo’s residence set had all the aspects of a traditional house as described in Paul Varley’s excellent Japanese Culture, a book that I had read preparing for this trip.

Seeing and experiencing what we’ve learned on this trip (and in pre-trip books) continued the next day at the Tokyo National Museum. For example, one of about four Hiroshage wood blocks in the collection:

Asakusa Rice Fields and the Torinomachi Festival by Utagawa Hiroshige, 1857 by bryandkeith on flickr
Asakusa Rice Fields and the Torinomachi Festival by Utagawa Hiroshige, 1857
Picking Grass by Kitagawa Utamaro, 1800 by bryandkeith on flickr
Picking Grass by Kitagawa Utamaro, 1800

A kabuki outfit?

IMG_20231119_104017 by bryandkeith on flickr

I loved these dishes:

Dishes Resembling Paper Strips with Poetry by Kenzan, 1743 by bryandkeith on flickr
Dishes Resembling Paper Strips with Poetry by Kenzan, 1743

Can’t you imagine the Japanese using dishes like that in one of their elaborate meals?

IMG_20231119_124034 by bryandkeith on flickr

The Meiji Shrine is the most popular shinto shrine in Japan. We came across a wedding procession,

IMG_20231120_100418 by bryandkeith on flickr

sake barrels,

IMG_20231120_093906 by bryandkeith on flickr

and vending machines.

IMG_20231120_102438 by bryandkeith on flickr

I felt that the Hamarikyu Gardens were enhanced by the borrowed scenery of nearby skyscrapers, contrary to Aki’s opinion.

IMG_20231120_112954 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231120_114310 by bryandkeith on flickr

A few more Tokyo cityscape photos:

IMG_20231118_141109 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231120_203116 by bryandkeith on flickr
Ferda loves these busy intersections where you can cross in every direction at once. by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231119_171915 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231119_165023 by bryandkeith on flickr

Reminding me of a dinner with Oliver 17 years earlier on the Chao Praya River in Bangkok on our last night in Thailand, we celebrated our last night in Japan with dinner on Tokyo Bay.

IMG_20231120_203459 by bryandkeith on flickr

For once I don’t have photos of the food!

On a free afternoon my Dad and I took the subway to Yoyogi-Uehara in an attempt to find the house where he and my Mom lived for a summer 55 years ago. We were reminded of the first lines of Hojoki: An Account of My Hut written in 1212 by Kamo no Chomei.

The flow of the river is ceaseless and its water is never the same. The bubbles that float in the pools, now vanishing, now forming, are not of long duration: so in the world are man and his dwellings. It might be imagined that the houses, great and small, which vie roof against proud roof in the capital remain unchanged from one generation to the next, but when we examine whether this is true, how few are the houses that were there of old. Some were burnt last year and only since rebuilt; great houses have crumbled into hovels and those who dwell in them have fallen no less. The city is the same, the people are as numerous as ever, but of those I used to know, a bare one or two in twenty remain. They die in the morning, they are born in the evening, like foam on the water.

translated by Donald Keene
Yoyogi-Uehara -- the neighborhood where my Dad lived one summer 55 years ago; he didn't recognize anything by bryandkeith on flickr
Yoyogi-Uehara in 2023
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3 Responses to A bit of Honshu: Hiroshima, Kurashiki, Tokyo

  1. Kevin says:

    I loved all the photos in this post. And the excerpt from My Hut is quite beautiful.

  2. Jennifer J Werner says:


  3. Mike Painter says:

    Great travels and pictures in this and the other Japan posts. Thanks!

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