Week 6 – Japan

Round the world 6

All went well with our flight and customs and immigration in Tokyo but then things started to go wrong with the Narita express that we were due to catch to our hotel. There was a surprising lack of information and people to help us and we ran round like headless chickens until we were told to get on the express train which we duly did and paid extra. This was our introduction to Japanese railways which continued to confuse and puzzle us thereafter.
We were staying first of all in Kawasaki, a suburb of Tokyo near Patrick’s cousin and this proved to be a pleasant town with a pedestrian shopping street and small friendly shops and wonderful food. In the evening the commuters flood off the train into the town to eat and drink in the restaurants and cafes, the men nearly all wearing a uniform of white shirt and black trousers and suit jacket as an extra. A bit of a treadmill and I’m glad I’m not on it.
It’s almost like going back in time to my mother’s life, many people don’t have cars and use bikes to get around and go shopping, sometimes with two children in chairs front and back of the bike. Streets are narrow and apartments small.
The Tsukiji Fish Market is a large warehouse full of octopus , live eels, tuna and all things fishy and fresh. Around the area shops were selling everything connected with fish and were jam packed with people. From there we walked to Hama Rikyu Gardens and took a boat ride to Asakusa and the temples there and market stalls. We then bumbled our way back to Kawasaki by train.
Looking at the map of the train and underground system is like looking at a bowl of coloured spaghetti but we managed to find our way around with the help of Patrick’s ap. But Tokyo station is intimidating.
The following day we visited the Emperor’s Palace and Ginza , the high value shopping area. Compared to China everything is neat, efficient, well ordered and controlled and spotlessly clean.
We bought a 3 week Japan Rail Pass enabling us to travel around the country. This was our first experience of the Shinkase or bullet train which didn’t start well as we were thrown off the first train because it was Nozomi as we are only entitled to get on Sakari trains with our passes. But the guard was super-efficient and helpful and wrote down the trains and platforms we must to get to Hiroshima.
People are friendly and helpful, if they see us scratching our heads they come over and ask if they can help us. In the main tourist areas there are English speaking guides to help you. Carol left her phone on the train one time, she went to the desk and someone had handed it in. A lady offered us cash for the tram when we were struggling to find change. Japanese people are helpful, reserved , exceedingly polite , well organized, hardworking and very environmentally conscious. Tokyo is the safest city in the world, children travel alone , even some quite small ones.
Hiroshima is a well ordered , attractive city with lots of rivers to walk and run along. The site of the atomic bomb peace park was near to our hotel and we first visited the museum and other shrines with many children and adults paying homage to the fallen. We walked around the domed building which still stands as the last building remaining. The images we saw are powerful, it should be mandatory for all politicians to visit the park.
The next day we went by train to Miyajima with a shrine in the sea and a cable car and a cable car to Mount Misen . In our wisdom we walked down the steep rocky path to the bottom but this was the first time we had got away from people and we relished the quietness and being in nature.

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