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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cherry blossoms, reconnections and return

It was literally with a jolt this morning, our last in Japan, that we awoke. We were supposed to wake up at 6am, but instead felt our thirteenth floor room shake determinedly as Osaka was jarred by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake at 5:30-5:40am. We were reminded again of just how fragile our existence is, after climbing the Umeda Sky supposed 'garden' observatory (minus a garden) the night before. The Japanese workers we spoke to as we boarded our bus (also early) were noticeably unnerved and we reflected on the fact that whilst we were flying out many people did not have the ability to do the same thing today. Later, we realised through the Internet this quake was the biggest one since the 1997 devastating Kobe earthquake.

Our two weeks in Japan were a time of reconnection to family (Hughes) and friends (Ecchan, Sonchan, Miyauchi's etc).  It was an intense family time, with Geordie/Lydia remembering what it is to share a room, the 'transitions' to stations/airports providing stresses and time challenges and many great highlights.  It was daunting to again reflect on the ravages of war in Nagasaki in particular and also Fukuoka (and to some extent at Osaka Castle). Cherry blossom and Spring provided an impressive postscript to our autumn Easter, and we did manage a pikunikku with R/D and kids.  Feasting at the largesse of our Shimanto city church friends was a definite highlight, as well as speaking with them as a family after 13 years away.  Reunited as well, were L and Ge who appeared connected with, via a shared history, albeit not directly remembered, the friends, babysitters and families of their infant hood.  When Chie-san brought out the ichigo-daifuku, L was transported back to her Japanese roots. 

In Kyoto a walk along the philosophers walk canal was beautiful, and Ginkakuji/Daitokuji were the two Zen temples we visited, or complex of shrines/temples in the case of Daitokuji.  Our night walk along Pontocho in Gion was interrupted by a silent 200 metre row of mourners in black attending a Buddhist ritual to pay funereal respect. 
G has been asked to connect in with two ex-Nakamura young men in Tokyo in September, and two of the young women from Nakamura are intending to look into working holidays in Melbourne so our connection with this community will go on. It was great to see Ks confidence with Japanese return so naturally especially after our immersion in Nakamura, and also the kids throughout the trip. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Monday, April 08, 2013

Big trip to the south

Today we started the day by taking the train to Nagasaki from Osaka. That is about 800 kilometres. We had to take a few trains, one a bullet train. The journey was quite long taking about 5 hours in total. When we got out of the tram (which was very crowded) from the train station, we were quite tired, so we sat down in a small cafe called the brick cafe. After having some croissants and coffees we felt refreshed so we were able to wander through side streets toward the Oura Catholic Church. We went past the Oranda zaka or Dutch slopes, named after the foreigners who were there for a long time. We also saw China town, which is located in front of the old Chinese settlement, which was there for years and years, dissimilar to most parts of Japan, due to its Chinese influence.

After we had finished there we took another tram (oh no) to a Dutch settlement, Dejima, which used to be an island. After looking around there, we took a tram the Nagasaki atomic bomb museum.
We finally arrived at the Peace museum after climbing the many steps. The peace museum told the story of the bombing of Nagasaki, starting off with a replica of the facade of the Urakami cathedral. Lydia had not been here before (well perhaps when she was 1 yr old), but G and L both took their time looking at the photos and artefacts on display. When we got to the park, and saw the 'ground zero', it was a sombre moment.

Nakamura friends

Friday, April 05, 2013

Time in Amagasaki

Ninja village Iga, east of Osaka

G trying out the revolving door, kids dressed perfectly as ninjas, but I'm not so sure about the pink..., a 'real' ninja chopping up bamboo with a samurai sword...

This is the beginning part of the Nagasaki peace memorial museum

On the move, Nagasaki and Fukuoka

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Hong Kong: Mon, Apr 01

We arrived in Hong Kong at 9:20pm after an 8 and a half hour flight, watching some movies on the plane, including Wreck it Ralph, Skyfall, Brave and more. When we walked out of the plane we realised how big the airport was, 520 gates at least, possibly more. Luckily the bus didn't take to long to find.

Chung-king mansions at 11pm (around 2 am melbourne time) after standing up on a bus for 45 minutes were less than salubrious. There were men everywhere, and it was grimy. K and L were opting to go and check into another hotel, but G was determined to get full value for the money prepaid. He was unlikely to live this down for at least this trip. Finally we found block D, off on a little side lane, where there were two elevators and signs saying which floor all the different guest houses were on.
We discovered the 'Australian Guest House', as ours was called, was nothing but a clever marketing ploy. There were lists of other similar accommodation; the Tokyo guesthouse, the Paris guesthouse, the London guesthouse etc., in fact, the Australian guesthouse, where we were to be housed, doubled as Tokyo guesthouse and was as Australian as you could get in Calcutta with a Chowkidoor lying in the foyer to scare away any 'would-be intruders'. Our accommodation had nothing to suggest it was particularly Australian in any sense. There was a distinct smell of rice, pharathas and chili. G attempted to use his knowledge of a little Bengali to break the ice and this was received with a laugh.
Our rooms were basic, with only a hard mattress, small pillow and doona for sleeping material. No one used the shower, as it was hard to figure how to without drenching the toilet etc.
We discovered the aforesaid man sleeping outside all the Australian rooms, as security. This did not put us at ease, as well as the fact that there were multiple video cameras and signs advising people 'not to steal'. (We were later to read on Wikipedia that these closed circuit TV had actually improved security of late in the CK mansions).
It was with some relief that we packed our bags in the morning and left as soon as possible.
Not until we were well out of the area of the Chung-king mansions was it that G showed everyone else the Wikipedia page on the 'mansions'. It turns out that it is an area known for harbouring petty thieves, drug dealers and users, and there had been someone murdered there about 15 years ago.
This will hopefully serve as a reminder for G to check up on accommodation thoroughly before booking. (Told you I wouldn't live this down for a while).

Leaving Chung King in the morning and catching a ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong...

Ge and G went looking for breakfast while K and L waited on a rooftop garden above a large shopping centre, at about 9:30 Hong Kong time. This is 12:30 in Australia, so by then we were quite hungry...
They brought salad, pork buns, strange shortcrusty/sweet chicken pies, a croissant and chips. Incredibly good value. It turns out making dollars worth less is a good way to watch your budget.

The double decker bus ride up Victoria peak was quite incredible, we got up the top right at the front, giving us a great view. Some parts were quite scary as we traveled right against the cliff. When we got up the top the view was amazing we could see a long way off through the city, but it was quite foggy so there was a limit of how far we could see. Everyone took heaps of photos with various devices.