My Brief Stint as a Tour Guide

As I mentioned during my last post, one of my good friends from Minnesota came to Japan. He’ll be studying in Beppu for the next two months, but on his way from Tokyo to Beppu he stopped for roughly three days in Hiroshima. Glad to have someone I knew well from back home to talk to for a while, I spent these days showing him the most famous spots in the area.

The first day, a group of friends and I went into the city to go shopping before my friend arrived in the evening. We had two goals: getting my beloved bubble tea, and browsing yukata (light, cotton kimono-like traditional wear) before Yukata Matsuri (a festival which is this weekend!) We went through the main shopping district and checked out all of the kimono/yukata shops, but most of the things we found were either quite expensive or low quality.

My friend arrived by shinkansen at around 7:20. Apparently the Hikari train is always late – my friend was supposed to arrive at 6:54, so one girl and I wandered around the station like idiots trying to find him. We at one point heard an announcement telling us a train was late, but unfortunately neither of us were paying close enough attention to which train it was. In the end, after passing through the ticket gates, we found him just coming out of the exit. We shouted over the barrier until one of the station workers stamped our tickets so we could re-enter for free.

After the commute back to Saijo and dropping off my friend’s things at his hotel, the two of us headed over to a party for all the students who came from, went to, or are going to the University of Minnesota. One of the exchange students from this past school year was in attendance. I’d met him once before departing. I remember him being shy and taking his sweet time in forming English sentences. It was nice to talk to him again after a year and see how much more outgoing he’s become. At closing my friend and I promptly headed back to the hotel, as he was terribly jet-lagged.

The next day it was supposed to thunderstorm, so the plan was to go to the Peace Museum in Peace Park or go to Hiroshima Castle. It ended up being a perfectly sunny day, so we were able to explore the park before going to the museum.

It was when we got to the A-bomb Dome that my friend realized he’d forgotten his camera in his room… Fortunately his iTouch was able to take pictures. The sheer amount of pictures he took left me in awe. My friend is a tourist extraordinaire.

After wandering about Peace Park for a while we ended up entering the Peace Museum, which is basically a museum highlighting what happened to Hiroshima city after the atomic bomb was dropped. It was a very good museum, I thought. Highly informative, but also set up in a way that really leaves an impact. As you can imagine it’s not the happiest of museums. You start out reading the history of Hiroshima, particularly in relation to various wars. As you progress you get to where you’re reading about the process used to choose which city to drop the bomb on, then comes an exhibit showing the sheer technical effects of the bomb and how it works. As you progress further you begin to see exhibits that explain the effects had on the people who were residing in the city at the time. It gets personal, with a room full of specific accounts about children who were killed by after effects of the bomb.

This particular picture is the part of the museum I found the most moving. It’s a wall covered in copies of letters sent by various mayors of Hiroshima City to the leaders of countries around the world each time a nuclear test is announced, requesting that they not go through with it. A plaque explaining this next to it read, “With each letter they write, they hope it will be the last.”

After that kind of downer we wandered through the park a bit more. Folded cranes of all colors decorate the park and along with the sunny weather are definitely enough to put your mood back to warm. After this we hopped on the train and headed back to Saijo. After arriving at the campus bus stop, my friend discovered his real camera had been in his pocket the whole time. He vowed to remember where he’d put it the next day.

Dinner was at my favorite okonomiyaki shop. You can’t come to Hiroshima and not try Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki! My friend wasn’t as big a fan as I was, however. I question his taste.

The next day I decided my friend should see Miyajima. This is the day I really felt like a tour guide, especially since I’d been there once before.
Since we arrived at low tide I insisted we go to the iconic gate first. From there we climbed the stairs that lead up to the shrines at the top of the mountain. On the way back we got some fresh oysters to eat from a cute family-run restaurant where a mother was teaching her son, probably around a year old, to fill glasses of water.

While wandering around we stumbled upon a shop advertising yukata for 2100 yen. Compared to the typical 10,000+ yen these kinds of shops offer, I had to check it out. It turns out they were actually of fair quality. The only downside was a fairly small selection, but for the price it was nothing to refuse! I bought an obi and a yukata for a total of 3100 yen, which is incredibly cheap (about $35). I have yet to buy the geta (wooden sandles), but that can be taken care of easily here in town.

The day, of course, wasn’t complete without one of the super-friendly deer of Miyajima trying to steal something out of my friend’s bag.

Upon returning I took my friend to an event held on campus every Tuesday called International Cafe. Basically it’s an opportunity for foreign students from all over to converse with curious Japanese students. Afterward we always go out for a meal and maybe some drinks. That night it was Wagaya, a place specializing in very Japanese food. After dinner we went for pafaits at a nearby Italian restaurant. By then my friend wanted sleep, so I escorted him back to the hotel.

Our final day was shorter, since my friend had to be in Beppu by 8 p.m. He wanted to do some shopping, mostly for practical things. I took him around Saijo so he could do this. For lunch we ate at Gaba Ramen, a place that is spoken highly of by most of the residents here. To be honest, I didn’t like it as much as I do the one nearer my dorm. My friend, I think, enjoyed it. Of course, it’s better than the packaged ramen college students live on.

While shopping we wandered into a model and toy section. I ended up accidentally finding something I’ve been wanting since I’ve been here – figurines of the characters from the Persona series, the game I mentioned in my last post. Unfortunately they were miniatures in boxes, so you can’t see which character you get until you purchase it. I really wanted Yosuke, but Akihiko was an okay replacement.

Isn’t he cute? But to be honest, I’ll probably keep buying these until I get Yosuke. I just love him too much.

I bid farewell to my friend at the station, hoping he’d enjoyed his brief stay in Hiroshima. He is, on the surface, a very apathetic person, so I wasn’t sure. Today when I got home I found a message on my facebook saying, “After being in Saijo, I’d rather stay there than here.” Success!

Well, I hope you come to enjoy Beppu as well my friend! Go soak in all of the famous onsen (hot springs)!

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~ by megumiwasframed on June 2, 2011.

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