Hiroshima – Part 2

Part 2 of my Hiroshima trip. My visit to the Peace Museum was such an emotional experience, I felt it deserved it’s own post. Now here’s photos from the more silly & outdoors-y portion of the trip.

First off- SUMO! Yes! Sumo!

DSC_0013DSC_0006 DSC_0008 It did feel a little like watching big babies in nappies slap each other around. But holy cow these guys are FLEXIBLE and NIMBLE. And not just for their size.

Which is what you probably imagined… they’re big dudes.

DSC_0034DSC_0038We spent about 5000 yen for seats on the upper floor, which we preferred because we had actual seats. I’m still working on my Japanese “sitting for long periods without losing feeling in my legs” skills. The tournament started at 8am with the rookies and wrapped up at 3pm with the big kahunas battling last. Each fighter only fights once. Each match lasts about 1 minute with the actual fighting portion lasting around 10 seconds. The rest of the time is filled with preparation & ceremony. Japanese people sure love traditions & routines.

Champion being presented with his white champion belt.

Champion being presented with his white champion belt.

Next up- Miyajima!

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People place coin offerings at the base of gate during low tide. When the tide comes in, the coins are swept into the water & sand.

There are many deer on the island. They’re mostly friendly but the will poke their nose in your bag looking for food. This adorable little boy is feeding them boiled chestnuts. 

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A beautiful island near Hiroshima. We took the JR Sanyo line to Miyajimaguchi Station which took about 25 min and cost around 410 yen one way. From there we hopped on a 10 min ferry ride which cost 360 yen roundtrip.

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And last but not least- FOOD!

We had some amazing street foods while on Miyajima and had some DELICIOUS Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, a kind of fried Japanese pancake which had soba noodles, veggies, seafood, and pork.

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Really been making the most of my weekends here in Japan. It’s amazing all you can accomplish in a day if you go for it.

Can’t wait for Halloween this weekend. I’ve been doing Halloween lessons in my ES classes where I show up wearing a witch hat and the kids go bananas. Fighting off another cold but they keep me in good spirits.

Hope everyone is having a good week. Start making some fun plans for this weekend :)

K♥

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Hiroshima – Peace Museum

This weekend I traveled to Hiroshima, a place I’ve always wanted to visit for it’s history with my country. I’ve never seen the good in sweeping the ugly past under the rug. History has the ability to teach us. Our generation specifically has thousands of years of history at our fingertips. That gives us a huge advantage to learn from other’s mistakes.

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The Peace Museum, found in Peace Park, is an emotional experience, right up there with my visit to the Holocaust museum.

DSC_0108 I can’t imagine going about my daily morning routine, on my way to school, when in a flash, everything around me is engulfed in flames and you feel like you’ve entered some horrible dream, only you’re awake. I kept picturing the dream sequence in Terminator 2, when Sarah Conner is at the playground. Suddenly there’s a big flash of light and everything is on fire. I know that scene is nothing compared to the actual horrors of that day, but I remember how much it scared me… The small children, laughing and smiling on the playground, completely unaware of what was coming.

The museum had so many tattered school uniforms. One of the most heart wrenching items I saw was a burnt tricycle… DSC_0109

Back in 4th grade, my class read the story “Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes”. It’s a historical fictional children’s book, based on the life of a young girl named Sadako who lived in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing. When she turned 12, she developed symptoms of leukemia. As her sickness progressed, Sadako began to fold 1000 paper cranes, hoping that they would grant a single wish. These are paper cranes from the real Sadako’s funeral.

Since I’ve been been living here, I’ve been trying to trace back my earliest connection & interest to Japanese culture. I always thought it started in 6th grade when I was obsessed with Pokemon and Sailor Moon. I had completely forgotten about that lesson but it all came flooding back when I saw Sadako’s cranes. Our teacher brought us origami paper and taught us to make cranes after we finished the story. I remember thinking how beautiful the paper was. It was such a special moment to be here nearly 15 years later, seeing these in person.

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While the museum brought me to tears, I was uplifted thinking of humanity’s power to persevere. Hiroshima is such a beautiful city, you would never know such a devastating event occurred less than 100 years ago.

I feel very blessed to be an American living in Japan. I am so thankful to have been welcomed by the Japanese people. I have been met with nothing but kindness and have never once felt any animosity for being American. It gives me hope knowing people can heal, forgive, and love one another. I hope one day our great grandchildren will freely travel to places like the middle east, learning from our mistakes, and be met with kindness and understanding.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our Hiroshima trip, the less serious half.

With love,

K♥

The Kyushoku (Lunch) Report

The part of the week where I (try to remember to) post about school lunch. Because they’re one of my favorite parts  of the day and I’m sure my family is wondering what I’ve been eating.

Been behind on doing this post so we’ve got a couple of different lunches here.

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milk, white rice, a bean sprout & daikon pickled salad, a veggie potato bean & seawood soup, and a small orange (tastes like a clementine)

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steam veggies over rice, milk, a batter covered shrimp, and a veggie soup

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White rice with small pieces of pork, milk, a pickled salad, a small batter covered piece of fish, two pieces of sausage, and a veggie tofu soup. The small packet is seawood sheets which you put the rice and items in the silver bowl on to make handroll sushi

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bread roll, another pickled salad, milk, and a bbq beef tasting veggie stew

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white rice, milk, lemon batter covered squid, and a veggie/pork soup

I’m off to visit Hiroshima this weekend to watch a sumo tournament! I have no idea what to expect which is my favorite kind of adventure.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

K♥

Naoshima

It’s been a week and I can’t stop thinking about our trip to Naoshima. My heart feels warm and fuzzy when I think about the day we spent there. DSC_0676 DSC_0672

We took an hour drive south of Okayama to the town of Uno, where you catch the ferry to Naoshima. The drive there was enjoyable. We got lost along the way (my fault) but that led to us driving along the coast which was beautiful. Don’t you love it when your mistakes turn into something amazingly unexpcted?

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Naoshima use to be a fisherman’s island but when the industry plummeted, most people left the island. Now, it’s become one of the most beautiful and unlikely places to see art. There’s a lovely blog post by Annabelle Orrick on the backstory of how this amazing collection ended up in Naoshima, a city far from the bright lights of Tokyo.

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After a twenty minute ferry ride, we were on the island!

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There are two ports you can arrive at, Honmura & Miyanoura. We choose the one closer to the art houses, Honmura. Miyanoura is closer to the museums if that’s first on your list.

The art houses are a series of old Japanese homes that were purchased and turned into exhibits. Most of the exhibits don’t allow photography but it wouldn’t have captured the experience anyway.

Piece of advice for first time visitors, head to the visitors center first. There you can buy your ticket for a multi-entry for 1030 yen or a single entry ticket. You can also pick up a map. We initially thought the houses would be easy to spot but they are so embedded in the neighborhood we needed the map to pinpoint the locations. You can find more info on tickets here.

My two favorite parts were the Turrell exhibit and the Kadoya exhibit.

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There’s art everywhere. Like this little guy who was sitting on a fence.

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One of the sites we visited was the Go’o Shrine, pictured above. A bit down the hill, you enter a small passageway that leads you to an underground stone chamber. There you can see the continuation of the glass stairs, linking earth to heaven above.DSC_0772

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We rented bikes for about 500 yen for the day & rode down the island along the coast. The view was spectacular. You feel like you’re in a dream.

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One of my favorite pieces was this large polka dot pumpkin, created by Yayoi Kusama.

From the beach, you can catch a free shuttle that will take you up the hill to the Benesse Art Musuem, the Chichu Art museum, and the Lee Ufan art museum. We were only able to catch the Benesse since the other museums have a last entry time around 5:00pm and close at 6 pm.

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I don’t even know where to begin to describe the Benesse. I am not a huge art person but I was swept off my feet by the beauty of this museum. The architecture of the building itself is worth the entry fee. It’s the kind of place that feels like it should be in a big budget spy film, where the two spies meet to exchange a briefcase of information. Or a place where a big gala is being held and a diamond is about to be stolen.

The art pieces fit so perfectly in their environment and the connection of inside & outside space is breathtaking. For example, this stone. Lay down here and look up at the sky. Just take it all in.

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I was not suppose to take this photo but it was so beautiful I could not help myself (please forgive me!). The cracks you see in the flags were created by ants. That’s right, ANTS. Each flag is connected by a series of tubes so they could travel across the “globe”.

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We ended the day here at sunset and had an amazing view as the sun crested against the sea and mountains.

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The last ferry from Honmura leaves earlier. We missed it to catch the sunset so we caught a later ferry from Miyanoura. There’s a bus that will take you across the island or you can walk. It only takes about 30 minutes but it gets pretty dark at night so I recommend bringing a flashlight.

We squeezed as much in as we could for a day trip to Naoshima but I would love to go spend a weekend there. I really want to visit the Chichu musuem and spend more time exploring the island. I feel very lucky that it’s close to me in Okayama. It’s nice to not have to go to a big metropolitan area to enjoy art. I much prefer this combination of nature & art.

I hope everyone will visit & support this beautiful place.

K♥

Kurashiki

Hey internet. I’ve been exploring a new city every weekend so I’ve fallen behind on my blogging. At the very least I want to get up some pictures. First up is Kurashiki.

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I visited Kurashiki twice, once on my own and once with John & Sierra when they came to visit. I enjoyed it both times. The town is a short train ride west of Okayama.

DSC_0481DSC_0489 DSC_0490Kurashiki is known for the Historical District. It’s a beautiful neighborhood that sits along the Takahashi river. There are many omiyage shops, restaurants, cafes, and an art museum called the Ohara Museum.

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When I visited the first time, I ate at an amazing little curry shop.

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The second time we visited an owl petting zoo. The owls were cute but I do have mixed feelings about the whole experience. It didn’t seem like the owls were very comfortable but I suppose thats an issue visiting any caged animal on display.

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An easy day trip from Okayama City. Next time I hope to go back & check out the art museum.

K♥

Prayers for Oregon

During my first few weeks in Japan, we had “emergency drill” practice at my elementary school. The teachers told me that in 2001 there was an incident at an elementary school in Osaka. Several children were killed and many others injured. Since then, Japanese schools have implemented a safety program which includes practice drills like the one I participated in.

During these drills the students gather together in classrooms and hide behind desks while teachers lock the doors. Other teachers scan the hallways with wooden brooms, their weapon against the bad guys. For our drill, the principal played the attacker, who was fended off into a room, giving the kids time to escape to safety.

The entire event was filmed and reviewed with the students during an assembly after the drill. I stood in the back and looked out over this crowd of adorable, innocent children. Why would anyone want to hurt them? I couldn’t wrap my mind around that idea. I’d only just met them but something in me innately wants to protect them. I thought of the elementary students of Sandy Hook back in America. Why did that horrible day have to happen? Even those students who survived will be forever changed. Their innocence taken.

So I started to cry. In the middle of a safety assembly. On my first day at this school.

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My thoughts & prayers go out to the victims of UCC and their families. 

Today something horrible happened at a school in my home country. Innocent lives were lost. Again.

This has become far too common place in America.

CNN cut together a montage of Obama’s speeches after each mass shooting that’s occurred in the last few years. There’s so many… Watching this video breaks my heart. The date and location change but the problem remains. We haven’t fixed anything.

I’m so impressed that Japan hasn’t had an incident at a school in over 14 years. It seems like America is struggling to get through a single month without these types of headlines.

I don’t have any solutions to offer this evening. I’m feeling somber and decided to pour my heart out to you internet.

I want to make a request to everyone reading. Do something kind for someone this weekend. Because you never know what problems others may be facing. You don’t know what your small gesture might mean to a broken heart.

Let’s be kind to each other.

K♥