Miyajima-Hiroshima to Takayama -A Rail Odyssey

March 31. 2014

The sun is shining and the air is cool. Great pictures of the Miyajima shrine, pagoda and tori and more than a few cherry blossoms. After yesterday’s frustration in looking for an ATM machine that would recognize our B of A card (even giving us messages that our card was damaged and needed to be reported ) it was great to go to the Miyajima Post Office. The Japanese government has made it simple for tourists with an ATM connected to international banks at all city post offices. Miyajima was so small that it was very easy. The money popped right out and we are back in business.

We are aboard the correct Shinkansen bound for Osaka where we transfer to another train. In Hiroshima we had jumped on board the wrong class of Shinkansen and were told by the polite conductor that we needed to change trains. At least they didn’t toss us off at 150 MPH. We are still learning.

We did not visit the Hiroshima Peace Park. I know we should have made time but I have strange emotions attached to the horrific events of the war in the Pacific. In graduate school we reviewed the arguments made by the scientists before the bomb was dropped. The scientists were divided and some urged a test drop on an off shore island for the Japanese military to consider. Since there was at the time only enough material for two bombs, the decision to use one on Hiroshima was made by Truman.

The option to not use the bombs meant Operation Olympic or a full scale invasion of Japan by Allied forces including the Russians. Estimates of casualties were one million American dead and upwards of fifty million Japanese. The Japanese military were prepared for national suicide rather than surrender. My father-in-law, Bob Bryson was scheduled to be among the first to land on Kyushu. As a radioman, he was a prime target. Odds are that in the event of an invasion of Japan, Peggy would not be here. My chances were better since my Dad had been rotated back to the states to train troops for the invasion. The European theatre troops needed preparation for a different foe than the Nazis.

Like the Nazis, the Japanese military was indoctrinated in a belief system that in many ways paralleled the world view of Adolf Hitler. Hitler wanted to reverse the contributions of Christianity and revert to a pre-Roman-Christian world of Teutonic warriors and Valhalla. The Japanese leaders made Shinto the state religion since it was purely Japanese and left out Buddhist and Confucian beliefs. They were convinced that they represented a superior race in the same manner as Hitler’s Aryans. Their atrocities in their Asian conquests match the efforts of the Nazis. What happened during the war is sometimes a topic of Hollywood interest. Usually the movies focus on the horrors experienced by Allied forces. Other than a few movies like the war time “Flying Tigers” with the Duke, I am not aware of any American movies or a great deal of interest in the events of war time China.

If we had invaded Japan, the post-war Japan would have been much different. The Soviets would have certainly insisted on the entire Sakhalin Peninsula and probably Hokkaido as being under their control. It is very possible that there would have been a post war Communist North and Democratic South Japan with a dividing line somewhere north of Tokyo.

Now this may sound as apologetics for the use of the bomb. Yes, I admit that I agree with the decision to use the bomb. I also agree that it should never be repeated. I did not need to go to Peace Park to reach that conclusion. The tragedy was horrible but the consequences of a probable invasion of Japan in 1946 were far worse.

In the mean time, we are approaching Osaka and it will be time to figure out our connection for Nagoya. As we left modern Hiroshima, I did see a Costco next to a ball park. Life goes on.

We have just left Kyoto which we passed through yesterday and are on our way to Nagoya. So far this is easier today. We needed to ask the train staff if the train is ok for our train pass and which cars are for non-reserved passengers. If you follow the rules, it is easier.

I remember going to the bathroom on a US train as a kid. They closed the rooms before reaching the station and while stopped. When you flushed, you saw the tracks. The Shinkansen baths are set up so that after flushing you wash your hands in the potty room. You then have to open the door and since you touched it , you need another wash. There is a sink across the passageway from the potty room. That is where you wash with soap before standing before the automatic door (no touching) which enables you to return to your seat. We have not found bath towels or dryers. Air dry works for me.

The local trains have no johns but station bathrooms are plentiful. Peggy has not complained of toilet scarcity. To say that the Japanese are obsessed with cleanliness is an understatement. The surgical masks are still a mystery to me. I assume they are designed to keep out particles and possible distasteful smells. Strange to see smokers with the masks. Also it seems that when they have a cold or are sick that they avoid wearing the masks. I am sure there are good reasons for the masks but it is beyond me at this point. However, it is unnerving to be served by a waitress wearing a mask. But then on the other hand, being served by a guy with a net over his beard at Costco is also weird. I have yet to see a piece of trash on the ground. Maybe it is the one the spot $300 fine for any nationality. I think it is just that the Japanese take Ranger Rick seriously.

I have noticed that the locals avoid sitting next to me at any costs. I don’t take offense. Maybe it is just being polite. It is probably fear of some contagion or strange smells. We do bathe regularly and even use deodorant. I do recall an encounter with masked Japanese on the Yosemite tram after our being out in the backcountry a week. They made their point by leaving the tram. This avoidance I have been experiencing is not nearly that bad.

Warning: Beware of Japanese razors. They are intended for Asian facial hair. European beards are too much and turn the complimentary hotel razors into deadly objects. I managed to cut myself badly shaving with the Samurai blade. If you see a band aid in a picture, you know it was flesh wound.

We are currently following a dramatic river gorge through the Hida-Kamagawa Quasi National Park. Not sure why the “Quasi” other than the many small dams. It would be a great white water route without the interruptions. There are little settlements with tea crops clinging to the sides of the hills and in any flat place of more than a few acres. Peggy is reminded of Kings Canyon in California. I wish we had as much water. Many of the homes could be found in the Alps. We see hardly any chimneys. There is plenty of firewood.

Now arriving in Gero. It is a spa town favored by the elderly and our train is emptying out. I guess the place has been around for a thousand years. The big hotels seem to be an anomaly after the almost wild river gorge.

Another 30 miles and we made it to Takayama. It was dark but we could see snow on the ground. Took a taxi since my map finding skills with Japanese maps is limited. Good thing since the hotel was a couple miles up a road that made Covington look flat. We reached the place and quickly decided to eat in our room. Our enthusiastic host showed us the room. You can look for yourself.

Dinner was served in our room. The young lady dressed in traditional garb explained all the stuff and left. We ate everything. Delicious.

Limited agenda for tomorrow. Just a visit to the traditional village and maybe some shopping. All is well that ends well.

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3 thoughts on “Miyajima-Hiroshima to Takayama -A Rail Odyssey

  1. Both you and Peggy are certainly experiencing first hand the culture of Japan. When we step into the unfamiliar, our eyes widen. Even as a reader, I am discovering and learning new things from your posts. What a feast!

  2. GREAT TO LEARN MANY KNEW THINGS ABOUT JAPAN. GLAD YOU TWO ARE DOING WELL WITH A VERY DIFFERENT CULTURE. EXPECTING LIGHT SNOW TONIGHT. ALL IS WELL.

  3. The combination of cherry blossoms and Japanese roof lines is gorgeous! Your room is very cool. I hope you availed yourselves of the wooden tub. Snow here, but very light, and COLD!

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