Quick Okayama and then Miyajima

Dear friends and family,

We were so sorry to hear about the mass shooting in Florida this morning. What a sad situation. I'm sorry we have to live with so many guns, assault rifles and violent intolerance in the US. Thank God most of humankind is loving and inspirational from culture to culture.

At over 7,000 miles away, continuing our little trip to a mostly peaceful part of the world. It seems incredibly calm and tranquil here in Miyajima.

Got to love the Japanese transportation system. The city subways, the local trains, and the high-speed Shinkansen all converge at the same central train stations. The ferries are a very short distance away from a train station, within a block or two. The buses arrive or are waiting when the ferries come in. Everything is on time down to the minute, and possibly to the second. The most you ever have to wait for anything is 15 minutes, or at least that's been the case for all the trains we've taken; it may be different on some obscure, little used lines. It all makes total sense, it all works, it's all spotless. Why can't everyone's transportation system be like this?

Disembarked from the Naoshima ferry and took a short train ride to Okayama, a bustling and cheerful city. Our hotel was within walking distance (Okayama Koraku), a very comfortable hotel with a great breakfast, which thinking about now makes my mouth water.

Walked around Okayama, to the river and the Golden Crow Castle, so named because of its black or dark exterior.

Okayama Castle aka Golden Crow Castle

Unfortunately, arrived too late to visit the famous Kōraku-en garden. Next time. This is some of the beautiful surrounding bamboo forest. The interior peek into the garden above was taken thusly (below).

Had a wonderful bowl of noodles at a beautifully designed restaurant staffed by young friendly people. The noodles were reminiscent of our favorite noodle place in Oakland, Sobo. After you chose what type of meat you wanted on your noodles, you were asked to choose how firm you'd like your noodles, about 6 different choices. I'm sure there were all sorts of details that we didn't catch.

Condiments, which seem Korean influenced.

Next day we took the marvelous Shinkansen to Miyajima, transferring at Hiroshima.

We travelled in the middle of the day, so got unreserved seats, and there was absolutely no problem. Astonishingly, the Shinkansen runs every 10 or 15 minutes from Okayama to Hiroshima. The trip of about 100 miles, or 160 kms. took an hour and a half, smooth as soft butter.

When we got off the Shinkansen in Hiroshima, we had to transfer to a local train. That took about 30 minutes to go 16.5 miles. 

I cannot stress how much easier it is to travel around Japan these days for non-Japanese speakers. When I first went all signs were in kanji, no English alphabet at all. All announcements were in Japanese. You really had to have your wits about you, and memorize the characters of your station or have them written down ahead of time. These days, although not every Japanese speaks English, many do speak at least a little English, and the Tourist offices are exceptional. Announcements on the train are usually made in Japanese and English. 

We stayed at a wonderful guest house, Yamaichi Bekkan, very close to the ferry terminal, yet very quiet, view of the water and harbor. The owners were super nice people. 

Took the overhead cable up the mountain, as we had done once before.

Not the clear, sparkling blue skies of our last visit, but misty and more intimate.

The Seto Inland Sea.

Then the long and steep trek down the mountain. We took a faster and less scenic route this time. The more scenic route takes you first up a steep hike to the top of Mt. Misen, then a trail which has finely crafted chiseled stone steps and comes down near the Daisho-in Temples.

Making sure to take plenty of rest stops.

Our route this time was much steeper, the stone steps less finished, sometimes not really finished at all. Also, our previous visit it was autumn, so the leaves were amazing colors.

What I think is a flowering dogwood, growing in the wild.

Back to our hotel for a shower and a nap. They had been kindly holding our bags for us.

Then a light dinner; Don had eel with egg over noodles.

 I had tempura soba (buckwheat noodles); the little bowl contains a dipping sauce with green onions and wasabi.

A local crafts beer with the Miyajima torii on the label. Tasty.

Out for a walk and more cute school girls.

Later we spotted them posing in front of the Miyajima torii; not sure what the pose signifies.

Not at all fazed, Don joined in. It could mean "I am a cute little Hello Kitty."

Posing with school boys; I'm not quite so big in Japan.

I'm Big in Japan.

Good night, Miyajima

Love from Japan,

Era and Don