A Travellerspoint blog



Whilst I was in Hiroshima not only did I enjoy the company of the WFC managers and their interns but I also spent a lovely couple of hours with an elderly Japanese couple – who afterwards I realised that we actually did not share our names. I was walking along the path in the Peace Park and nodded and smiled at the couple who were reading on a park bench. He waved me over and they both shuffled to either side of the bench so I sat down. What lovely lovely people. He spoke perfect English and she understood a little. Unbelievably they were both in their early 80s (they looked like they were in their 60s) and were so beautiful to talk to. It is moments like these that I love about travelling. We talked about Australia (they had been many years before – to the East coast of course) and Hawaii (the weather is good for her health) and what I had been doing in Japan. She was very concerned about me going to Kyoto on my own as she thought I would get lost and repeated those concerns on a number of occasions. She could not believe that I was travelling on my own with no help. I must have made quite an impression because all of a sudden he says, “My wife wants to give you a gift”. I was all “ No No No” but she was determined and gave me two gorgeous pictures of owls – which in Japan mean good fortune and happiness. I felt so touched as she had obviously bought these for either herself or as a present for someone else. We took some photos but unfortunately they have not entered the world of online communication and did I think to get their address – NO!


Posted by Arkgecko 05:25 Archived in Japan Comments (1)



A place that I always have wanted to go to was Hiroshima. Having been to Auschwitz and The Killing Fields I was able to gear myself up for what I knew would be a thought provoking trip. I found myself some accommodation, which is run by a NPO called the World Friendship Centre (which you can find information about at http://homepage2.nifty.com/wfchiroshima/). It is currently managed by an American couple from Oregon and they have been managing it for 18 months – all on a volunteer status. It is set up in a little typical Japanese house in a quiet neighbourhood. My room was a standard tatami mat room with a very comfy futon – we should have futons like that! Joanne was an ex teacher of gifted and talented students and also a professor and teacher supervisor so we had a lot to talk about education wise. They had also set up a foundation for street children in Seattle and so were very interested to hear about Green Gecko. After talking to them for three days I have decided I need to get learn more about finance so I can also live a life doing more for others in a volunteer or lesser pay capacity – I wonder if Kochie will help me out! Whilst I was staying there they had 3 interns who were all studying some form of economics/business at Hiroshima University and were there to learn how an NPO worked. Again they were volunteering their time, as this was not a requirement of the university bit more of them wanting to learn more. They all belong to the 1000 Paper Crane Club – which is a club that works on developing programmes to support the promotion of peace and anti nuclear technology. They were lovely and great to talk to – wish I could have spent longer with them.

The World Friendship Centre can organise a talk with a Hibakusha (A Bomb survivor) at the Peace Park Museum. The night before I was to go to the talk I was reading much of the material that the WFC had on the A bomb. I read this story about a man who survived and what he saw. As fate would have it, the next day the Hibakusha talk I was scheduled to listen to was by the same man. He was an amazing storyteller and really expressed what he saw and felt beautifully. I feel very lucky to have been able to experience such a talk. Joanne warned me that the Peace Park Museum could take up to 4 hours – well being me I took all day! The museum is excellent and I learnt so much about the actual event. I thought I was quite educated about the Pacific War and the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima but I learnt so much more and will continue looking into the events surrounding the bombing and the after effects. I was shocked to find out that Hibakushas were shunned, rejected and isolated after the dropping of t he bomb. Many believed that what they ‘had’ was contagious and that they were now ugly. They could not get jobs, they had no welfare and many had lost all of their family. It was not until at least 10 years later that things began changing for them and the Japanese Government began to offer help and treatment. The museum has lots of information on actual nuclear technology and radiation (past, present and future). One of my favourite sentences that I read was “Can mankind and nuclear technology ever coexist?” Especially being in Japan only just over a year since the tsunami it was a question that got me thinking. And I will admit that the nerdy SOSE teacher within me immediately thought – what a great topic to study! – need to start thinking how I can fit that into the Australian Curriculum!

Surrounding the museum is a beautiful peace park that has many monuments within it. When I was a child I read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and it is a story that has always stuck with me (see it has been my destiny to be a humanities teacher). Within the park is a beautiful monument to all the children who have been affected by the A-bomb. It is dedicated to all the children but it is a statue of Sadako and a crane. Surrounding the monument are many thousands of paper cranes that people can make and bring to the monument.

The centrepiece of the park is the cenotaph where all the names of the people that died in 1945 due to the A-bomb are listed. Of course this is not the total amount of deaths recorded in the years that have followed. Even now there are people who have unexplained illnesses. Behind the cenotaph is a flame – but not an eternal flame – as it will be extinguished when there is no more nuclear technology left in the world – so will it be eternal??

Standing tall in the park is the most amazing relic. Originally an exhibition hall the A Bomb Dome is one of the only remaining structures left after the dropping of the bomb. There was a lot of debate on whether or not the structure should be demolished but I am glad they the decided to leave it standing. It is a reminder of how important peace is and is more of a symbol of hope for change then a reminder of past evils. In fact this hope is something that I found walking through out the whole of the museum and the park. They resonated peace and hope not despair and tragedy. Like Auschwitz and The Killing Fields, Hiroshima made me think, made me wonder and left me sad but unlike the first 2 places I left Hiroshima with hope in my heart that we can learn from this and search for the never ending desire for peace in this world.


Posted by Arkgecko 05:06 Archived in Japan Comments (2)



While I have been here in Japan I have been staying with a friend Merilyn who lives in Yokohama, which is about 35kms away from Tokyo. It has been great to have a base for the month and she has been a very very kind friend to me. Yokohama itself is a lovely city. It is right on the water and has a very big harbour – reminds me a little of Fremantle. With over 3 and a half million people here you would think that it would be busy and loud. But most of the time it is the complete opposite. You can be walking around the city and it will be quiet and slow paced – it is like you get all the benefits of a big city but without the hustle and bustle.

Merilyn works at the Yokohama International School and the conditions she has described to me has made it seem a wonderful option to consider!!! Do you know that you even get paid to supervise school dances - $50!!! And don’t get me started on how much DOTT they get! I think I could be keeping my eye out on jobs!

There are some wonderful things to do and see in Yokohama. One of my favourite places from day one has been the Red Brick Warehouse – which is full of funky shops – ahhh if only I had money. The Cup Noodle Museum has been another weird and wonderful experience. It is based on Cup Noodles and the man who invented it – he has definitely made an impact on the world. While you are there you can make up your own cup noodle and even decorate the cup. I made up 2 for the emergency earthquake pack that Merilyn still needs to make up! (And we have had one small earthquake since I have been here). I have also visited Sankien Park – which was beautiful (would love to see it in the middle of Autumn). I had a free guide who took me around and explained all the buildings and its history. There was hardly anybody else in the park and I was the only westerner. I love going to places that are not on the tourist track.

Some of my time in Yokohama has also been taken up by going to the dentist and getting a root canal! I bet there are not many people who can say they have done that while travelling Japan. Luckily through Merilyn’s work I was booked into a dentist just up the hill and they all speak English. Though I have a great fear of going to the dentist, the experience in Japan has been fine, though very expensive (similar to Australian prices) and has impacted what I have been able to afford to do in Japan. I have my last session on Monday and then the crown will need to be put on in Cambodia.

Yokohama is definitely a place I could live in.


Posted by Arkgecko 19:37 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

Topic Number 5 Silence




“Silence is golden” is a term that tells it how it is in Japan. Being quiet is the goal of all people in Japan and it is actually really enjoyable. After living in Siem Reap this year where noise is a part of every day life, especially if you have a wedding or a funeral going on near by, and being in China where if you are standing right next to somebody you are still required to yell at them and the use of mobile phones in public is revered, coming to Japan is bliss. I will also admit that it has been somewhat difficult for me to lower the volume of my voice and laugh and that Merilyn and I combined makes it even more difficult. However, I think I have succeeded and I am also finding myself getting just a little cranky if somebody is talking a little loud (like 2 little old ladies on the bus the other day – who, in their defense, were probably a little deaf.) In the whole time I have been here I have never heard anyone raise their voice in anger to anyone – even mothers with little kids speak softly to them – and it works! The children here are so well behaved.

It is highly frowned upon to use your mobile phone on any public transport. If you are anywhere near the priority seats (seats for the elderly, women with children etc) then you actually must turn off your phone altogether. In other parts it must be on silent. On the rare occasion that someone does answer their phone they talk very very softly, with their hand coving their mouth to reduce the volume for those sitting near by. Or if they are on a long distance train they will get up from their seat and move to the link between the carriages and talk there. Mobile phone etiquette is highly regarded here in Japan. I would love to see some of it in Australia.

Posted by Arkgecko 19:06 Archived in Japan Comments (1)



How lucky am I that during my time here in Japan there is a major Sumo tournament happing in Tokyo (only 50kms away). I mean I could have had cherry blossom season or the Japanese Maple Tree leaves changing from an illuminescent green to a deep red and orange, but no I am here for big men in loincloths!!

Off Merilyn and I went for our day of Sumo. We found the big stadium but first decided to have lunch in the sumo wrestling themed restaurant. I have to mention the snow crab – it was delicious. Unfortunately nothing really exciting happened in he sumo themed restaurant but luckily for us the tournament was a different story!

When I was booking the seats for the tournament there were three options to choose from. Ringside seats, boxes or arena seats. With the ringside seats came a warning:

“There is the danger of suffering injuries due to falls from the ring by wrestlers and other participants. Admission will be denied to persons unable to respond to such situations (children, physically disabled individuals, etc.). Upon suffering injuries as described above while viewing the event, first aid will be provided at a clinic or other suitable location. However, no subsequent compensation or other payments can be made. Consumption of food or beverages, the carrying in of dangerous articles or acts of filming with cameras or other means is prohibited.”

Unfortunately there were no ringside seats left. And after seeing some of the competitors fall into t he crowd I think I am glad that we didn’t have that option (because I probably would have gone for it). We got arena seats which are the standard seat we get in stadiums in Australia – I am also glad that we couldn’t get a box seat as they were just cushions on the floor in a little box – I would have pins and needles galore that day!)

When we first arrived the stadium was nearly empty. It was a bit worrying as I thought that this was going to be a big event with a fantastic atmosphere. We soon learnt that not many people come and watch the Banzuke category, as these are the beginners. The Juryo category is next and the crowd starts to roll in for this but it is the Makuuchi category that draws the crowd – these are the champions! The crowd goes wild and once gentle quiet people soon turn into roaring, cheering fans.

Tradition in sumo wrestling is just as important as the actual match (if not more so). In each category there are different traditions but they are all based on the basics. I am going to describe the Makuuchi category. A ‘MC’ who sings their introduction introduces the two opponents. They step up into the ring and take a cup of water from another competitor who is next in line for their match. The water is not swallowed but swirled and then spat out into a bowl. Because the Japanese are so polite they cover their mouth with a cloth so you don’t actually see the spitting. Then they do some stretches that I liked to call the ‘fart and shit’ stretch. First they would slap themselves and then lift their leg up to the side (fart) and then squat (shit). Next they would grab a handful of salt and throw it over the match area of the ring. Standing behind the line they psyche each other out with stares, grunts and more slapping and stretching. And then the procedure starts again (but without the water/spitting) – and is repeated 4 times. After the 4th time the ‘ref’ indicates that he is ready and it begins. In the earlier categories it is just a lot of pushing and shoving. The aim is to get your opponent to land outside of the ring or fall in the ring. As the afternoon went on we saw the difference in the categories. The champions in the Makuuchi category do a lot more ‘bitch slapping’ and lifting in the air and throwing. Oh the excitement!!!! The hilarious part is that the tradition part of the match actually lasts longer than the actual wrestling!

After spending the afternoon watching huge fat men, in loincloths with their butt hanging out, we headed to a pub to watch huge muscly men in tight shorts and vests play footy!!!! Yes we found an Aussie pub that was playing the Eagles vs. Collingwood match (and we were the only Eagles fans in the huge crowd of 10!) A great day of sport!


Posted by Arkgecko 22:29 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

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