July 4 – Kyoto, Hiroshima

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Our last morning at Shin’s house, we are supposed to be out of the apartment by midday and last night picked up breakfast requisites – concessions to western lifestyle, yoghurt and fruit, toast and jam for Z. and a Melita coffee filter holder, the plastic funnel kind; no salty or sour in sight, or rice. An overcast morning, humid, higher cloud than yesterday, when it rained and rained. We planned to hit Teramachi’s endless arcades again but by 9:45 am nothing was open. We walked the length of one of the arcades regardless and, equally as accidently as the night before, came upon Nishiki food market, where everything was open.

It’s suddenly clear to us how much we have missed out on, gastronomically: skewers and dried things, pickles and sweets, an unexpectedly large range of sweets, some looking to have salty sour surprises inside. We saw a green tea grinder, powdering the leaves to be used in ice-cream and confections, a tea roaster, a machine pouring a batter into metal rings rotating on a heated turntable in two rings, on the first rotate, flipping them over, on the second, removing the rings for reuse and ejecting the perfect pikelet.

At 11:30 we vacated Shin’s and hailed a taxi, another elderly driver, his seats with the requisite excess of lace headrest covering and clear plastic door protector. Unlike the driver who picked us up from Kyoto station, this guy didn’t wear gloves, or a hat, and his gear knob did not wear a lace sock.

At the station, we went to book our tickets to Hiroshima at the Japan Rail office, departing 2:13 pm, arriving Hiroshima at 4:26, with a swift transfer at Osaka-Shin. Thinking it might be a good idea to reserve seats for the next leg, to Onimichi, J. checked our hotel booking in Hiroshima, to discover that it is for the night July 5, not July 4, today, the day we are travelling. Further investigation revealed we have nowhere booked for July 4, today, Friday. And on recollection, we had, when planning the trip, intended to spend three full days, three nights, in Kyoto, one allocated for a side trip to Nara. But we are now booked to leave, so chance of a further night in Kyoto or a side trip to Nara or the canal ride from Kyoto to Osaka.

Another bit of serendipity delivered the office for the chain of hotels,Grand Prince, we are staying in in Hiroshima: yes, a room available, the same room for two nights, at a reasonable 14900 yen. At first the woman behind the counter countered that J. could not reasonably expect to cancel the prior booking for the Saturday night; no, J. asserted, no cancellation, we want to add an extra night: this went back and forth until the former twigged to us wanting two nights, two, not an alteration to the existing reservation.

I am writing this on the shinkansen, bullet train, from Osaka-Shin to Hiroshima, Sakura line, car 8, seat 4C. It slid into the station at 2:45 pm and the service went to work removing several large bags of rubbish before opening the doors at 2:55, giving us four minutes to fill the car, before it took off again at ridiculous speed and rubbing in the lie I told in the last post: the absence of rubbish. No, there is no absence of visible rubbish, yet the hand which removes it is swift and more often invisible than not. However, at sudden interstices the rule of this reality gives way and rubbish bursts into the streets, as if from another dimension, spilling all over the footpath, out onto the vacant lot, piling up in plastic sacks, exploding out with the pressure all this reality gives that other reality where waste and the wasted resources, rubbish, garbage and detritus are omnipresent.

Hiroshima … looks like Wellington. A little, from the top the Grand Prince Hotel, 23rd floor. A hotel that has that sense of time travel, being the future as it was in the past. Again the area calls to mind Miyazake, the one with the city of cats. Rounding the point of the island on which the hotel sits, cats, there are cats, and large scuttling bugs like slaters and cockroaches combined, and smaller things avoiding our footfalls like sandhoppers crossed with ants.

We toast the sun set over Hiroshima with an “original cocktail” flavoured with lychees and chemical blue, and later we dine at Fukkan, the okonomiyaki restaurant. Returning to our room after Fukkan okonomiyaki and takoyaki, Z. turns on TV. The usual luridly framed piss-taking shows with commentators interrupting every two seconds and crappy fluoro graphics on almost every channel: one about a geek who goes to Africa; … then a familiar scene – Wellington. A Japanese travel show about Wellington. The female host goes to the station to book a train to Rotorua. The off-screen commentators are impressed with the station, but not with the run-down rolling stock. It’s going to take how long?! How long, just for 450 km?! The words hit the screen like the Japanese need subtitles, with lots of exclamation marks!!!! On reflection, this interpellation of graphic elements in panel shows and reality TV makes the screen go manga, turns it into a graphic cartoon frame, with words, and pictorial elements.

We are disconcerted, both by the sense of the hotel belonging to a future past and because it is the first western-style accommodation we’ve had in Japan.