Monday, July 28, 2014

Japanese Garden

I know I'm not going to keep up this volume of posts in the long run, so don't expect it but these pictures were so pretty, I couldn't help myself :-)

Today I went to the Shukkeien Garden in Hiroshima.  This garden was first constructed in 1620.  In 1783 it was improved.  It was completely destroyed in 1945 when the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima.  The restoration process stared in 1951 and was open to the public during the restoration process.

The way the garden is constructed is there is a pond (filled with koi and turtles) in the middle of the garden that has several small islands in it and a bridge that bisects the pond through the middle.  There is a network of trails that go around the outside of the pond.  There are hills and valleys and diversity of plant life so that the garden seems much bigger than it is.  I took 3 laps around the garden in order to see everything.  It was fantastically planned so that there is something beautiful to see in all corners.  The garden is immaculately maintained.  Even the walkways are swept with a twig broom so that the path is textured.

I took a ton of pictures.  Here are just a few of my favorites.

Bridges to a small island with a pagoda that you could sit in and enjoy the view

Trees reflecting in the water

Stepping stones across a stream for the path

Koi feeding frenzy

Red bridge and pagoda from the center bridges.  I like this one with the skyscraper in the background.  Is shows how this garden is smack dab in the middle of a big city, a small peaceful refuge.

A series of 3 small arched bridges

Bamboo grove
The center bridge

Cool tree
This is one of those places I think I'll return several times.  It has a ton of Japanese maples (which happen to be my favorite type of tree) that will be beautiful in fall when the leaves turn and there are many flowering trees such as plumbs and cherry trees that will be lovely in spring.

Japanese Crowds

It's really not that bad.  Mostly because people are so darn polite.  Saturday night we heard about a fireworks thing they were doing down at the dock.  Jeff and I decided to go.  To get there you hop on the cable car and take it down to the coast - about 25 minutes.

We saw this huge line of people waiting to get on to the cable car and thought "Oh no!  This is going to be a total cluster!"  I think it took less than 10 minutes for us to get on to a cable car.  Admittedly it was fairly crowded.  The standard American 3' bubble was not maintained but it really wasn't too bad.  People were not pushing against me and I didn't feel squished at all.  Bodies did come in contact with other bodies as the trolley bounced down the road but no big deal. 

We get out and follow the people to where the fireworks were being launched and there were 1,000's of people quietly and patiently waiting for the fireworks to start.  They had little mini tarps to sit on that had pictures on them and were a little smaller than a beach towel.  Everyone was polite and they organized themselves without taking up too much space.

Super polite and respectful Japanese crowd waiting for fireworks
Jeff and I found a curb, due to our lack of something to sit on and watched the show. Over 10,000 fireworks were launched (it put the Boise fireworks to shame). We could tell that there was also a fantastic ground show that we were unable to see due to a building in our way.  Next time we will bring something to sit on and get there early.  Apparently there are a lot of excuses to set of fireworks in Japan and these types of things happen fairly regularly.  I tried taking a couple pictures of the fireworks.  They were huge and fantastic.

Once the show was over we followed the crowd back to where we left the fireworks show.  We thought it would be next to impossible to get back on the shuttle because there was so many people.  We were some of the earlier people to get there.  Everyone walked calmly and orderly to the station and lined up politely.  No one tried cutting across the temporary barriers which were essentially only PVC on top of some cones to get to the front of the line first ( the line snaked around so that you passed near the front before circling back around).  I think it took only 10 minutes again to get on one of the trams to go back towards the hotel.  Jeff and I managed to get seats and were not crowded at all.  Both of us were still feeling the time change a bit and our heads were nodding and bobbing the whole way back.  I think we both were out for a few minutes.

The line extending way behind us
It was a delightful evening and has showed that there is no reason to be deterred by the fear of the Japanese crowds.  It's no big deal. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

In Hiroshima!!!

Hello Readers.  I have an interesting challenge before me.  I have a story to tell but I'm trying to keep things somewhat interesting instead of a laundry list of "today I did this and then I did that".  I'm going to try and keep everyone in the loop on the major stuff going on without regurgitating my daily movements and focus on some of the amazing scenery and fun/amusing in sites about Japan and living here.  Sound good?  (Hint:  this is where a comment might be helpful.)

Our apartment will not be ready for us for another two weeks.  Until it's ready we are living in a room on the 19th floor of the Sheraton in Hiroshima (which is conveniently located right next to the train station).  Jeff starts work on Monday.

We took the time to checkout the two most recognizable symbols of Hiroshima, the Abomb Dome at Peace Park and the torii at Miyajima.

I'm sure that you are aware the first atomic bomb used as a weapon was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The epicenter of the bomb was very near the building that is known as the Abomb Dome.  It was one of the few structures left standing after the explosion.  It is estimated that 80,000 people were killed instantly and 90,000 to 140,000 later died due to radiation poisoning.  The Japanese seem to possess an amazing amount of forgiveness and walking through Peace Park was very solemn and it was good to see the site of so much destruction turned in to a place of hope and beauty.

Abomb Dome in Peace Park
 Today we went to Miyajima to see the torii.  This is a gate that is a gate that is in the sea.  It was originally built to mark the entrance to a shrine in 1168.  It has been rebuilt over the years and the current one was built in 1874.

Torii at the entrance to Miyajima

5 story Pagoda built in 1407

Stone lantern, these lined the path along the shore
Funny side note, in Miyajima there was a small herd of tame deer that were overly friendly towards tourists in that they liked to eat people food and paper products.  Jeff and I were eating ice cream when an overly friendly deer came over.  It tried to eat Jeff's ice cream and when he didn't give it to the deer it tried to eat his shirt.  Fortunately he was able to pull his shirt out of the deer's mouth with out damaging his shirt and chase it off.  It was very funny.

Jeff and a hungry deer

Friday, July 25, 2014


After living in the same house for 7 years, its amazing how much stuff you can accumulate.  In the process of packing things up, it is impossible not to get punched in the face with this fact.  I Had the unfortunate pleasure of doing the majority of the packing.  

Our plan was to put all of our stuff in one bedroom downstairs so that our fabulous housesitter had room to put her things in the house.  Having a lot of books seems like a good idea until you need to carry 23 boxes of them down stairs.  Then it just seems painful.  

We managed to stuff it all in there, but it was not my idea of fun.  

Friday, July 11, 2014


Last night Jeff and I picked our apartment. Our biggest decision with choosing a place to live was deciding whether to live in Hiroshima, the city, or Saijo, which in Japan is considered the "country side" as it is a town of about 110,000 people.  After a bit of discussion we decided to live in Saijo because it is very close to Jeff's office so his commute will only be about 20 minutes.  Coming from Boise which is approximately double the size, Saijo doesn't seem so small.  Hiroshima has about 1.1 million people.  Saijo is about an hour outside of Hiroshima by train.

I am planning on commuting to Hiroshima by train  several times a week as I have been told that there really isn't that much to do in Saijo and I plan on getting involved in various clubs and activities to meet people and learn Japanese and Japanese culture.  It made sense for me to be the one commuting since Jeff will be working long hours and I will be having much more fun and a more flexible schedule.

Given the criteria of living near the Jeff's work, we were given 4 different apartments to choose from.  The smallest was about 550 sqft and the largest was about 700 sqft.  This is the one we chose, which happens to be the large one.

I find it very hard to choose a place to live that I've never seen in person but it pretty much came down to two things, location and the kitchen.  This tiny kitchen is a big upgrade from some of the other places and this apartment is a short (20 minute) walk to the train station.  It will be a lot smaller than the house that we currently live in but I think it will be a fun and cozy home for us for the next year.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

So... I'm moving to Japan for a year

My husband and I love to travel and go on adventures, so when a few months ago he said there might be an opportunity for him to transfer to Japan for a year through his work, it sounded like an amazing opportunity.  As you might have guessed, he got the position (it wouldn't be much of a blog if he didn't).  We are ridiculously excited and think this is going to be an absolutely amazing, life changing, mind expanding adventure.  However, this type of massive life change does not happen without some level of sacrifice.  

After a ton of research comparing the pros and cons of importing our dogs to Japan versus our ability to allow the dogs continue to live in their current house while we are gone, has lead us to the difficult decision to leave them here.  Kermit is terrified of being confined.  He hates being crated and after a month of trying to make his crate a safe and happy place for him, he still starts to get nervous the moment the door is closed and his anxiety increases exponentially in a matter of minutes.  Kermit is also an escape artist and has managed to break out of a crate before.  We didn't think that the long journey to Japan would be a good thing for him especially if he managed to get loose in the cargo hold of a plane.  The dogs currently have access to a large backyard with squirrels and foxes to chase and lots of space.  In Japan they would be leash bound when outside for the entire year and I don't see that as a happy situation for them after so many years of freedom.

This was, by far, the most difficult decision we had to make around our decision to move.  The dogs are very much a part of our family and we will miss them very much.

This is Kermit the Dog.  He is a handful with a ton of personality and questionable parentage.  He came from the pound when he was around 2 or 3 years old and we have had him for 8 years.

This is Bailey.  She is a yellow lab that Jeff and I got as a puppy.  She is almost 10 years old now and is the most lazy and cuddly lump of lab ever.

Fortunately, we have an amazing friend who has agreed to house sit and dog sit for us while we are away.  I have no idea what we would do without her.  Thank you Courtney!