Thursday, 23 June I walked pass a funky looking temple. Well, I’m not sure if “funky” is the word you could use to describe a Buddhist temple, but this one was quite special. It had everything that a Buddhist temple should have, but then there were also super old photos from around the world, some sort of exhibition of different items, and even an underground secret passage not for fainthearted! I wouldn’t even stop at it if I didn’t hear a loud “Hey, welcome, come in!”
A short, slightly rounded, bold older man dressed in a kimono (he looked very much like a monk actually) invited me over. “Where from?” “Surobenia… (he pulls out a world map for me to show him where Slovenia is)… Ooooo, faaaaaar! Just one (asking if I’m travelling alone)? Oooooo… (mimicking how brave I must be)… (then laughing).” “Photo?” I said “sure” believing that he want me to take a photo of him and his temple. It turned out that he wanted a photo of me. I stroke my best pose :). He left without a word and returned a moment later with a printer (I told you the temple was funky). “One for you, one for me… (laughing again).”
“Origami?” was his next question. “Hm… I can make a paper plane but it never flies… so, no, I’m not very good.” He didn’t wait for my answer. Instead he pulled out a bunch of little colourful papers and started folding them, telling me something in Japanese (and clearly enjoying himself). Three older ladies, also Japanese, walked in. A brief exchange of words and laughs and all of a sudden they are all doing origami. “Here, a gift for you!” Today, I can say I’m a proud owner of a paper crane, a swan, a samurai’s hat and his suit :).
Japanese are very, very generous. They love giving. I was sitting next to an 81-year-old granny on my way from Kyoto to Hiroshima. We didn’t communicate much. Actually, we didn’t communicate at all. She didn’t speak any English and I was asleep most of the trip anyway. However, when I woke up from my little train snooze she opened a box of cookies and put a bunch of them in my hands. “Wow… thank you, arigato gozaimaaaaas!”
I really like Hiroshima, it’s my favourite city so far. It’s smaller than Kyoto and Nagoya, and I find it nicer. It’s newer (which makes sense since it had to be rebuilt after 1945’s atomic bomb). I visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and its museum of peace (luckily this one was fully in English 🙂 ). The museum is probably one of the most interesting I have ever been to, but also heartbreaking. We all know the history and are well aware of the Hiroshima disaster, however seeing the story of the A-bomb from up close really makes you think…
Yakitori is a Japanese style barbecue. I walked into a restaurant and asked for a menu in English. “No.” and I was given a Japanese menu. “Right…” I don’t even know why i was looking at it as I clearly couldn’t read a word. A gentlemen close to me politely took the menu from my hands and turned it the right way. “Right…” I thought to myself and started laughing. “Come, join us, we’ll help you.” The two friends helped me choose the skewers, explained me what I was eating and ordered for me. They were in their sixties and spoke fairly good English. We had a super fun night! I had to leave, I had to walk all the way back to my hostel. “Thank you, this has been a very fun night. we enjoyed talking to you. Please, let us pay your bill.” “Oh no no no, thank you very much, I appreciate it, but no, it’s OK.” “Please, we insist.” I accepted the offer. I didn’t want to be impolite, make them feel uncomfortable or even insult them by turning down their offer. I thanked them, we bowed multiple times and shook hands, also multiple times. A firm shake. “Oh, and here is my business card (Japanese love their business cards, they all have them and they are happy to give them out), please, if you are in any trouble while travelling by yourself, call me. We will help you.” I was really stoked (I told you Japanese are very generous) and wanted to hug them… but… hm, I wasn’t quite sure how Japanese perceive hugs?? Instead I just bowed again and noted to myself to google about “hugging” in Japan :).
Friday, 24 June There are not only bears in Japan’s forests that can kill you, they also have (deadly) venomous snakes. I’ve only learnt this when already deep in Miyajima’s forest (but luckily just by reading a warning sign, not actually encountering with one 😉 ).