Japan by Motorcycle

Day 18

August 15, 1999

Tanuki and Peace Parks

Shimane and Hiroshima Prefectures

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    From the youth hostel in Izumo, on the Japan Sea side of Japan, I headed back across Honshu towards the Pacific Ocean hoping to spend the day with my friend Sachiko.  As I had been on a very loose schedule, I couldn't tell her when I would be arriving in her town -- Hiroshima -- until just before I was able to come.  I was unable to reach her but I headed towards Hiroshima anyway thinking that she knew I was coming and that we should be able to get in touch sometime during the day.
    On the way, I ran into my third wild animal on the trip -- a real live tanukiJapanese raccoon dogSo now I had seen Japan's two most famed animals, tanuki and kitsune (fox).  Japanese raccoon dogTanukis are called raccoon dogs in English; they are relatives of dogs (not raccoons or badgers).  However they are unusual members of the canid family in that they do not howl or bark and their diet consists of more plants and insects than "canines."  This tanuki was crossing the road and was obviously accustomed to humans because he/she didn't pay me much mind as I pulled out my camera and took its picture.  Tanuki statueThe skinny mammal in front of me bore little resemblance to the lawn ornaments one can see all over Japan depicting tanuki standing upright and displaying prominent and disproportionately large genitals. I'm including a picture from a trip to Mashiko so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about. The lawn ornament variety can be truly ludicrous.
    I had now ridden my motorcycle on this trip for over 3000 miles.  I was highly surprised at the lack of living or dead animals that I had seen thus far.  I'd have expected to see more road kill than live animals but that hadn't been the case.  This tanuki was the third animal I had seen and I had seen maybe only one dead animal at the side of the road.  This was in contrast to my hometown in Michigan where you can hardly take a drive without seeing at least a squirrel darting somewhere or other.  And, at certain times of the year, the remains of raccoons on the side of the road are plentiful.  I wondered why I was seeing such a big difference in Japan.  Either the wild animal population was much lower than I ever imagined or the Japanese were extremely quick to dispose of their dead.  Or perhaps slower traffic speeds resulted in less dead animals.  It's still a mystery to me.
     I had left Izumo at 8:30 and made it into Hiroshima by 1:00PM.  I had been to Hiroshima three times before but last saw the castle in 1995 so I stopped to take some pictures on the way in.  I had a pretty good feel for the city from my prior sojourns so I briefly consulted my map and headed straight for the central shopping area street, Hon-dori.  I located an okonomiyaki shop serving it, of course, in Hiroshima style.  Yum yum.

Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle

    I was still unable to get in touch with my friend Sachiko so I set out in search of an Internet cafe, figuring one shouldn't be hard to find in a city of this size.  I asked around and was pointed to Com City, an electronics store. It contained a demo corner with access but there were other people using it and it wasn't the kind of place you could get online for long.  I asked a couple of store employees and was told that there used to be a proper Internet cafe but it had gone out of business.  I was about to give up my search when I spotted a local-looking foreigner.  He knew about Com City's free demo corner -- must be a pretty famous place to go -- and told me that there was also an Internet cafe in the Best Electronics store near Hiroshima station.
    I got back on my bike in search of the place and found it with a taxi driver's help.  It didn't have a true Internet cafe -- it was a normal cafe with a free demo corner of Microsoft WebTV.  However, one could use a console just by buying some item off the menu.  I got an ice cafe au lait and started surfing.  There was a sign requesting people to limit their use to 30 minutes however there were three machines and the place wasn't crowded.  I ended up putting in about 1.5 hours on the Internet catching up on my mail.  It turned out to be even cheaper than an Internet cafe.
    By the time I was done, I despaired of getting in touch with Sachiko.  I shopped at the large 100 store located in the same building and picked up a few things (I can almost never leave one of those without buying something) and grabbed a bite at McDonalds.  It was nearing sundown and I hadn't been able to contact Sachiko so I retrieved my bike and sped towards Hiroshima Bay to try to photograph the sunset.  Luckily I didn't repeat the sunset photo debacle that I had had on Day 7 of my trip and took my photos without incident. 

Hiroshima Bay Sunset

Hiroshima Bay Sunset

Hiroshima Bay Silhouette

Hiroshima Bay -- Self Portrait

    I hadn't had a chance to see the Genbaku Dome (Atomic Bomb Dome) close in the dark before, so I went back to Peace Park to see it up close.  Atomic Bomb Dome MemorialAtomic Bomb Dome MemorialThis is the building that was right under the epicenter of the fateful blast that signaled the end of World War 2.  It was gutted but not destroyed and has been preserved to serve as a testimony to the events of that day.  It is a peaceful place now and it is almost impossible to imagine what it was like half a century before.
    I finally found Sachiko at home at 9:00PM.  She had been working at the Miyajima fireworks the night before, had stayed out all night and had just returned a couple of hours before.  Now, it was too late to meet and I was annoyed at myself for not making concrete plans with her earlier.
    I resigned myself to search for a capsule hotel to stay the night, a place where one literally sleeps in a square box about two meters long and just big enough to sit cross-legged in.  I searched for a place I had used once before but ended up at another one.  This one looked quite new and had a nice set up -- a very nice bath with sauna and a rooftop bath as well as a napping room and mini-restaurant.  The capsules themselves were stacked two high, each with a TV and radio.  Given that women generally aren't allowed at capsule hotels, the TV even came with a "handy" 24-hour porno channel.  I didn't take any pictures at this place but will throw in some pictures from my previous capsule hotel experience when I get a chance.
    Sachiko called me back later to say she could meet me for breakfast the following morning.  We made arrangements to meet and I hung up feeling better.  It looked like the main purpose of my trip to Hiroshima -- spending time with Sachiko -- would be fulfilled after all.


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Just The Stats

Day 18



Place Weather
Start: 49380 8:30 Izumo, Tottori Pref. Partly Cloudy/Hot
Finish: 49630 13:00 Hiroshima, Hiroshima Pref. Partly Cloudy
Totals: 250 km 4.5 hrs


Gas: 1,350 Food: 2,000
Highway Fees: Capsule Hotel: 3,750
Internet Cafe: 400  

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Created: Feb 22, 2001
Last Updated: Feb 26, 2002

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