Category Archives: adventures

Hiroshima On The 75th Anniversary

A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Japan

Since August 6 marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, I thought this week might be a nice time to talk about our trip to Hiroshima back in 2016. I fell off blogging when we returned and never got around to writing about this trip. (I missed telling you about so many things!) We spent a few days in the city and visited the major World War II sites, including the A-Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Hiroshima had been on our list for a few years before we went, but we put it off because, well, we knew it would be depressing. Naoto visited the city when he was in grade school and we both knew it was going to be a sobering experience. Boy was it ever. But, Hiroshima is so much more than the bomb sites. We found it to be a vibrant city with a lot of beauty tucked among the sober sites of war. I can’t imagine living in a place where most of the world only knows you for something tragic.

It was pouring on the day we decided to visit the Peace Park and Museum…fitting for the mood of the day. The first thing we saw when we got off the streetcar was the A-Bomb Dome, the remains of a building that was near the epicenter of the bomb. Originally, this was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The bomb exploded about 1600 feet away from the building, but about 1900 feet overhead. The interior of the building was completely destroyed by fire and everyone inside died instantly, but the walls and the steel dome frame remained after the fires.

When we went, the azaleas were blooming so beautifully and the contradiction between the vibrant, lively color and this battered building that has stood pretty much unchanged* since 1945 was quite jarring. And, while the area was pretty busy with people milling about, around the A-Bomb Dome, it was practically silent. No one spoke above a whisper.

*Japan is working to preserve the site to the exact “state of destruction” after the bombing. It is a challenge because age and weather are causing deterioration of the building and they need to discreetly protect it from earthquakes.

The Aioi Bridge connects the A-Bomb Dome to the Peace Park (pictured above.)

Here is the view of the A-Bomb Dome from the other side.

In the Peace Park, there are special memorials to the many victims of the bombing and the war and a couple museums. Here’s Naoto ringing the peace bell.

This is the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students. The Japanese government “mobilized” students to take part in the war efforts, especially once Japan was facing defeat. Students were “drafted” to work in factories making uniforms and bullets and to work in fields to help with food production. Over 10,000 students were killed by the bombings (atomic and otherwise) during the war.

These huge plaques by the memorial show students working in the field and in a factory contributing to war efforts.

This is the Children’s Peace Monument. Did you ever read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes? Sadako’s classmates and children all over Japan raised money for this monument in honor of her and all the children who died because of the atomic bomb and its aftermath. That is Sadako at the top, holding a wire crane.

A perfect bronze crane hangs from a bell on the underside of the monument.

Surrounding the monument are booths that house paper cranes and artwork sent by children from all over the world. Folding 1000 paper cranes feels like a hopeful classroom project, doesn’t it?

This is the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall. This was incredibly somber place, meant to memorialize all of the souls lost that day and to share the personal stories of the victims and the survivors. On the roof (which is ground level, as the memorial in underground) there is a clock that is frozen at 8:15, the time of the bomb. In the Hall of Rememberance, there is a panoramic recreation of Hiroshima, made with 140,000 tiles, the number of people who died in the attack. Audio recordings of stories from survivors brought me to tears here.

This is the main memorial to the victims. The saddle is meant to shelter the victims’ souls in the empty tomb below. On it reads, “please rest in peace, for [we/they] shall not repeat the error.” (The language is left ambiguous so the victims could be memorialized without making the issue political/blaming the US for the bomb or blaming Japan for pushing the war to the brink of destruction.)

The memorial was designed so it frames the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome.

You can see the Peace Flame a bit better here. The flame was lit in 1964 and will be lit until the threat of nuclear war is eliminated.

Lastly, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Here we saw the history of Hiroshima from before the war and after, as well as the massive destruction caused by the bomb. I didn’t take many pictures inside–just the one below–because it was so somber and there was so much to learn. It was honestly overwhelming. (I haven’t felt so overwhelmed in a museum since I went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in college…) This model was so shocking…to see how far the reach of the bomb was.

I took a picture of Sadako’s cranes, which are preserved in a climate controlled dome inside the Peace Memorial Museum. The cranes are so, so tiny…the largest ones are about the size of a quarter. It’s so hard to imagine a real little girl folding these tiny cranes, knowing she was dying.

My blog post does not do the city and the memorials justice, but I am so thankful to have witnessed it and I wish I had shared it here sooner. President Obama visited Hiroshima the month after we did. He was the first sitting President to visit the city. I understand that the relationship between the United States and Japan regarding the atomic bombs is fraught with challenges, but man, those challenges aren’t going away without a hard look at history and the destruction of war. I remember that there was so much controversy around whether Obama would apologize or not…the risks of offending American veterans, the risks of offending Japan.

Obama’s speech at Hiroshima was, to me, one of his best. (You can read the transcript here on the New York Times site.) I’ll leave you with his words.

That is why we come to this place. We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.

Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.

And then a bit later…

That is why we come to Hiroshima. So that we might think of people we love. The first smile from our children in the morning. The gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table. The comforting embrace of a parent. We can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here, 71 years ago.

Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Furious Spoon Ramen Class at Home

Furious Ramen take home ramen kitOur anniversary was June 2 and we were both bummed we couldn’t go out to dinner. Well, we could…Illinois is technically open for outdoor dining (and indoor as of today) but neither of us feel comfortable with that option yet. So when I saw that Furious Spoon is offering virtual ramen classes, I decided that would be a fun way to celebrate. The class came with a ramen kit with everything we needed to make two servings of pork and mushroom ramen at home. asahi beer and empress cocktailSo we mixed a drink (this one!) and opened a Japanese beer and followed along on Instagram. I’m sure you’ve guessed (as much as I look like I’m paying close attention up there,) Naoto did most of the work, but I helped with the broth. Speaking of the broth…I know it doesn’t look super appetizing but it was interesting to see it come together. Real ramen broth takes hours and often uses bone-in pork, but this is a quick ramen broth made with ground pork, mushrooms, scallions, garlic, and some other things. I think it simmered for about forty minutes. I really enjoyed the ramen, but it’s hard to duplicate that taste of a long-simmered broth.Here’s the finished product–I need to work on my ramen plating, and also, we need some official ramen bowls if we want to make homemade ramen on a regular basis. The chashu (braised pork) was amaaaazing–the marinade was really tasty and Naoto cooked it perfectly. And Furious Spoon’s noodles (made in-house) are really good, holding up perfectly in the hot broth, even with a slow eater like me. Have you watched Never Have I Ever? Don’t you think Chef Shin gives off Paxton Hall-Yoshida vibes? I thought having the class on Instagram would be weird, but it ended up being great. We could ask questions and interact through the comments and we were even able to stay on track with cooking. Our ramen finished maybe five minutes after the end of the class–perfect timing for eating together for our anniversary.

 

 

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Dinner in Okinawa: Watanji

We found a great izakaya near our hotel in Naha while we visited Okinawa. Watanji was a great local spot that had different spins on Okianawan favorites. Above is Naoto pointing out his name on the chalkboard. Apparently one of the servers shared his name. In true izakaya style, we got a bunch of small plates to sample. One of my favorite dishes was this smoky potato salad. We also had Okinawan yam tempura (dipped in honey!)This was Okinawan pork in soy broth. It was soooo delicious, once I pulled off the layer of fat. Japanese eat a lot of fatty meats, something I never can do. I know there’s a lot of flavor there, but man…texture issues! We lightened things up next with some fresh tuna. And then hopped back into the heavier foods with these Okinawan pork sausages!Then we had gyoza with lots of extra crispy bits. And finally…deep fried taco rice with the most amazing taco sauce on top. It was all of the ingredients of taco rice, packed into a little ball and fried! I want to recreate this so badly. The izakaya was very local but the staff was very welcoming, as with most places in Japan. Naoto stuck with Orion beer and I did a shikuwasa and soda…so refreshing!

I think I have one final Japan post…though I probably have plenty of other stationery things to share. Stay tuned! And happy weekend!

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Plot 6 in 2020

plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park, community gardenI am a little scared to talk about Plot 6 today because we’ve had torrential rains this weekend and there’s a ton of flooding around town…I can only imagine what our plot looks like right now. Certainly any seeds we planted on Friday have not stayed in their tidy rows! This is the “before” picture. We were surprised to find that we didn’t have many weeds creeping in. Other plots, as you can see in the background, are COVERED…ugh. We pulled weeds and then topped off our plot with some fresh compost before we planted. So far we have:

  • rosemary
  • lavender
  • Black Krim tomato
  • 2 Brandywines
  • Mortgage Lifter tomato

And we planted seeds for:

  • parsley
  • chives
  • mizuna (Japanese mustard greens)
  • onions
  • nasturtium
  • zinnias

We still need to plant:

  • edamame
  • basil
  • another tomato (I said four was plenty but I lied…)

I thought I had some back-up edamame and basil seeds but it looks like we need to go shopping for some which is easier said than done right now. I wish I’d ordered some seeds online before this whole thing started. Sigh. So many lessons learned for the next pandemic.

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Okinawa Part 3: Orion Beer

This day was the highlight of Naoto’s trip, can you tell? It’s called Orion Happy Park for a reason! We were scheduled for the first tour of the day and we totally lucked out–we were the only ones on our tour! We felt so fortunate, as the next tour was packed. Before going on the tour, we spent some time in the little Orion museum. I love looking at old packaging, so it was neat to see how the Orion cans and bottles have changed over the years. There is nothing better than a retro label–I especially loved the cherry blossom editions. We started by learning about the grains used in Orion beer. Naoto was a very involved student, asking a lot of questions of our personal tour guide.

We learned a little bit about the science behind the brewing process, like when the mixture actually becomes alcohol. This display shows how many cans Orion fills in one minute. Isn’t that crazy?!

The bottling and canning processes were so interesting. I’ve been on a few brewery tours and I always love watching the bottles get filled and topped and labeled. This part made me so happy and also felt so Japan. The floor of the factory is blue, like the ocean. The crane is pink, the color of coral. And the walls are painted the color of the sand. The factory celebrates Okinawa in every way. 
After the tour, we were able to go to the tasting room to enjoy a sample. I don’t drink beer, but they had a delicious bottled tea. Oh and the ORION SNACKS!! It’s peanuts and rice crackery things covered in a mix of almond cheese, turmeric, curry, chili, onion, and garlic powders, paprika, pepper, soy sauce, beer yeast, sugar. They are so crunchy and good. I’m not a huge curry person, but these are just a perfect little drinking snack. We bought a big bag of them in the little snack-sized portions like you see above. We’re almost done with them and we’ve been looking for more here in the US to no avail. Sigh…guess we’ll have to go back to Japan someday for more. I think Naoto would toast to that!

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Okinawa Part 2: Riding with Matayoshi-San

To enjoy the island of Okinawa, you really need a car, but neither of us were interested in driving so Naoto hired a driver, Matayoshi-San, to drive us around to our Orion brewery tour and to see some other sites on the island. We spent the morning at Orion, which will get its own post because I took a ton of pictures and videos for Naoto. Okinawa is known for Orion beer, salt, glass, and pottery (among other things.) We stopped at a glass shop where they were blowing glass on site. I spent way too long choosing a single dish to bring home. Everything was so beautiful. Okinawan pottery is also really different from some of the other pottery in Japan. The designs and the shapes were so great.Matayoshi-san picked us a couple of shikuwasa which we enjoyed in our hotel room in some sparkling water. What a treat! Aside from the Orion tour, the best part of the day was visiting the sea and breathing in some fresh ocean air. These craggly rocks were formed over centuries of wear and it was such a perfect day weather-wise for enjoying the views. All over Okinawa, you will find Shisa, usually in pairs. They are meant to protect the home or business–one keeping in the good, the other keeping out the bad. We weren’t tempted to buy one for our own home, but it’s a really popular souvenir. In the middle of the day, we stopped at a roadside stand for sata andagi, Okinawan donuts. They were fresh and delicious! (You know how I love a donut!)We also stopped at an artisan shop where they hand paint fabric for obi (the sash for kimono) and other accessories. Everything was so gorgeous and the amount of work that went into each inch of fabric was incredible!
Naoto really enjoyed Matayoshi-San’s humor and his stories about the island. It was fun spending the day with a local and being carted around like a celebrity!

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Okinawa Part 1: Tourists & Taco Rice

hasegawa happy hour, okinawa We always take a little side trip away from Tokyo when we visit Japan and this year, our trip was to Okinawa. Okinawa is a small island in southern Japan. It really felt so much like Hawaii to me! We stayed in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. It really felt like Honolulu to me. It was beachy and carefree, with a huge strip of shopping and restaurants and lots of tourists. Our first night, we checked out the strip and ate at a little Okinawan izakaya that had Orion beer and taco rice, Naoto’s favorites. We started with drinks. Naoto had an Orion beer and I had a shikuwasa cocktail. Shikuwasa is native to Okinawa and Taiwan and it’s a citrus that is kind of bitter and really sour. It makes a really good cocktail with shochu and soda. We ordered gyoza (shown above) which really hit the spot. Next we had a salad with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, scallions, pork, and a citrusy dressing. Then we had Okinawan sweet potato fries dipped in honey. Seriously, honey is under-utilized as a dipping sauce in America! We should take a break from ranch dressing and eat more honey!And the main dish: taco rice! It’s basically a taco salad but on a bed of rice. We’ve made it at home before and it’s really good and comforting. I told Naoto we should make it this week and share the recipe so I’ll keep you posted. The version we usually make doesn’t have cheese, but let’s be honest–everything is better with a little shredded cheddar!  After dinner, we strolled around the tourist area and I picked up some stationery (surprise, surprise) and we got some salt. Okinawan salt is a “thing” so we bought some shikuwasa salt and onion salt to bring home. I really loved the paper onigiri in the store display. 

 

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Niigata Dinner

Hisae and Norio (Naoto’s sister and her husband) took us out to dinner in Shibuya while we were in Japan. They live in Mie, which is quite a bit away from Tokyo, but they took the shinkansen to spend an evening with us. It was really fun to hang out with them. Hisae is so sweet and Norio is kind and funny. We haven’t seen them both together since their wedding many years ago! We have seen Hisae on all of our other trips to Japan, but we haven’t seen Norio in years because he is so busy working. The izakaya, Takumi, specializes in Niigata food. You may remember that Niigata is where they grew up. My favorite thing about izakaya eating is that you can order tons of small plates and try a bunch of different things. We had kaarage (fried chicken,) shrimp tempura, amazing sushi, and pickled eggplant. And smoked fish, cartilage and sperm sac…just kidding, I did not eat the cartilage or sperm sac. Then there was noppe, a vegetable stew, and tomago (egg) with herbs. Our last dish was this fried tofu with scallions which was really good, but really oily and rich…a good dish for drinking. At the end of the meal, they brought out a huge tray of noodles and we each had our choice of dipping sauce. I got the tomato dipping sauce which was really unusual, like nothing I’ve had in Japan before. It was a rich red and super concentrated with tomato flavor. I ate soooo many noodles because I liked it so much. I haven’t been able to find a good recipe like this online but I’m sure trying!

Let’s do it again soon, Hisae and Norio!

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Pen Pal Stationery Tour Part 3: The Wares

Yamada stationery think this is all I bought during the Pen Pal Stationery Tour…

Above is what I bought at Yamada. The library stuff is my favorite and I restocked my stash from our last trip. I couldn’t resist the avocado handkerchief for Naoto. And those green things are stickers modeled after a famous notebook company, Japonica, that every school kid knows. And I just realized that the little bird and mountain notepad snuck in here, but I bought it at Tonarino. (It’s too dark to re-take the pictures now!)Tonarino stationery, Sublo 36 stationery At Tonarino, besides the notepad, I stuck with mostly their in-house designs. And the sumo eating the hot pot (chanko) is the only thing I bought at Sublo 36. (I told you I had regrets.) Hachimakura vintage papersAnd finally, some fun new and vintage papers from Hachimakura. Hachimakura vintage papersI’m excited to use some of these in my Traveler’s Notebook. From the top left: the red shrine is an old tobacco box from the Showa Era (1926-1989) that I want to display. The Moon Pencils label is a pencil box label. The geisha girls are matchbox labels from the 1920s. Below that, is old play money. (Isn’t it so fun and colorful?) The sheer pink and white things are nouget candy wrappers, also from the Showa Era. I liked the onsen symbol on them. And the circle labels are liquor shop labels from before World War II.

(Thanks to Naoto for translating all of that for me for this post. He and Geof stayed outside while April and I shopped so we were on our own to make our purchases!)

 

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Afuri Ramen

Believe it or not, we only had ramen once while we were in Tokyo. I know, I know…what a waste of our visit during the cold months! But seriously, there is so much to eat in Japan…it’s hard to not explore a thousand different cuisines there! Afuiri Ramen SangenjayaWe found Afuri near our hotel in Sangenjaya. (It’s been there since 2014! How were we sleeping on this for so long?!) It’s a chain, so you can find them all over Tokyo (and even in Portland!) Their specialty is yuzu ramen, so you know I was a happy camper eating here!ramen ticket machine, Afuri RamenIt’s the kind of ramen shop where you order at the machine and get a ticket to present at the counter, but it’s a fancy computerized ticket machine with pictures! (Also, pro-tip…you should choose your meal on the menu outside and then go to the machine when you know exactly what you want…otherwise you look like a dumb American, not that I would know how this feels…) Afuiri Ramen SangenjayaI had the Yuzu Shoyu Ramen, which is a chicken and dashi shoyu (soy sauce) broth with all of the traditional ramen toppings. It may have been my favorite chicken broth ever. It was bright and citrusy because of the yuzu but the shoyu made it a little bit more robust. Naoto had a special dumpling ramen that I couldn’t find on the website.

Now writing this, I’m totally in the mood for ramen.

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