- We traveled from Kobe to Hiroshima via Shinkansen, then went back to Tokyo for a few days until a red eye flight back to Singapore on Saturday. As with most holidays, it didn’t feel long enough; I could have used another week. But I’m thoroughly pooped from all the walking and general lack of sleep. It was wonderful to see Japan again after five years, and our chat with the old taxi driver who spoke English with us on the way to Haneda Airport indicated that Japan might almost be as happy to have us tourists back. I fantasize about dropping in for another week within the next year, but who knows how long it’ll be again.
- Hiroshima felt very different from Kobe, partly because of its terrible history, and the gravity of it which pulls every experience towards a discussion about peace, awareness, and suffering. It has quite a few museums, and they all inevitably address the atomic bomb in some way. I had bad dreams each night. I’m not normally one to believe in this sort of thing, but there is so much death there and so recently, that my first thought was “bad vibes”.
- While we were there, though, the sakura bloomed fully across the city and it was beautiful to see.
- We visited a Picasso exhibition at the Hiroshima Museum of Art (beautiful building, galleries were a bit dingy though in the basement), and also lots of art and exhibitions dedicated to remembering the atomic bomb at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). We didn’t have energy or syllables left for the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum. MOCA was wonderful though, newly renovated after two and a half years and opened for less than two weeks when we visited.
- Did you know Picasso created a series dedicated to the horrors of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima? No? What are these then, AI-generated photos from Midjourney v5?
- After many years of being a Go Go Curry fan curious about Champion’s Curry, the Kanazawa-style curry franchise that Go Go supposedly ripped off down to the signature yellow, I finally got a taste of it. And… it was sadly disappointing. It’s soundly beaten by Go Go’s richer flavor and dedication to excess — there’s no preset that comes with the works. On this trip, if I had to rank curries, Hinoya might come first, followed by Coco Ichibanya, closely followed by Go Go in third and Champion’s in last place.
- I saw a Japanese toothpaste ad of some sort that demonstrated people brushing their teeth in a curious way: holding their brushes like pens or chopsticks. Is that how everyone does it? I’ve never seen it. Perhaps it’s time for a new Japanese Wisdom Fad to go global: the secret art of teeth cleaning. Anyway I tried it out for a laugh and was surprised by the ergonomic improvement! Holding the toothbrush in pen grip means your elbow stays close to the body rather than sticking out, and your forearm is perpendicular to the ground. This gives you more power in the up-down motion by moving your entire arm rather than your wrist. Combine that with the added directional precision from being able to move your fingers, and it feels easier to do those small away-from-the-gumline strokes you’re meant to do, versus holding in an overhand grip.
- You may remember that I became quite fond of watching a live street webcam in Shinjuku about a year ago, leaving it up on the bedroom projector as a sort of video wallpaper or magic window into another world while I read or did other things. Well, we finally got to stand on that very street and see ourselves on the screen! With tourism back, the street is much busier than it was a year ago, uncomfortably so, but now I finally know what the inside of the ramen restaurant looks like, and confirmed my suspicions that there’s a gap under the steps of the KBBQ place where the rats probably hang out. We waved at the camera and tooks a couple of photos from a street-level POV. What’s great was that there were many other people obviously there to see the cameras too… my weird little Kabukicho webcam community!
- I ended up not finding very much to buy in terms of electronic souvenirs. I don’t need another camera or headphones, as mentioned a couple of weeks back, and I couldn’t even bring myself to buy a phone case that I don’t need and that will be obsolete in half a year when the iPhone 15 comes out. I did however get a little $12 plastic robot at Don Quijote that plays their unforgettable jingle with the push of a button. It’s going to get a lot of use in my home, I think.
- Wait that’s not correct, we got a portable massage gun called an Exagun Hyper from the Doctor Air brand. Not an insignificant factor in this decision was the advertising campaign featuring Ryoko Yonekura, also known as Doctor-X in the TV series of the same name. She was clearly hired for that reference alone and seems to relish it. I’m kinda sure they even pronounce Doctor Air with the same flourish that “Doctor-X” is usually delivered with.
- If anyone in Singapore is wondering why Netflix removed the first six seasons of Doctor-X and now only has Season 7, it may be a licensing issue with Amazon. Seasons 1–5 are now on Prime Video locally, so you have a chance to catch up and hopefully Season 6 will turn up someday. Be warned though, this is not strictly speaking good TV. It’s a cheesy, overly dramatic manga-style live action show about a doctor with miraculous surgery skills and no social ones. Like House but turned up even further.
- I also got some tees and socks from FamilyMart, because I’m always on the lookout for good black t-shirts and their white/green/blue brand socks were an internet sensation a year or so ago. Oh, and some sake straight from their Kobe breweries. That’s about it for physical souvenirs.
- What I have brought back intangibly, though, is a renewed enthusiasm for gaming on mobile and the Nintendo Switch — I didn’t bring my Switch along and now I’m dying to play through my backlog. It’s hard to explain but the media and cultural environment there for gamers is immersive. You see giant ads for Splatoon 3 in the subway. Billboards and TV spots for mobile games like Dislyte and Genshin Impact. Late night shows on TV where people play trading card games. Most of these games aren’t even Japanese in origin, but they’re part of the landscape and it’s encouraging? Inspiring? To feel your hobby validated as a visible part of society. Nearly none of that is the case in Singapore, the irl city.
A selection of (sakura-centric) photos from this week follows. Please rotate your iPhone to landscape because WordPress’s masonry layout somehow doesn’t work on narrow screens!
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