Hiroshima. The Peace Memorial Museum, A-bomb dome, Hall of Remembrance. Tragic, incomprehensible.
Taking away my words.
Thousands of paper cranes at the Children's Peace Monument, strung together, collaged into pictures, bright, colourful, lovingly folded. Hopeful.
Sushi from a conveyor belts, watching the chefs slice fish, sear tiny octopus with a blowtorch, press onto sticky rice with a dab of wasabi. I ate raw tuna, though preferred the cucumber maki rolls.
Constant heat, stickiness, sweat dripping. Respite in the air conditioned hotels, restaurants and shopping centres, but everywhere else the air heavy with the heat and humidity. We consume frozen matcha (green tea) lattes, dusty green and slightly bitter or iced coffee or piles of flaked ice, syrup drenched, all in an attempt to keep us cool. Cans or bottles of drink, strange combinations, lychee and salt, grape with aloe jelly, bought from any one of the numerous vending machines, keeping us hydrated.
Elegant gardens, zen raked sand, moss covered rocks, meandering streams. The first of the maple, turning golden red, though autumn seems a far cry away from these hot days. Descending down hillsides through grey-green bamboo groves.
Cobbled old streets in Kyoto, hoping for sight of an elusive Geisha. Settling for tourists who have paid to dress up in kimono instead. Secret garden courtyards off the main routes, glimpsed behind gates, through doorways.
At dusk, in the rain, Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine, avenues of geranium red torii gates stretching up the mountainside. Stone foxes, the god of the rice harvest. Rain, dripping from the trees, between the torii gates, mosquitos hovering in anticipation between bare legs.
Friday night, a vegetarian restaurant hunted down with the help of a blog, down a side street, up a tiny alley, through a doorway into a room in what looks like someone's home, crowded with ephemera, a bar running the length of it, stools for customers, a single woman cooking and serving behind it. Walls covered with posters for music gigs, posters protesting nuclear arms. Jazz CDs on the stereo, the smell of cat, and a loud mewing too from a grey tabby. Delicious food, tofu in many forms, rice, pickles, soup. We both ordered the vegetarian set menu and were given different dishes each so we had more to try. The place filled up in the time we were there, obviously popular.
A couple of nights in a ryokan, traditional style Japanese accommodation in Kyoto, tatami mats and paper sliding doors, futon bedding laid out each night. And then two nights somewhere a little more futuristic, Kyoto Tower Hotel, ninth floor, overlooking the modern glass and steel Kyoto station, at night, all lit up, a scene from Blade Runner. Such contrasts.