Momijimijimijimiji


Back from Hiroshima – this year’s Golden Week jaunt – and the verdicts are these: layered Hiroshimayaki is inferior to jumbled Kansai-style okonomiyaki, trolleys are a beautiful addition to any city, and Hiroshima itself is, as many, many others have noted, a true testament to the triumph of life over death. What is it like to be an American in Hiroshima, even 63 years after the tragedy? Tense, I suppose, in the sorrow-free moments; gazing upon the charred shell of the A-Bomb Dome and taking in each exhibit at the Peace Museum had me near sloppy tears several times. Sean, who will not accept that I am American, calmly passed me the Italian language translation of the museum pamphlet at the beginning of our tour and as I crept through the museum – my stupefied reveries interrupted by mewling children or J-Pop streaming from a cell phone – I found myself holding the pamphlet so the Italian words could be seen. I wondered; did the Japanese around me stare at my Western nose and think, “How dare you show your face here!”? My comfort, amid model after model of rubbled buildings and melting flesh, was that Sean, with his 6 feet of height and blue eyes, far more closely resembles the Japanese image of an American than I do.

It is hard to reconcile the images of the gored, wasted Hiroshima with the Hiroshima of today. The trolleys clang, trees with tender, baby green leaves lend blissful shade to the bridges and gentle rivers, costumed dogs bark and children cry over fallen ice cream. Saturday was the Hiroshima Flower Festival and all along a main thoroughfare, street stands exploded with squids on a stick, yakitori, takoyaki and yakisoba, drawing giddy crowds of onlookers and sparkly costumed little girls, fresh from baton twirling routines. Sean was surprised to learn that after the bomb, the city restored minimal banking services and electricity in mere days but that didn’t seem so strange to me – after a catastrophe on that scale, it would make sense that any semblance of normalcy would be desired. Plus, people had lives to live. And today, life is still everywhere in Hiroshima. We strolled the streets, enjoyed ice cream cones, and took a ferry to Miyajima Island, which was just delightful.

The approach to Miyajima is serene, though the famed vermillion torii beckons.

a bit closer

from the beach

somewhat extreme close up

and with the sun beginning to set.

Miyajima is famous for maple leaf-shaped sponge cakes called Momijimanju which are as fun to eat as their name is fun to say. Miyajima is also famous for enormous oysters, which I couldn’t resist sampling at 400 yen for 2 rocky beasts, squeezed over with lemon juice and a particularly tangy unidentified brown sauce. Deer also frolic over the island, as they do in Nara. I can never get enough wildlife. Nor can these kids:

The deer are wilder in Miyajima than in Nara. Everywhere, cartoon signs depict a little girl sticking her hand, full of food, towards a deer’s rump with the word “abunai!” (dangerous) scrawled in red.

Well, I don’t know what they’re trying to say with this sign, exactly – that it’s dangerous to feed deer or it’s dangerous to attempt feeding deer anally. Because in that case – duh. If I weren’t in Japan, a nation that considers poo “lucky,” I’d say the artist simply had a lack of vision. As it is, I’m just confused. Nonetheless, when I saw that little boy two pics above toddling over to the deer with his hand outstretched and no parents in sight, I couldn’t resist calling out, “Gochui! Abunai!” I’ve seen cracker-hungry deer strand abandoned toddlers on high stone ledges in Nara but that was okay and sort of cool, since they weren’t particularly cute. This kid was cute, though, and thus worth saving.

You can see how well he heeded my advice. And I was jealous – I, too, wanted to run with the deer but, as always, they flee from my every advance. They remind me of myself in any Japanese department store’s cosmetic department; I dart from counter to counter, taking in the many shades of eyeshadow, pausing to sniff a sparkly perfume bottle, but the instant a saleslady beams and bleats, “Irasshaimase!” I am gone.

Golden Week technically ends tomorrow, but since I am on the new part-time schedule, I am not slated to be back at work until Thursday. That is jes’ jim dandy with me. I am enjoying the new schedule far more than I expected. My hours are better (two days shifts and 1 evening shift versus 5 fun-killing evening shifts), my commutes and their resulting costs are drastically reduced, and this year, my kids are universally cute and pretty well behaved. I have one class of geniuses who can not only repeat what I say but also think critically. Seriously, nothing gets by them. While my other students would only stare and shout, “ehhhhhhhhhhh???” if I dared to switch pronouns on them, these kids latch on every time. It’s a joy. Also a joy – Persian food. Lately, I miss New York because spring is here, and spring means summer will soon approach. Summer in New York means loads of free events, the fountain spraying in Washington Square Park and dining outdoors. Ah, New York food – such a myriad of choices. I love Japanese food and even after a year here would still select to eat sushi several times a week, but, like the Japanese, I cannot survive eating rice alone. I feel no shame in treating myself to some McDonald’s chicken nuggets once in a while and I certainly feel no shame in enjoying any of the Western restaurants. Last night I finally made it to a Persian cafe I’ve been dying to try, especially since my girl, Guns wrote such a mouth-watering review about a Lebanese cafe in her ‘hood. Lebanese does not = Iranian, but it’s close enough and in Japan, beggars can’t be choosers. There was couscous. There was falafel. There was the pungent whiff of shisha. Mama eat and mama LIKE.

I have no real chores today. My homework and critiques are done for my writing class, the dishes are clean, school doesn’t start again until Thursday, my bills are paid, and my blogging is almost done. I think the lazy “chore” of the day must be scouring the foreign goods stores until I find couscous that doesn’t rival my NYU tuition in cost. I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.

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