Friday, 8 January 2016

Three museums in one day

Date: Wednesday 6th January 2016

Weather: It was extremely cloudy. Dark grey clouds hung in the air and, as the day wore on, the visibility reduced. Still no rain though.

MP3 track of the day: The Breaking of the fellowship - Lord of the Rings

I finally did it! On my last day I splashed out and went to a café for breakfast. The lucky café I'd chosen was a 'Doutor'; a chain-café. Once inside I was served by a young girl who looked as though this was her first day; another colleague was showing her how the till worked. I ordered a roast beef sandwich, a medium-sized hot chocolate and a nice slice of cake. Of course, all of it was divine; the roast beef sandwich was filled with fresh vegetables, roast beef and laced with a sauce which added a little 'kick' to the ingredients. The bread was also so slightly cooked. The cake too was lovely; it was sweet enough for breakfast but, not too sweet. Finally the hot chocolate tasted as if it was made using proper chocolate. All-in-all this had become my favourite breakfast of my trip however, it had cost three times the amount of what I'd normally spend in Mr Donuts and twice the amount I'd unusually spend in McDonald’s. Once consumed I felt content. Now knowing my way around the area, I went back to Osaka's castle to find my first museum of the day; Osaka's WW2 museum.

Housed in a building which looks as though it is a collection of different shaped buildings, it was surprisingly non-functional and, for this reason alone, I liked it a lot. The entry fee was even better - £1.50 – and it came with a free audio guide. The only thing I didn't like was that, unbeknown to me at the time, the entrance was on the second floor of a three-storey building. The museum started on the second floor before you then had to go down to the ground floor. Finally you had to go back up to the third floor to see everything on offer however, this was very unclear and I spent quite a few minutes on the ground floor wondering where I had to go to next.

I have to praise Japan on it's WW2 museums. Having been through a lot of Asia, no other country tries to tell the 'whole truth' when it comes to it's military history. Whilst in both atom bomb museums – Hiroshima and Nagasaki – I found it very refreshing that, though the Japanese did comment that they felt both bombings were unnecessary, they did understand America's reasoning. It was the same in this museum and that is why, on the whole, I believed what I was being told. First off there was an excellent video about 'how Japan got involved in WW2'. Sadly though, my audio guide did not give me commentary for this piece. Instead I had to watch the video twice; the first time focusing on the subtitles before watching it again to focus on the images being displayed. What was interesting is that, at first at least, Japan wasn't interested in becoming a colonial power. With the treat of the European superpowers – Russia, Britain and France – knocking on the door of Japan (France held Indochina, the British held Malaysia, Burma and were pushing into parts of China to protect it's opium trade. Finally the Russians were attacking Korea from the north), Japan seized Korea, plus some islands in the north, as a 'buffer' from 'European expansionism'. It was only after Japan's stunning victories against the Russians and the Chinese – which, I think stunned the Japanese high command as much as anyone else – did it start to think like a colonial power and attack northern China for it's resources. This was condemned by the 'league of nations' however, the same league did not condemn the great European powers expansion plans and now, you can see why Japan would feel aggrieved. What's more, when China started to attack British interests in China, the British heavy-handedly put any uprising down whereas, when the Chinese tried to attack Japanese interests in the north of the country, the British actually provided the Chinese with aid. It's not hard to imagine that there was a sort of 'boys club' which, the European powers were trying their up most to stop Japan from entering.

As the museum went on it focused more and more on Osaka itself. It showed that incendiary bombs were used due to most of Japan's buildings being made of wood. It also highlighted the civilian causalities through incendiary bombing however, it also explained why the Americans had chosen this type of campaign. Finally, on the top floor, it talked a bit about after the war and how Osaka got back on it's feet. The museum then went a bit south with a few displays about how war is still continuing throughout the world and how the Japanese have 'learnt the value for peace, will do anything for peace and are a shining light for peace'. The usual 'power-up' speeches.

I left the museum two and a half hours later with two thoughts in my head. The first was that, if I was going to see three museums today before my flight, then I was really behind schedule. The second was that, though the museum was very good, this 'Japan is a shining light for peace' is all well and good however, this pacifism from the world's 3rd largest economy is, I believe, starting to have a negative affect. Currently we have an ongoing bloodbath in Syria, war's in Iraq, Afghanistan and all across Africa. What have the Japanese done to help? Not a lot. Due to it's pacifism stance, it has barred itself from taking part in any war no matter how noble and, as far as I can tell, it has not taken in any refugees from any of these countries. Japan has sent money however it has, in my view, completely distanced itself from the world using it's pacifism stance as an scapegoat. Japan needs the world to buy it's products and, we need Japan to play it's part. Japan made tiny changes to it's pacifism stance a few months ago and it was met by sheer horror from the population, due to fear of returning to a military themed country however, I have never visited a country so in love with peace (and I've been to Fiji) than Japan is. It's just sometimes, a conflict has to occur first in order to attain a truly meaningful and long lasting piece … and we need Japan to help with that.

This trail of thought lasted until I reached my next museum of the day; Osaka's history museum. Though the ticket was over two times the amount of the WW2 museum, I only spend a fraction of the time looking at it's exhibits. One reason was that time was getting on but, the other was that, though the museum focused on Osaka it went through the 'ages of Japan' and I'd seen similar exhibits before. Via elevator I was whisked up to the tenth floor which dealt with 'Japan's early years'. The view of Osaka castle and the surrounding area from up here was worth the entrance fee alone. I then took the escalator down stopping at every floor to walk around another period of Osaka's history until the museum stopped at floor six. I then went down the escalators until I hit the ground floor where I exited the building and returned to my hotel.

Time was ticking on; so-much-so that I no longer had time to visit my third museum of the day AND return back to my hotel to pick up my bags. I therefore decided to pick up my bags now, and take them to the train station where I will board a train back to the airport. I will find a locker before proceeding to my final museum, which was a couple of stops on another train. All went well and I found myself walking towards my last museum of the day at 1:20pm.

Annoyingly, the museum wasn't that well signed therefore, I walked too far and, after asking at a local convenience store, I back-tracked and found the road which I was looking for. Once again Japan had faced up to the fact that it's country isn't perfect – which country is? This museum was called 'Liberty Osaka' and it focused on all of Japan's social issues including the 'untouchable caste' (the Burakumin), Japan's ethic minorities, the sexist treatment towards women and pollution. This is a rarity in any nation; a museum which focuses on a countries bad points and presents them in the hope that things might change. My guidebook labelled it as the 'city's most stimulating museum' so I was looking forward to it.

It was closed. The museum was on it's holiday and would not be open until the 10th. I, of course, was a little peeved. Not only had I spent an hour getting here but, it had cost me over £8 in trains and 'locker' fees. There was nothing I could do; I left the area and took the next train back to the station where I would catch a train to the airport. Whilst heading back, I thought about all of the things I'd missed: the liberty museum in Osaka, a samurai house in Kyoto – you needed a Japanese translator so there was no way I could have gone – and Kobe's main museum. There was at least a weekend's worth of stuff to see if I wanted to come back however, I don't really want to come back. During my trip I have visited four cities, two castles, one beach, three museums and over forty temple sites. I have driven to the far north of Kansai, and I took a train to the far south. I have been to parks, river fronts, restaurants, train stations and on pilgrimages; I have done all this, with Kansai's countless population all around me. I have very much enjoyed this trip. Kansai has delivered what I expected; both in good ways and in bad. The bad is just the sheer amount of people and just how busy – except Nara – everywhere is. It has been so bad that I've had to change my eating arrangements; eating breakfast at 8am and not eating again until 4:30pm, where I would have a lunch / dinner combination when there would be very few people heading to the restaurants. Relaxing isn't a word that I'd use for this holiday. Having said that, it has been a comfort knowing that there are so many trains, that you don't have to pre-book or plan around train times. I think the longest I waited for a train was twelve minutes; usually it was only two or three. It has certainly been a case of 'country mouse' visiting 'town mouse'.

Due to the fact that my last museum was closed, I found myself back at the train station I needed to be at to take a direct train to the airport, with an hour or so spare. I therefore looked around the surrounding area and went to an 'English Pub' for fish and chips plus the campiest drink ever. Being fed up with either coke or orange, I ordered a 'berry mix non-alcoholic cocktail' which, though very nice, was bright red. Once I'd consumed what the Japanese population believe is a traditional English meal – they had nachos on the menu – I still had time however, I really didn't have anything to see. I therefore bought a ticket for the next train to the airport where I would arrive with enough time to read quite a bit of my book. I got my bags out of the locker and then proceeded to the platform. With seven minutes until my train arrived I left the platform and headed to a 'Bearded Papa's' for another two shoe-cream puff cakes. Though I thoroughly enjoyed eating them on my train journey to the airport, I'm not sure the same could be said in regards to the Chinese woman in the seat opposite me. Her toddler of a daughter kept looking at me with amazement and 'wanting' in her eyes.

The train dropped me off at terminal one. I needed terminal two. Though terminal two is really just a glorified shed – and terminal one held most of the shops – I was not really in the mood for browsing around shops. I therefore took a free shuttle bus to terminal two immediately. The bus pulled up only two bays from were I'd taken a bus to Kobe exactly two weeks ago. Memories flashed by.

Of course I was way too early for check-in therefore, I sat down and read a couple of my book's chapters. After check-in, I had enough time within the 'waiting lounge' to read a further two chapters. Peach's – that's the name of the airline I was using; terminal two was just for Peach flights – waiting lounge was nothing I'd seen before. Instead of chairs, big cushions and strangely shaped padded benches roamed the area in no particular order. Though I am sure the management at Peach were pleased with their 'ultra-modern' and cool layout, I was rather less pleased. It looked like a child's playground and do you know what, that's exactly how the children treated it. One child was jumping between two benches landing very close to me, and my souvenirs. Once I'd glared at the child's parent for long enough, the jumping stopped.

Finally I boarded my flight. Sadly the flight was packed and so I didn't have a spare seat next to me. As we took off I looked down at Osaka before we crossed through the barrier of clouds which had covered the skies over Osaka all day.

The flight was only an hour or so therefore, it wasn't long before we were back through the clouds. I had a quick glimpse of the city of Sendai before the pilot made a fantastic landing; it was extremely smooth.

Once off the plane I collected my bag and moved quickly to the train station where a train was waiting to whisk me into Sendai. It was difficult not to notice the drop in temperature so I rapped up tightly. I knew that I had another forty minute train ride therefore, I got my book out once again. Once in Sendai I transferred onto my local train however, as there were no seats available, I was unable to read.

The one thing I had been dreading, once back at home, is walking back to my apartment in the snow with all of my luggage. From my local train station, I have to descend one hill to almost immediately climb another. Luckily there was no snow therefore my walk went without incident however, before going through my apartment's front door, I stopped at a local convenience store to buy snacks for dinner and tomorrow's breakfast.

Once in my apartment I turned the electricity on, got the water working and re-plugged in all of my 'electricals'. It was very cold compared to Kansai therefore I turned on the heater and stood next to it.

So there we are; another trip bites the dust. I am hoping to be back travelling around Japan in a couple of months time however, I need to save a bit more money before I can make that a reality. Though I am looking forward to a few days of peace - without having to walk for miles - I would still give anything to be back on holiday. Not long to wait I suppose.

Next time; Shigoku!

Toodle Pip!

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