Saturday, September 02, 2017

Back in Cebu

I left Japan last 4th July 2017 and began working in Cebu on 18th July 2017. I could have given myself time for a break but knowing me, I need to keep myself occupied. Besides, the first two weeks of work as a new employee were (as expected) boring. 

Now, two months after my departure from Japan, I am beginning to miss that place. I know the decision was sudden but no regrets (although a little) considering my main reason for wanting to be back in Cebu was for Amber, it was for good cause. 

So, as usual, Cebu is typically humid and getting oh-so crowded. The traffic is getting worse but the place is still love. 

Finally, Cebu's famous landmark (Magellan's cross) and I met again. 

The building at my left is CSN (Colegion del Sto. Nino). It was my school from K1 to Grade 2. My parents had us (with my 2 siblings) transferred to a school nearer to our home). I vividly remember that everything was so big at the time, all the time from a child's perspective.

Finally found the time to actually take a photo. Be reminded people that back in the 80s, smartphones did not exist. This led me to envy the current generation for always having the opportunity of taking photos anytime, anywhere. 

Back then, taking photos or having photos taken were luxury. I remember there were so-called professional photographers around Sto. Nino church. One photo costed around 20php (at the time, that rate was expensive). On special ocassions such as Christmas and Birthdays, my parents never failed to keep the tradition of having our photos taken to document a memory until we started high school. 


Amber att 5, getting wiser (proud mom) and a little spoiled. 

Is this temporary? Yes.

Call me whatever but I have always wanted to live in a four-season country. Japan is ideal (people, food, convenience, and environment) but the language is a barrier if one doesn't bother to at least learn the basics. I have the basics and will make it a point to go back. Other countries are welcome. Netherlands was nice and who knows really where life might lead me. For now, I am enjoying Cebu. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Miyajima

My second day at Hiroshma prefecture was a trip to Miyajima island. Getting there took me around 50 minutes via Line 2 Hiroden streetcar (from Tokaiichi-machi to Miyajimaguchi) and a ten minute ferry ride to the island. 

I was an early bird! Having reached the island before 9:30am, only a few people were there, shops and restaurants were still closed. It was a Monday so I was expecting crowd to be less until afternoon came.

The grand torii of Itsukushima-jinja at high tide seemed to float on the sea.

At my back is the shrine. Entrance fee is 300 JPY.


I decided to roam around the town to get the island feel ala Japan. Clearly, I was one of the very few visitors on this street with surrounding establishments still closed.

There are a lot of trekking paths. I walked around and found many deers freely roaming and appear to be harmless.

Not only in the forest, they are also in public areas.

While looking for a place to drink, I chanced upon several interesting paths.

 A local store was selling soft cream with sweet potato. Instead of mixing altogether, the presentation was done this way which correctly describes its name. After all, it was not named as sweet potato ice cream.

Hiroshima is also known for their massive oysters. This delicious serving of grilled oysters costs 500 JPY. 

The island is mountainous which explains the steep climb. This was on my way to the five-storey Pagoda.

I was aiming to trek higher ground until this sign showed up. Of all days, the ropeway was out of service from the date of my only day in Miyajima. Instead of going through all the climb in my wornout Toms, I descended back to town before I get lost knowing there were only a few trekkers at that time and before my phone lose power. It was still morning so I was confident I will do just fine.

By 3pm, the tide had gone low allowing the Torii to show all its glory.

Having gotten too many selfies, I took courage asking some random teen girls to take a photo of me with the Torii.

All I waited was for the tide to go low and get a closer look of the Torii. As much as I wanted to wait for the sunset, I went back to Hiroshima city to dine.

Miyajima was the highlight of my Hiroshima trip. The culture of island life was just interesting and totally different from the usual Japan I see.

I still hope to see more. One day, I will see myself in Hokkaido.


Hiroshima

Prior to my last week at work, I made plans to embark on an adventure to Hiroshima. It was an impulsive decision, and I knew it would be exciting knowing the place had been in my list this year. (The Nagoya trip with T and Amber last May was supposed to be a Hiroshima trip but due to the long hours of travel --not good for kids, we chose Nagoya which is half the travel time). As much as Hokkaido was my initial plan but distance and budget considerations will only allow me to defer Hokkaido to an unknown distant time in the future. 

I chose Hiroshima because of its history. 

Hiroshima is located West part of Japan. I traveled via Shikansen (Nozomi super-express, roundtrip: 35,800 JPY). Expensive compared to via airplane but shinkansen takes you to the city center; thereby, less queue and transportation transfers. Tokyo to Hiroshima = Travel time took 4 hours.

I actually did not have any specific timetable of plan but I do have a list of places I wanted to see. By chance, Line 2 of Hiroden Hiroshima streetcar stopped at Genbaku Dome-mae which is just across Atomic Bomb Dome.

It was a cloudy Sunday and surprisingly, tourists were not many.
The structure was secured with iron fence and there are CCTV cameras installed at each corner. So this angle is one of the closest that a visitor can see.
What interested me is that this building was once a commercial exhibit hall, and the only structure to remain standing despite the major damage while the surrounding structures were totally destroyed by the bomb.

Most visitors at that time were junor high students. The building at the background is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It was unfortunate that I was not able to get in because it was closed for renovation and expected to re-open next year.

On the same day, I hastily headed to Hiroshima castle. This is the entrance that leads to it.


Finally, the obligatory selfie. The castle itself was actually a replica, and its current location is not the original spot. I was running late (nearly 6pm by the time I arrived), so I didn't bother going in. I had this tendency to panic at 'last minute' and 'closing time'. 

(I digress). Not sure if it is panic attack or there could be a proper term for this specific behaviour. I began to observe this behaviour around highschool. Remind to self: look it up. 

Not satisfied with the close-up shot, I had to walk around farther for a dramatic view.

Hiroshima's pride, Okonomiyaki.
An officemate of mine suggested me to try Hiroshima's version. Osaka's version (widely known to most) is sans noodle.

Hiroshima Hondori Street. It is a typical arcade full of shops, cafes and boutiques. This type of street is common among Japanese cities and towns.

Unlike major cities in Japan, Hiroshima does not have a subway. Besides bus, taxis, and JR operated train lines, they have innercity streetcars called Hiroden. Hiroden is easy to use and most stops take you to the nearest tourist spots. It did not take long for me to get familiar with its routes because the instructions and maps are easy to follow.
The one day pass was a cost-saving considering the starting fare rate is 160 JPY. 

This is the older model of streetcars in operation. 

This is the greener and newer model. Similar to the ones in Amsterdam. 

On the third day (my last day), I was supposed to just walk around Shukkei-en but managed to sneak Hiroshima Museum of Art into my schedule. My shinkansen schedule was at 3:17pm, so I alloted enough time in the morning for more sightseeing. 

The museum has a collection of artworks by European artists. I was surprised they have several paintings from Picasso, a few from Renoir and one from Van Gogh. My favorite was from Stanislas Lepine . I am not a huge fan of landscapes (more of a portrait fan) but that specific painting took me to his story. 

I think landscapes are harder to paint compared to portraits because there are a lot of factors to consider such that it covers a lot of objects and each must be given some effort to appear consistent with the rest. 

After the museum, I headed to Shukkei-en.

Shukkei-en is a Japanese garden that dates way back. It was said that some of the bomb survivors took shelter in this garden, and some unfortunately died and later buried here.

Carp!

One of the many pathways around the park.

Hiroshima Carp is the name of Hiroshima's baseball league. Summer is baseball season in Japan and don't get me started how fanatic and loyal the Japanese are to their home teams. In Chiba, we have the Chiba Lotte Giants.

Hiroshima was memorable and a trip worth it. It was the farthest prefecture I have visited by myself in Japan and it was a pleasure to have seen its wonders.