The ones we left home with expire after one year. It’s impossible to rent a car in Japan without one.
My sister goes to great lengths to acquire a pair of IDPs for us when we send her the necessary documents. (They are available only in your country of origin.) Then she deals with the trouble and expense of sending them to us.
Thanks a million, Sis! You’re the best!
Sado is a charming place to spend a few days. It used to be a place of banishment for unwanted people from the mainland, including at least one emperor.
It’s quiet and sparsely populated.
We (almost) circumnavigate the island. Besides the usual excellent roads, there are barely-room-for-a-single-vehicle stretches as well.
We also see some ferret-like animal scuttling under a bush.
This is a full-size reproduction of an old merchant ship, painstakingly recreated by local shipwrights.
The Japanese eat a lot of seaweed. We even buy a bag of seaweed potato chips once. (By mistake.)
Japan, needless to say, is a sushi-lover’s paradise. Great for Maria; for me, not so much. I prefer my fish thickly battered and deep fried.
Near Aikawa are the remains of a gold mine that operated for centuries and closed down in 1989.
We use the waning days of our railpass to travel first to Sendai, then for one last long train journey to Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido.
Sapporo was the site of the 1972 Winter Olympics. Here’s a view of the city from the top of the ski jump.
Sight or Insight of the Day – Sado-ga-shima
We notice many elderly women in Japan are in a permanently-stooped-over state. Our theory is that this is a result from a lifetime spent working in the garden, which many women do while bent nearly double.
We learn that ‘Kanagawa’ is here – an earlier name for what is today Yokohama. Mount Fuji is now hidden by skyscrapers.
This is also where Commodore Perry landed in 1854 and demanded the opening up of Japan after centuries of self-seclusion.
Which leads to Yokohama becoming a thriving trade port. We visit the Yokohama Silk Museum. It features dozens of dazzling kimonos, each one a work of art.
Yokohama has also been in the forefront of Japanese emigration, limited as it is. There’s an informative museum about this near the waterfront.
(A noteworthy observation: Japan is the only country we’ve been to in Asia that doesn’t have significant numbers of educated people who want to move to – or at least have a bolthole in – somewhere else. Such as Australia/New Zealand or Canada/USA.)
Most Japanese emigration took place early in the last century. This ship, the permanently-docked NYKHikawa Maru, has an interesting history.
In service between 1930 and 1960, she ferried people to Seattle in the thirties, served as a hospital ship in WWII, was used to repatriate Japanese soldiers after the war, and returned to trans-Pacific passenger duty.
More about dogs in Japan. People with small dogs often push them around in a pram. We thought these were re-purposed baby prams, but nope; they’re marketed and sold as doggy prams.
We must mention the neighbourhood we’re staying in here. It’s kind of like a Japanese Skid Row. It just turns out to be where our accommodation is located, but it’s definitely a ‘quartier défavorisé‘. Lots of impoverished, older single men around. And social services. But safe (this is Japan, after all.)
Interesting to see the Japanese response to the less fortunate. This neighbourhood has many multi-storey buildings with very small rooms and communal bathrooms and kitchens. Laundromats (which also have showers in them) are plentiful. So people have a roof over their heads, a way to keep themselves and their clothes clean, and some dignity-preserving privacy.
We see this sign when the laundry facilities are not working one day.
The figure in the sign is bowing. The Japanese bow a lot.
For example, on trains, when the conductor reaches the end of a car, he turns and bows to the people in the car. Then he moves into the next car and repeats.
A bow is a sign of respect, not servility. That people take their jobs seriously, no matter how humble, is a refreshing change from elsewhere in the world, where people’s attention can’t be pried from their cell phones with a crowbar.
The Yamato Museum has more exhibits about actual naval activities during the war. Sometimes exhibits have descriptions in Japanese only. My theory is that these are of the more militaristic and hectoring variety, better left untranslated for sensitive foreigners.
We notice that any mention of the domestic wartime experience in Japanese museums severely glosses over any context whatsoever. Blithely indifferent to numbers like these. Every place we’ve been to on this trip that suffered Japanese occupation – Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Honk Kong – tells an unvarying tale of brutal oppression, torture, starvation, and enslavement. Yet the (brief) portrayal in museums here speak of a nation mystified by the rain of Allied bombs and utter destruction of the country and subsequent occupation. ‘The people were saddened’. Strange.
Anyway, back to the present-day Japan of gentle ways. We visit the small-but-excellent Hiroshima Museum of Art. Some kind of geisha class is underway in the courtyard.
Among its collection is a Van Gogh we’ve never seen before.
Next stop is Himeji, with its castle. Our train is a special pink-themed Hello Kittyshinkansen.
Hello Kitty is, of course big in Japan, having been invented here. But she’s also popular elsewhere in Asia. We remember an entire ‘Hello Kitty’ lounge at the Taipei Airport, among other things.
Because it’s Golden Week, Himeji is heaving with visitors.
Most castles in Japan are restorations. Himeji is original.
You get a nice view from the top.
A lot of Japan looks like this – a heavily-urbanized area surrounded by mountains.
Sight or Insight of the Day – Railpass Rambles
As we leave Tokyo on a brilliant sunny day, we spy the iconic Mt. Fuji.
It’s a challenge to take photos from a shinkansen because of their high speed. Maria manages to get a more tranquil shot.