A significant proportion of Day 4 was spent recovering from the drinking and karaoke session of the previous night, so unfortunately there isn’t a lot to report. Needless to say the effects of all that beer and sake were devastating for some. Fortunately, I was relatively unscathed so spent most of the morning catching up on email and generally relaxing while I waited for my less stalwart travelling companions to regain their senses.
Eventually, we were on our way north to Aizu-Wakamatsu, a town about an hours drive away from Paul’s place. Aizu-Wakamatsu features a great castle, famous for an event that occured back in 1868 when a group of young samurai that were fighting against imperial forces mistakenly thought the castle had falled, and committed mass suicide (seppuku, the noble act of disembowlling oneself, an act which even took place in World War 2).
We got their too late to actually go inside the castle (not a huge disappointment as we were saving most of our castle-seeing energy for one of the most famous and biggest castles, Himeji) but had a great walk around the castle grounds – the pictures will show it better than I can describe it, but its safe to say the scale of these things are very impressive. This was the first castle I’d ever been up close to so it was quite a neat experience.
Something that we’re discovering is that many of these ‘old’ Japanese buildings aren’t actually that old. My guide book refers to many temples, shrines and other buildings being rebuilt as purity is an important part of the Shinto religion – one particular building, for example, has been rebuilt every 20 years for centuries.
However, many other buildings have been rebuilt because they burned down – I’m guessing in temperatures not unlike the ones we’re experiencing (35 degrees celcius seems to be the average at the moment). Additionally, sadly, many ancient buildings were destroyed when the US bombed Japanese cities in World War 2. I’m sure a lot of people think Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the only cities that suffered bombings in the war, but so many cities were devastated – Tokyo itself was bombed in March of 1945 (only 4 months before the first atomic bomb was dropped), killing around 100,000 people – a figure comparable to that of the toll taken by the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Depressing thoughts aside… later that night we went back to Paul’s place and indulged in yakiniku, which has totally changed my eating plans for the rest of my life. Basically, you have a hot plate in the middle of the table and just keep dumping meat and vegetables on it, cooking it there, and eating straight off the hot plate! Very low maintenance (no plates) and meat straight off the barbeque is the only way to go.
Day 4 was relatively short, but don’t worry – Day 5 is not far behind, covering our visit to Paul’s school, our trip to Mr Donut (a big donut chain over here), and the details of our late-night trip planning session.