Goodbye Onomichi! Definitely one of the coolest towns we’ve explored in Japan. A final breakfast at Onomichi U2 to get my fill of maccha, white chocolate buns and out the door. One last ride on the vintage yellow trains of the area.
An hour later we arrived at the city of Hiroshima to visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum.
August 6th, 1945 at approximately 8:15am the atomic bomb “Little Boy” was dropped over the city of Hiroshima. We took in the sobering exhibits that detailed the bombing of Hiroshima and the current state of global atomic warheads. The final exhibit had an uplifting message and showcased the rebirth of Hiroshima through its resilient citizens.
Lunch was the local Hiroshima specialty of Okonomiyaki: a savory style crepe with cabbage, sprouts, noodles, pork and various other fillings. We ordered ours with shrimp, squid and oysters. Keep it on the griddle so it stays warm and section it off with the metal spatula as you go. Delicious!
Back on the Shinkansen and off to the city of Kumamoto, on the southwestern most main island of Kyushu, and home of Kumamon the popular mascot bear of the region.
The next 3 days of our trip involved renting a tiny compact cube of a Toyota car/van: the Roomy. With what felt like a 1 cylinder motor of exhilarating power through twisty mountainous roads, in an absolute down pour, driving on the opposite side of the road … thank goodness I had Viola and Andrew the navigators helping me out!
Our AirBnB was located in rural Kumamoto about an hours drive from the city center. This was no typical AirBnB though, this was a full on cultural experience in a 116 year old farming house, hosted by the most genuine, caring grandparents: Chi Chi and Ka Ka.
From the minute we pulled up to the house in the pouring rain, they greeted us with open arms and umbrellas to usher us into their warm, cozy home.
Chi Chi already had the charcoal fired up with water boiling for green tea as we entered.
Not long after, the tea pot was replaced with a cauldron of chicken, tofu and vegetables, Chi Chi instructed us to scramble a raw egg in a bowl with our chopsticks, and our traditional dining experience began.
Chi Chi provided the comedy, bringing piece by piece of fresh tempura, as he hummed the tunes of oldies American music playing in the background on his record player.
Mid meal and Ka Ka made an appearance out of the kitchen to present us all with a gift: hand sewn (by her) warm coats known as Hanten.
Barely finished our ice cream dessert, Chi Chi whisked us to the table for what appeared to be an arts and crafts session. The initial instructions of draw and have fun soon led to him teaching us how to write various words and phrases in Japanese characters.
Noticing a few Mickey Mouse figurines in the house, I painted a quick Mickey face. It was a hit! Chi Chi immediately called over Ka Ka who proceeded to oh and ah as they pinned up the picture on their wooden doorway. They used metal tacks on their immaculate 116 year old wooden interior! We were in stitches trying to hide our laughter and shock! And yes the Japanese characters on the left translate to “Vegetable Garden,” but that’s a whole other story.
Waiting patiently for our writing and painting session to end, it was Ka Ka’s turn to play dress-up and fit Viola and Sarah into traditional kimonos. The amount of steps and layers involved was unbelievable.
Don’t worry ladies, these highly skilled samurai will stand guard as you rest peacefully tonight. What an unexpected, amazing evening had by all.