Postcard 7

Issue Number : vii
Date : February 15, 1996
Period Covered : 01/16/96 - 01/31/96
Current Location: New Yawk City
Future Stops : Colorado, London, Stockholm, Norway

After China, it was back to Japan. I spent another 2 weeks
there but half of it was spent outside of Tokyo. Armed with a
Japan rail pass, I took the bullet train to Hiroshima and
Kyoto. I was very impressed with the bullet trains. They sure
beat the hell out of Amtrak. They were clean, fast and very
punctual. My bad habit of missing planes has unfortunately
expanded to include trains. I missed a few in Japan but
another train was only a few minutes wait away.

Food was readily available during my train journey. You could
stock up by buying bento boxes on the station platform or try
one of the stand up noodle bars. I nearly missed a train
because I was too busy slurping down noodles as my train was
getting ready to pull out. On the train, vendors would hawk
local specialties. I can definitely recommend the fresh
unagi{eel} with rice. I wouldn’t recommend eating or sitting
in the smoking car unless you are passionate about breathing
second hand smoke. The Japanese are serious chain smokers and
you will develop instantaneous lung cancer if you sit in the
smoking section.

My first stop was the site of the first atomic bomb dropped
during wartime. Hiroshima was leveled by that fateful blast.
Half the population of the city died within a week of the
bombing. The memories of the devastation still haunt this city
and Hiroshima will not let the world forget it. They have
rebuilt the city as a memorial to the victims of the bomb and
have channelled their efforts to promote a nuclear free world.

The Peace Park, a tranquil oasis in the middle of the city, is
filled with monuments and memorials. People still come and pay
their respects with flowers, incense and origami cranes. The
crane is a symbol for peace in Hiroshima. A girl dying of
leukemia from the bomb’s radiation, thought she would be saved
if she folded a thousand paper cranes. She made cranes from
all sorts of paper from her hospital bed. In the end she made
over 1000 cranes but to no avail. She died from the deadly
disease but her spirit still lives on in the chains of paper
cranes that decorate the park.

The Hiroshima museum is somber and sobering experience. The
exhibits chronicle the history of the atomic bomb and the
effects that the bomb had on Hiroshima. Tattered clothes,
burnt out personal effects and pictures of suffering victims
all showed the horrible impact of the bomb. Many broken
watches, all stopped at the time of impact(8:16am), were on
display. Videotaped testimonials of survivors provided heart
rendering stories of devastation and suffering. The museum’s
exhibits told Hiroshima’s sad tale without laying blame or
guilt on any country. Their aim was to make the display
informative in the hope that no other city will ever have to
face the senseless destruction of a nuclear bomb. My 2 hours
spent in the museum disturbed and moved me. It felt very
awkward walking through the museum as an American clad in my
green Army jacket.

I then moved on to Kyoto, where I met two unique world
travelers. Their method of travelling was totally different
than mine. They have never left Japan. Mr and Mrs Hata
participate in a home visit program. They open up their home
to people from different countries to facilitate cultural
exchange. They have been doing this for 10 years and I was
their 82nd guest. I spent 2 1/2 hours in their home talking to
them about life. They welcomed me with food, drinks and candid
conversation. They were in their mid 60’s but I did not feel
there was an age difference or a generation gap. They were
open and honest about their lives and worries. I really
enjoyed talking with them and I felt lucky to catch a glimpse
of Japanese home life.

In Japan, there are so many different types of accomodations:
ryokans, minshukus, love hotels, govt inns, hostels and capsule
hotels. I wanted to try them all to get a taste of how the
Japanese travel. My last night in Japan, I checked into a
capsule or cocoon hotel. Japan is short on space and these
hotels try to alleviate this problem by packing as many people
as they can into a small hotel. You get a set of pajamas and
a towel when you check in. You store your belongings in a
locker because you don’t actually get a room. You have a small
compartment or capsule to sleep in. There were about 80
capsules in the room where I slept. The capsules were the size
of coffins and they were stacked from floor to ceiling. The
room looked like the drawer room of a morgue. You literally
crawl into your hole to sleep. There was no door but a small
pull down curtain at your feet for privacy. Inside your
cocoon, you have a TV mounted on the ceiling. An console in the wall of my unit housed a radio, alarm clock, reading lamp
and an emergency panic button. Some people can’t sleep
in these capsules because it can be claustrophobic. I didn’t
have that problem but encountered a different sort of insomnia.
The TV shows porno movies and it was hard to sleep because of
the moaning coming from the tv sets of the adjacent capsules.
Definitely a strange experience.

Random Thoughts
I contracted laryngitis when I got back to NY so I haven’t been
able to call some of you. I have basically become a hermit the
last few days but it gives me the chance to catch up on these
My tip for travelling in Japan is to wear loafers. It makes
taking off your shoes (which u do a lot) so much easier.
The payphones in Japan were great. They had digital and analog
jacks for modems. It made retrieving email a snap. Unlike the
AT&T data phones at major US airports which usually are
vandalized or don’t work properly. I usually found an
electrical outlet nearby so I could plug in my AC adapter too.
Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and I
believe it. I left my computer in a telephone booth at a hotel
and didn’t figure it out until 30 minutes later. Someone found
it and returned it to the front desk. I was hoping a Japanese
person would find it and not a Westerner. I didn’t find out
who returned it but their honesty made my day.
I really enjoyed the Japanese baths. Too bad they weren’t
Walking home late one night, I saw a group of Japanese kids
practicing their break dancing. That was odd enough but these
guys were wearing afros and dreads. I didn’t think asian hair
could do that.
If you are interested in particpating in a home visit program,
SERVAS in NY can arrange 2 day visits in homes around the
world. Its a great way to promote goodwill and understanding
on this planet.
** MAO – See you in WP. There is a large portrait of you in
front of the Forbidden City. The Chinese love to take photos
in front of your mug. I told everyone there that I used to
work with you. They were very impressed. **
** Cheryl – Actually that book has been on my reading list for
awhile. Because of your glowing recommendation, I’m going to
try and pick it up this week. I am really glad to hear about
Lisa. **
** Irene – Did u make it to the travel show? Did you get my
Virgin voucher? I have another one if u need it. **
** Sundeep – Java is something I have thought of picking up.
It might be useful in my next career. There is a book out that
claims Marco Polo never went to China. He made it all up.
Maybe he got the idea from Cheers too. The movie we saw was
‘Days of Being Wild’ and yer right it was made by the same guy.
CE is sort of a sequel with the same dreamy atmosphere. **
** Kirschdude – All u have is a name? No address, town or
other leads? **
** Peggy – I noticed Dr Perv on your dist list. I saw him in
GV but didn’t get a chance to say hello. **
** Masako – I will send the picture and card when I get back to
NY. **
** Rob – I called you in NJ, but didn’t leave a msg. Maybe we
can hit your fave all u can eat sushi place one day. Candido
gave me your number. **
** Ray – Did you get your vcr fixed and did you finally see 6
degs of separation? **
** Dave – How’s the apt hunting and any news on MIT? **
I had a great taxi driver in Tokyo. He was friendly and
talkative. He mistakenly took a longer than necessary route
but he apologized and reduced the fare shown on the meter. I
knew I would meet an honest cabbie someday.
That bomb on the bus in London last week, exploded 2 blocks
from my old flat.
If I were to die during my travels, it will probably not be
from AIDS, ebola, malaria, terrorism, food poisioning,
hepatitus or a victim of crime. It will most likely be a
traffic accident. I have seen some atrocious driving
(especially in developing and 3rd world countries). Just
walking across the street is dangerous. I think in some
countries, if you have enough money to have a car, you
automatically get a license.
I saw a poll in USA Today where travelers gave China the nod as
having the worst bathrooms in the world.

Quote of the Day
I don’t feel safe in this world no more
I don’t want to die in a nuclear war
I’m going to sail away to a distant shore
and make like an ape man
– R. Davies

The views expressed in this postcard are solely my own. They
may not be politically correct and may even be exaggerated.
Names may be changed to protect the innocent or guilty parties.
I do not have a spell checker so typographical errors will be
common. Reproduction or rebroadcast without the expressed
written consent of Major League Baseball is strictly