Saturday, May 29, 2010

What is an Expo???

Since moving to Shanghai last year, all we've been hearing about is Expo.  I have to admit even though we live here, I still have had no real idea what the purpose of an Expo officially opened at the beginning of May and we made our first visit on Thursday.  We were lucky enough to have our friends Ty & Kelly from Palau come to Shanghai for a visit and got to go with them.  Sadly, I'm still not real sure what the purpose of Expo is, other than showcasing a bit of information about every country of the world; but, we had a great time hanging out with our friends that we didn't expect to see again after leaving them in Palau.

With Ty, Kelly and Kelly's son, D.J.
Inside the Expo!!

Can you guess what pavillion this is??  That's right ... World Cup fever has even come to the Expo!
We even got a private tour inside the South Africa pavillion ... all of their cultural items were blocked off from the general masses as they weren't behind glass and protected from curious hands.

China's pavillion is behind us ... we did not attempt to venture in due to the crowds.
New Zealands pavillion was very good ... they had thoughtfully set it up to accomodate the thousands of people who would go through it each day by creating a one-way path that led up and through the pavillion showcasing aspects of their country through videos sounds and large photos displays.  On the rooftop, they had continued with the one-way path through garden spaces set up to represent the different geography of the country - complete with a small gyser hot pool!

For regions made up of smaller countries, they shared one large pavillion together ... we were pretty excited to see the Pacific region since we'd lived in Tonga & Palau.
We enjoyed the Tongan display and greeted the Tongan volunteers in their native tongue and chatted about their home with them.  I was happy to see some of their beautiful hand-pounded and painted tapa mats.

It was so great to see the necessary implements for a Betel Nut kit in the Palauan pavillion ... and one of the volunteers even had family on Angaur (of course!). 

After a day of being continually shoved, pushed and cut in front of, we were feeling a bit disenchanted with the Chinese population....but, we were given a treat of these two things as we walked home from the subway. 

It is only plastic between the motorcycle and the scooter.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

8:15 am -- August 6, 1945

Our last stop on our trip before heading back to Osaka was to see Hiroshima. Jason and I had really struggled with whether or not we would go. I didn't want to see what had happened and feel the pain and guilt. Maybe part of me felt like if I didn't see it, it would not be real.

In the end, we decided that we should go. I am certain I won't every forget what I saw and read while going through the Hiroshima Peace Park & Museum.

Japan had been given the chance to surrender a few days earlier and had declined. All night, the night before the bomb was dropped there were air raid sirens going off throughout Hiroshima, but at 8 am that morning the all-clear siren was given. People went outside on their way to work and children went to school. The devestation of the bomb when it was dropped 15 minutes later was horrendous and with so many outside, the carnage was great. The museum had photos of people with their skin literally dripping off their bodies and the tattered remains of children's school uniforms which had been burned off their bodies by the blast. Except for a few buildings, the city was flattened.

The focus of the museum was to simply tell Hiroshima's story and to promote peace; to put an end to nuclear bombs. I was surprised by the fact that it did not feel like blame being placed and by the candidness with which Japan told their own history against their varied enemies leading up to and including WWII.

Today, Hiroshima is a bustling city. We read that within three days of the bomb, the city had one of their street cars running again. Experts had said nothing would grow in this place for 70 years, and yet green grass was growing by the following Spring. A single building, the A-bomb Dome and the extensive Peace Park are the only visible reminders of what happened 65 years ago.

What the building had looked like prior to the bomb.

Our bullet train back to Osaka.

A final picture to end our Japan journey -- these beautiful Dogwood trees were blooming everywhere we went.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Capturing Mt. Fuji from every angle

We stayed in the Five Lakes region at Mt. Fuji, in Kawaguchi-ko.  We couldn't have been happier to be staying in such a beautiful place.  We decided the best way to see as much as possible during our time here was to rent bicycles and ride around the two lakes closest to us.  Here we are with our bikes and our first picture of this famous mountain.

The area around Mt. Fuji was really beautiful as well ...

I'd never seen these fishing stools before, but they were quite cool and these guys were having a great time doing some catch & release fishing.

The hostel we stayed at had the option of staying in a traditional Japanese room which we were excited about.  Even though I was prepared, when I first saw the room I wondered, "where are the beds?"

Of course...they were folded up in the closet!  Actually quite a comfortable way to sleep and allows for a lot more space in tighter quarters.  After bicycling for about 6 hours straight during the day, these mats were a very welcome sight!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Looking for Geishas in Kyoto

Kyoto is known for having a small population of Geishas.  During our four hour self-guided speed tour of Kyoto we were on the look-out for them.  We were continually amazed at the beauty of Kyoto -- due to very little bombing during the war, many of the old buildings are still standing and the entire city is surrounded by green hills.  Lovely.

A gift from China ... bad air quality due to desert dust.

Not sure why all of these stones were wearing aprons?  Jason thought, maybe a chef burial ground?

Prayer wheels.

I was excited to see these girls that were dressed up as Geishas.  Looks like a pretty intensive process!

Although we didn't spot any real Geishas, we did find some great sashimi for Jason!