Atlantis Alumni

Monday, May 27, 2019

Our 36th Anniversary

Dan and I met at a party on Memorial Day in 1983. We celebrate our anniversary at the end of May each year. It's been a wonderful run as the years rolled by. Here we are in Japan this month. Happy Anniversary to my sweetheart!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Trip Final: Return To Kyoto

On Thursday our group was offered an Osaka City/Shopping Tour, but we decided to return to nearby Kyoto. A half-hour ride on the excellent Japan Railway System (JR) allowed us to arrive in the ancient capital by 9:15 AM. We took a taxi to Ginkakuji Temple, another World Heritage site. Although it is famous for the "Silver Pavilion," which lacks any remaining silver leaf, the gardens are full of very old, twisted trees and raked sand plots that coordinate with the mountain setting. We then went to the Heian Shrine, a colorful late 19th century site built to commemorate the Imperial Family. It's a favorite spot of Jim's, who reminded me that it was where we had seen a performance of the mysterious Noh Drama on a previous visit to Japan. Then we stopped briefly at the National Museum of Modern Art before enjoying a Kaiseki lunch in the fabled Gion District. Our last attraction was the oldest Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, the Kemin-ji, noted not only for its architecture but also for its collection of screen paintings depicting demons, dragons and scenery. We returned to Osaka for a farewell group dinner at a restaurant located on the grounds of Osaka Castle. - Dan

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Hiroshima And Osaka

Wednesday morning started with somber visits to the Atomic Dome and Peace Museum, two iconic sites in Hiroshima, the world's most tragic city. The Atomic Dome is a memorial to the 300,000 who died due to the initial effects of the blast, or the later effects of radiation. The dome itself is the remains of a concrete cultural and business center built in 1915. After the war, city residents fought to preserve the ruins, which became a symbol for nuclear bomb destruction. Our guide Kyoko had taught us how to fold paper into Oragani cranes, symbols of peace and longevity. We left these small tokens of respect at the monument to the children who perished in the catastrophe. Just before that we saw small school children, so my heart quickened when I left the crane at the monument. The Peace Museum, which shows the devastation to ordinary Hiroshima victims is meaningful, and almost unbelievable - photos, charred clothes, and painful survivor testimonies proclaim the horror and reality of the atomic bombing of 1945. After leaving the Peace Memorial Museum, we had lunch at the train station. Then we boarded a bullet train and arrived in Osaka in the mid-afternoon. - Dan

It's impossible to visit the memorials in Hiroshima without being deeply touched by the particular horrors endured by the victims of the first use of nuclear weapons. As with visits to Holocaust memorials, or other sites memorializing the dead as a result of human cruelty toward other innocent humans, one cannot help but wonder if we are doomed by our own innate capacity for killing. During my first visit to Hiroshima with a group of fellow tourists 25 years ago, I got into a heated exchange with one of our group who defended the use of the bomb. To me this is indefensible. Nuclear weapons are an obscenity that must be abolished. Look at the faces of the burnt and suffering children and tell me that the use of the bomb was justified. It was not. There is no justification for the mass killing of innocent human beings. At the Hiroshima memorial Dan and I signed a petition for a woman calling for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. Inside the museum I was ashamed, but not surprised to learn that the United States has not signed on to the international effort to ban nuclear weapons. When will we ever learn? We arrived in Osaka to find a bustling, modern city known as a prime commercial hub in Japan. There is not much of old Osaka remaining, the shrines, temples, and quaint neighborhoods having been carpet-bombed into oblivion by the allies during WWII. However, the city rose from the ashes and sparkles at night. Perhaps there is hope for mankind after all, if we heed the message of Hiroshima. - Jim

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Miyajima Island

Tuesday morning our bus left the Sheraton Hotel in Hiroshima for the ferry on the Inland Sea that took us for the short ride over to Miyajima Island. The island is one of the three most famed natural beauty locations in Japan. The unique Torii Gate in the water before the Itsukushima Shrine seems to float in the sea. The shrine is also in the water and offers unique views of the Torii Gate, water, and surrounding, tall green mountains. Our group had lunch at an Okonomiyaki restaurant. This type of popular food consists of a pancake, alfalfa sprouts and either shrimp or meat topped by a thin egg covering. The Okonomiyaki were washed down with beer for some, or a lemon soda. Ice cream, both at the restaurant and on the street, was also a good choice on the exquisite island of Miyajima. A splended, multi-course Kaiseki dinner, at Mitakiso Restaurant, in Hiroshima, ended our day. - Dan

Monday, May 20, 2019

Himeji Castle

Our day of touring and travel on Monday started after breakfast with a bus ride through more towering Japanese mountains covered with fir, pine and cedar trees. As with most Japanese land travel, the bus often zoomed through mountain tunnels. When our group arrived at Himeji, we toured the country's most beautiful feudal castle. The "White Heron" castle has white plaster walls to resist flaming arrows, and its roof line is said to resemble its namesake bird. The main section of the castle rises seven stories high, and dominates the town. We also had a short visit to nearby Koko-En Gardens, which features a rushing waterfall and large ponds that hold 250 colorful koi, the rarest type of carp. A lunch at a Kobe beef restaurant followed. Happily, our tour leaders had secured seafood meals for us, which included scallops, prawns and abalone. Then the group boarded a fast bullet train for Hiroshima. A short ride left us at the station and a well-appointed Sheraton hotel. We enjoyed a tasty sushi dinner at the hotel's Miyabitei restaurant before retiring. - Dan