Get Your Samurai On

Another fine breakfast in Japan: yogurt, hot miso, and gigantic toast. They even gave me cereal to make me feel like I was back in Portland.
Another fine breakfast in Japan: yogurt, hot miso, and gigantic toast. They even gave me cereal to make me feel like I was back in Portland.

We also had nato.

For those of you unfamiliar with nato, it’s just like eating refried beans, only on the set of one of the Aliens movies. Though in reality rather tasty, it is basically impossible to describe nato without it sounding horrific.

It’s slimy, stinky, and vaguely nutty.

…See, I told you so.

To make it less like something out of an Aliens movie, The Princess mixed mine with rice. And a raw egg. Because it definitely wasn’t slimy enough to begin with.

This is probably the weirdest thing I ate while in Japan.

Cereal included for honkie appeasing purposes only.

Fortunately I had Kagome standing by. This version even had fruit mixed in with the veggies.

Don’t be fooled by the word “original” on the carton. They only started making a version supplemented with fruit after having massacred 90% of the vegetables in Japan to make the other Kagome flavor.

Kagome is veggie as fuck. If there was a Japanese Popeye, he would drink Kagome and bench press a Buick.

Later in the evening, we would be eating okonomiyaki with “Hiroshima Copu” (Hiroshima Coop.), The Princess’ Hiroshima pals—but until then we had the day to ourselves.

With breakfast devoured, we set out for Hiroshima Castle.

Everything in Japan is prettier than in the States. This sewer cover looks better than most of Portland’s public art. Not that that’s saying much.

There is human shit under this.

As we approached the bridge which stretches over the old moat, we could see people crossing back and forth, most of them going—or returning from—their first shrine visit of the New Year.

The people of Japan keep track, and participate in the fulfillment, of many “firsts” for the New Year. First sunrise, first shrine visit, first laughter, first calligraphy, first letter exchange, first tea ceremony, first dream.

The whole month of January overflows with such activities in Japan.

Also overflowing this time of year, apparently, is the trash near the shrines which people go to visit. As afore mentioned, there’s a serious packaging catastrophe happening in this country.

For reals.

I sure hope that guy puts out his cigarette before adding it to the trash pile…

On the castle grounds, we found a map detailing some of the key features, including the locations of all three A-Bombed Trees.

Aside from the rebuilt castle keep and shrine, the castle grounds consist largely of an open park and the vague ruins of several buildings obliterated almost entirely by the atomic blast.

Through the trees, the rebuilt keep of Hiroshima Castle could be seen rising into a blue sky high above the park.

Children played on the steps as we climbed up toward the entrance to the donjon.

Romantic arms length photo. Powered by Kagome. Veggie as fuck.

Standing in front of a feudal castle, even a rebuilt one, is an experience like no other. I felt like I was in a Kurosawa movie. A post-apocalyptic, punk rock Kurosawa movie.

With nuclear explosions.

And swords.

At the door to the keep, a beautiful New Year’s display stood guard to greet the castle visitors.

Inside, they had a model showing what Hiroshima used to look like in feudal times. The square in the middle is the castle grounds.

The walls even had loopholes to help you busta cap upon some invaders.

And special grates to help you lob stones at the head of any chump who tries to climb up the walls without permission.

Ancient Samurai don’t cotton to that kinda bullshit. No Sir!

Also, there was some old stuff…

Honestly, I have no idea why I took this photo.

The metal hat was actually for firefighters. I wish our firefighters wore hats like this.

The castle keep continued to serve as a military headquarters all the way through WWII. I’ll let you guess at what moment it was officially “decommissioned.”

Unfortunately, photos weren’t allowed in the section of Really Old and Badass Things, but there was a bunch of swords and armor, and all manner of other stuff that Samurai probably spent a good deal of their time thinking about. There was even a sword chained up in a box that you could grab the handle of in order to feel its weight. It felt a lot like the katana I have at home, only with a homicide-prevention-kit built around it.

Not nearly as much fun, I assure you.

They also had a dress-up section!

Not surprisingly, The Princess dressed up as a princess.


I got to be a feudal overlord, doubtless fighting a hopeless battle for the honor of my ravaged kingdom.

Hisachan got her Samurai on too.

Super tough.

Apparently, this is how samurai read books back in the day. I usually just sit on the john.

They even had a tiny feudal taxicab. To fit inside this thing, I would probably have to perform a version of the Human Pretzel from which I could not reemerge without medical attention.

I’m pretty sure they had this in medieval Europe too, only there it was called a gibbet.

The top of the castle boasted breathtaking views of Hiroshima City. Plus bars to prevent you from performing an epic “Sayonara.”

As a prize for making it all the way to the top of the castle, someone had installed a vending machine so we could buy Nestle products.

Everyone knows how much we love those.


After our adventures in the castle, we walked back through downtown on our way home.

Hiroshima is a beautiful city.

After we returned, I even befriended the notably neurotic “other cat,” Chibby-Chyan, who from that moment onward demanded my affection more or less constantly.

Apparently this furry fatty NEVER likes strangers. But we’re real tight now.


Naoko-San served us up some mochi mixed with sweet bean powder, which was for some reason green. It was super tasty. And chewy. And green. And good!

Afterwards, we prepared to meet Hiroshima Copu for a dinner of Hiroshima-Style Okonomiyaki, but that will have to await our next entry…

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Ten Thousand Shrines