Sunday, 1 September 2019

Hiroshima day two

It’s a lovely looking day when I bound out of my bed in the early morning, refreshed after a sound sleep.

That’s the fantasy. The reality is that I drag my sorry arse out of bed around 11. It does look lovely outside. But I realise that it’s fucking boiling hot. However pleasant it looks from behind the double glazing. I slowly rouse myself from my stupour.

Our plan, unsurprisingly, is to visit the A-bomb memorial. We can get a tram there from the station. It makes sense to do our shinkansen stuff there first.

We reserve seats for the stage of our journey, from here to Kyoto, and the final part, from Kyoto to Tokyo. Don’t want any more of that standing. That was a total pain in the arse. Just about literally. This time we’ve no problem securing seats. I suppose because we’re reserving several days in advance.

There’s a tram terminus outside the station. I’m queueing up to buy tickets, when the person in front of me is told to just pay when getting off the tram. Bit of a strange system, but this is Japan.

We jump on a number 2 tram.

“That’s a really good system, numbering the stops. Makes it easy to know how close you are to where you want to get off.”

“They’re very well organised here, Dad. You must have noticed that.” Indeed I have. That and the ready availability of cheap whisky are two of the things I most like about Japan.

We pay when we get off the tram. In cash. It’s remarkably simple. But I suppose only works if you have a flat fare.

Have I mentioned yet that it’s hot? Mind-numbingly, meltingly hot. Being outside is no fun. Even in the shade.

We head straight to the A-bomb dome. Luckily there are trees, and hence some shade, around it. There are quite a few other people around. I suppose it’s Hiroshima’s most famous sight. Though not a particularly cheery one.

The A-bomb memorial is surprisingly upsetting. I really get quite emotional. One phrase in the description of the monument really struck me: “everyone in the building was immediately killed”. At least they didn’t know anything about it, is the best comfort I can find.

Depressing seeing some tourists taking selfies in front of the wrecked dome. Some people have no fucking respect.

We would visit the museum. But there’s a long queue outside. Standing in the full sun. No way Andrew could survive that.

As Andrew is melting again, we go to a brewpub around the corner from the A-bomb park. It was a strange western feel. And a menu full of American food. Think I can pass on that. I’m not going to eat a US-style burger in Japan. That would be just stupid.

I kick off with an IPA, Andrew a Pale Ale. Alexei just has an Asahi Lager. My beer is almost as unlike an IPA as you can imagine. No real hop presence and with an odd maltiness.

“That’s crap. Tastes to me like they’re brewing from malt extract.” That might explain the lack of visible brewing equipment. “What’s you beer like, Andrew?”

“Not great.”

“I think Alexei made a wise choice sticking with Asahi.”

An American couple come in and start playing pool. And light up fags. It’s really taking some getting used to this smoking in pubs. I’m so unused to it now. Luckily they’re at the other side of the room and the ventilation is good.

At least the beer is dead cold. It has that going for it. I really needed something cold when we got here. I was feeling really hot. I felt almost as bad as Andrew looked.

I try the Stout next. That’s a pretty easy style to make, even with malt extract.

“The Stout is crap, too. How’s you Hazy IPA, Andrew?”

“No better than the Pale Ale.”

Alexei is sensibly sticking to Asahi.

There’s another beery sounding pub just around the corner. But that doesn’t open until five o’ clock. Best wait it out until then.

“What do you reckon, kids – get something to eat in the next pub?”

“Sounds good to me.”

There’s time for one more beer before then. I give up on their own beers and have an Asahi Black. Andrew joins Alexei in a standard Asahi.

“This beer is much better, kids. This is the worst brewpub I’ve been in for ages. Even worse than the German chain ones.”

We arrive at Hiroshima Hop's a few minutes after opening time. But there are already quite a few punters in. That’s a good sign. The brewpub was pretty much deserted other than the odd wandering tourist.

“Oh look, it’s Happy Hour.” I observe to the kids. “The Malt’s is just 200 yen. Three of those, I guess, then.”

All the draught beers are from Suntory. The first time I can remember seeing their beers in a pub. Though I’ve seen their water, coffee and whisky all over the place.

Malt’s isn’t at all bad. Pretty mainstream, but with no off flavours and a satisfying maltiness. This will do.

“This’ll do me. Who’s hungry?”

We go for a Japanese tapas thing, ordering little bits of food with every round of beer. Sharing it between the three of us. Though Andrew doesn’t eat a great deal.

The food is pretty good and very reasonably priced. The chips are slightly odd, being spiced with sage. One dish is described as ham cutlet, but is obviously battered spam. Tasted ace, mind. The tins of spam in the shop are crazy expensive at 3.50 euros for 180 grams. 

I just have to have some fried dumplings. One of my favourite Japanese dishes. Yum. I could eat them any day of the week. Every day, really. Never disappoint.

The décor is very pine. Pine tables, pine chairs, pine panelling. A bit like a modern Czech pub. It’s comfortable enough. And seems popular with the locals. Definitely much better than the last place. The kids seem happy.

“Are you happy, kids?”

“Stop pestering us with stupid questions, Dad.” It’s odd Alexei doesn’t like being bothered by stupid questions. As he often bombards me with them. Usually when I’m at a really critical point in a piece I’m writing.

“What do you think of Richard Nixon?” Is one of the more sensible examples. As is “Would you vote for Stalin?” or “What do you think of Australasia?”

We get a different tram back to the station. Another line runs just 50 metres away from the pub. I do like a city with a decent tram network.

As we trundle along, outside is just another bright, modern city. Coloured lights cheerily illuminating the night. It’s easy to forget, a few beers into the evening, exactly what happened here. Almost exactly 75 years ago.

Before bedtime, there’s time for a chill in the kids’ room. Looking out over the Hiroshima skyline as I sip on my Suntory whisky and Andrew guzzles more Strong Zero. I really like this city. Not sure why, but I do.

We're watching another weird Japanese programme that's just people eating. This one is about bodybuilders stuffing their faces trying to put on as much weight as possible. Japanese TV is as strange as I expected. Other than the baseball. Though even that has some odd, specifically Japanese, bits.

One of the weirdest things: Japanese TV remote controls have buttons from one to twelve. What?

It would be wonderful, if the temperature were 15 degrees cooler.

My lights go out gazing at Hiroshima’s lights.

KeMBY's Brew Pub
2 Chome-9-13 Otemachi,
Naka Ward,
Hiroshima, 730-0051
Tel: 082-249-6201

Hiroshima Hop's
2 Chome-8-1 Otemachi,
Naka Ward,
Hiroshima, 730-0057
Hours: Opens 5PM
Tel: 082-542-3150

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