What. A. Day.

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Saturday, March 12, 2011

I know we missed a few entries.  Sorry!  I'll try to fill them in as we have time.  As you can guess, we've had a pretty crazy last couple of days.  I'm really not sure where to start.  First we are both extremely moved by all the worry and support from everybody.  We really are lucky to have such amazing people in our lives, and if that's the one thing we take back from this whole crazy trip, then I think it was worth it.  Second, we've had to keep things in perspective.  As stressful as our last couple days were, all we really have to worry about is how to get to the next stop on our vacation.  Compared to what a lot of people have had to deal with here, it really is nothing.
So anyways, yesterday morning we woke up early in Nara while there was still dew on the ground and hopped on a train to Hiroshima.  Nara was awesome by the way, check back in a few days and I'll put up the pictures.  When we got to Hiroshima we took a streetcar to our hotel, grabbed lunch and went to the atomic bomb museum and park.  Not to go into too much detail about the museum and park, but it was a great museum.  Obviously it was very somber and they got very detailed about some of the aftermath of the bomb, but they were very objective and respectful.  I don't really know a good way to put it, but the city has a very optimistic outlook but also is very direct in promoting peace and discouraging nuclear weapons.
We woke up early that morning so that we could go to the peace museum then head to an island about an hour away.  It's a big tourist island, probably just a little bigger than put-in-bay.  We got to the port around 4ish and took a ferry over to the island.  We took pictures and avoided all the deer, then before we left we decided to stick around for a little while to watch the sun set over the mountains.  So yeah, at some point while we were on this island on the Pacific Ocean there was an earthquake and a tsunami that ravished the northern part of Japan.  It was an 8.9 earthquake, the largest ever recorded in Japan.  The whole time we were just strolling around on an island.  We didn't feel any tremors, and the island is tucked back into the mainland in a bay that has a huge island in front of it that must have deflected the waves.  We never knew anything happened.
We headed back to Hiroshima and people were in the streets handing out newspapers. I caught that the headline was about an earthquake, but thought they were referring to the one earlier in the week that was just very minor and far away.  But eventually we grabbed one of the papers that was in English and then realized that something was really wrong.
Back at the hotel we turned on the t.v. and every channel was talking about it.  On a lighter note, even during such a serious situation the Japanese have a goofy way of making it kind of funny since many of the reporters, even though absolutely safe and nobody else was, were wearing hard hats during the interviews.  We tried to call home to let our parents know we were ok, but the phones were down.  The trains were shut down, and all of the flights from the main Tokyo airport were canceled.  We were supposed to leave the next day to travel by train to the main airport to fly out Sunday.  The front desk at the hotel, although friendly, really didn't understand us.  We had pretty much had no idea what to do.  We couldn't understand the people on the news, we couldn't communicate with anyone here, and we couldn't call anyone.
We tried not to freak out and tried to figure out our options.  We seemed to have two of them, fly out of Hiroshima for a few grand through China with several layovers that took over 17 hours or try to get to Tokyo through all the madness and hope it cleared out by then.  We didn't really like either of them.  After staying up late trying to figure things out, we finally passed out.  Before going to bed we shot an email to our travel agent who set up our flights, without much hope.  She came through big time though.  In the morning we had an email back from her saying that they could switch our flight to leave from Osaka, which is less than two hours from Hiroshima well before Tokyo.  By the time we got it though, her office was closed an it was the weekend.  We shot her an email back saying to book it.  From there we headed to the train station, which was very busy, but not crazy, and luckily squeezed on a bullet train to Osaka.  We had no idea if the travel agent would be able to definitely change the flight and after we checked out of the Hiroshima hotel we were cut off from pretty much all communication and internet.  
Upon arrival to Osaka, we quickly found out that its the second biggest city in Japan.  To put it in perspective, if you took the GDP from Osaka alone, it would be larger than all but 9 other countries.  There were people everywhere.  We didn't have a hotel, and we weren't sure if we had plane tickets.  An American at the train station recommended a hotel a short walk from the train station so we tried to head there, but it was madness.  We were standing on a corner reading the map and a old lady tried to help us, but she didn't know where to go so she took us in the wrong direction.  So we were standing on the street looking at the map and a guy came up and again tried to help us find where we were going and insisted on walking us there.  He had absolutely no idea where he was going.  So after wandering though an underground labyrinth for 15 minutes with heavy packs on we pretended like we found the hotel so he wouldn't feel bad.  
There was a Starbucks next to the hotel though which just opened for the first time today.  So we got on their internet and got a reply that our flight from Osaka is booked for no extra fee and will get us there on time, on actually a shorter flight.  Wow.  Relief.
Somebody was looking out for us here.  It's a good thing we got our ashes the other day.
We finally found the hotel and spent the rest of the day preparing for our flight and trying to enjoy our last day in Japan.  Osaka is unlike anywhere we have been to yet.  I know I've used this word a lot, but its crazy.  Lots of malls, restaurants, and arcades next to shady joints and there were people everywhere, most of them flushed and stumbling.  
Again, the whole situation could have been much much worse for us.  We had a lot of very close calls.  There were videos of the fish market we went to on the news and there were trucks being tossed through the alleys were we got our first sushi breakfast.  We haven't heard from Masami yet, but hope she is ok too.
I'm not sure what our internet situation is going to be at our next stop, but I'll put up another post as soon as I can once we get out of Japan.
I hope everything gets better here soon.
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Mal on

So glad you guys are safe and sound! Mel is keeping me updated on your safety. Safe travels!

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