A day with Keigo

Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
Trip End Mar 21, 2008

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Flag of Japan  ,
Friday, December 8, 2006

Our video of Hiroshima can be found on the Contents page (entry #1).  At the top of the page, click on 'more thumbnails' to see all the videos.

For the first time in what feels like weeks, we are able to sleep in, undisturbed by bus schedules, noisy dormmates or check-out times.  In fact, it is around 10:30 by the time we wake up - very late for us but probably our bodies' response to all the weird demands we've been placing on them. 

When we eventually get going, Keigo drives us about 50km away to a place called Iwakuni.  A centuries old, strategically important location, Iwakuni is most famous for the oddly-shaped Kentai bridge.  The local king or whatever decided back in the mid-1600s that he must build a bridge that would never be washed away.  Borrowing from the ideas of the Chinese, he constructed this bridge that is a series of arches, so when you walk from one side to the other, you go up and down across these arches.  It stood for centuries until the 1950s when, due to lack of wartime maintenance, it was partially ruined by a typhoon.  Engineers were called in from Tokyo to rebuilt it, even stronger than before.  They said that the engineering principles behind the original design were so sound that they could not be improved upon.

We drive back into town to pick up Keigo's girlfriend, Yukari, from work.  We are abit early so we kill some time looking around some home products superstore.  The Japanese love their gadgets, so we have a good laugh horsing around with the massage chairs, remote control toilets and some weird exercise seat/motorised rodeo bull thing.

Having picked up Yukari, Keigo proceeds to drive us all the way back out to Iwakuni, a good 90 minute drive, for dinner.  He had told us that the restaurant is in a "traditional building" but we started looking at each other as if to say "this must be one heck of a restaurant if it warrants driving this sort of distance". 

Well, it is definitely worth the journey.  In fact, we both reckon it is one of the most amazing places we've ever eaten.  Out in what seems like the middle of nowhere is this large series of old Japanese buildings known as Sanzoku, illuminated by hundreds of paper lanterns.  Each of the buildings is another part of this one great big restaurant, each with its own kitchen.  Keigo and Yukari order for us and pay in advance, a not inconsiderable expense judging by the amount of food we are about to have delivered to us.  Our restaurant has a big barbequing area in the centre where the house specialty, chicken teriyaki, is prepared by chefs in black uniforms and white headbands.  Surrounding the chicken station are old-style tables, raised only about a foot from the floor and cushions upon which you sit cross-legged while you dine.  I've never been all that flexible, so the cross-legged thing is a bit of a challenge for me, unlike all the other rubber-limbed Japanese, and Jane.  The first food to arrive is the chicken, a full leg for each person, soaked in teriyaki sauce and eaten with the long wooden skewer it comes impaled on.  We are also provided with a little mini-BBQ on our table to cook little strips of pork.  While the food is delicious, the experience of eating in this centuries-old style is what we will remember most.  By the time we drop Yukari off and get back to Keigo's, it is nearly 2am.
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