Today Jeremy and I decide to venture out and explore by ourselves. One of the things we have been hearing since before we arrived was that we needed to go see the Kintai Bridge and Iwakuni Castle. Even though it’s only 3.5 miles from the base, we decided to take our first taxi ride there.
Our driver was really nice and was willing to answer all my “what’s that?” questions. When I asked him his favorite thing about Iwakuni, he said “My wife”. Smart man. He also talked to Jeremy about fishing for sea bass and fishing at his friend’s fishery. I kind of wish our ride was a little longer because it was fun talking to him.
Before we came to Japan, I had seen pictures of the Kintai Bridge but it didn’t really prepare me for seeing it in person. It amazes me that I had the opportunity to see something in person that was older than the United States. The Kintai Bridge was built in the 1650’s. I really want to look more into the history of it.
Before we crossed over, Jeremy and I purchased tickets to cross and tickets to take a rope trolley to the top of the mountain to see Iwakuni Castle.
Crossing the bridge was interesting. It has very steep arches with steps that are kind of slopped. You have to be careful of where you step so you don’t slip.
While crossing we paused occasionally to watch people fishing. There were different styles. We also saw the boats used for the cormorant fishing. I can’t wait to watch that because they fish at night by firelight.
After we crossed the bridge we found one of the many ice cream stands that sell ice cream. All the stands sell a wide variety of ice cream. Since I’m an ice cream nut, we had to stop and try some. I took the shop assistant’s recommendation of salted caramel and Jeremy the Iwakuni lotus. Both were very yummy and perfect on a hot day.
We enjoyed our ice cream in Kikko Park. Kikko Park had various statues, buildings, reflecting ponds, and fountains. I wish I spoke Japanese or at least could read it so I would know what was what in the park.
While we walked through the park we found a cat that seemed interested in us. We also found some koi fish that were bigger than the cat.
After admiring the local wildlife we found a bridge that went to a shrine. I really wish I knew someone that could explain the shrine to me and what we should do there. We kind of figured out that we were expected to donate ¥100 to take some paper to tie to a branch of a tree by the shrine. I’m not sure what that was for but we did it. Hopefully I can make a Japanese friend soon that can explain these things to me soon. I want to learn more about their culture.
We eventually made our way to the rope trolley. While we waited for the trolley to come we found some drink machines. I was really excited because I found a drink that I had read about in “American Fuji” by Sara Backer. (Great book. I highly recommend it.) Pocari Sweat is a lightly sweet drink with no destinctive flavor. I may get it again if I find it. Jeremy picked a lemon drink that was overwhelmingly lemon. Not sure if I’ll have it again.
While we were waiting for the rope trolley, we learned about the Tanabata festival that is happening tomorrow. I’m not entirely sure what it is because we had a very excited Japanese woman who couldn’t speak English trying to get us to write down our wishes on pieces of colored paper to tie to a bamboo tree. So Jeremy and I wrote our wishes down and tied them to the bamboo tree in the lobby. I think she said we had to see the stars tomorrow for our wishes to come true. I’ll let you know what my wish is if it comes true.
The rope trolley ride was a lot of fun. It goes up the side of the mountains on cables. I’ve never ridden anything like this before so I was excited and nervous. It was a little scary seeing how high we were going but the view of the city was amazing.
After we arrived at the top, we still had a hike ahead of us to get Iwakuni Castle. I discovered I was not made for hiking up a mountain but I DID IT! If you look closely at the tree line, on the left you’ll see where the rope trolley pulls into. Follow the tree line along to the right and you’ll see Iwakuni Castle. This should give you an idea of the hike.
While the hike was a workout and half, Iwakuni Castle was more than worth it. It is absolutely gorgeous. I’m so happy we decided to come out to see it.
The inside of the castle is a museum dedicated to swords and things from the time period when the castle was built. Again I wish I could read Japanese so I knew what I was looking at. If I make a Japanese friend, I really want to go back with them.
But the best part of the castle was the view of the observatory. On a clear day you can see all the way to the base. Even though it was hazy out we were able to see the entire city of Iwakuni. It is so beautiful up there.
Jeremy and I decide to try and find a ramen shop before heading home. After walking around for a while we decided to just take a taxi there. The driver said he would take us to one. Instead we were let out about two blocks from the front gate of the base. Confused, we walked back to base and our hotel. Jeremy walked to Crossroads and brought us back dinner. He did find a friend’s wife that will take us to a ramen shop on Wednesday evening. I’m excited.
All in all, today was awesome. It was so much fun exploring these places and meeting new people. I know I have so much to learn but I’m excited and willing to learn. I can’t wait to see what else Iwakuni and Japan has to offer.