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Journal Entry 1
9th December 2003
Matsuyama, Japan

A few thoughts about Japan...

Firstly Tokyo. To some extent it meets your expectations perfectly...huge skyscrapers, neon lights, TV advertisements on the sidewalk to keep you entertained whilst you shop...(photos 1 & 2) But there are also some pleasant surprises. Zero crime for a start. It is a very safe city. Secondly, the people are extremely charming and keen to please. Every conversation begins and ends with a flurry of bows. The final treasure is that Tokyo`s busy streets and office blocks are interspersed with small pockets of tranquility in the form of well-kept Japanese gardens (photo 3). The Japanese escape here during their lunch breaks; suits with their `Starbucks Coffee` and schoolgirls with their `Hello Kitty` lunchboxes.

Next, Nikko - a religious town, 2 hours north of Tokyo. The numerous beautifully decorated shrines and five storey pagodas positioned in the depth of the woods would make a spectacular film set.

Hiroshima - a wonderful city. After its destruction in August 1945, they have done a great job of rebuilding it. It is understandably a well-known Peace Centre and the city is based around the Peace Park which is a moving place of rememberance for the victims of the bomb (photo 4).

Mimi-Jima - a small island which is a short ferry trip from Hiroshima. Home to a magnificent red floating shrine and a holy gateway set back in the ocean (photo 5).

Matsuyama - nothing special here apart from the famous `Onsen` (hot springs). What an experience! Compulsory nudity plus (so it seems) an OAP card! I was the youngest by some 50 years! We are staying in a Capsule Hotel which is Japan`s answer to saving floor space. (photo 6)

In summary, Japan seems to be a country of contradictions. On the one hand with their bizarre gadgets (going to the toilet is like being on a fairground ride!) and electrical domination, they are extremely modern and way ahead of us. But at the same time, refreshingly Japan is a country which is eager to hold onto its Eastern roots.