The Lay of the Land

The river’s distributary is near Aki-Nagatsuka streetcar station. After that it bifurcates, then splits again, and again, and then once more to divide the city into four long, thin islands and one squat, wider island. Each island points towards the sea, their ends blunted by docks and manmade tidal defences.

Hiroshima is a city built on a delta, and because of the shape of its river channel there are bridges everywhere. In fact, stand on a bridge overlooking a wide river channel, and there’s a good chance you can see one or two more bridges. Surrounding the delta on all landward sides are jagged hills and mountains, where the city just stops dead in many places- although there are some houses and hotels on the hillsides too. A short way out to sea islands jut out from the foam.

All in all, Hiroshima is probably the most spectacular location for a city I’ve ever seen. It reminds me of a pseudo-free roaming videogame, where you move between islands and previously blocked bridges open up once you’ve passed checkpoints in the story. There’s a lot more open space here too, for which I was very grateful after Osaka.

Adding to the strangeness, buildings in the city are relentlessly modern, because the destruction wreaked by the bomb left so few of the city centre’s buildings standing. The castle, for example, is a reconstruction, built in 1958: the same year as the famous red-and-white Tokyo tower, which was also a significant milestone in Japan’s post-war reconstruction. A lot of the suburban housing has a slightly temporary feel, partly due to earthquake awareness, and partly because so much was built so fast during Japan’s economic miracle.

I haven’t seen that much of the city yet, really. I’ve mostly been teaching, which has been genuinely exhausting, but satisfying. My students are mostly very polite and keen to learn, if often quite shy. It’s a varied crowd- university students, high schoolers, the recently retired and high-flying local professionals racing to class from interminable meetings. Unexpectedly, the younger students have been the shyer ones, while the retiree hobbyist learners are great fun. I’m not sure if I’ve really taught people a lot so far, and it turns out explaining the phrase ‘intangible concerns’ is incredibly fucking difficult, but I definitely don’t get bored.

My flat is fairly spartan at the moment- my furniture-building skills, such as they are, are really not up to Japanese-only instructions. Life goals for next week include assembling a table without committing any homicides. But I have a flat, and a Japanese bank account and a flashy new iPhone, so life is slightly more ordered. I haven’t quite managed to cook a meal yet, because eating out is not that expensive and everything is so damn good! Salted mackerel, lotus root, radish dumplings, ramen bowls with kimchi, braised eel, and miso soup on the side. I’ll do a proper food-based blog post at some point; I haven’t yet been successful at waiting to take pictures before eating.

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Unfortunately, I have a cold and I can’t be bothered to write any more, so I’m going to cut this one short and write again next week.

P.S. one more thing- genuinely so upset I couldn’t watch England vs Croatia. I know people were upset but I bet the mood back home was electric anyway.

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