Japan continued — bullet train and Koyasan
We’re in Hiroshima now after taking the Shinkansen, or bullet train, across country to make our way to the little village of Koyasan and then back to Hiroshima.
In case there was ever any doubt that the rest of the world is kicking our ass while our infrastructure crumbles, come take a ride on the Shinkansen. I feel like the poor hick I was when cool city kid Robert Durbin walked into high school wearing the first-known pair of parachute pants. “Wow, the world has really passed us by here.” (Fortunately I could never afford a pair of the soon-to-be-passe pants so no embarrassing photos exist.)
It’s sleek. It’s unbelievably fast, moving at well over 100 mph. We need one in the U.S., but we’re still stuck with what’s left of rickety old Amtrak. Sad.
On the journey to Koyasan, we traveled on subway, city trains and subway. All interconnected and streamlined. Stations are a little confusing and chaotic but not nightmarish.
Unlike Mexico and Hawaii, solar power abounds here. At least visually. Most of their energy comes from fossil fuels, but a fair amount comes from nuclear as well. They’re also a big developer of solar, as several of the big solar panel producers are based here. These pics were taken from the train and aren’t any kind of solid data, but are an interesting look at the type of installations here.
The passive solar hot water system in that last photo is a very typical installation. I saw tons of those units. Notice the one on the neighboring house as well.
Overall, Japan has made pretty much all the same mistakes as the U.S. in terms of its sustainability. The main difference is that they’re recognizing the mistakes and correcting them. And we’re just not. Yet.
Since I mentioned it, I have to spend a few minutes on Koyasan. It’s an intriguing little village. It’s sort of half Buddhist enclave and half tourist-trap, but a tasteful one. Located up in the tree-covered mountains, it’s a beautiful location. We reached it by cable car after the multi-train journey mentioned above. Our residence for the night was a monastery/temple called Shojoshin-in. We sprung for the private ryokan, the traditional japanese inn. It included a dinner and breakfast and was a pretty fun experience, although we were constantly getting tsk-tsked for wearing/not wearing our slippers at the right time.
After the required morning service (40 minutes of watching a monk chant), breakfast (forgot to bring our cameras to dinner, which was much more dramatic):
Next door to our ryokan was an enormous mausoleum. It was so enchanting and enormous that I’m surprised I haven’t seen it featured on TV before. Light was fading quickly and the mosquitoes were brutal but you can get an idea from this pic:
The following day we headed into the other main attraction in Koyasan, a large complex of temples. Many are very old reproductions of truly ancient structures. The scale is hard to get from these pictures, but trust me, many are VERY large.
All-in-all, a fascinating if exhausting side trip out of the city.