Hiroshima Trip

On Thursday, November 10th, we took a bus tour trip to southern Japan, hitting the towns of Hemeji, Hiroshima, Iwakuni and Kyoto. The distance is 600 miles one way, or 1200 miles round trip. We left around Midnight on Thursday, and got back almost at Midnight on Sunday. It was a very long trip, but very much fun! The Phil-Am club was the ones sponsering the event, and we have a number of good friends in the club, so it was nice to get the invitation, and of course the company and food was great!

Our first stop early Friday morning was the Himeji Castle. It's a World Cultual heritage location. Here is the Second outer moat. Sadly, the third, outer moat has been filled in, and now has buildings and roads on top of it.
The main castle tower was recently covered with a shelter as it undergoes a multi-year renovation. They have very nicely painted on the outside of the structure what the castle looks like inside. You can see it's faint painted outline in the middle of the temporary shelter cover.
Here is one of the main gates entering the castle grounds. All round it is the city of Himeji. The castle was started as a fort in 1333 by Norimura Akamatsu, the ruler of this district called Harima. Over the centuries different rulers of the district built the castle up larger and more impressive. The moats were installed around 1601.
Himeji Castle is a hilltop Japanese castle complex located in Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture. The castle is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture, comprising a network of 83 buildings with advanced defensive systems from the feudal period. The castle is frequently known as Hakurojo ("White Egret Castle") or Shirasagijo ("White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior and supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight.
In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu awarded the castle to Ikeda Terumasa for his help in the Battle of Sekigahara, and Ikeda completely rebuilt the castle from 1601 to 1609, expanding it into a large castle complex. Several buildings were later added to the castle complex by Honda Tadamasa from 1617 to 1618. For over 400 years, Himeji Castle has remained intact, even throughout the extensive bombing of Himeji in World War II, and natural disasters such as the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake.
In the Meiji Period (1868 to 1912), many Japanese castles were destroyed. Himeji Castle was abandoned in 1871 and some of the castle corridors and gates were destroyed to make room for Japanese army barracks. The entirety of the castle complex was slated to be demolished by government policy, but it was spared by the efforts of Nakamura Shigeto, an Army colonel. A stone monument honoring Nakamura was placed in the castle complex within the first gate, the Diamond Gate Although Himeji Castle was spared, Japanese castles had became obsolete and their preservation was costly.
When the han feudal system was abolished in 1871, Himeji Castle was put up for auction.The castle was purchased by a Himeji resident for 23 Japanese yen (about 200,000 yen or US$2,258 today). The buyer wanted to demolish the castle complex and develop the land, but the cost of destroying the castle was estimated to be too great, and it was again spared.

Himeji was heavily bombed in 1945, at the end of World War II, and although most of the surrounding area was burned to the ground, the castle survived intact. One firebomb was dropped on the top floor of the castle but fortunately failed to explode.

Himeji Castle is associated with a number of feudal Japanese folklore stories The ghost story of The Dish Mansion at Bancho was centered around Okiku's Well, one of the wells at Himeji Castle that remains to this day. According to the legend, Okiku was falsely accused of losing dishes that were valuable family treasures, and then killed and thrown into the well.Her ghost remained to haunt the well at night, counting dishes in a despondent tone. Here some tourists look down into the legendary well.
The legend of the "Old Widow's Stone" is another folklore story associated with the castle. According to the legend, Toyotomi Hideyoshi ran out of stones when building the original three-story castle keep, and an old woman heard about his trouble. She gave him her hand millstone even though she needed it for her trade. It was said that people who heard the story were inspired and also offered stones to Hideyoshi, speeding up construction of the castle.To this day, the supposed stone can be seen covered with a wire net in the middle of one of the stone walls in the castle complex.

 

Along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle, Himeji Castle is considered one of Japan's three premier castles. It is the most visited castle in Japan, receiving over 820,000 visitors annually. Starting in April 2010, Himeji Castle underwent restoration work to preserve the castle buildings, and this work is expected to continue until 2014.

Entry to the castle keep is closed throughout the renovation, but visitors can view the restoration process from observation platforms and they can continue to enter other areas of the castle complex.
The French Statue of Liberty came to Odaiba, the beach area of Tokyo since April 1998 until May 1999 in commemoration of "The French year in Japan". Because of its popularity, in 2000, a replica of the French Statue of Liberty was erected at the same place. Also in Japan, a small Statue of Liberty is in the Amerika-mura (American Village) shopping district in Osaka, Japan. Another replica is located near the town of Shimoda south of Misawa, Japan where the United States has a U.S. Air Force base with 8,000 military members. This replica is located on the same latitude as the original statue in New York.
The castle complex included three moats, one of which—the outer moat—is now buried.Parts of the central moat and all of the inner moat survive.The moats have an average width of 20 m (66 ft), a maximum width of 34.5 m (113 ft), and a depth of about 2.7 m (8.9 ft). The Three Country Moat is a 2,500 m2 (26,910 ft2) pond; one of the purposes of this moat was to store water for use in fire prevention.
Himeji Castle contains advanced defensive systems from the feudal period.Loopholes in the shape of circles, triangles, and rectangles are located throughout Himeji Castle, intended to allow defenders armed with matchlocks or archers to fire on attackers without exposing themselves. Roughly 1,000 loopholes exist in the castle buildings remaining today. Angled chutes called "stone drop windows" were also set at numerous points in the castle walls, enabling stones or boiling oil to be poured on the heads of attackers passing by underneath, and white plaster was used in the castle’s construction for its resistance to fire.

The castle complex, particularly the Waist Quarter , contains numerous warehouses that were used to store rice, salt, and water in case of a siege. A building known as the Salt Turret was used specifically to store salt, and it is estimated that it contained as many as 3,000 bags of salt when the castle complex was in use.The castle complex also contained 33 wells within the inner moat, 13 of which remain; the deepest of these has a depth of 30 m (98 ft).

Later that evening, just before dusk, we arrived at Hiroshima.

Hiroshima is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chugoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M. on August 6, 1945, near the end of World War II.

Here is our hotel, the Crowne Plaza. It's across the street from the Peace Park.

The Sanyo Railway was extended to Hiroshima in 1894, and a rail line from the main station to the harbor was constructed for military transportation during the First Sino-Japanese War. During that war, the Japanese government moved temporarily to Hiroshima, and Emperor Meiji maintained his headquarters at Hiroshima Castle from September 15, 1894 to April 27, 1895. The significance of Hiroshima for the Japanese government can be discerned from the fact that the first round of talks between Chinese and Japanese representatives to end the Sino-Japanese War was held in Hiroshima from February 1 to February 4, 1895

After we checked in, we had time to visit the Peace Museum just before it closed.

During World War II, the Second Army and Chugoku Regional Army were headquartered in Hiroshima, and the Army Marine Headquarters was located at Ujina port. The city also had large depots of military supplies, and was a key center for shipping.

The bombing of Tokyo and other cities in Japan during World War II caused widespread destruction and hundreds of thousands of deaths, nearly all civilians, predominantly women and children. For example, Toyama, an urban area of 128,000, was nearly fully destroyed, and incendiary attacks on Tokyo are believed to have claimed 90,000 lives. There were no such air raids in Hiroshima. However, the threat was certainly there and to protect against potential firebombings in Hiroshima, students (between 11–14 years) were mobilized to demolish houses and create firebreaks.

Here is a diorama of just before the bomb exploaded.

On Monday, August 6, 1945, at 8:15 AM, the Atomic Bomb "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima by an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, directly killing an estimated 80,000 people. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought total casualties to 90,000–140,000. Approximately 69% of the city's buildings were completely destroyed, and about 7% severely damaged.

Here is a diorama of just after the explosion.

In 1949, a design was selected for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, the closest surviving building to the location of the bomb's detonation, was designated the Genbaku Dome or "Atomic Dome", a part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was opened in 1955 in the Peace Park.

Here is a photo of the atomic dome building shortly after the explosion.

Hiroshima was proclaimed a City of Peace by the Japanese parliament in 1949, at the initiative of its mayor, Shinzo Hamai (1905–1968). As a result, the city of Hiroshima received more international attention as a desirable location for holding international conferences on peace as well as social issues. As part of that effort, the Hiroshima Interpreters' and Guide's Association (HIGA) was established in 1992 in order to facilitate interpretation for conferences, and the Hiroshima Peace Institute was established in 1998 within the Hiroshima University

Here is a diorama of the peace park. The museum is the three buildings to the top, and the atomic dome is just off the image to the left, near the bridge.

 

Here is a view of the "hypocenter", where the bomb went off high in the air. The air burst design was on purpose, as it maximized the damage that the explosion could cause.

Its largest industry is the manufacturing industry with core industries being the production of Mazda cars, car parts and industrial equipment. Mazda Motor Corporation is by far Hiroshima's dominant company. Mazda accounts for 32% of Hiroshima's GDP.

We wandered around at night a bit looking for food...and passed many resturaunts and shops. A busy city!

As of 2006, the city has an estimated population of 1,154,391, while the total population for the metropolitan area was estimated as 2,043,788 in 2000. The total area of the city is 905.08 km², with a density of 1275.4 persons per km².

The population around 1910 was 143,000. Before World War II, Hiroshima's population had grown to 360,000, and peaked at 419,182 in 1942.Following the atomic bombing in 1945, the population dropped to 137,197.By 1955, the city's population had returned to pre-war levels.

Here is the Hondori shopping arcade in Hiroshima, located a few blocks from our hotel. We visited it at night after visiting the indoor Peace Museum.

Here is the same Hondori shopping arcade early in the morning, looking for breakfast.
We found a starbucks and had coffee and sandwhiches. Here is a cool photo Teresa took, with a bicycler blurring behind me.
Looking down from our hotel to the north, the Honduri center is about half way to the closest hills.

We then headed back to the peace park to look at the outside grounds. The museum is in the distance.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a memorial park in the center of Hiroshima, Japan. It is dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima as the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack, and to the memories of the bomb's direct and indirect victims (of whom there may have been as many as 140,000).

The Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims is an effort by the Japanese national government to remember and mourn the sacred sacrifice of the atomic bomb victims. It is also an expression of Japan's desire for genuine and lasting peace. The Hall contains a number of displays. On the roof, near the entrance (the museum is underground) is a clock frozen at 8:15, the time the bomb went off. The museum contains a seminar room, library, temporary exhibition area, and victims' information area. Additionally, one of the more stunning areas is The Hall of Remembrance, which contains a 360 degree panorama of the destroyed Hiroshima recreated using 140,000 tiles — the number of people estimated to have died from the bomb by the end of 1945.

Here is memorial clock, the hands set at the 8:15am bomb explosion time.

 

The A-Bomb Dome is the skeletal ruins of the former Industrial Promotion Hall. It is the building closest to the hypocenter of the nuclear bomb that remained at least partially standing. It was left how it was after the bombing in memory of the casualties.

The Rest House of Hiroshima Peace Park is another atomic bombed building in the park. The building was built as the Taishoya Kimono Shop in March 1929. It was used as a fuel distribution station since the shortage of fuel began in June 1944. On August 6, 1945, when the bomb exploded, the roof was crushed, the interior destroyed, and everything consumable burned except in the basement. Eventually, 36 people in the building died of the bombing; 47-year-old Eizo Nomura survived in the basement, which had a concrete roof through which radiation had a more difficult time penetrating. He survived into his 80s.

The Children's Peace Monument is a statue dedicated to the memory of the children who died as a result of the bombing. The statue is of a girl with outstretched arms with a folded paper crane rising above her. The statue is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki a young girl who died from radiation from the bomb. She believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes she would be cured. To this day, people (mostly children) from around the world fold cranes and send them to Hiroshima where they are placed near the statue. The statue has a continuously replenished collection of folded cranes nearby.

The A-Bomb Dome, to which a sense of sacredness and transcendence has been attributed, is situated in a distant ceremonial view that is visible from the Peace Memorial Park’s central cenotaph. It is an officially designated site of memory for the nation’s and humanity’s collectively shared heritage of catastrophe. The A-Bomb Dome is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound is a large, grass-covered knoll that contains the ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims of the bomb.

Among the 400,000 people who were killed or exposed to lethal post-explosion radiation, at least 45,000 were Korean, but the number is uncertain, because the population has been neglected as the minority. Additionally, 300,000 survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki returned to Korea after liberation from the Japanese colonialism. The monument, beautified with Korean national symbols, is intended to honour Korean victims and survivors of the atomic bomb and Japanese colonialism. The monument's inscription reads "The Monument in Memory of the Korean Victims of the A[tomic]-Bomb. In memory of the souls of His Highness Prince Yi Wu and over 20000 other souls", while the side-inscription reads "Souls of the dead ride to heaven on the backs of turtles."

Near the center of the park is a concrete, saddle-shaped monument that covers a cenotaph holding the names of all of the people killed by the bomb. The cenotaph carries the epitaph : "Rest in Peace, for the error shall not be repeated." (in Japanese, can also be read as "we shall not repeat the error"). Through the monument you can see the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome. The Memorial Cenotaph was one of the first memorial monuments built on open field on August 6, 1952. The arch shape represents a shelter for the souls of the victims.

The epitaph on the cenotaph has angered right-wing circles in Japan, who viewed the words "we shall not repeat the error" as self accusation of the wartime government of the Japanese empire.

After riding on the buss for a few more hours, we arrived at a port across the bay from Miyajima Island.

Miyajima is a small island less than an hour outside the city of Hiroshima. Miyajima is most famous for its giant torii gate, which at high tide seems to float on top of the water. The sight is ranked as one of Japan's three best views.

We all got on a ferry for the trip over to the island, knowing we only had a few hours to explore.

While officially named Itsukushima, the island is more commonly referred to as Miyajima, Japanese for "shrine-island". This is because the island is so closely related to its shrine, Itsukushima Shrine, in the public's mind. Like the torii gate, the shrine's main buildings are built over water.

Miyajima is a romantic place, best enjoyed by staying overnight at one of the island's ryokan. There are many day tourists, but in the evening the area becomes much quieter and peaceful. There are wild deer on the island that have become accustomed to people. In the day the deer wander around the same sites as the tourists, and in the evening they sleep along the walking paths.

Miyajima has been considered a holy place for most of Japanese history. In 806 AD, the monk Kobo Daishi ascended Mt. Misen and established the mountain as an ascetic site for the Shingon sect of Buddhism. In the years since, the island's Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines have maintained a close relationship.

In the past, women were not allowed on the island and old people were shipped elsewhere to die, so that the ritual purity of the site would not be spoiled; in fact, the island's real name is Itsukushima, and Miyajima is just a popular nickname meaning "Shrine Island".

These days, strict measures are taken to ensure that the island's sole town retains a classically Japanese Edo-era look. Deer wander freely through the streets and parks. There are still a few bits of concrete warren that have snuck in, but the seafront promenade is particularly attractive, especially later in the day when the rampaging tour groups head home and the stone lanterns are lit.

From Miyajimaguchi, JR ferries and Matsudai ferries run to Miyajima up to 10 times per hour. The trip takes 10 minutes and costs ¥170 each way; Japan Rail Pass holders can use the JR ferry for free. The last ferry returns to the mainland at 10:40PM. Most tour groups are gone after 5PM, so you'll have a different experience on the island if you wait them out.

"Miyajima" means "shrine-island" in Japanese, referring to the island's cause of fame, Itsukushima Shrine. The shrine is known worldwide for its "floating torii gate".

The shrine and its torii gate are unique for being built over water, seemingly floating in the sea during high tide. The shrine complex consists of multiple buildings, including a prayer hall, main hall and a noh theater stage, which are connected with each other by boardwalks and are all supported by pillars above the sea.

Here is another picture of it in the distance.

There are two main docks on the island. I'm on one, looking down at another ferry unload it's passengers.

There are hundreds of deer all over the island, who want to get a snack from you. You are not supposed to feed them, but many people do.

Field trips are a popular school activity, so it was not surprising to see many school groups visiting the island.

Off the dock and passing under a large Tori gate to enter the shrine complex around the corner to the left.

There were a good number of small girls wearing kimono's at the shrine, so probably some sort of "coming of age" ceremony was occuring for many of these young ladies.

Miyajima Island has a long history as a holy site of Shinto. The island's highest peak, Mount Misen, was worshiped by local people as early as the 6th century. In 1168, Taira no Kiyomori, the most powerful man in Japan during the end of the Heian Period, selected the island as the site of his clan's family shrine and built Itsukushima Shrine.

The shrine is located in a small inlet, while the torii gate is set out in the Seto Inland Sea. Paths lead around the inlet, and visitors will enjoy walking along them while looking out onto the water. After the sun has gone down, the shrine and the torii gate are illuminated, providing a perfect backdrop for ryokan guests to enjoy an evening walk in yukata and geta sandals.

Itsukushima is a large, red-lacquered complex of halls and pathways on stilts, originally so built that commoners could visit without defiling the island with their footprints. Weddings are occasionally held at the shrine, but that doesn't bar visitors, and the priest's ceremonial dance is a memorable sight. ¥300 for temple entry, ¥500 for entry plus Treasure Hall

Because the experience of Itsukushima Shrine involves the water over which it is built, it is good to be aware of the hours of the tide during one's visit. At high tide the shrine and its gate float above the water, and this is certainly the time at which they are most picturesque. At low tide, the water drains out of the bay and out past the gate. Many people take the opportunity to walk out and see the gate from up close.

Senjokaku means "pavilion of 1000 mats" in Japanese and is the common name of Hokoku Shrine. The name describes the spaciousness of the building, as Senjokaku is approximately the size of one thousand tatami mats. The hall, which dates back to 1587, is located on a small hill just beside Itsukushima Shrine.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the three unifiers of Japan, commissioned Senjokaku for the purpose of chanting Buddhist sutras for fallen soldiers. The building was not yet completed when Hideyoshi died in 1598. As Tokugawa Ieyasu took power thereafter, rather than the Toyotomi heirs, the building was never fully completed.

Senjokaku has neither ceilings nor a front entrance, and will surely strike visitors as rather sparse. In 1872, the incomplete building was dedicated to the soul of its founder, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, which remains its present religious function. Directly adjacent to Senjokaku stands a five-storied pagoda.

 

A style of wooden spoon used to serve cooked rice, without impairing the taste, is said to have been invented by a monk who lived on the island. This style of spoon is a popular souvenir and there are some outsized examples around the shopping district.

The Miyajima shrine at low tide, as we were heading back to the docks.

Miyajima's maple trees are renowned throughout Japan, and blanket the island in crimson in the autumn. Momiji manju, pastries filled with azuki jam or custard, are popular souvenirs, and carry maple-leaf emblems. Many other varieties such as chocolate and cheese are also available. Because the island is seen as sacred, trees may not be cut for lumber. Deer and monkeys roam freely. Deer are thought of as sacred in the native Shinto religion because they are considered messengers of the gods.

After a few more hours still heading south towards the Iwakuni Naval Base, (our stop for the night) we arrived at the Kintai Bridge.

The Kintai Bridge is a historical wooden arch bridge, in the city of Iwakuni, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan.

The bridge was built in 1673, spanning the beautiful Nishiki River in a series of five wooden arches, and the bridge is located on the foot of Mt.Yokoyama, at the top of which lies Iwakuni Castle.

Declared a National Treasure in 1922, Kikkou Park, which includes the bridge and castle, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan, especially for the Cherry Blossom festival in the spring and the autumn color change of the Japanese Maples.

After Iwakuni Castle was built in 1601 by Kikkawa Hiroie, the first lord of Iwakuni Domain, a series of wooden bridges were built, all of which were destroyed by floods several times before the construction of the iconic Kintai Bridge. It was built in 1673 by the third lord, Kikkawa Hiroyoshi, new stone piers replaced the old wooden ones and it was thought to be flood-proof; however, the bridge was still destroyed by a flood the next year. As a result, they redesigned the stone piers for greater strength, and a special tax was created to maintain the bridge.

This maintenance consisted of being rebuilt periodically: every 20 years for 3 spans in the middle, every 40 years for 2 spans connecting to the riverside. In this way, the bridge was not destroyed by floods again until 1950 by flooding from typhoon "Kezia." It had been in a weakened state at the time, both because the Japanese had stopped maintaining the bridge during World War II and the year before the typhoon, to expand the US Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, a large amount of gravel was taken by the US Military Force from the river around the bridge, strengthening the flow of the river. In 1953, the bridge was once again reconstructed using very similar techniques to the original; however, they used metal nails (made from the same tatara iron as the Katana) to increase its durability. This 1953 reconstruction, partially restored in 2001 and 2004, still stands today.

The next morning we left Iwakuni, and drove for many hours heading north to the city of Kyoto. Stopping in Kyoto, we had the chance to visit the Kinaku-Ji or Golden Pavilion shrine. Here is a giant bell on the temple grounds, which you can ring for good luck. For a few yen of course.

The site of Kinkaku-ji was originally a villa called Kitayama-dai, belonging to a powerful statesman, Saionji Kintsune. Kinkaku-ji's history dates to 1397, when the villa was purchased from the Saionjis by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and transformed into the Kinkaku-ji complex. When Yoshimitsu died, the building was converted into a Zen temple by his son, according to his wishes.

Kinkaku-ji - Temple of the Golden Pavilion, also known as Rokuon-ji - Deer Garden Temple, is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan.The garden complex is an excellent example of Muromachi period garden design. It is designated as a National Special Historic Site and a National Special Landscape, and it is one of 17 locations comprising the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. It is also one of the most popular buildings in Japan, attracting a large number of visitors annually. It has also been made widely familiar as being featured in a photograph in the desktop picture art of Apple's OS X computer operating system, labeled simply as "Golden Palace".

During the Onin war, all of the buildings in the complex aside from the pavilion were burned down.On July 2, 1950, at 2:30 am, it was burned down by a 22-year-old novice monk, Hayashi Yoken, who then attempted suicide on the Daimon-ji hill behind the building. He survived, and was subsequently taken into custody. The monk was sentenced to seven years in prison, but was released because of mental illnesses (persecution complex and schizophrenia) on September 29, 1955; he died of tuberculosis shortly after in 1956. During the fire, the original statue of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was lost to the flames (now restored). A fictionalized version of these events is at the center of Yukio Mishima's 1956 book The Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

The present pavilion structure dates from 1955, when it was rebuilt.The reconstruction is said to be an exact copy of the original, although some doubt such an extensive gold-leaf coating was used on the original structure.

After viewing Kinkakuji from across the pond, visitors pass by the head priest's former living quarters (hojo) which are known for their painted sliding doors (fusuma), but are not open to the public. The path once again passes by Kinkakuji from behind then leads through the temple's gardens which have retained their original design from Yoshimitsu's days. The gardens hold a few other spots of interest including Anmintaku Pond that is said to never dry up, and statues that people throw coins at for luck.

Continuing through the garden takes you to the Sekkatei Teahouse, added to Kinkakuji during the Edo Period, before you exit the paid temple area. Outside the exit are souvenir shops, a small tea garden where you can have matcha tea and sweets (500 yen) and Fudo Hall, a small temple hall which houses a statue of Fudo Myoo, one of the Five Wisdom Kings and protector of Buddhism. The statue is said to be carved by Kobo Daishi, one of the most important figures in Japanese religious history.

Here is also a shot of a busy outdoor tea garden.

A number of people were wearing traditional clothing, such as this gentleman and his lady friend wearing a Yukata and a Kimono. They took a picture of me as I was taking a picture of them....

A small child rings the bell, with is father holding him up, and a priest overseeing the event.

Even the Scouts were here. Here Cub Scouts are visiting the shrine, with both boy and girl Cub Scout members. That is pretty cool! After this we got back on the bus for the final 10 hour push to get back to Yokota and home.