Fukuyama Castle, Hiroshima shopping

The local train to Itozaki rocks and rattles, hums with electricity. It is past 10 pm and I won’t get back until after 11. All I intend to do is arrive at Itozaki and return to Fukuyama, to look out the window and local lights flashing past.

I won’t even get the wonderful sea views that should be part of this journey. I’ve barely had any dinner. But I need to something today after being trapped in a shopping centre for hours.

The day starts late after the debacle of clothes washing last night that saw me stay up until 2 am thanks to the slowest drying machines on the planet. There is no hotel breakfast, which is another incentive for early rising.

I have a few potential plans for today. Take them to the Toto Toilet Museum in Kokura. Go to Shikoku. Travel somewhere.

There is little interest shown in any of these options.

I notice that Fukuyama Castle is closed tomorrow. We cannot come to Fukuyama and not explore the castle, so that settles it.

Fukuyama is a grand castle that was preserved for destruction in the Meiji era, but not by American bombers in World War Two. The decision was made to reconstruct it, but using concrete instead of wood and plaster.

The exterior is still very grand, five stories instead of Maruoka’s three. Inside, there are are proper stairs and a lift.

Fukuyama may lack Maruoka’s traditional wooden interior, but it does sport an excellent museum of the history of the castle and its lords.

There are movies with English subtitles, a simulated horse race through the castle and a target shooting game, as well as great views from the fifth floor.

It is the samurai helmets that are the best exhibits. So heavy, with such intricate design. There is so much to appreciate about them.

You aren’t allowed to take photos through most of the interior of the castle.

Behind the castle is the Fukujyu Kaikan Hall, a traditional building and a historic western style one surrounded by a beautiful little garden. The garden has many twists and turns, gates, monuments and bridges and would have been lovelier if only the streams were flowing. The poor carp had a restricted swimming area.

Lunch is in the station and subject to debate. We end up at a western food cafe which was nice enough but not special. It is decided that we shall go to Hiroshima and shop at the YouMe Town mall for “local stuff”.

It’s another 500 series Kodama Shinkansen to Hiroshima. As we approach we can see the Hiroshima Carp baseball team playing at a packed Zoom Zoom Stadium.

A tram takes us near to the shopping center, dropping us off into the rain.

It’s the kind of shopping centre B wants to visit. An ordinary supermarket and department store with cheaper clothing, a Uniqlo and other chain stores.

We end up buying quite a few things. Alex has a play on the arcade games.

Dinner sees us waiting for 45 minutes for an ordinary sushi train restaurant where most items have to be ordered via your phone. It’s a big waste of time that could have been spent making okonomiyake at the restaurant opposite.

As we head back I’m exhausted, hungry and wet, but I feel the need to enjoy the night. It’s too late to catch a local train all the way from Hiroshima to Fukuyama, but I work out that I can make a return trip to Inozaki.

Farewelling the others at Fukuyama, I change platforms and wait for the yellow electric set. Despite the late hour, quite a few people board. The moulded high backed seats are quite comfortable, the interior bright. I could ride this for hours.

The train empties at Onomichi. I want to visit here. In the daylight.

A light rain is falling at Inozaki. There are passengers waiting on platform seats, in the small waiting room enclosure. Silent, dark, trains also sit sleeping in the yard. Another train, headlight eyes bright, cruises in to join them, slowly clanking its way in.

The platform vending machine has nothing hot to sell. Pity, I could do with a warm drink or snack. It does sell Gokuri Grapefruit juice. I already have a bottle in my bag.

There is a big hotel a bit further down the track. I might stay there if I didn’t have to return to Fukuyama.

Our train, a four car yellow 115 Series electric set arrives from the same direction I did. I board.

It is shortly followed by another train, a different set, on the other side of the platform. Many cross into our train. The rear carriage is now pretty crowded. Then we are off.

Aside from street lamps, the odd house, car or vending machine, it is pretty dark outside.

Soon enough, we are back in Fukuyama, the castle brightly lit.

Only a couple of departures remain, both Shinkansen and local. Everything is closed inside the station, mostly the same outside except for the convenience stores and the Nakau restaurant chain branch. I go there for a bowl of beef and rice. It’s tasty, not too big.

The streets still have people, but Fukuyama is winding down for the night and so should I.

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