Watashi ga chōkō o yomitoru koto ga dekimasen

Like many countries, the motorway signs are in both the local language and English, or rather, roman lettering. The Kyushu expressway takes me north and I am very happy to find that this is still AH1 [You remember the Asian Highway Network I have travelled at times since northern Iran.] The first section of this expressway opened in 1971, and the full length of it wasn’t finished until 2011 with the Kurate interchange.

The Japanese language is complex and simple at the same time. A single graphic can be a whole sentence. In the late eighties I decided to go to Japanese lessons at evening classes in England. The spoken language is expressive and beautiful at times, but I was totally incapable of writing it. In some ways, ‘writing’ is not quite what you are doing. It’s more like drawing. It’s an art form. It’s beautiful really. The Japanese language is a mix of three script types: Chinese characters called Kanji, and two symbolic scripts called hiragana and katakana. Although Japanese is written in Chinese characters, and uses many of the same words, the two languages are not related. I still remember quite a bit from my Japanese classes, but probably not enough to get by in Japan. I can say thank you [which is good.] and tell someone that I don’t speak much Japanese. [which IS useful.]

I cross from Kyushu island across the Kanmonkyo Bridge onto Honshu island over the Kanmon straits. The bridge was completed in 1973.

Once on the Chugoku expressway, I am into the mountains. Japan has a number of famous mountains, Mount Fuji being the most well known, but actually, japan is quite mountainous. Certainly more than I thought.

Google maps plots me a route with two choices, and I decide to take the more northern route through the mountains. I have ‘booked’ a room in Hotel Ishimoto near the centre of Hiroshima, which has parking and a choice of both western rooms, with a bed, and Japanese rooms, without a bed. It’s mid afternoon when I arrive in the city and i will stay over and spend tomorrow being a tourist. This is an important visit for me, virtual or otherwise.

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