The drums are beating in the distance and the little park just down the road from me has been miraculously transformed into some sort of ethnic happening which I suppose is connected to the Obon holiday season. What is Obon? Buggered if I know, as I’m rarely in the country during this time, but I think it’s the Japanese equivalent of Halloween.
I mention this because the goings on in the park seem so rustic and alien, and believe me, Hiroshima is a rustic place. I suppose it’s the equivalent of Somerset or Wiltshire in the UK, both locations which are mocked for their dialect and alleged backward inhabitants. Apparently that’s the way Hiroshima is viewed by much of the rest of Japan, although I’ve never really noticed it before.
A lot of foreigners complain about Hiroshima being boring, but I’ve never felt this way about the place. Certainly it seems a lot smaller than the city of 1.2 million souls which it is, but recently it has become stuffed full of trendy cafes, all manner of eateries and all the nerdy electronic stores you can ask for – perfect! Added to this the surrounding mountains, inumerable rivers and the sea, and a city centre small enough to walk across, and you have a fairly livable place.
However, I’ve just been in Tokyo for a week, and I really did notice a difference in the people this time. No getting around it, Tokyoites seem a lot more sophisticated, better dressed and far less peasanty than the creatures I regularly meet on the local trains in Hiroshima. Nobody was staring at me as I meandered around the capital and I felt comfortably anonymous, something that is difficult to feel in Hiroshima not only because of its size, but also because of the propensity of some of the poorly-educated inhabitants to still be freaked out when they see a gaijin.
Here’s the kind of calibre of folk we’ve got here in Hiroshima: yesterday at the station as I waited for a train this slightly odd-looking dude actually had a small cockroach walking around on his floppy hat! Today I took the bus into town and this homunculus occupying the seat in front of me kept smashing its limbs against the side of the bus and mumbling incomprehensibly, while another gentleman at the back talked loudly to himself and occasionally emitted the most explosive sneezes I’ve ever heard in my life. And the dress sense of the older folk here, Jeez!
Yep, Hiroshima really is an overgrown village after all.