Hello, Hiroshima! Despite some not fun excitement getting on the Shinkansen, the sun was shining when we arrived in this seaside city toward Honshu’s western tip. I’m pretty well-organized and I’m usually good at trip planning. This included having a nice clear plastic zip-top folder to organize our maps and tickets (I do this for every port call/vacation to keep my bag from becoming a brochure disaster zone). Our tickets were neatly stapled to the itinerary we picked up from the travel office. We’d arrived early enough to buy bento boxes for the train. What could go wrong? Just 30 feet from the entrance gate I pulled out the staple and handed Luke and Amber their tickets. Chris returned from buying a drink for the train as I zipped everything back up and picked up my Le Sportsac jungle print overnight bag. “Can I have a ticket?” Chris asked. “I already gave it to you,” I said. We stared at each other. Fifteen minutes later Chris, Luke and I had individually searched the organizer, my bag and my purse. Nothing turned up, so I asked the man at the gate if he could reissue the missing ticket since we had the receipt and seat assignment paperwork. “I’m sorry, please buy another ticket,” he said. I asked what the cost would be. He typed it into a calculator. I burst into tears. Chris bought the ticket. By now we’d spent all our money for the weekend, 40 minutes had gone by, our train had left and we were forced to sit separately in the crowded non-reserved car. I tried to read but felt tired. I tried to sleep but my stomach clenched at the added expense. I got up and walked to the end of the car and back. Somewhere around Kyoto the man next to me exited and I got up to find Chris. When I returned to my seat saw a black rectangle on the floor under the seat of the man who had just left. I froze. It was the missing ticket. If I’d found it in my bag that would be one thing, but I still have no idea how it appeared there on the floor—my purse and overnight bag were untouched under the seat. It was flat and unmarred, so it couldn’t have gotten stuck in my clothes or shoes. What gives!? And what good is finding it now?! After alighting in Hiroshima Station we exited and proceeded to the information booth. “We bought three tickets but only used two,” we explained. But the unused ticket was bought through a travel agent, so they couldn’t refund it. Chris half-heartedly asked if they could credit the journey to the original ticket and refund the more expensive last minute ticket. They asked us to please wait, then asked Chris which turnstile he’d used to return his ticket; they needed all parts of it to see if they could help. We weren’t sure. A station worker unlocked and searched several gates, then held up the necessary ticket. One of the two information ladies helping us scurried back to the ticket window. An hour after we arrived Luke wandered over to check on our progress. “We’re not sure yet but they said it might be possible to issue a partial refund…wait—she’s coming and she has money in her hand!” “No way!” said Luke, “I gave you a zero point zero percent chance of getting any money back!” “Praise God!” said Amber. The ladies approached the counter and handed us about $200 in cash. “A full refund was possible!” said the information lady who spoke English, smiling and wiping her brow in relief. We bowed deeply and offered sincere, formal thanks for their help. Then we did it again. The information lady just kept smiling and wiping her forehead in relief. “But,” she explained, “we will need to keep the ticket for paperwork so please exit the station with this other ticket. We are sorry.” We tied up five different people for the better part of an hour and caused them additional paperwork after we left and they fix the problem and apologize to us?? More heaps of thanks. More bows. And some more for good measure. These ladies were the opposite of the original station attendant! Domo arigato gozaimasu!!! Anyway, after all that we checked into the beautiful Granvia Hiroshima Hotel and set off for some sightseeing, starting with Hiroshima Castle. Inside the castle tower we found swords, samurai armour, architectural blueprints, drawings of local festivals and other artifacts. This kimono dating to the Edo period caught my attention; the label reads: “Night clothes used as a coverlet.” So would that make this the ORIGINAL Snuggie?
From the observation deck Chris could see the A-Bomb Dome, so next we set out in that direction for the Hiroshima Peace Park (coming soon: depression).