I must apologise for the quality and quantity of the photos on this leg of my holiday. As you will soon read, there was a very good reason for that.
I remember little of my final night in Kyoto, except that I was constantly hot and feverish, unable to sleep, and constantly on the lav with terrible stomach cramps. The hotel which had looked like an absolute bargain when I had arrived, had turned out to be the most unbearable place I had stayed in - a hot, claustrophobic room, a noisy fridge and no reliable ventilation. Keeping the window wide open helped a little, but the air was stale as it was blowing up the narrow passage between this building and the next, and opened out onto a walkway, which I was none too keen to let people climb in whilst I tried to sleep.The switch marked 'air conditioning' I think should have read 'heater' because at all settings it proceeded to blow hot air into the already stifling room.
This could not come at a worse time on the journey. Although I hadn't realised it at the time, I was slowly losing energy day on day, thanks to a squeamish attitude towards the local delicacies, and concentrating much more on what to see and lugging my heavy backpack everywhere, rather than how to keep myself properly fed. Ever since the incident back in Abashiri, I was also nursing round a digestive system that meant I always needed to know where the toilets are.
By early morning I think I must have slept perhaps an hour, and I was pretty sure I had come down with a fever. On the way out of Nagano, I mused, I had to sit near some guy who spent the entire trip snooking snot back up his nose and sneezing everywhere. If I knew where he was then I would have summoned the last of my strength and shook him warmly by the neck.
By 6am I was just waiting for the day to start, rather than trying to get any more sleep, and it was becoming clear that I would have to change my travel plans a bit. My planned route was to take the northern train lines from Kyoto up to the north coast of Honshu, and before going back southwest to Hiroshima where my next hotel waited, stop off at Tottori, where I had read about an enormous beach with massive sand dunes; since I had been told by one disapproving friend that Japan would not be a good place to go 'because it had no beaches on it' I was interested in not only having a relax by the sea, but also proving him wrong and getting the pictures to prove it. However, since the leg would be using the local trains, (not all of them JR lines) it would take most of the day, and the direct route to Hiroshima was by Shinkansen and took about 2 hours.
I figured I could gingerly walk to the station, get an early ticket to Hiroshima and be within a safe distance of the train toilet all the way there. Once in Hiroshima I would find my hotel, which I prayed would be more bearable than this one and I could recover and plan my remaining routes over the two days scheduled for that city.
So after a protracted time on the toilet giving my lower intestines every opportunity to do whatever they wanted, I set off for the station. The cold air on my clammy face, mixed with the early morning crowds and the heavy packing took their toll and by the steep escalator of the entrance I was feeling the strain. I got a ticket for the 8:02 to Hiroshima in the booking office with merciful promptness, and after a number of careful lower back muscle contractions, headed slowly to the platform.
I don't remember much of the journey, though it was pleasantly air conditioned and reasonably empty, so I ignored my reservation seat and stuck myself near the end of the compartment near the toilets. What few pictures I took were between bouts of nodding off and I took advantage of the window sills and the ultra smooth ride to steady my aim.
When I arrived in Hiroshima at about 10am, I was still faint and weak on my feet. Immediately outside the station is the entrance to the underpass, decorated with tiled images of paper cranes (more on that later) and beyond that the Hiroshima Tram system end terminus. Not knowing where I was, I tried to pass the tramway and over the main roads beyond, but they were pretty impassable, so seeing the underpass exit over the other side I tried that route, but got rather lost as my sense of direction was down. Eventually I managed to climb the steep steps on the other side, and according to the map my hotel would be nearby. Fortunately it was just around a corner, but it took long enough for me to find it. (I staggered into what I believed was a hairdressers up a few flights of stairs, and they took pity on me and guided me into the lobby of the hotel.)
All my problems should have been over, but not quite yet. I had banked on paying for the hotel with my card, and it was not working on their machines, so I had to find the nearest post office and get some yen out from there. Fortunately it was just to the side of the train station, and the hotelier let me keep my bags behind so I wasn't lugging them again. To be sure I was OK financially I got out 15000 yen (about £75) and cashed my remaining 20000 yen travellers cheque.
As I was returning, I happened across a JTB travel centre, and feeling a little more able, I decided that it would be a good plan to sort out some future hotels, so I managed to book for Matsuyama, Takamatsu, Himeji and Osaka, because to be honest I didn't know when I'd be able to do it again.
Relieved that I had managed to secure things for the following days, it was then up to me to get myself able to make them. I returned to my hotel, and after paying and retrieving my things, I ignored the slightly downmarket nature of the interiors (I had realised that it was no measure of how good your night was going to be) and got straight into bed.
Even though the room was modest compared to the supposed plushness of the Kyoto place, it was a thousand times better (and about 25% cheaper). A fully openable window allowed the fresh air in from a warming day outside, and the room was silent, no buzzing or humming or strange feelings to it, so my body slept soundly until about 6pm. By then it became clear that in order to not slip further into my fever I would need to get some nutrition. The thought of food made me retch, but I knew I would have to have something for my body to work itself out.
I left the hotel and took the tram into the centre of Hiroshima, which despite its notoriety looked like any other town I had seen in Japan so far, except that some of the more elderly passengers riding with me were clearly some of the survivors of the bomb that had virtually wiped the city out. I resolved there and then that I would not let the fever take up all my time in this city and would visit the memorial sites tomorrow.
My JBR book had told me that there was an Italian restaurant in the central area. I chose Italian because it was recognisable and the Japanese seem to like Italian meals as there are plenty of such restaurants around the country. I couldn't find the one in the book, but eventually found another one which seemed good enough. I started with some french fries (for a salt kick) and then a margarita pizza (for general stodge), and finally some apple pie (for sugar).
I had to force it all down - not because it was bad, but because my stomach hated the inclusion of anything new at the time. I finally managed to work through most of it and then took myself straight back to the hotel at about 8pm, where I sent off my much-needed laundry bag and slept soundly until the morning.