Okay, how many of you know by now that I’m pretty much allergic to mosquito bites? A little bit of context for those who don’t – last week I got bitten on my finger and it swelled up like a sausage, I couldn’t straighten it or bend it properly. Most times when I get bitten the inflammation has the radius of a tennis ball or a mug, and the whole time I’ve been in Japan I’ve been taking antihistamines daily to keep the reactions under control, along with judicious use of plasters to cover the bite.
With all that in mind, where do you think would be a pretty terrible place to get bitten? How about the corner of your mouth? I woke up several times in the night to the sound of a mosquito buzzing around my head, a sound nobody wants to hear. I kept pulling the sheet up over my head, but I woke up at 6am with my head exposed and rubbed my face, only to discover an itchy lump next to my mouth. Doing the only thing I could think to do, I slapped a plaster over it.
Now I can barely open my mouth, and you can imagine how foolish I look. Actually I just pulled out my mirror to check and realised I must have been bitten on my eyelid as well, as one eye is huge and puffy and red. I feel a bit like the elephant man all of a sudden.
Today is my ante-penultimate day in Japan, and clearly it’s going to be a swell one. I arrived in Hiroshima yesterday, after a five hour journey from Shirahama. Having been up since 7am, all I wanted to do was get to the youth hostel and get a bed to have a lie down, but I was told they don’t open check in until 4pm, and asked to come back in two hours.
Not fancying the trip back into Hiroshima, I hopped on the ferry across to the island of Miyajima, which is truly as beautiful as everything I’d read and heard had suggested. I took a guide map and walked through the main shopping street to the five-storied pagoda, and on to Momijidani park.
Tame deer wander the streets pretty much all over the island, and are extremely curious about anything tourists might have to eat. One came up and licked my top, and another snuck up whilst I was having a sit down and got my guide map in its mouth. We had an all out tug of war from which we both walked away fairly happy – he had a tasty snack, and I had the useful part of my map, the deer having eaten most of the bay and the ferry terminal.
I toyed with taking the ropeway up to the top of Mt Misen, but realised I was just too tired, and killed time in the park instead. Back at the youth hostel I was given a fairly long list of rules and regulation to abide by, and shown to a massive dorm split into compartments. Two French girls later joined me in my area of the dorm, and the hostel manager invited us to join them in a movie night downstairs.
I headed out for some dinner and found an okonomiyaki place on the hostel manager’s recommendation. I ordered the standard and waited 10 minutes for it to arrive. It only occurred to me as I was tucking in that I’d neglected to ask what was in the standard, or to explain that I didn’t eat meat. My suspicions were confirmed a few minutes later, when I found a huge slice of what I think was bacon. Frankly though, I was so delighted to be eating something other than udon or tempura, I pushed the meat to one side and carried on.
Back at the hostel the movie was Dragonball Z, another truly terrible film (although not as awful as Replicant) that I watched with an aussie girl and two guys from Wales. Sometimes I think these films must be made specifically for the ‘bunch of strangers hanging out together in a youth hostel’ demographic, as they make perfect fodder for a bit of banter and camaraderie.
So, last two proper days in Japan. Today, a bit more Miyajima and maybe some ropeway, then Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Tomorrow, Himeji castle on the way back to Tokyo, and dinner with Yen and Ken. And Saturday I fly home!