Tall stacks of aged red brick reach to the stormy sky, pillars of industry that have stood the test of time endure against the storm. Our post storm adventure takes us to Saijo, the home of sake making in Hiroshima province one day after the storm. A typhoon has hit Hiroshima but instead of delivering its deadly force we were spared the worst, receiving just a heavy shower from the edges of the tempest. After dramas in Peru and walking out unscathed from the Nepal earthquake I confess to feeling a little invincible; I was looking forward to seeing a typhoon batter the world outside our room for a day. But alas, a cloudy sky and sake breweries are what the world has delivered us from a gentle day that invites us outside to play.
As with many Japanese cities, Saijo architecture harks from a time that style forgot in the surging push towards development and industrialisation; functional architecture can be such a lenient expression. Drab town or not, it’s time to finally get into some sake, the drink we enjoy but know little about. Apparently the water in Hiroshima prefecture is particularly clean so it’s the right place to draw from natural springs the mother water as it’s called. Rice is ground down to lose the proteins found in the outer parts of the grain to leave a clean polished white core, sometimes losing up to 60% of the rice. From here the precess shares some similarities with beer, the rice is introduced to a culture, yeast and left to ferment, all with tender loving personal care we’re assured by the promo video.Like visiting wineries, we walk about town darting into beautifully made up old buildings to taste, learn and get a bit tipsy chasing big balls, great big balls of of cedar needles perched above doors. Traditionally these balls of fresh cedar were placed above doors when the new sake was made; when the arranged cedar wilted from green to brown it served as a sign that the sake had matured and was ready to drink. Everywhere has a dried bunch of cedar today. Through sweet, dry, cleansing and potent tastes we find agreater range than just the gentle alcoholic burst that we know it to be in an education that is only now beginning. The aftermath of the typhoon lingers overhead but with a belly full as we plod untroubled back up the stairs to the train station with our few bottles of sake in tow, cleansed by the pure waters that run off the mountains after the storm that never really happened.
There’s water slicked roads below and brooding skies above us in Hiroshima which also dodged the storm but shrinks a little into calm passivity all the same. We’ve found a non smoking cafe, a rare treat in Japan, to indulge in the short term fix of a familiar environment in place of that escapist urge we carried so heavily to the airport upon leaving for this adventure. We’re sitting close enough to touch as we habitually do nowadays, a famed psycho-pop necessity of the human condition, human contact in permanent supply. There’s a world outside this cafe but as always the world feels like just two people: Charlie and I, me and Charlie; a global population of two. I push the foam around in my coffee that’s nearly finished and starts to dry and stick to the sides of the small cup, the coffee and this great adventure alike, similarly drawing to a close to. There’s no need for more coffee.Coffee is finished now, I ponder as we walk the many things we sought from this adventure; mostly they were the obvious ideals but some we struggled to place a name to, distraction had wedged us apart a little but we were too distracted to notice. Dinner comes to us as slabs of meat on a timber board just like a Sydney pub meal; and wine, actual red wine, so much more to us now than it actually is as we create a little piece of what feels like home. After a ragged 2010 we planned for years for this escape, this evacuation into the world but more importantly away from lives we now look forward to returning to, a calendar year to wipe clean the cluttered lives for a new version as pure as Hiroshima water. The lives that wait for us at home look similar to the ones we so eagerly left behind but are they the same, or just look the same? After one year and 19 countries we hope to make reality from a grammatical cliche: Australia is just country number 20 on this adventure that lasts much longer than a coffee.
With a sky that weighs down on the cold grey buildings of Hiroshima like a press squeezing the juice from a half orange, we walk in step closer than when we left home behind. In this city known for the destruction of its former self we tasted the purest of water from a land famous for radioactive fallout, a city possibly more alive than it ever was as disaster played catalyst to rebirth. In just two weeks we’ll return home from this trip for two, on the cusp of evolution from our own minor version of disaster in 2010; we’ve learned to be alone together and in doing so, learned how not to be lonely. This global population of two that already feels like a crowded room is heading home soon from this city of great renewal: to waiting distraction or will life and adventure no longer be opposing ideals?