We boarded our Kyoto Shinkansen train at 7 Sunday morning and arrived in Hiroshima just after 9.

My bride had told me a few days prior that we’d be spending Fathers Day at Hiroshima, somewhat apologetically, but that’s how the itinerary had fit together, and was that okay?  Who was I to argue with what had so far been the most well put together trip I’d ever taken?  And so here the 5 of us were, walking into Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

We walked through the museum, which included a tricycle that had been buried with its rider’s remains, only to be unearthed decades later and ultimately placed behind glass.

We saw the “atomic bomb dome” – the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall – where the bomb detonated 160 meters southeast, from 600 meters above.  The walls and supports for the dome survived; its occupants died instantly.

We saw ground zero (called the “hypocenter”), marked by a plaque by a sidewalk a few blocks from the peace park and the museum.

Mostly, I just felt the weight of it all.  Americans, walking where our people killed their people, to the tune of perhaps over 100,000, using the most destructive weapon ever implemented in war.

I thought of how I felt when I saw Japanese tourists at the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor in 2008; how some seemed flippant…why were they even there?

Or when I went to Ground Zero in Manhattan a few months after the September 2001 attack and then again when I took the children to see the memorial in 2015, flanked on all sides by foreign tourists jockeying for position with their selfie sticks.  I didn’t want my children to inadvertently treat some Japanese person visiting this site of great tragedy the way I’d felt treated in such places in America.

But they didn’t. They were quiet and deferential.  They asked questions that can’t be answered but need to be contemplated.  They were empathetic.  I was proud of them and glad we went there.

Shortly after noon, we walked over to Okonomi Yaki for, well, okonomiyaki. It’s a savory cabbage-filled pancake of sorts, and it was tasty.

Then, it was back on the train for an hour ride to Miyajimaguchi station, where we took a ferry to “the sacred island” of Miyajima for our stay at the Iwaso hotel, a traditional Japanese inn where the Emperor stays when he visits the sacred island.

Having several hours of daylight left, however, we decided to ride the ropeway to the observation point on mount Misen and then hike to its summit, because the day had so far been far too relaxing for my taste, as I like to exert and torture my children on fathers day (we actually do hikes most years).  Since our ride down was time-sensitive, we pretty much ran the several miles to the top of the mountain, which is part of Setonaikai National Park, before having to scamper back down for our ride to the inn.

Here’s my youngest, smiling before we started the hard climb to the summit:

When we returned to the inn, we took badly needed showers and were told to don our yukata.  I was last to bathe, so I grabbed whatever one was available.  What I didn’t see was what the stacks looked like a half hour or so before:

Apparently, “girl” took the “father” one, so I was left with the “girl” one, but how was I supposed to know a yukata doesn’t stop at one’s knees like a tunic or one’s elbows like a jersey?

I entered the dining room, and the server’s face turned to discomfort as she politely asked if she could see my tag.  She giggled slightly and said, “You have your daughter’s clothes on,” which made my family howl, and that moment of realization that I was wearing my 11-year-old’s outfit has since been labeled “one of my favorite memories ever” by my spouse.

We got in-room massages after dinner, which sort of made up for it.  Also:  dinner was amazing.

We lay on our futon mattresses at this beautiful  mountainside inn built in 1854, surrounded by trees, lulled to sleep by the stream rushing just outside our windows.  It was an other-worldly father’s day.

The next morning, we’d take the long train ride back to Tokyo.

*Thanks to Hanes for sponsoring this post*

Colorado has 4 distinctly awesome national parks.  I saw 3/4 of them in 1987 when my folks drove my brother and me from Nashville in a two-toned ’83 Suburban, and I’ve wanted to go back with my own family and explore the diverse national parks of Colorado ever since.  We finally went this summer.

Of all the parks we were slated to see, I was most excited about returning to Mesa Verde National Park.  It’s my mom’s favorite of all the national parks, and given my bride’s spending several years as an archeologist, I figured she’d enjoy a bunch of cliff dwellings built by Native Americans several hundred years ago, too.

But the chief reason I wanted to return?  Is what we did not do in 1987:  the strenuous hike and climb to Cliff Palace.  My mother wasn’t interested when we came in the ’80s; I was.  I remained interested for years; I may have held what mental health specialists would label “a grudge” about it.

Here’s a snapshot I took of Cliff Palace with my Kodak Disc camera from an observation point above it, because I wasn’t allowed to climb down for a closer, better picture:

The ink to the right of the photo has faded from 30 years of weeping and regret.

Here’s a picture from 2018, taken inside Cliff Palace, instead of from another zip code, staring at it longingly:

Not pictured:  weeping and regret.

On July 4th, we awoke at sunrise to meet our park ranger for the 8am hike.  We were 45 minutes early.  Someone in my family was exceedingly excited.

I was ready to take my 3 children of 8, 9, and 11 on the quest I so badly wanted to go on at 12.  I knew we’d be okay for this adventure, because we’d done something we didn’t know to do in 1987:  we girded our loins in the official apparel of the National Park Foundation, Hanes! Specifically, we wore Hanes Comfort Flex Fit® undergarments.  I mean, it’s no wonder my parents had great trepidation about climbing up 100 stone steps, scaling several wooden ladders, and hiking on a narrow ledge at 7,000′ of elevation in 1987; their loins weren’t girded!

Here I am in my Hanes Protect Our Parks T-shirt, sitting inside an alcove on the side of a cliff, listening to our park ranger brief us on what we’re about to experience when we get inside Cliff Palace, the beautiful structure seen behind him, that I’m about to enter after hiking and climbing to it, instead of watching others from an observation deck with a handrail:

And here’s my face of exuberance, having just crawled my way out of a dark, narrow passageway, where I could get pictures like this one, where nary a tear nor a regret flows:

Not content to experience only one strenuous hike + climb into a cliff dwelling, we saw Balcony House in another ranger-led hike that required advanced reservations, and it was even more daunting, which was like kicking my childhood disappointment in the teeth.

Here’s my 9-year-old boy, climbing winding stone steps carved hundreds of years ago:

When we weren’t at Mesa Verde, we stayed active and protected our tops from the elements in our gear.  Like when we sledded down sand dunes at nearly 40mph at Great Sand Dunes National Park:

In addition to being good at identifying prehistoric peoples’ culinary habits by looking at their poo, my bride is also known to sew pretty well (and teach others to do the same), so she personalized our Hanes Kids’ Nano-T® t-shirts and EcoSmart® Full –Zip Hoodie sweatshirts for both kids and adults with special patches we got from the National Park Service!

Here she is modeling hers (complete with American flag and National Park Geek patches) outside our yurt the morning before exploring Mesa Verde:

Here are my daughters, working on their junior ranger workbooks at Great Sand Dunes:

And here’s my smallest, showing us where she wants to add her newest junior ranger patch to her new t-shirt:

The park rangers loved that we were wearing clothing from the Hanes + National Park Foundation partnership and that we’d personalized the hoodies and t-shirts with their patches.

Another great place for comfortable, eco-friendly Hanes hoodies (30% less water used on HBI branded products!) is at 12,000′ feet, in the tundra, where the cool winds howl through Rocky Mountain National Park:

And atop the steep 3,000′ cliffs of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, soft hoodies protect children from wind and sun:

I couldn’t be happier about partnering with Hanes for this post.  I’ve loved their aptly-named Men’s Comfort Flex Fit® Ultra Soft Boxer Briefs for a while, which are amazing for hiking anywhere warm (did I mention I live in Atlanta?), and this collaboration with the National Park Foundation (Hanes is supporting the parks!) gives our family even more reason to endorse it as a brand, as we sport their graphic t-shirts collection honoring our favorite parks!  They sent us clothes to test and model for this post, along with compensation, but the opinions and experiences were all ours. And most importantly, they’ve allowed me to move past my 30 years of FOMO and forgive my folks for their apprehension in 1987, as clearly, the issue was lack of proper clothing.

 

**If you and your family want to look as good as I do in these Hanes tees, use this discount code: DADDISCOUNT (valid from 7/30 – 9/1) to BOGO 50% Off + get free shipping on these awesome National Park T-Shirts!**

We were on the Shinkansen bullet train before 8am on Saturday and walked up to Himeji Castle at 9:30am.

I checked in on Swarm and saw that there are free guided tours in English that are excellent, and I’d no sooner declared that we should find out how to get one when an older lady heard us and walked up to lead our tour.  Later in the tour, another guide told us we had the best of all the guides, and we couldn’t disagree.  She was passionate about her culture and this castle.  We learned about its many defenses and explored every bit of each of its 6 floors.

The castle, which is also known as the White Heron Castle, is another world heritage site and is one of Japan’s 12 original castles, miraculously surviving earthquakes, fires, and WWII.  It’s the largest and most visited castle in Japan.  We were glad we made the trip over to see it.

On our way back to the train station, we stopped for some Kobe beef on sticks for lunch, and they were delicious.  Then we rode the train to Osaka, Japan’s 2nd largest city (about the size of NYC) for our rows 1 and 2 tickets at the National Bunraku Theatre, arriving just before 1:30pm.

No photography was allowed during the show, and being on row 2, there was no chance I could sneak a photo.  Before the show began, a comedian came on stage and gave an explanation of what were about to see, followed by a brief example of bunraku before the “feature” performance began.

The form of theater began in Osaka in the 17th century and is a sophisticated puppet show, with each puppet being operated by 3 actors.  The main puppeteer controls the head and right hand, and he’s visible to the audience, while the other 2 (one operates the left hand, the other the legs) are dressed in all black and have their faces covered in black veils.  At stage left are a singer and musicians; the singer narrates the story in loud, animated song, such that by the end of his shift, he’s covered in sweat and seemingly exhausted, and after a while, the wall and floor rotate, and a new set of singer + musicians take over for the next act of the play.  The actual show was nearly 3 hours long and was absolutely amazing to see.  We understood the story via English subtitles from a teleprompter above the stage and portable English listening devices with an earpiece we each rented for the show.  The children loved it, and we adults really liked it too!

That night for dinner was an experience I’d anticipated for months:  having Matsusaka beef.  Our reservation was at Yakiniku M in the Dotonbori neighborhood.  Matsusaka is one of the 3 types of wagyu beef (along with Kobe and Omi). The virginal black cows used for this beef are fed beer and given massages; in short, they’re told how beautiful and wonderful they are every day and live a life of luxury until they’re slaughtered and served to people like me.  It was absolutely the best meat I’ve ever had, and grilling it in the middle of our table was fun!

Here are a couple informational pages from our menu:

Here’s our sweet, tender meat as it grills to perfection:

And this?  Is beef sushi, and it was delicious, and I wanted to eat plates and plates of it, no matter the exorbitant cost (so I had seconds…and thirds).

After dinner, we explored the arcade and the shops surrounding the Dotonbori Canal running through Osaka, which was super crowded, noisy, and surrounded us with bright lights, giant billboards, and all kinds of interesting things to behold.  It was the most Japanese scene we’d seen in Japan.

Within the arcade was a place known for its delicious puffy cheesecakes–Rikuro’s, so we shared one for dessert.

After some Hawaiian coffee, we made our way back to the train station for a late night return to Kyoto to our final night of rest at the Azzurro Elefante before making our way to a new city the next morning on Fathers Day–Hiroshima!