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It took me so long to do my entire set of Pokemon reviews (I wrote jokes and analysis for more than 649 entries, I’ve done something like 30,000 words on the damn things) that before I had even finished 6th generation had already been announced. We’ve seen a few Gen 6 monsters but the one that everyone seems most fascinated by is this guy.

Sylveon

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Which is a new Eeveelution. Although my dislike of new evolutions of old monsters is on record on this site and others I make an exception for Eeveelutions. The basic concept of Eevee, he’s a little squirrel dog with the potential to evolve into multiple types much like how dog breeders can get a lot of shapes out of the same basic genetic material, is fantastic and the only problem with it is he can’t evolve into every type yet. This is a problem, and I firmly believe Eevee should be given an evolution for every type in the game. I’m also not the only that feels this way; something I’ll get to later.

Because of that news of a new Eeveelution was greeted with much rejoicing by me.

And then I saw it.

Wow that thing is, girly, very, very girly. I mean not only is it pink but it has bows and ribbons, give it a my little pony and it’s the platonic ideal of a seven year old girl.

I actually don’t have a problem with the girly though, this is a fine design. Basic uncluttered body with a few distinguishing elements. My only gripe is the tail and ears haven’t been incorporated as well as other eeveelutions. With something like Jolteon the ears and tail scream electric type at you, same with Vaporeon and Leafeon. Ah but there’s the rub, what type is Sylveon?

When Nintendo released the image they intentionally kept the typing a secret, indeed they made a big deal out of it and the internet has been trying to figure out what type she is ever since. Based on appearance alone I’d have to go for normal type. There are plenty of Pokemon whose defining design characteristics are big pink ears, pinkness in general and girly touches like bows and ribbons. Chansey, Snubbul, Audino, Wigglytuff. These are all normal types. Thing is, giving a normal type evolution to a normal type Eevee is a bit boring and it doesn’t make sense for Nintendo to make a big deal out of a normal type so many people seem to think Sylveon is actually a new type.

I can buy that.

We haven’t had a new type since Gen 2 and Gen 6 looks to be a much bigger change to the core game mechanics than any since Gen 2.  We’re moving into 3 dimensional movement and polygonal displays (way to catch up with 1996 Pokemon. awww, I’m kidding. I loves ya.) and a big change isn’t out of the question. The trailer also makes a big deal out of light and sound with new Pokemon Xernias being bathed in light and Yvetal making a loud noise. The current theory is that all the Pokemon with similar designs to Sylveon, bows, pink, big ears could be moved into a new type called light, fairy or even sound. My only request is I’d still like to see some of the existing types get an Eeveelution. Like I said though, fans are ahead of me there and have come up with some Eeveelution concepts of their own. My favourite is this one.

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This guy is part of a set of Eeveelution designs I saw posted on pokememes.com . I couldn’t find the original artist so if anyone does know who drew these please let me know so I can credit them accordingly. Honestly these are the best fan Pokemon designs I’ve ever seen, they perfectly replicate Sugimori-San’s art style and the colouring quality and they show a lot of invention and thought.

My favourite of the bunch is the fighting type above. I like that its still recognisably a dog and still on four legs but that you can tell straight away this is a fighting type. A lot of that goes into the taped up legs which really says martial arts but other touches lie the shortened tail and ears and the scar sell the idea too. It’s a great design and I’d love to see it crop up in a future Pokemon game.

Second favourite is the flying type.

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Most flying type Eevee’s I’ve seen just go the lazy route and give it wings. This design does turn the tail into wings but what’s far cleverer is turning the furry puffs into clouds. Turning a poodle into clouds is again, recognisably a dog but also says flying type at you. The pose helps too since it appears to be flying but also looks like a happy dog running to greet its master.

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Ghost is another great one. We’ve got a lot of variety in dog body shapes here and I love the long floppy spaniel ears, something no other Eeveelution has. The ears folded down works well to suggest melancholy and helps it stand out from the others and sell the ghost idea too. Plus bandages is such a simple addition to make it a ghost but works so well.

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Poison is not a brilliant entry. Although a very attractive looking design a lot of people mistakenly thought this was the ghost type. That’s because not a lot here says poison. The one big poison symbol is turning Eevee’s fur ruff into a cloud of poisonous gas. That’s very clever and very striking but can be mis-read as suggesting a ghost type. Maybe making it a sickly black and yellow colour rather than purple would help.

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Ground is a hard type to define since so many ground types are so varied and it can be easily confused with the rock type. I’m not sure what individual element here says ground but something about the whole does suggest it. It’s also another striking and attractive design.

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Normal poses a challenge since there is nothing at all intrinsic to normal types. Instead they took the already normal type Eevee and just altered the proportions to make it look more like an adult and less childlike. So we have a large body, longer limbs and a smaller head in proportion to the rest of the body. Basic, but assured.

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Steel and Rock are pretty similar. Replace the ears, tail and ruff with something made of the element. They aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination but there’s nothing clever here. Maybe making them into a different kind of dog would help, like a bulldog for rock or a great dane for steel.

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Bug and Dragon are probably the only entries I don’t like and even they have features I think are good. I like how bug’s ears get turned into antennae and his extra eyes. I think the wings are overkill and more could be done with the tail such as making it a scorpion tail.

For Dragon I like the horns but again more could have been done with them making them proper Japanese dragon antlers. I’m not a fan of the tail or wings and think maybe turning the feet into claws would help. Also the colouration is a little similar to bug, steel and flying, why not something more dragony like an orange or green?

So a real Eeveelution and some fan Eeveelutions. And with that I’m all done with Pokemon stuff until we start getting a few more Gen 6 designs to critique.

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Our day was started bright and early with a failed trip to find a famous coffee house. Which made me sad.

That failure aside though we set off towards teramachi or temple row to look at, what else, temples.

We started with a temple whose name I absolutely do not know. I didn’t note it down and it isn’t my guidebook so…whoops. But I do know that it is on teramachi and it is bright red and done in a largely Chinese style.

It also had a nice Chinese lady inside who was making beads and who seemed rather disappointed at the poor turnout. She explained that the temple doesn’t usually get a lot of foreign visitors but mostly Japanese and Chinese ones. When I suggested that the poor turn out was probably because the Japanese were all spending time with their families for Obon she told me the opposite was true. Usually Obon was their busiest time of year as families are supposed to visit shrines together. This was quite sad news for me. I have been hearing stories for years about how the Buddhist temples are struggling to keep their income high enough to maintain the temples. Although the big and famous places draw a lot of attention from tourists, if perfectly pleasant but small temples like this one are in danger of closing that is a real shame.

Continuing the theme of the trip our old lady was only too happy to show us around the temple and explain some of the features to us. The most striking of these was a male and female dolphin fish pictured above (male) and below (female). I see male dolphin fish very often in Japanese architecture but this is the first time I have ever seen a female version. Apparently the ball in the mouth of the male represents male desire whilst the female is supposed to bring fertility and easy pregnancy. Both examples shown here are actually drums used in ceremonies at the temple.

Can I just point out how weird it is that every source translates this animal’s name as a dolphin fish? It shares not one characteristic with a dolphin at all. Dolphins have no scales, their tails are horizontal not vertical, they have different heads and bodies and the dolphin fish lacks a dorsal fin. At least the female version looks a little bit like a malformed whale but the male one looks like nothing so much as a dragon fish. What on earth it has to do with dolphins I will never understand.

By far the finest feature of this particular temple was its lovely gardens a few pictures of which are shown here.

Moving on from our mystery temple we moved onto a separate street to have a look at the famous “Meganebashi” or “Spectacles Bridge;” so called because the reflections in the water make it look like a pair of glasses. Apparently it is one of the oldest examples of an arched stone bridge in Japan. Sadly it is nowhere near as impressive as that fact sounds.

Here is Fran, pointing at her spectacles on Spectacles Bridge.

Moving back onto teramachi our next location was Sofukji (not to be confused with Shofuku-ji) one of the more spectacular, unusual and famous temples in Nagasaki.

Shofuku-ji was another Chinese temple that adopted the official Japanese form of Buddhism but it still has many examples of its Chinese heritage left behind such as the Ming style gate in spectacular red colours.

The main attraction of this temple is this giant pot in the courtyard. Nagasaki was once ravaged by a great famine that left many of the poor citizenry starving. The head of the temple along with a pioneering female philanthropist (pictured below) collected donations every day to make a gigantic cauldron of porridge that they would distribute to the poor. During one particularly bad winter this food aid was feeding more than a 1000 people a day and helping them stay alive.

Again, with such history and such an important social role it really is a shame that Buddhist temples are beginning to die out in Japan.

One of the things I noticed about the temple which struck me as unusual was the decorative bats that I spotted in a few places. Apparently bats are something of a symbol of good luck in Nagasaki, and nowhere else in Japan, for reasons that were not explained to me.

Our next two temples were Yasakusa and Kiyomizu which aren’t interesting in the slightest except that they bare the names of two much more famous temples in Kyoto which are also close together. This was another theme of travelling in Kyushu. In Kansai it is very rare for a name to be duplicated for two or more places but on the island there were all kinds of places with names we recognized from Kobe, Kyoto or Tokyo.

Lunchtime and we moved off temple row and into a more city like part of the city.

But first a quick stop in Shian-bashi area. Shian-bashi was, and still is to a lesser extent the red light or “pleasure” district of Nagasaki. In former times it was separated from the main city by a bridge. This bridge, known as the bridge of pondering gave its name to the area. Why the bridge of pondering? Well apparently in days of old men would pause for a second on the bridge and debate whether to press on or return to their wives at home. Seized by the spirit of the ages I also decided to ponder for a moment before pressing on in search of food, drink and cake.

Cake! Yes, cake. In fact not just any cake but the infamous Castella at the even more infamous Fukusaya Castella cake shop. Castella is a kind of sweet sponge cake introduced to Japan by the Portuguese. The origins of the name are widely debated but are believe to come from an area of Portugal with the similar sounding name of Castile. However confusingly Castile was then a part of Spain and in Castile they don’t make Castella.

Fukusaya Castella has being making this cake and operating as a shop continuously since 1624! That is an astonishingly long time for any shop to operate, let alone in one location and in the same building (albeit heavily renovated inside). I would be interested to know if anything in the U.K. even comes close but I doubt it. To put that in perspective imagine a Tudor building being used for its original purposes continuously for nearly 400years!

The shop is somewhat small and Spartan inside but that is because it basically consists of a counter and three stools. All of the activity goes on in the bakery itself, all they need the shop for is to sell you their one and only product, cake.

And what a cake it is. Honestly it may be the most perfect cake I have ever eaten. This is the platonic ideal of cake. There is no decoration, no icing or butter or any messing around, it is just pure sponge. But it is the nicest sponge I have ever eaten and I suspect it is impossible to make a sponge cake taste any better. It was moist, fluffy, sweet but not too sweet, with a deliciously complex after taste. It was just perfect. Utterly perfect.

Oh and look, more bats. I wonder what they are all about.

Full of cake and properly rested we decided to climb to Suwa-jinja.

It was a long climb. If nothing else a trip to Nagasaki will help you keep fit as there is simply no way to avoid climbing hundreds and thousands of steps.

Suwa-jinja lacked the cool Chinese influenced architecture of most Nagasaki temples and shrines but made up for it with its own unique attraction. Komainu, or prayer dogs.

These dogs are features of pretty much any Asian temple. They always stand in pairs, one with his mouth closed and the other with his mouth open. One is taking a breath and the other is breathing out but this breathing is in sync, as if they are taking the same breath. This concept of harmony so perfect that one breathes in while the other breathes out is known as “wa” and is a central idea in Japanese culture.

Furthermore one dog is always female whilst the other is male. Usually the male breathes in, an act of life and the female breathes out, an act of death symbolising the cyclical nature of life due to resurrection.

Komainu are descended from Chinese foo dogs or lion dogs which had the same purpose and are also displayed at temples but do not have the associations with wa.

Suwa-jinja is covered in hundreds of these dogs all over the place with radically different artistic styles and designs.

Some of the dogs even have special features such as this one, the kappa komainu.

And barring a failed trip to a temple we eventually got to later on (I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow), a bath and a delicious dinner at an Izakaya that specialised in pork was all we did that day.

Day 3

I had no particular plans for the last day except to try and squeeze in the “Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum” (or “the atomic bomb museum”) and maybe the castle. My first priority was breakfast so I ambled around the edges of Peace Park looking to see what restaurants there were.

I only found one, a little Italian place and it wasn’t due to open for another hour so I headed off to the atomic bomb museum first aiming to breeze through it and then have brunch.

The Peace Memorial Museum was excellent and deeply moving. It covers the story of Hiroshima city before, during and after it was hit by the first atomic weapon ever to be used in anger. It tells the story of what Hiroshima used to be like, principally a University town with the only major University outside of Tokyo at the time. It also had strong ties to the military, due to the 5th garrison of the Japanese army being stationed there, and a thriving entertainment district.

It explains why the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima; a decision that was as much taken to see what it would do as it was to end any war. The museum has originals and copies of many of the key documents leading up to the bombing with men such as Einstein and Roosevelt explaining in their own hand what they were thinking at the time.

This section is also surprisingly even handed. Whilst I came away with the impression that America were dicks there’s very little commentary on the process and a greater emphasis on getting you to read the documents themselves. And whilst there’s some level of selection here Japan doesn’t exactly come across in a great light either. It would be very easy for Hiroshima to act the bitter victim, claiming total innocence but they don’t. Instead the museum explains the thought processes of the Japanese war machine and the daily life of Japanese people during World War Two (which they call the Pacific War).

Most harrowingly the museum demonstrates the effect of the bomb and the immediate situation afterwards. There are a number of exhibits that really hammer home the impact of the bomb. Paintings by survivors showing what happened, twisted and burnt materials, human shadows and pictures of the day. Three things in particular stand out. The first is a pair of models showing the city of Hiroshima the day before and the day after the bomb. The first looks like a regular model town full of houses, trees and buildings. The other is a grey wasteland with nothing visible except roads and some foundations. Two buildings still stand, the Industrial Promotion Dome, now known as the A-Bomb dome and miraculously an elementary school which is still standing even though buildings on all sides of it are gone. Above this model a giant red ball hovers showing how big the fireball was after the explosion. A wax statue of a mother and family walking through the town with the skin melting off their bodies also hit home but nothing, nothing is as heart wrenching as the room of belongings. It’s full of burnt school uniforms and lunch boxes and underneath are stories about the people they belonged too. Mostly stories of how a small child found their way home despite all the skin being gone from their body and dying shortly after they reached their home. By far the worst is a twisted misshapen tricycle belonging to a 5 year old boy. When he died his father thought hew as too little to be buried in an adult cemetery so he buried him in the back garden with his tricycle so that he would have something to play with. Years later he dug him up again and moved him to a cemetery when he thought he was old enough. It was everything I could do not to cry.

After this the museum explains the continuing problems that survivors faced, radiation sickness, burns not healing properly, cancer and worst of all those survivors who weren’t yet born when the bomb was dropped but who nearly all suffered birth defects and massive developmental problems. How horrible a weapon is it that it can ruin lives before they’ve even begun.

Finally the museum explains the current global situation regarding nuclear weapons, which countries have them, what mutually assured destruction was, etc. This section can get a little bit preachy and some people would probably say that its a little bit naïve (it certainly is biased) but I would argue that as the only survivors of a nuclear attack Japan is the only country that can possibly understand what their effect is. In this section there is a wall showing a copy of telegrams sent from the mayor of Hiroshima to the Japanese ambassador of various nations. Ever time a nuclear weapon is tested the mayor sends a telegram expressing his distress and desire to move away from nuclear weapon research. The wall is huge and sadly seemingly futile.

It doesn’t take much familiarity with Japanese pop-culture to realise that this is a nation that abhors war more than any other. Although Japan was previously one of the most jingoistic and imperialistic war like nations in Earth’s history (sadly something it shares in common with my home country) after World War Two popular opinion swung right the other way. In almost all Japanese pop-culture that deals with conflict there is an underlying anti-war message, questioning the necessity of war and its impact. Even a relatively light piece of fluff like the Gundam series constantly asks questions about what war does to the humans that have to fight it and the humans that are victims of it.

Yes Gundam. The same show that gave us a robot dressed like a fish.

Also gave us relatively sophisticated arguments about why human beings fight wars.

Most famously of course Godzilla, that most quintessential emblem of the disposable and insane pop-culture of Japan is also a metaphor for the danger of nuclear weapons.

Furthermore Japan doesn’t even have an army! Alright, for most intents and purposes it does have an army, with tanks and everything. However this is officially designated a “self defence force” and the Japanese constitution explicitly forbids Japan from declaring war or moving combatant troops overseas.

Those of you that have been keeping up with news in Iraq are probably confused right now as surely Japan was in the coalition of the willing right? Well the troops they contributed were strictly non-combatants. That they assisted with the occupation and invasion of Iraq at all is not exactly living up to the ideals of peace that they typically espouse but Japan are still a damn sight more committed to the pursuit of world peace than America or Britain.

So I definitely recommend the atomic bomb museum. It’s incredibly moving and informative.

After the museum I headed back to Italian place for what was now lunch and had an awesome dinner for a bargain price. Suitably refreshed and happy I had a wander around Peace Park again.

I liked Peace Park in the evening but I liked it even more on a sunny day. It was green with wide open spaces and beautiful monuments scattered about. Peace Park marks the spot where the A-bomb was actually dropped and where most of the existing buildings and roads were destroyed completely. The main focus isn’t actually in the park itself but is just over the river. Genbaku-domu-mae, the A-Bomb dome. This is the site of the former Industrial Promotion Dome. Once upon a time this was a remarkable building with a distinctive green dome. Its main job was hosting events to promote the city of Hiroshima as a tourist destination. It was the symbol of the city and still is. Then it was a symbol of prosperity and power, of international influence culture. Now it is a ruin and a mute reminder to the events that once happened here. The green dome has gone and in its place is the framework for the dome, still bent and distorted from where the blast hit it. It forever points to where the blast came from.

The dome was very contentious for a long time whilst the city was being rebuilt. Many people thought it was a dangerous ruin and that it only served to bring back painful memories. Others, quite wisely in my view, suggested that something should still stand as a reminder of the destruction of that day and so the A-Bomb Dome remains. A skeletal reminder of what once was.


The other main monument in the park is that children’s monument in memory of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako was 2 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped and when she was 12 she contracted leukemia. There is an old Japanese tradition that if you fold a 1000 paper cranes and make a wish on each one it will come true. During her hospitalisation Sadako folded paper cranes constantly wishing on each one to get well. Her effort was in vain though and though she managed to fold more than a thousand cranes she died within the year. Her classmates suggested a memorial to Sadako and to all the children that the atomic bomb had claimed.

The memorial is filled with thousands of paper cranes which are constantly refreshed by volunteers from around the world, mostly schools. The paper crane has since become a symbol of peace for many.

Another particularly moving monument was that to the Korean victims of the bomb. During the war many foreign residents of Japan, mostly from Korea and Vietnam, were forcibly conscripted to work in labour camps to fuel the war effort. On the day of the bomb many of them were working outside clearing demolished buildings in order to make fire breaks. When the bomb hit they had no protection and many died instantly. The rest, delirious from their injuries, leapt into the river to try and soothe their burns. For years these foreign dead were denied a proper burial and worse for their relatives they died far away from home and their souls were not enshrined to be looked after. This simple turtle, wrapped in paper cranes commemorates a suffering which is still not really understood today.

The Peace Flame was lit in 1964 and will remaining burning until the world is free of nuclear weapons.

Finally the cenotaph, a simple arch bears the following inscription.

“Repose ye in Peace, for the error shall not be repeated”

We can only hope so.

There are dozens more monuments in the park, too many to cover in this space or to see in one trip. I only hope that the people those monuments commemorate aren’t offended that I didn’t have the time to contemplate them personally.

I bid Peace Park goodbye and headed off to find the castle.

Hiroshima-jo, also known as “carp castle” (this city is obsessed with carp) is, well it’s a Japanese castle. It isn’t as architecturally as impressive as Osaka-jo and it doesn’t combined with nature as harmoniously as Himeji-jo. Plus it’s a reconstruction, the original, unsurprisingly, was destroyed by the bomb.

For all that it’s still a nice castle to visit. The castle was hugely important in shaping Hiroshima’s history. The establishment of the castle turned five towns on a series of islands into one cohesive city (named for the widest island). The castle was also the reason the 5th army garrison was stationed here, which ultimately was a factor in the city’s tragic fate. It’s informative but not exactly riveting stuff.

Finally here is a dog in a hat driving a car.

I bloody love this country.

And that was my trip to Hiroshima. I shall probably return there, girlfriend in toe, and not make the same mistakes I did this time. I enjoyed my break immensely and can easily recommend it as one of the finest places to visit in the whole of Japan.

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