2 February 2013

I awoke on Saturday around five feeling remarkably refreshed. The previous night's swim had clearly done the trick, and after a hearty buffet breakfast I felt ready for anything. Which was good as we had a long day ahead of us.

The coaches left on the dot at seven for Haneda airport, where we boarded a plane bound for a city that will forever be associated with one of the most awful acts commited by mankind – Hiroshima. It was on 6th August 1945 that a thirteen-kiloton atomic bomb was dropped from a plane over the city, instantly killing 90,000 civilians and causing unimaginable devastation. It was said in the immediate aftermath that nothing would grow there for 75 years; it would be interesting to see how the city and its people lived today. My guidebook showed that the hotel we'd be staying in was close to the site of the explosion, and that there were some beautiful memorial gardens. There would be no time to visit them today, but I set an alarm to allow an early morning excursion the next day.

We landed around eleven, and boarded buses for Iwakuni, 80 minute drive west. The road weaved between forest-clad mountains, and after a while the sea appeared to the south, with darkly silhouetted volcanic islands rising from the glistening waters. We were around 34 degrees north of the Equator here, and the sun had a strong, Mediterranean intensity.

I was therefore quite relieved to find the concert hall was cool, built with beautiful light-coloured marble. It had a very resonant acoustic that required light, focused playing.  After a nice noodley lunch we unpacked our instruments and settled down to rehearse Beethoven 7 and Mahler 1. After long flights and coach journeys I always enjoy having a big, meaty programme to get our teeth into, so this was perfect. Esa-Pekka was on good form, and the concert went very well. I just love Mahler 1, it takes you on a journey through so many emotions, so many peaks and troughs, and ends with a blaze of D majory glory.

After the concert we travelled back to Hiroshima, checked in to the hotel and then set off for Molly Malone's Irish pub to watch Wales almost achieve a stirring comeback against Ireland, and then England have just a bit too much strength and class for plucky Scotland. Many thanks to manager Mark for saving prime tables for us, it was a great end to a great first full touring day.