Just 4 days after putting my backpack away from Thailand, I shouldered it once more for a whirlwind trip to Kyushu. While there, I managed to tick of lot of things of the “must do in Japan” list- I made it to my 3rd of Japan’s 4 main islands, I ate potentially lethal food (fugu), I stayed in a capsule hotel and I went to an onsen.
I got the shink to Shimonoseki on thursday night, and stayed in a particularly militant YHA hostel where lights were turned off at 11pm and you were forced out of bed at 9am. Luckily all of the people I met there were really friendly- a salaryman who I got fairly drunk with, one of the girls who worked there who’d spent 2 years studying in Germany, and an amazing 16-year old lad from Yokohama, who was cycling all the way to the southern tip of Kyushu for his summer holidays! I was pleased that I could talk with people in Japanese without too much trouble, especially as they spoke no English. The next day I set out to explore Shimonoseki. Before leaving the hostel, the manager explained fugu to me entirely in Japanese, interspersed only with the English word “die”. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately for comedy purposes) I understood the Japanese too. And so I didn’t die. Fugu made good sushi and pretty standard fried fish- see photo of my tasty and cheap fish market lunch. As well as trying fugu I visited a big red temple and the Treaty of Shimonoseki Museum. It was baking hot, so after that I retreated to an airconditioned train carriage for the journey to Kyushu’s biggest city, Fukuoka.
Fukuoka is a really nice city- light on traditional sightseeing, but with a really nice vibe, lots of energy and a plethora of modern attractions. There I met up with ii tomodachi Georgina to sample some of Fukuoka’s specialities- tonkotsu ramen (made with pork bones, honto ni oishii!), roadside yakitori and oden (although I avoided the oden because its not very nice), and lots of drinking. We ended up karaoke-ing the night away, and thus the next day was fairly laid back. I did managed to get to the Fukuoka Art Museum though for an interesting exhibition of Asian art, and the big shopping centre “Canal City” where we saw a giant pikachu!
The final stop on my lightning tour was two days in Nagasaki. I’d been searching for a decent hostel but there don’t seem to be any in Nagasaki without curfew’s, so I ended up staying in a cheap capsule hotel/onsen/sauna place that my friend Nicola found. Capsule 207 was a very good capsule (although I suspect they are all remarkably similar), but the highlight of the stay was the onsen. Although I’d been skeptical, the onsen experience turned out to be fantastic- i was happily hopping between the sauna, jacuzzi, hot bath, cold bath and steam room, after which I could change from my provided pajamas into a provided dressing gown and relax in the comfort room with a choice of 12 giant TV screens to watch. And all for 3000 yen! I’ll definately be staying in those sort of places again. The capule itself was slightly strange- not recommended for those who are claustrophobic- but fine for a couple of nights, with a control panel of dreams that could accomplish almost anything I wanted it to.
Anyway, in between all my long soaks in the bath I had a bit of time to explore Nagasaki. On saturday night I went out with Nicola (fellow Brummie) and her friends, and on sunday I toured the main sights of the city- the Peace Memorial and bomb museum (a nice memorial, but not so thorough as the museum in Hiroshima), some more templey temples, and the exciting Glover Garden, a collection of European houses perched on a hill. Back in the days of Japan’s self-imposed isolation, Dutch traders were only allowed to trade at Nagasaki, and even then they had to do so via the small settlement of Dejima, an offshore island. The result of Chinese and European trade in Nagasaki is an apparent “international flavour”, with the local speciality of champon (Chinese style ramen), and the European buildings which were lovely in the late afternoon sun and had a great view across Nagasaki.
On Monday morning, after one last soak in the onsen, I started back on my long journey home to Okayama.