A Travellerspoint blog

Bright Lights, Big City.

Fun in Fukuoka

sunny -23 °C

Fukuoka has a really different atmosphere from the other cities that we have been in. This city really is an urban jungle and has a fast paced, hard nosed feel about it. Fukuoka is said to be the hedonistic centre of Japan, boasting sprawling shopping malls and a varied night life. This is mainly how we experienced it to be.

Our hostel experience reflected the atmosphere we had felt from the city at large. We were given our key and left to find our own feet. It was perfectly functional and clean but it was missing a sense of community and lacking the personal touches and friendly smiles of our other hostels. Everyone man (or woman) for themselves!

After chucking our bags in our room, we headed to Tenjin, the shopping district. Stepping off the subway we were immediately surrounded by shopping malls. They lined the streets, offering every type of shopping experience you can imagine. If you have a lot of money burning a hole in your pocket, or you're a die hard shopaholic, you will find your home in Tenjin!

Unfortunately, Emma and Ashton are not blessed with a fortune but did have our heads turned in the mall. It wasn't long before we both made ourselves some "investment" purchases. That is to say, we persuaded each other that the things we had found were practical, necessary and that if we hadn't have bought them then, we would have needed to buy them later. We left shortly after before any further "investment" purchases materialised. Anything to justify frivolity!


We picked up a walking guide from Hakata station and followed one of the pre-selected trails around the city. It came in Japanese with a stamp collection page, which you stamp at each of the given destinations on the way round. The packaging suggested it was probably aimed at children but it's funny how intent you can get on claiming stamps! It added a lot of humour to our exploration and we enjoyed it greatly.

The route we chose took us around a number of shrines and temples in Fukuoka. These once dominant structures were well hidden amongst the built up high rise buildings and expressways. The well attended, landscaped grounds made a leafy tranquil oasis amongst the busy city. Amongst our favourite stops was the big hand carved wooden buddha, the tallest buddha statue in Japan. The enormity of the carving blew our noodle. Wowa weewa!

Here are some more sights from our 3 hour walking tour of Hakata:

We took a quick pitstop at the hostel to have some grub. We had an outrageously big apple and then did our best to scrub up as ladies (when living out of a backpack, the best you can ask for is throwing on a slightly creased dress). Off to Nakasu!


First, we headed for a boat trip down the Nakagawa river, with some time to spare we decided to treat ourselves to a Friday bevvy. We instated beer-o-clock at a quaint cafe in Tenjin Central Park.
This event ultimately resulted in us downing a pint in front of 3 amused Japanese old ladies as we had miscalculated the time we had until the boat left. Here is us after downing a couple of beers and feeling a bit hysterical on the boat ride:

I think what amused us most was that there were no good sights from the boat. To your right, big concrete buildings, to your left an army base. Where did we end up? Bayside- the arse end of nowhere, so we got to do the boat ride twice.

Perhaps it was the beer but we were still in good spirits when the boat docked again. We arrived just as the city had begun to light up and that's when it is at its best.

At night, food stalls appear along the river and you can eat the local speciality ramen (noodle) dishes down by the water.

We opted for a cosy little Japanese style restaurant a little more out of the way. Beer and noodles ahoy!

We weren't sure of the eating etiquette here as we were given 2 extra bowls each? Emma asked what they were for to laughs from the other Japanese diners!

Two satisfied diners with a belly full of beer and noodles headed back to the hostel for some shut eye and to make preparations for Hiroshima. We'll save the Fukuoka's famous brothels for another time....

Posted by Ashton and Emma 05:39 Archived in Japan Tagged river station fukuoka hakata tnejin nakagawa nakasu Comments (0)

Let's Champ on some Champon

Dejima, Ioujima and Champon

sunny -27 °C

This morning started with a trip to Dejima Wharf. Dejima was a tiny island that served as Japan's only gateway to Europe for more than 200 years and was constructed in 1636 to isolate Europeans and the spread of Christianity. Today, only the wharf really remains, which has a row of restaurants and bars looking out over the port.
The bars were shut unfortunately, so no time for a 9:00am tipple!


There are arcades everywhere in Japan, so to kill some time before our 11:00am ferry, we went down the musical road and rocked out playing some Guitar Rockstar and a Japanese drum game at one we found in the shopping centre. We had some trouble translating the instructions and had to get a lot of help from the employees there- there was some confusion caused by the fact that we didn't know what the machines were saying and they didn't know what we were saying. How else do you explain only playing 2 games in 45 minutes!

Next we hopped on board a ferry for our impromptu trip to Ioujima Island recommended by Shinji who runs the Casa Noda hostel we are staying in, in Nagasaki.
As well as enjoying the lovely scenery from the top of the ferry, we also made some new friends on the ride over:


and this is us trying on their sunglasses:


They were really energetic and happy and tres excited to find out that we were from England. They made it a really fun start to the morning for us. Every girl in that photo has a picture of us on their cameras now, the photo session went on for at least 5 minutes.

Once docked, we went in search for some bikes for hire and found some jazzy green Revo numbers:

300 Yen later and we were hot to trot on the slightly rusty clunking Revo bikes. There were barely any cars or people around, so we were king of road. There's something childishly fun about riding bikes and it put us in a cheery mood. We cycled about, ringing the bell and waving to the people that we passed by. Here come the eccentric English:


It was clear blue skies and blazing sun all the way, so the only thing left to do was to strip down to our bikinis on the beach and expose those pasty bodies to the world. Ioujima seems to be Japan's best kept secret as the beach was deserted. It was like having our own private beach.


There's something really relaxing about sitting on the beach and just being able to hear the waves coming into shore. This has been one of our favourite days because of the simple pleasure of it all and a nice break before we dive head first into the big cities.

We had the bikes for 3 hours, so we explored the island a little more before dropping them back

Ioujima bridge- the Revos weren't up for big hill expeditions and Ashton nearly fell of her bike laughing at Emma throwing her whole body into getting up the hill. Emma's thighs were going 10 to the dozen and her whole upper body was rocking back and forth trying to encourage the bike to get to the top.

A mosey past the church:

and a nose into the more residential side streets:

One rushed coffee later and we made a quick dash for the ferry. We returned a shabbier, sandier, greasier version of ourselves with a mission in mind to champ on some Champon. Champon is a traditional dish in Nagasaki- it's a kind of soup with noodles, vegetables and a plethora of fish in it. Emma managed to get a vegetarian version in the restaurant we went to, Ashton had to chow down an ocean of fish. Here's how it looks:

We returned to our hostel for the last evening and were relieved to have a nice hot shower. We'll be sad to see the back of Nagasaki but new adventures await!

Posted by Ashton and Emma 18:36 Archived in Japan Tagged island nagasaki ioujima dejima Comments (0)

Nagasaki Peace Park

Atomic Bomb Museum & Peace Park

sunny -25 °C

After yesterday's festivities, we stepped out for a more sobering trip to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park to learn about the 1945 bombing.

The museum demonstrates through remnants of buildings and objects the devastation that the atomic bomb had on the city of Nagasaki. Photographic evidence and personal accounts from victims also testifiy to the destructive, long term effects the bomb had.

At the hypocenter, the heat of the bomb reached between 3000-4000 degrees. Anyone caught there was immediately carbonised and their bodily fluids evaporated. The wind pressure caused by the energy of the bomb flattened anything around it, so that even the reinforced steel walls of the local prison were demolished.

Anything within a 4km radius was immediately effected, many people suffered severe burns. Later illness included various cancer forms, hair loss, psychological disorders and cataracts. Many children of subsequent generations were born with defects. Around 73,000 people died from the A-Bomb and around 74,000 were injured.

Even now, it can not be said that the poisonous substances released by the bomb have been eradicated from the city.

The city of Nagasaki now works towards the abolishment of nuclear weapons worldwide by actively campaigning and educating people. Here is a snippet from the 2012 Nagasaki Peace Declaration:

'Nuclear weapons were born out of distrust and fear of other countries as well as the desire for power. Nagasaki will also be emphasizing peace and international understanding education to help create a world where future generations can live in a society based on mutual trust, a sense of security, and the notion of harmonious coexistence'

The Peace Park was created as a dedicated space for remembrance of the suffering and loss caused by the bomb.

The monument at the Hypocenter:

Remnants of the Shinto Shrine and Cathedral- 2 buildings destroyed by the bomb.

The Peace Fountain:

Monuments dedicated by other countries to show support to Nagasaki:

Dominating the park was the Peace Statue

The statues right hand pointing upwards symbolises the threat of the atomic bomb. The left hand stretching horizontally symbolises peace. The lightly closed eyelids convey the idea of an ancient prayer for the souls of the war dead. The crossed leg symbolises meditation and the other leg is poised ready to go and help humanity.

After a long informative and emotional day (we had to fight back some tears on several occasions) we headed back to our hostel. We picked up some Castella, a traditional cake for Nagasaki introduced by the Portuguese when Nagasaki was Japan's only trading point with the West. Time to kick back with a brew!

Posted by Ashton and Emma 03:03 Archived in Japan Tagged park museum nagasaki peace atomic bomb Comments (0)

Festival in Nagasaki & Everyone's Invited

...and everyone came

sunny -26 °C

Kunchi means celebration holiday and has a history of more than 370 years. Each year, Nagasaki's historic towns alternate putting on performances, with 5 organising shows this year.

Kunchi has the atmosphere of a street festival with all the acts working their way through the little side streets throughout the day. There was a schedule available on a leaflet but we found it best to follow our eyes and ears, locating performances from the sounds of music, cheering and the hustle and bustle of the crowds.

The first performance we saw was the River Ship organised by Kawafune. We were attracted to it by a distinct drum beat. There were hoards of people circling the performers already but we managed to weave our way through to a good viewing spot. Despite the busy crowd, everyone was cheering, clapping and having fun.


The second performance we saw was the Dragon Dance organised by Kago-Machi. This was traditionally performed in China as part of a rainmaking ceremony. Based on what we've seen, we're trying to concoct a similar number to bring the sun home.
The music, which represented in different parts the Dragon's voice and the different weather, added a jubilant carnival style atmosphere. The way it combined with the movement of the performance meant that we were entranced from start to finish.


The third performance was the Lion Dance organised by Tamazono-Machi. The performers' acrobatics in this were a real crowd pleaser. Caught up in the spirit of the moment, we threw caution to the wind and engaged in our own acrobatics- Ashton gave Emma a cheeky piggyback to ensure some top quality photos. I think the results speak for themselves:


Up next was the Dutch Ship organised by Edo-Machi. Imagine lots of chanting and whistles and you're pretty much there:


Finally, we saw some female dancers, styled as geishas performing to music played on the samisen. They got their fans out and gave us a bit of jig about.


A quick hose down and a spruce up later and we headed off for Mt Inasa. We got the ropewalk (or cable car to us English folk) to the top of the mountain. It was a short walk to the tall circular observatory building which we climbed via a spiral staircase. We arrived just as the sun was setting creating an orange/red tint across the horizon as a backdrop for the islands and mountains beside the bay.


The sun went down quickly to leave a completely black backdrop which afforded the best views of the city lights on the other side of the observatory. Looking down upon the whole of Nagasaki lit up in a hubub of movement was breathtaking. It was strangely peaceful and all quiet apart from the chorus of insects that you can hear in the surrounding mountain foliage.


Oh yea, did we mention that we'd eaten a fish and seaweed sprinkled pancake today and listened to a Japanese/Spanish traveller who looked Jamaican play the didgeridoo. It's a party in Nagasaki (but not in our mouths after the pancake- blergh!)

Posted by Ashton and Emma 03:22 Archived in Japan Tagged mt nagasaki kunchi festical inasa Comments (0)

A Room with a View

Landing in Nagasaki

sunny -27 °C

We think we've discovered the secret to Japanese efficiency: a hard work ethic and social pressures mean that of the 10 days annual holiday that Japanese employees are entitled to, most take 0 days off. Word of mouth is that if they take holiday they would appear lazy and it would reflect badly on them amongst their colleagues.

We were linked to this video yesterday, for those of you in need of some procrastination, watch for an amusing/informative 5 minutes:

We landed in Nagasaki amongst the furore of the Kunchi Festival. Walking out the station there was music, dancing, cheering- at last, someone sent the welcome committee!!

Today's orientation task (navigating our way to Casa Noda hostel) was a success! We actually did it on our own. We're overlooking the faux pas where we definitely knocked on a residential house- luckily there was no answer as we would have been quite a shabby surprise. It would have been too difficult to explain our way out of that, language barrier and all.

We are over the moon with this hostel, not only does it have a cracking view and an ensuite. It is a private room with a cushy mattress too. Hoorah. Check it out:


We took it to the street market once we offloaded the backpacks. This is set up as part of the festival and has stalls with Japanese cuisine and carnival-esque games, where you can win small treats. It was hectic but we enjoyed it and even tried some sugared sweet potato from one of the stalls- you won't have seen wedges this size before! We intend to go back tomorrow to pick up more food delights.


oh, and they're chocolate coated bananas in case you were wondering....

Posted by Ashton and Emma 07:17 Archived in Japan Tagged hostel festival nagasaki casa kunchi noda Comments (0)

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