Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Kyushu, Japan's southern island

We've been on the island of Kyushu for the past week, based in the city of Fukuoka, and having a blast. We're taking it easy today because we've been so busy and we desperately needed some time to catch you all up on where we've been and what we've done.

Our first full day here, we stayed close to the hostel and ventured around Fukuoka. The task of planning the day was given to Nicole and she planned a great one. We visited Canal City, a large mall and entertainment complex designed by an American, resembling the red Arizona cliffs. Nicole snuck in some shopping and we investigated what movies were playing later in the week. We briefly stopped at Kushida-Jinjya shrine with a very cool festival display on our way to the folk museum. At the museum, we watched an interesting and educational video on local festival traditions. Then we hopped on the subway and took a nice ride in a swan paddleboat around a lake in Ohori Park. As the sun set, we carried on to Marinoa City, a pier and outlet mall with the world's second largest ferris wheel! The wheel took over 20 minutes to ride, and it yielded nice evening views of downtown Fukuoka and the surrounding area.

Friday, it rained, and we spent the day planning the rest of our day trips and doing laundry. Saturday was much more fulfilling, visiting Nagasaki in the day and partying it up in the evening. Nagasaki was where the second atomic bomb was dropped on August 9, 1945. We strolled through the memorial park and visited the hypo-centre. Similar to Hiroshima, the city is filled with symbols of peace and the abolishment of nuclear weapons. On the other side of the city we visited a small island, Dejima, once inhabited by the Dutch. Permission was given to them by the emperor during a time when Japan was restricted to only trade with the Dutch and Chinese. Thus, the small dutch settlement, still trading with Europe, had an important impact on the modernization of Japan. The settlement is now protected as a historical site and Japan has re-built many of the Dutch buildings and continues to preserve the site for tourists.

While in Nagasaki we also tried to visit a Chinese shrine, Confucius Shrine, considered to be on Chinese land. Unfortunately we arrived shortly after it closed, greatly disappointing Jason. To make up for it, we motored to Spectacles Bridge, the oldest stone bridge in Japan. We got some great pictures in the twilight. Back at the hostel in Fukuoka, we quickly made friends with some Americans and a French fellow over dinner. This being the Saturday before Halloween, it was a good night to go out partying. With some hesitation, we all agreed, and I think the pictures tell how the evening went. :D

The following day, Jason didn't get out of bed till noon and the only real achievement we made was venturing to the cinema to catch the 7:20 showing of Stardust. The movie was good, the popcorn was even better!

Monday, we travelled to Beppu. A large tourist destination for both Foreigners and the Japanese. It is a highly thermal area and the city is built right over top of the geysers and hot springs. Throughout the city you can see steam rising through vents and street sewers. A very odd sight. The Japanese come here to bathe in the hot springs, so we did just the same after visiting some of the more interesting thermal spots, called The Hells. We visited White-Pond Hell, the Blood-Pond Hell, and the Waterspout Hell. As the names imply, a white pond, a red pond, and a spouting geyser. We soaked ourselves in a spa near the seaside, which was very relaxing, then took a late train back to the hostel. Beppu was very tacky for the tourists... we weren't overly impressed.

Yesterday, we went to the city of Kagoshima at the south end of the island. A nice, tourist-driven city, with a semi-active volcano island close by. Once we figured out the tourist City View bus, we visited Sengan'en Garden. The garden was beautiful and had the first true nature hike that we've encountered since in Japan. So much so that Nicole was squeamish the entire hike, watching out for the large spiders that seem to be everywhere throughout Japan. It was a great hike though, leading us to a hidden waterfall and a nice view of the volcano island in the bay. We then took the bus to the ferry terminal and crossed to the island, only 15 minutes away. We walked a couple of kilometres along a waterside path through a lava field. There were large black boulders everywhere, put there in 1914 when the volcano last erupted. Pretty cool.

We leave Fukuoka tomorrow to make our way back east to Osaka and Nagoya. It's going to be a busy week before getting back to Tokyo!

Fukuoka Pics | Nagasaki Pics | Beppu Pics | Kagoshima Pics


At November 1, 2007 at 10:07 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Is that ferris wheel outside of Osaka somewhere? I may have been on the same one! This is the last time I go this lng between checking your site. Wayyyyyy too much to catch up on. Information overload!! I'm going to go pester The Cuz to check up on this and leave some comments. When are you gong to China? I have some handy phrases for you... peace

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