Kyushu Trip

Wow, wheh, two days after getting back from Kyushu I am still exhausted. It was a really nice trip, but a little bit more expensive and tiring than I thought so.

For those of you that don’t know, Kyushu is the southern most island of Japan. The best way to reach it from Tokyo is by plane (see the transportation section below). We visited three cities, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Kagoshima.


Fukuoka
As far as arrangements go, we stayed at a youth hostel in Fukuoka. It was OK. Not great, not terrible, just a place to sleep. It was relatively clean and had a great heater. My only real beef was that the very small showers had a time triggered water stop which cause me to hit the water button every minute to keep the shower going. But overall the people were friendly and it was a place to sleep.


In Fukuoka it was raining for a good part of the day. We took a trip to Fukuoka Tower via bus and went up to take a look at the lovely view. It was really nice… you could see a bird’s eye view of the city and a good view of the water north of Fukuoka. There were a bunch of elementary school kids on the top of the tower that kept saying “hallo!” at me. I’m guessing they were from a prefecture where foreigners are a bit more rare, but it was still pretty amusing and fun.


After the tower we decided to take a cab to Temjin (downtown Fukuoka) to try to get some famous Fukuoka ramen. After walking around for a while we wondered to the basement of a department store and sat down at a crowded ramen place. A third of the way through the meal a couple of Japanese businessmen sat down next to us and started conversing in English. The ramen was really just mediocre. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.


After eating we headed over to the station to meet one of Boris’s friends. She showed us around Fukuoka and we visited some places like Canal City (huge shopping mall), some of the city center, and also a temple. It was very pretty and we were lucky to have someone familiar with the area show us around.


Nagasaki
Ah, Nagasaki. See travel below to see how I got to Nagasaki. After arriving on the train though we took the street car to Akari Youth Hostel. This hostel was very nice. The staff was really friendly, spoke very good English, and the rooms were a mix of Japanese straw-mat floors and western beds. The shower room was a typical onsen style washroom with two showers and a huge bathtub all in the same room.



Anyways after relaxing at the hostel a little bit we decided to go enjoy some of the Nagasaki night life. We headed to the city center and walked around an area that was swarmed with bars and people. There were a few Chinese girls that would randomly come up to us and offer shady sounding “massages” for 3000 yen. After wondering around a while we found an izakaya restaurant and had a few beers and some appetizers. Afterwards we wandered to this bar owned by an American. Surprisingly, he was also from Texas. He had grown up in Wichita Falls which was very surprising. Anyways we spent the rest of the night there. I had a couple glasses of souchu and everyone had a ton of fun.

The next day we woke up and headed out to view some more of Nagasaki. First we visited a very peaceful temple that was close to our hostel. Nagasaki seemed to be very queit and very peaceful. The weather was gorgeous and the temple was outstanding.


After the temple we headed out to the harbor part of Nagasaki. Since the weather was really nice we also visited the famous garden that was close to the harbor. We took some really nice pictures and again it was very peaceful.


After walking around some more we took a cab to the atomic bomb museum. No pictures are allowed in the museum so I don’t really have anything to post. The museum was pretty depressing and scary. I’m not going to try to debate whether the bomb was justified or not, but I think one thing that everyone can agree on is that atomic warfare is terrible. One thing that I though was particularly scary was the wall that had the shadows of those killed by the bomb silhouetted in them. When an atomic bomb goes off it generates a massive amount of light. It was really morbid seeing the shadows of someone seconds before they were vaporized.

Anyways after the museum we headed to the hypo center. There was a big monolith directly below where the bomb was detonated. Again it was very eerie to be at that exact spot. After visiting the hypo center we headed over to the peace park. It was a very nice day and the peace park was really something else. There was a large statue that represented peace and was pretty impressive to see.



After the peace park we went to Mt. Innae to see supposedly one of the best night views in all of Japan. We took a ropeway to the summit and the view was spectacular. After moseying around for about half an hour we went back to the hostel. I was dead beat at this point so I decided to take it easy and rest up for the trip to Kagoshima the next day.

Kagoshima
Kagoshima was awesome. As far as arrangements go this is by far the highlight of our trip. We stayed at a traditional Japanese ryokan. This included everything from a Japanese style room to a complimentary yukata for each night. Arriving at Kagoshima-chuo station I called Mr. Nakazono (the ryokan owner) and he offered to come pick us up in the ryokan van. After waiting around a while he picked us up and took us to the ryokan. It was very traditional. You had to do the typical take off your shoes before entering and also the floors were all Japanese style straw-mat floors. The rooms were also very Japanese style.


The first day we go to Kagoshima we just walked around and had something to drink and eat before retiring at our ryokan. The next day, the main thing that we did in Kagoshima is visit the volcano Sakurajima. Sakurajima is a volcano on an island south of Kagoshima that can be reached by a ferry. After walking from the hostel and boarding the ferry we were taken to Sakurajima. The Ferry was pretty cheap and only a couple of hundred yen if I remember.


Once at Sakurajima we decided to rent bikes to travel around. It was raining on and off but really wasn’t too terrible. The bikes cost about 300 yen per hour. Cycling on Sakurajima was wonderful, although it was an eyeopener to how out of shape I am. Going up the bigger hills I couldn’t help but take breaks occasionally, but overall the view you get from cycling is amazing.

At one point there was an onsen for your feet. You just sit down and dip you feet in the naturally hot water coming from the hot spring. We didn’t have towels however so we decided to skip this.

After getting about a third of the way around the island we decided to head back. The weather wasn’t the best and we felt that we had taken in enough of the beauty (also I don’t know if I could have made it around in a decent time). At the 1/2-way point, there was a bunch of souvenir shops. Once there I bought a bunch of postcards (which some people who may be reading this blog will get once I get time to address them). The owners were really nice too and gave us some free mikans.


Back in the ryokan we just decided to take it easy. We went out to dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant where I had a tempura dish. The next day was all transportation from Kagoshima to Fukuoka, and then to Tokyo.

Travel/Transportation
To actually get to Kyushu we traveled by Skymark Airlines. If traveling within Japan Skymark is definitely the best bet for airfare. It is very cheap if you book in advance (our round trip ticket was about 26000 yen) We left Thursday after work, took a bus from Atsugi to Haneda airport, and then flew straight to Fukuoka. After a lovely view from the air of Tokyo and some pretty rough turbulence we made it fine.

In Nagasaki and Kagoshima we got around town using the street cars. They were very cheap (100yen in Nagasaki and 160yen in Kagoshima) and went everywhere within the city. In Fukuoka it seems that we used Taxis more than anything.

To get between cities we used trains. All around this was a nice option, but a little bit more on the expensive end. From Fukuoka to Nagasaki cost about 4000 yen on the Mamome line, Nagasaki to Kagoshima cost about 9000 yen on the Tsubame Shinkansen, and Kagoshima to Fukuoka cost about another 9000 yen. The Shinkansen (bullet train) was very impressive. It went very fast and the ride was very smooth.


Summary

Well that about does it. Kyushu was a great place and it was very relaxing. Definitely plan a trip if you are going to come to Japan and have some time to spare. Many people will rent a car to keep transportation costs down, so if this sounds like what you want to do make sure to get an international driver’s license before coming to Japan.

Anyways, here are the hostels/hotels we stayed at
International Hostel Khaosan (Fukuoka)

Nagasaki International Hostel AKARI (Nagasaki)
Nakazono Ryokan (Kagoshima)

Also, here is a very useful site that we used to find which trains we needed as well as an approximate price:
Train Route Finder by Jourdan Ltd.

Here is Skymark Airline’s English website:
Skymark Airlines

And, as always:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.615088336048.2294651.16720765&type=1&l=08d5dc0d8b

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.615089603508.2294655.16720765&type=1&l=534f553c86

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.615091285138.2294657.16720765&type=1&l=6db15a184f

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.615092847008.2294660.16720765&type=1&l=5ef5bf4114

Take care!

How did I get here?

Well I have been in Japan for a decent amount of time, but even now I have my moments where I just ask “How the hell did I get here?” I mean really. I am just a kid from a regular middle-class family that goes to a public university in Texas. Usually you have to pay large sums of money to spend a year in Japan but somehow I got a free ride. It is almost unbelievable.

Today I was walking back from a restaraunt alone and was passing outside the station. It was colder than usual and there was a pretty decent live band playing. The Christmas decorations were up and the atmosphere was really nice. At that point two things crossed through my head. First off was the question that I explained above. The second was a bit different. Walking there in the freezing cold outside of Hon-Atsugi station in some weird way made me realize that I wouldn’t mind living in Japan indefinitely. Sure, for the most part only contract work is open for foreigners, and the pay is nothing compared to an engineering job in the states, but if I am in Japan I am happy and that is all that counts.

After I graduate I have decided to apply for any engineering jobs I can find in Japan and even apply for the JET program. While teaching English certainly isn’t my top choice, it would give me a chance to emerse myself in the culture and really get a good grasp of the language. Don’t get me wrong, I love the United States, but traveling abroad has been a dream of mine ever since I was young, and once this dream came true I realized how much I love other countries. It is different which is what I like.

Anyways, enough of this rant. Tomorrow I go to Kyushu with a bunch of the other interns. I’ll have a chance to see a bit more rural Japan and another region other than Kanto. I’ll be sure to take many pictures.

Kimisawa Grocery Store Trip

I went to Kimisawa today (the local grocery store) and did my usual shopping. I realized I haven’t posted pictures of my groceries and some people may find it interesting (my mom is always asking what I eat).


I also got dango at the grocery store. Last time I had them one of my friends asked me what type they were. I had no idea so here is a closer picture.


Time to go cook some deviled eggs. Going to bring them into work tomorrow for some of the other workers πŸ™‚

Kamakura Trip

Last weekend Steve (English), Levi (American), Andre (Canadian) and I took a trip to Kamakura. Kamakura is a coastal town in Kanagawa that has many temples and is very historic.

Anyways on Sunday we woke up bright and early and met at the station at about 8:30am. From Hon-Atsugi station we took the Odakyu line to Ebina, the Sotetsu line to Yokohama, and then the Yokosuka line to Kamakura. The whole train ride cost about 700 yen and took maybe an hour or so. Once at Kamakura we tried to find some place to eat. We walked down a little shopping street trying to find some small place but were unable. Eventually we met up with a couple Australians and conversed a for a while. They told us that there was a McDonald’s opposite of the station. Anyways, after a little bit of backtracking we found our way to McDonald’s.

What happened at McDonald’s was the most tragic part of my day. I went in wanting a Mega Mac, but it seems they only were serving breakfast. Heart-broken and disappointed I settled for the breakfast equivalent Mega Muffin. Literally, 2 minutes after I had ordered they switched to the lunch menu. I was so sad. I know it sounds American for me to be heartbroken over a hamburger, but to be fair the Mega Mac (2 Big Macs in 1) isn’t served in the USA.

Anyways after McDonald’s we wandered to a huge Torii that marked the entrance into a shopping road. It was pretty impressive to see. We asked some random foreigner walking by to take a picture of the four of us together. It turned out pretty well.


After looking around for a few minutes we headed back to the station to the Enoden railway. The Enoden railway is a street train that went all the way to Fuji-sawa. It was very small and went slow, but was a pretty interesting experience. After we got off at the Hase stop we headed towards the Daibutsu (large Buddha statue). The daibutsu was pretty interesting. It was big and the area surrounding it was pretty scenic. There was also a festival going on around the daibutsu with some dancers. There was also a couple of older Japanese ladies playing this traditional Japanese string instrument.


After looking around the daibutsu some more and taking a look at a couple of local shops we decided to stop by the convenient store because Levi and Steve needed to take some cash out of the ATM. Turns out the ATM was closed that day. Yep, only in Japan can society be so anal about trains arriving on time to the min but at the same time not allow you to withdraw your own money on certain days from the ATM.

Anyways after the visit to the ATM we decided to head to the Hase Temple. The Hase Temple had a very nice garden out front. It was very scenic and had a very beautiful assortment of water and vegetation. Fish were also swimming around in the pond which added to the peaceful atmosphere.

There was this small cave beside the garden that was full of statues and small lit candles. The exit hallway to the cave was very small and I had to borderline crawl to get out.


The temple itself was awesome. It was very scenic and honestly pictures don’t really do it justice. There was also a pretty nice lookout point right next to the temple where you could see the Pacific ocean very nicely.

After admiring the scenery of the temple more we decided to eat at at soba restaurant right beside the temple. The soba was amazing. I loved the taste and it filled me right up.

After eating we looked around inside the temple a little. It started raining a little bit at this point. While looking around the temple, some middle school kids came up to me and yelled “HALLO!”. It turns out they were here on a school trip and one of their assignments was to go to random foreigners and ask questions in English. It was actually pretty heartwarming for these random middle school students to be so excited to speak in English to a foreigners. I spoke in Japanese to them a little and I think they were shocked. In the end they wanted a picture with all of us. I managed to get one too.

After the Hase Temple we decided to go back to the Kamakura main station and go to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. After another quick stop at McDonald’s to get a belated Mega Mac we headed down the shopping street that I talked about earlier. The shopping street was pretty nice and had all sorts of different shops. I bought a pair of chopsticks and the guy selling them engraved my name “ローガン” (rougan) into the chopsticks.

After wandering out of the shopping street we found ourselves on a bit more rural street. We spotted one Torii at the top of a very steep flight of stairs. After wondering up the stairs we decided that it was just a neighborhood with a bunch of houses at top and wandered back down to the main road. After wandering around a bit more we finally got to the temple. At this point it was starting to get a bit dark so the pictures did not come out too grand. Anyways at this shrine there were a ton of big red Torii. It was very beautiful. At the main shrine there was a traditional Japanese wedding happening and many people around. There was a big set of stairs that led straight to the shrine. The shrine itself was gorgeous also. It was very traditional Japanese architecture and looked great.

Anyways after looking around the temple more we decided to head back home. On the way back we bought some rice cracker treats to bring into work. Going back was pretty uneventful. We did however stop by in Ebina to go to Outback Steakhouse for some nachos and a couple of beers. It is kind of ironic looking back at it; this was a visit to tradition Japan but yet we ate at mainly western restaurants. The trip was very fun though. It is definitely a must visit for anyone that come to the Tokyo/Kanagawa area.

Facebook Pictures:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.606367357958.2283243.16720765&type=1&l=7248ec977a

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.606368306058.2283244.16720765&type=1&l=230c7d9e4e

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.606369179308.2283246.16720765&type=1&l=00c8417f81

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.606370182298.2283248.16720765&type=1&l=52d595f245