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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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: