Fukuoka – Nagasaki – Kumamoto (July 18th – July 23rd 2015)
Our «Beetle» ferryboat transferred us from Korea to Japan in an exciting and safe manner. This was something new for us to experience, a ferryboat that «flies like a fairy» over the shared seas. The biggest waves happened however at the very departure at Busan, when we realised why the safety belts really were necessary to have on. But it was fun – we are now both generally used to be on board, so we took this as a simulation of a «perfect storm set on pause».:)
Fukuoka (福岡) welcomed us in a beautiful sunset and Kyushu`s (third biggest Japane island) tropic temperature called for aclimatization. We took a bus («wrong side» in the traffic again), listened to the relaxed bus driver talking non stop to his passengers on a mike, calmly, friendly, like he just needs someone to talk to, that is, to listen to his monologue. Every sentence was ending something like «massss» or «desss» and it seemed like he was saying «eeeh, this is where I went to school desss…», «now we turn, hold to your seats, here is a good restaurant to it masss»..Really interesting and completely different world! I mean, teenagers that look like anime characters and shower toilets with remote control on a side and all that stuff (->check our other post about funny signs and photos). It is like being in a movie!
We soon learned that Fukuoka is a really easy, relaxed place and seems to still be somewhere in the 90-ties; old local trains, telephone boots, like they really are in no hurry to catch up with the rest of the hi-tech buzz and finishing stuff yesterday-attitude. It was actually so cool to sit on the SOFA (!) in the local vagons, floor and walls covered in wood and looking at the passengers that talk to each other or reading books – paper covered, real books! Good old life! A really big Japanese bow to Fukuoka who takes its time, really. People using mobile phones while transporting were a minority in these trains. By the way, everyone seems to be really tidy and has his/her own style, that sometimes might work out and sometimes not, but at least they have an enduring attitude to carry out their fashion choice. Moving on the seat to make place for others, not talking on the phone when surrounded by people, thousands of «thanks» («arigato gozaimas») and kind bows (event foreigners bow to each other when they meet in the street, it is contageous:), civilized behaviour and smiles make everyone very comfortable when in public. This is a developed country and that is shown in every corner.
In Fukuoka we ate perfect udon noodles in a traditional, low table, restaurant, visited Tochoji Temple with the biggest Buddha statue in Japan and went through the «Hell of Buddhism» under this 10 m statue until we finally saw the light, purified and blessed. Shofukuji Temple was a place with a beautiful garden where we took some time and Kjartan made some really nice photos of local dragonflies (two black males trying to conquer one red girl). We had unusual matcha (green tea) icecream and rested our eyes on an old wooden temple. Following advices from our tourist book, we took a metro to the old Hakata (other name for Fukuoka, previously separated city) castle, where we firstly hid from the big rain shower in a nearby cafe and then took a good walk through the area that was previously castle and now a nice park with lake.
Visiting Fukuoka cannot pass without having a dinner at yatai (movable food tents), says our book. We decided to first spend 45 minutes in the onsen (spa) close to the place we stayed and then head head back to the centre and eat at yatai. So we did that. Feeling rested, warm and pleasant due to the healing onsen waters, we had ramen noodles, sake, dumplings, grill-skewers and beer together with bunch of locals and tourists, got some nice tips about food and spoke our mastered broken- Japanese. Haha- it is so funny when everyone is friendly and everyone wants to talk but the only thing that is missing is ability to speak one language that everyone involved is familiar with!:) In that way we were taken by mistake as a 4 member family at the onseni hotel that need to pay 10,100.00 yen for overnight stay, when we got there to book an one-hour-bath! Jeez:) We got lots of bowing and «gomen nasai» (aplogize) after that. The girl working there aplogized like 20 times in tiny winy voice and bowed 200 times as she took tiny winy steps in front of us, smiling all the time. 🙂
Our next stop was Nagasaki (长崎). The green (montains) and blue (sea) harbour that survived a disaster 70 years ago, but has kept its open and welcoming attitude. We saw many foreigners living here, following the steps of Portugese that first internationalized Nagasaki back in 16th century!
We took traditional manually driven trams, called streetcars and dating back to 1911, to important and lecturing historical sites: The Atomic Bomb Museum, Peace Park and Glover Garden and learned a lot about Nagasaki`s past. The past before and after the bomb; it is really hard to shake off the feeling of a sudden catastrophe that once erased everything in this place in three seconds! And now…it is simply beautiful and green and blue and peaceful. Do take a walk to the Peace Park; it promotes harmony and best conflict solutions by avoiding nuclear weapons and their disastreous consequences. The Museum also gives good lectures on both history, health and physics topics.
We stayed in this nice place for two days and then had to make a further plans that finally include our JR Pass tickets purchased earlier. We use these a lot now and will last us 7 days. Yesterday (July 22nd) we arrived to Kumamoto (熊本) and saw the old castle (the third most popular in Japan) dating back to 16th century. But before we could even enter this magnificent wooden royal building, we were stopped by royals! Ah, so many guys tried to stop us and tell us something and we thought they were guides that vibe money loaded tourists! And besides «VIP» they said no word of English. Finally one mentioned «Prince, princess!» and soon we had to stand in the line and welcome the prince and princess with the rest of the crowd. What a timing!
And now we are sitting on the fast train that will eventually take us to the smallest of the four big islands – Shikoku. A ryokan (Japanese guesthouse) is waiting for us by the end of the day and we plan to stay two days on this island before starting to explore the huge Honshu with all the famous cities: Kyoto, Osaka and finally Tokyo.