A Travellerspoint blog

Japan

Nikko

Never say you're satisfied until you've seen Nikko.

rain

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Lanterns, Nikko.

Nikko

Day Trip to Nikko

We decided to go for a day trip to Nikko to see the famous temples and hopefully a bit of autumn colour. To get there we travelled by Tobu Railways from Tobu Asakusa Station. This was a very convenient station for us as we were staying in Asakusa at the time. Asakusa is our favourite part of Tokyo. There are hourly rapid trains between Asakusa and Nikko. The journey to Nikko takes approximately two hours and costs 1360 yen one way.

We were unfortunate with the weather as it rained all day in Nikko. It was also really, really cold and as it had not been particularly cold the day before, we were not really appropriately dressed. We still had a good day, but it was good to get onto a warm train at the end of it. We were too early for autumn colours here, but I believe Nikko is a fantastic place to visit in November.

Nikko is located 125KM north of Tokyo. Nikko is set amidst beautiful natural scenery, but is most famous for Toshogu - one of Japan's most sumptuously decorated shrines. This shine is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. While we were in Nikko, we even tried the local Nikko beer and very good it was, too.

Toshogu Shrine
The Toshogu Shrine is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. His mausoleum was a relatively simple shrine at first. Then, out of intense respect for his grandfather, Iemitsu, grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu, enlarged and enhanced the mausoleum in the first half of the 1600s. This shrine is now made up of more than a dozen buildings. Unlike most Japanese shrines Toshogu contains a mixture of Shinto and Buddhist elements. It also contains several famous carvings such as: the three wise monkeys, imagined elephants and Nemurineko. The three wise monkeys are of course the famous depiction of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Imagined elephants is a carving of an elephant created by someone who had never seen an elephant, just heard tales of them. Nemurineko is a famous depiction of a rather cute sleeping cat. You will find the sleeping cat on the Sakashitamon Gate, which is located at the bottom of a flight of stairs that lead up to Tokugawa Ieyasu's mausoleum. All around Toshugu are beautiful moss covered stone lanterns. Please note parts of Toshogu are being renovated until 2019.

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Toshogu Shrine.

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Toshogu Shrine.

The Three Wise Monkeys.

The famous carving of the three wise monkeys is located over a doorway in the Toshugu Shrine They were also carved by Hidari Jingoro. The monkeys show see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. The three wise monkeys are panel two of a series of eight panels using monkeys to show major life events in the cycle of life, such as: baby monkey achieving independence, falling in love etc.

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The Three Wise Monkeys.

The Sleeping Cat.

I paid extra to see the carving of The Sleeping Cat as I have rather a soft spot for cats. Even so it is so little and so high up I almost missed it. I searched and searched but it was only because I saw someone else craning their neck trying to photo it that I finally found it. It was carved by Hidari Jingorō, a famous Japanese wood sculptor with a fondness for cats. He pioneered the depiction of animals in a life-like realistic way.

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The Sleeping Cat.

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The Sleeping Cat.

Stone And Bronze Lanterns.

The shrines at Nikko are lined with large numbers of beautiful moss covered stone and bronze lanterns. A really lovely sight. These are also incredibly photogenic. Not sure if they are ever lit up nowadays.

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Stone And Bronze Lanterns.

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Stone And Bronze Lanterns.

Rinnoji Temple

Rinnoji Temple was founded by Shodo Shonin. He was a Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikko in the 8th century. The temple's main building houses large, gold lacquered, wooden statues of Amida, Senju-Kannon and Bato-Kannon. Senju-Kannon has many arms; Bato-Kannon has a horse's head.These three gods are considered to be Buddhist manifestations of Nikko's three mountain spirits.

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Rinnoji Temple.

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Rinnoji Temple.

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Rinnoji Temple

Shinkyo Bridge.

Shinkyo Bridge means sacred bridge. It is one of the famous sites of Nikko. The current style of bridge dates from 1636, though the actual bridge has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. The bridge crosses the Daiya River. It is very scenic and makes a good photo. There is a famous legend about the bridge. In the year 766 a priest named, Shōdō, and his followers climbed Mount Nantai in order to pray for national prosperity. When they tried to return from the mountain, due to heavy rains they could not cross the fast flowing Daiya River. Shōdō prayed and in answer to his pleas a 10 foot tall god named Jinja-Daiou appeared. Around his arm were two huge twisted snakes: one blue and one red. He released the snakes and they transformed themselves into a bridge which Shōdō and his followers used to cross the river. At one time the Shinkyo Bridge could only be used by messengers of the Imperial court. It has been open to everyone since 1973.

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Shinkyo Bridge.

Posted by irenevt 20:53 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

Hakone

Day Trip from Tokyo.

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The Beginnings of Autumn, Hakone.

Day Trip to Hakone

It was my husband who really wanted to go to Hakone and we decided we would do it as a day trip from Tokyo. Actually as a day trip it was a bit rushed, though we did manage to see quite a lot. We bought the Hakone Free Pass which is valid for two days of travel. This pass only lets you do the Tokyo to Odawara and Odawara to Tokyo part once so unless you get accommodation in the Hakone area you will only be able to use it on one day. As we had already booked and paid for accommodation in Tokyo we did not stay overnight in the Hakone area. The pass may not have been good value for us, but we bought it anyway. The pass allowed us to travel from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Odawara. From Odawara we took the Hakone Tozan Railway to the second last stop - Chokoku No Mori. From there we visited the fantastic Hakone Open Air Museum - the highlight of our trip. After that we went to Gora. From Gora we took the Sounzan cable car (actually a funicular railway) to Sounzan. Next we boarded the ropeway (actually a cable car) to Owakudani. We explored the volcanic areas and enjoyed fleeting views of Mount Fuji. Then we reboarded the ropeway to Togendai on the shore of Lake Ashi and went for a sail on a pirate ship around the lake.

Our main reason in going to Hakone was to get a good view of Mount Fuji. This did not really happen, though at least we did see it briefly. When we were in Owakudani, the clouds parted for a few minutes and there was Mount Fuji outlined before us. I took a couple of pictures; then Mount Fuji disappeared for the rest of the day.

Hakone fortunately has a lot more to offer than just views of Mount Fuji. We loved the open air sculpture museum, loved the mountain scenery which was just beginning to show touches of autumn colours. We loved trying out the different types of transport. As my husband likes odd forms of transport, we came back by the same transport methods instead of taking a quicker bus option. The cable car from Togendai back to Sounzan was amazing. A thick fog had descended and while our view was obliterated the whirling fog was really atmospheric and fun.

Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. It is located less than 100 kilometers from Tokyo. It is well worth seeing, though if we returned I would spend a night in this area and explore at a more leisurely pace.

Autumn in Hakone.

We visited Hakone in October. Autumn was just beginning and already some of the trees had changed to beautiful shades of red and orange. It must be utterly spectacular in November when autumn is in fill flow.

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The start of autumn.

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The start of autumn.

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The start of autumn.

The Hakone Open Air Museum

I'm not usually a fan of museums, but I cannot recommend this one highly enough. We loved it. The museum is located a short walk from Chokoku No Mori - the second last station on the Hakone Toznan Railway. The reason the museum is so wonderful is its sculptures are exhibited outside in beautiful natural settings, so you have wonderful works of art, trees, plants, mountain scenery, during our trip the first hints of autumn. Absolutely spectacular.

The sculptures were very varied in style - some of them quite unusual. I loved the one of someone who seemed to have dropped out of the sky onto a field below. I loved the Henry Moore's. As well as the outdoor areas, there are indoor galleries, including one devoted to Picasso. The museum is open from 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30) every day. Admission costs 1600 yen (1400 yen with the Hakone Free Pass, 1500 yen with online discount coupon.)

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

Owakudani

Owakudani is one of the stops on the Hakone Ropeway from Sounzan to Togendai. Owakudani is a volcanic area and as you are travelling by ropeway above it you will see billows of white sulfurous smoke rising from the charred earth below. Owakudani centres around a crater which was formed when Mount Hakone last erupted around 3000 years ago. This area has hot springs and hot rivers. You can buy eggs that have been boiled in the volcanic springs here. Each egg is supposed to prolong your life by seven years. Owakudani also has good views of Mount Fuji on clear days. It was from here we caught our only glimpse of Mount Fuji before it disappeared behind cloud for the rest of the day. There are several hiking trails which start from here but we did not have time to do any of them.

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Owakudani.

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Owakudani.

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is symbolic of Japan. Our original purpose in going to Hakone was to see it. We did catch a glimpse of it from Owakudani but only fleetingly. On a clear day the view of it must be amazing. I have actually seen Mount Fuji more clearly from a train than from Hakone, but it is all a matter of luck and Hakone has lots more to offer than just views of Mount Fuji anyway.

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Mount Fuji on a cloudy day.

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Mount Fuji on a cloudy day.

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi was formed when Mount Hakone last erupted around 3000 years ago. I have seen spectacular pictures of Lake Ashi with Mount Fuji in the background, though we could not see Mount Fuji from the lake at all during our cloudy day visit. We boarded a pirate ship at Togendai on the shores of Lake Ashi and went for a lovely sail to Kojiri. This journey is covered by the Hakone free pass. The scenery was beautiful, especially the touches of autumnal colours that were beginning to appear in the forests around the lake.

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Lake Ashi.

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Lake Ashi.

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Lake Ashi.

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Lake Ashi.

Posted by irenevt 18:26 Archived in Japan Tagged hakone Comments (0)

Kitakyushu

Japan.

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Hubby in Kitikyushu.

Kitakyushu

Kitakyushu means the north of Kyushu Island and consists of 5 areas which have joined to form Kitakyushu. We originally intended to visit 2 of these areas Kokura and Mojiko, but we liked Mojiko so much we ended up staying there all day and the only part of Kokura we saw was its station. We will have to get round to the rest of Kokura on a future trip.

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Looking Towards Kitakyushu.

Mojiko

Mojiko used to be a major port linking Kyushu with Honshu Island to its north. Now there is a bridge and a tunnel linking the two islands and the port has moved to a nearby area called Moji.

Mojiko Retro Town

Mojiko had a grand past and has lots of beautiful historical buildings dating from the early 20th century, some wonderful shrines, a picturesque bridge, its own brand of beer and delicious baked cheesy curries.

Mojiko JR Station.

This station opened on February 1st 1914. It is in Neo-Renaissance style and has been a designated national cultural property since 1988. The building is currently undergoing renovation, but is still attractive and interesting to explore. Trains from Kokura will drop you here.

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Mojiko JR Station.

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Mojiko JR Station.

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Mojiko JR Station.

Old Mitsui OSK Line Building.

This building was built in 1917. The Kanmon Strait Hall is on the ground floor it was filled with bonsai during our visit. The Seizo Watase Gallery of the Sea is upstairs. It holds exhibitions and entry to it is 100 yen. This building is open from 9am to 5pm.

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Old Mitsui OSK Line Building.

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Old Mitsui OSK Line Building.

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Old Mitsui OSK Line Building.

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Old Mitsui OSK Line Building.

Old Moji Mitsui Club.

This building was built in 1921 to house important company guests. Einstein and his wife stayed here in 1922. Downstairs is free entry and has a restaurant. The first floor has an entry fee of 100 yen and contains memorial rooms to Einstein and Japanese writer Fumiko Hiyashi. Open 9am to 5pm.

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Old Moji Mitsui Club.

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Old Moji Mitsui Club.

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Old Moji Mitsui Club.

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Old Moji Mitsui Club.

Drawbridge.

The two sides of the harbour are connected by a frequently raised drawbridge. We managed to walk across this at one point when it was lowered. This lovely bridge is beautifully illuminated at night and well worth seeing.

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Drawbridge.

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Drawbridge.

Old Moji Customs Building.

This building dates from 1912. I did not go inside but apparently the ground floor has a coffee shop and a lounge and the upstairs part of the building has a Fine Art gallery. Admission is free and it is open from 9am to 5pm.

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Old Moji Customs Building.

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Old Moji Customs Building.

Commemorative Library Of International Friendship.

This building is a replica of the Chinese Eastern Railway Office that the Russians built in Dalian, China. It was built to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the friendship agreement between Kitakyushu and Dalian. There is a restaurant downstairs and a library upstairs. Open 9.30am to 7pm except Mondays. Admission free.

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Commemorative Library Of International Friendship.

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Commemorative Library Of International Friendship.

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Commemorative Library Of International Friendship.

Kanmon Bridge.

It took us around 20 minutes to walk from Mojiko to the Kanmon Bridge. On weekends and public holidays a steam train runs part of the way. It was a pleasant walk past a busy marina. The bridge connects Kyushu and Honshu. There is a shrine next to the bridge and a pedestrian tunnel also open to bikes through which you can walk under the sea to Honshu in around 15 minutes.

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Kanmon Bridge.

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Kanmon Bridge.

The Mekari Shrine.

This shrine is right under the Kanmon Bridge. On Japanese New Year's Day the priests here gather seaweed a symbol of long life. The shrine had a collection of dolls near the entrance and an inari fox shrine with red tori. I enjoyed the contrast between the huge modern bridge and the traditional shrine. A good place to watch the busy waterway.

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The Mekari Shrine.

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The Mekari Shrine.

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The Mekari Shrine.

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The Mekari Shrine.

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The Mekari Shrine.

Koso Hachiman Shrine.

Apparently this shrine houses the guardian deity of Mojiko Port. It was a very pretty shrine with statues, foxes and red tori. We detoured here to take a look at the shrine on our walk back from Kanmon Bridge.

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Koso Hachiman Shrine.

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Koso Hachiman Shrine.

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Koso Hachiman Shrine.

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Koso Hachiman Shrine.

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Koso Hachiman Shrine.

The Moji Telecommunications History Hall.

The Moji Telecommunications History Hall was built as the telephone department in 1924. It was the first modern building in Mojiko. It has exhibitions upstairs. We did not go in. Open 9am to 4.30 pm except Mondays.

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The Moji Telecommunications History Hall.

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The Moji Telecommunications History Hall.

The Kyushu Railway History Museum.

Open 9am to 5pm. Admission 300 yen. It was shut before we got there. It is near the station, housed in a former railway building and has real locomotives, a driving simulator, a large railway panorama of Kyushu and a track where visitors can drive a small train.

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The Kyushu Railway History Museum.

Kanmon Strait Museum.

Open from 9am to 5pm. Admission 500 yen. We did not visit this museum I am not a museum fan, but apparently it houses a retro room which shows Mojiko in the Taicho Period and has exhibits on the history of the Kanmon Strait. The building dates from 2003.

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Kanmon Strait Museum

Have Your Photo Taken With A Banana.

I think Mojiko was the first Japanese Port where bananas were imported. Anyway in the harbour you can pose with some bananas in order to celebrate this historic event. I also noticed a lot of banana products in the shops.

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Have Your Photo Taken With A Banana.

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Have Your Photo Taken With A Banana.

Mojiko Harbour.

Mojiko Harbour is very pretty. It has historical buildings, shops, restaurants, even a boat restaurant. Boat trips leave from this harbour. You can sample Mojiko's cheesy baked curry here and try Mojiko Station beer and Mojiko Retro beer from the shops.

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Mojiko Harbour.

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Mojiko Harbour.

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Mojiko Harbour.

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Mojiko Harbour.

Mojiko Retro Observation Room.

The Mojiko Retro Observation Room is open from 10am to 10pm. Admission is 300 yen. We did not go in. It is supposed to have good views. The observation room is on the 31st floor. You can see this building all over town.

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Mojiko Retro Observation Room.

Sunset Over The Kanmon Strait.

We walked back from the Kanmon Bridge just as the sun began to go down. This was very beautiful. There were several very pleasant places to sit and view the strait on route. This was particularly pleasant after our long walk.

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Sunset Over The Kanmon Strait.

Norfolk Square.

Kitakyushu is twinned with Norfolk, Virginia. The dogwood tree was introduced to Japan from there, while the Japanese donated cherry trees to Norfolk. There are plaques and information boards commemorating the friendship between the two towns on the walk to the Kanmon Bridge. There is also a large anchor memorial. Good view point for the bridge and strait.

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Norfolk Square.

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Norfolk Square.

Trains Review

We got to Mojiko by taking a train from Fukuoka to Kokura; then another train from Kokura to the JR Station in Mojiko. Service between Kokura and Mojiko is frequent and only takes around 10 minutes. Travelling anywhere in Japan always seems to be comfortable, efficient and easy.

Posted by irenevt 07:37 Archived in Japan Comments (4)

Beppu and Kumamoto.

Kyushu Island, Japan, 2011.

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Scenery around Aso.

I have put Beppu and Kumamoto together because it is possible to do them together, although we did not do this.

Visiting Beppu

We bought a 3 day northern Kyushu pass and did a day trip from Fukuoka to Beppu. We could have got there direct in about 2 hours by taking the train from Fukuoka towards Miyazaki Airport, but we decided to go to Kumamoto then take the train to Beppu via Aso as we thought the scenery would be beautiful, and it was. The train from Kumamoto to Beppu takes three hours but it was a lovely ride. Trains on this route are infrequent.

Journey to Beppu

Although it took a long time the local train from Kumamoto to Beppu was clean and comfortable and the scenery was great. Because we took the long way there we only had a couple of hours in Beppu. We took a bus to Kannawa from Beppu Station and visited Beppu's famous hells. There are also lots of onsens and sand baths. I thought Beppu was pretty good.

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River Gorge on Route to Beppu.

Beppu

Then in October 2011 we were fortunate enough to revisit Beppu. This time we stayed overnight and had a happy and healthy time complete with lots of spas! During this longer stay we visited 3 more of Beppu's hells as well as Beppu's beaches, a spa and Beppu Tower.

The Station Hotel

We took the train to Beppu and exited from the seaside exit. The Station Hotel is 2 minutes walk away down the road running towards the sea. Check in was at 4 o'clock, but we were very early. We could not check-in early but the very pleasant receptionist agreed to store our bags free of charge so we could go and visit some of the hells. Luggage lockers were also available at the station. Our room was on the top floor. It was a reasonable size for a Japanese hotel room. There was a double wardrobe by the door which also contained the fridge. You have to plug it in yourself if you intend to use it. The bed was quite small but reasonably comfortable. There were good views over the town from the windows. The room had a TV and a water heater; tea was provided. There were large bottles of liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom. Free toothbrushes, razors and hairbrushes were also provided. Everything in the room was very clean. We choose this hotel because it had spas. We had no info about the spas so set out to work it out for ourselves. The ladies' spa is on the second floor. The men's spa is on the third. Fortunately for us this was clearly marked in English at the entry. The spas were open from 4pm until midnight and from 6am (I think) until 9am. I went three times on a one night stay!!! When you reach the spa you should take your shoes off at the door. Inside the spa changing room there were lockers for your clothes. Bring your own towel from your room. Before entering the spa water you should wash yourself thoroughly in the showers provided. Soaps, shampoos, conditioners, even make up remover were readily available. You should not wear anything in the spa. The water was very hot and excellent for easing aching muscles. On my three visits I had the whole place to myself twice which was pretty good. Check out was at 10 and it was quick and efficient. The hotel is well located for the train station, bus station, has excellent spa facilities and is well located for convenience stores, such as Coco which is right next door, or Family mart at the station. There were several shops, restaurants on the street leading down to the sea. From the hotel we could easily walk to Beppu Tower, the beaches and Termas Spa. I would definitely stay here again. We did not eat breakfast at the hotel preferring a picnic brunch down on the beach. Address: 134 Ekimaecho, Beppu, Oita Prefecture, 8740935.

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Beppu Street.

Umi Jigoku

We took a bus from Beppu Station to Kannawa. Exit the station through the mountainside exit and take bus 2,7,5,41,43 and 9. It cost 320 yen. When you enter the bus, take a ticket from the machine. This is your entry stop number. You need to look at the display board at the front for your final price. (We jumped on bus 15 on the way back which went a longer route and cost more back to Beppu Station). When you get to Beppu, there are 6 hells to choose from. Entry is 400 yen. We intended to visit two, but were fortunate enough to start at Umi Jigoku and that was so beautiful we just stayed there till it closed at 5pm. If Umi jigoku is Hell, I need to start being bad because it was beautiful. It is basically a large flower filled garden filled with a large pond. There is a foot spa where you can sit and enjoy the spa waters. They did wonders for my eczyma. (Follow the sign saying spa for a leg). Umi Jigoku means Sea Hell. When you wander through the shop on site, you will reach a beautiful cobalt blue pool of steaming water. This pool gives the hell its name. There is a little shrine next to this pool. Go back through the shop and up the hill and there is a blood red steaming pool also stunning. Then visit the hot house to see the hell's stunningly beautiful water lilies. Also wander the gardens in spring they are full of azaleas. I did not see the other hells on this visit but am confident that this was one of the best if not the best of the hells.

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Umi Jigoku.

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Umi Jigoku.

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Umi Jigoku.

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Umi Jigoku.

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Umi Jigoku.

Kannawa

Wandering around the streets of Kannawa was fun. You will see food being cooked by steam. There is a shrine on the hill which overlooks the crocodile hell from here you can see steam rising over the rooftops of Kannawa.

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Kannawa .

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Kannawa .

Shiraike Jigoku

On our second visit to Beppu we spent a few hours returning to Kannawa and the hells. This time we visited Shiraike Jigoku or White Pond Hell. Entry was 400 yen. White Pond Hell has a large milky blue pond with lots of steam. It is quite photogenic. There are small gardens around it which have a couple of statues. Then there is wooden building with tropical fish tanks. The tanks include some pirannahs. Upstairs in this building there is a display of some Japanese paintings. The site also has clean toilets, drink vending machines, tables and chairs. It was quite interesting for a short visit and took a good photo but was nowhere near as good as Umi Jigoku. If you can only visit one hell, Umi Jigoku is the one to choose.

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Shiraike Jigoku.

Chinoike Jigoku

From Kannawa Bus Station we took bus number 16 to Chinoike Jigoku the Blood Pond Hell. There were great views over Beppu as we left Kannawa on the bus. Chinoike Jigoku cost 400 yen to enter. It has a large gift shop selling spa products and souvenirs at the entrance. Blood Pond Hell is of course red due to the red clay dissolved in its water. It is quite pretty and is set in lovely surroundings. You can view the pond from the front or climb a flight of steps to get a photo of the entire pond. There was a restaurant which we did not visit and a very enjoyable foot bath which we tried. Quite nice but it would be better if there was more garden to explore.

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Chinoike Jigoku.

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Chinoike Jigoku.

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Chinoike Jigoku.

Tatsumaki Jigoku

This hell is near Blood Pond Hell. It consists of a seating area where people wait to see a geyser that spouts into the air around every 20 minutes. The name Tatsumaki Jigoku means Waterspout Hell. The geyser spouts for around 5 minutes or so enabling everyone to take a picture. When it had finished spouting we climbed the stairs at the back and wandered through the garden. From the top of the garden there were good views over the village. Toilet facilities are available outside this hell and it has a gift shop.

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Tatsumaki Jigoku.

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Tatsumaki Jigoku.

Beppu Tower

We decided to visit Beppu Tower. You buy your ticket from a machine on the ground floor. Admission is 200 yen. You then take the lift to floor 16 and hand your ticket to the woman there. There are great views from the tower over the harbour, beach and Beppu town. There are also little cafes and a display of photos from Beppu's past.

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Beppu Tower.

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Beppu Tower.

Termas Spa

This spa is located at the end of one of Beppu's beaches. You must take off your shoes at the entrance and place them in a locker costing 100 yen. Then pay 500 yen for the spa. Women go off to the left, men to the right. You can place your clothes in a locker in the changing room. There is an indoor room where you can wash prior to entering the spa. This room has several hot baths and a mist sauna. The outside area is mixed and you must wear your swimsuit here. There were several pools and a Jacuzzi all at different temperatures. When we visited everyone was very covered up (I assume as protection from the sun). They were wearing wet suits, hats, facial masks and gloves!!! I was just in my swimsuit. People walked round and round the main pool then began an exercise session using floats. I just sat and relaxed. It was fun and good value. I felt very relaxed and unachey afterwards. In the inside room there was also some spa water available for drinking.

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Termas Spa.

Beppu Beaches

Beppu has two lovely beaches. It was October when we visited and although it was hot no-one was swimming when we were there. Both beaches had park areas with seats. They were lovely areas for a walk and for a picnic. The first beach's park had some interesting statues too. There were convenience stores near the first beach very

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Beppu Beaches.

Getting to the hells

When you arrive at Beppu Train Station, you can exit on the mountainside and you are right next to the bus stop to the hells. Each journey to the hells will cost around 320 to 340 yen. You take a ticket when you board the bus. This tells you the stop number you started at. The price from each starting point will be displayed on a panel at the front of the bus. As you exit the bus you put your paper and the correct change into the driver's box. For the first group of hells board any bus that goes to Kannawa for example bus 2,7,5,41,43 and 9. You can catch bus number 16 from Kannawa to the other two hells as well. If you want to do several journeys or just don't want to mess around with lots of change, you can buy a day ticket for 900 yen; 700 for students. On this ticket you will be able to visit all the hells. You can buy the day ticket from the tourist office in Beppu Station. You can pick up a bus route map from the tourist office whether you buy a day ticket or not.

Day trip to Kumamoto

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Hubby in Kumamoto.

During our recent stay in Kyushu we bought a Northern Kyushu 3 day rail pass and travelled around. We spent a day in Kumamoto visiting the castle. It takes around 40 minutes from Fukuoka to Kumamoto by shinkansen. Some shinkansens terminate here, others continue on to Kagoshima. The journey is fast and extremely comfortable. From Kumamoto Station take the tram to Kumamoto Castle. It is open from 8.30am to 5.30pm and admission is 500 yen.

Kumamoto City

Kumamoto had a nice feel to it and was certainly worth a visit. At the time of our visit many areas of Kumamoto were full of beautiful, brightly coloured azalea. There was a very beautiful and colourful inari fox shrine and a shinto shrine very near one of the castle gates. I liked

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View towards castle.

Kumamoto Castle

Get to Kumamoto Castle by taking the tram from Kumamoto Station. The original Kumamoto Castle's history dates back to 1467, when Ideta Hidenobu began fortifications. In 1496, these were enlarged by Kanokogi Chikakazu. Between 1601 and 1607 Kato Kiyomasa expanded the castle into a complex with 49 turrets, 47 gates. During the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877 the castle was besieged and the castle keep and other parts were burned down.

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Kumamoto Castle.

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Kumamoto Castle.

Kumamoto Inari Shrine.

This shrine was constructed in 1588 for the protection of Kumamoto Castle. The Hatsu Uma Taisai festival takes place here in February each year, to pray for large harvests, safe households, and success in business.

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Temple near castle.

Other Kumamoto Sights

We only visited the castle and a couple of shrines but Kumamoto also has famous gardens Suizenjikoen open daily 7.30am to 6pm. Adm 400 yen and Kyu Hosokawa Gyobutei a former Samurai Villa open: 8.30am to 5.30pm, admission: 300 yen or 640 yen combined with a visit to the castle.

Posted by irenevt 06:30 Archived in Japan Comments (4)

Nagasaki

Japan 2012.

sunny

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Paper cranes, Nagasaki.

Nagasaki

We have visited Nagasaki three times.

On our first visit to Kyushu we were based in Fukuoka but bought a three day Northern Kyushu rail pass for 7000 yen and visited Nagasaki for the day. Nagasaki has a long and interesting history. It was one of the first areas of Japan to open up to foreigners. Some of its earliest visitors were Spanish and Portuguese sailors. Later the Japanese authorities became worried that these foreigners were spreading Catholicism in Japan and started persecuting them. There is a shrine on a hill near Nagasaki Station to the 26 Catholic martyrs the authorities crucified there. Following the clampdown the Portuguese and Spanish left Japan but Dutch Protestants were seen as less of a threat and were allowed to stay. I would have liked to visit Dejima Island where the Dutch were allowed to stay and Glover Gardens with its old colonial houses set in a park, but we concentrated on Nagasaki's more famous history as the city on which the Americans dropped the second atomic bomb and brought about an end to World War 11. To see all Nagasaki has to offer I would recommend 2 or more full days here unless you like to see things in a bit of a rush.

Nagasaki Day trip

We travelled to Nagasaki from Fukuoka by train ­ a journey of around 2 hours. The scenery on the way was lovely especially near the end of the trip when the train travelled along the coast. To get around Nagasaki we used the trams. Trams 1 and 3 will take you to Ukrami where the atomic bomb fell. Tram 5 will take you to Glover Gardens ­ you must transfer onto line five at Tsuki­machi station. Ask for a transfer ticket when you get off the first tram so you don't pay twice. Trams cost 120 yen a trip.

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A Nagasaki Tram.

On our second trip we returned to Nagasaki in October 2011. This time we wanted to concentrate on the historic areas where foreigners had once lived and on some of the other sights we missed on our first visit. We had a fantastic visit, centering mainly on Glover Gardens, but guess what. We still could not finish all there was to see. Roll on visit 3 and 4!

We completed visit number three in 2012. This time we stayed overnight here. We managed to visit Deijima and take the cable car up Mount Inasa, eat dinner in Chinatown and revisit the Peace Park and hypocentre areas. Would still happily go back for more

Chisun Grand Hotel Nagasaki: Excellent Stay

We only stayed here for one night on a recent short trip to Nagasaki. You can easily walk here from Nagasaki Station ­ just exit the station and walk right for around 8 minutes. Or you can go by tram number 1. The nearest stop is Gotomachi; Ohato is near, too. Check in was quick and friendly. The receptionist spoke good English. Our room was a reasonable size for Japan where hotel rooms are always small. The room was very clean. There was a bathroom/shower room, a separate toilet with a place to wash your hands on the toilet lid. Water starts coming out here when you flush. The wash hand basin was in the main room. I was surprised by this design as it did not seem to me to be the best utilization of space, but it was fine. Tea/coffee making facilities were provided ­ kettle, cups, 2 sachets coffee, creamer, sugar, 2 green teas. There was a fridge. No - safe. There was a TV but we did not watch it. The hotel was quiet, the bed was very clean and comfortable. We slept really well. There was no wardrobe in the room; just a wall rack with hangers and limited drawer space. No problem for us as we did not even unpack.There were large bottles of liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom. Toothbrushes and hairbrushes were provided. The hotel's location is excellent for sightseeing as you are on the number one tram route. You are already close to the station, Deijima, Chinatown. The number 1 tram towards the station will take you near the cable car and to the Peace Garden, Hypocentre and Atomic Bomb Museum. There was an Indian restaurant near the hotel. Food smelt great, but we did not try it. We ate in Chinatown and had a­ very good meal. We did not eat breakfast at the hotel, but its restaurant offered breakfast and lunch. Check out was quick and efficient. I would very happily stay here again. Address: 5­35 Gotomachi, Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture, 850­0036, Japan.

Hypocentre Park

Nagasaki is of course famous because of the atomic bomb. On the 9th of August 1945 at 11:02 in the morning a US Air Force B­29 bomber Bock's Car dropped Fat Man atomic bomb on Nagasaki killing 75000 people, mainly women, children and the elderly. An estimated 1300 Korean conscripted labourers and 200 allied POWs were also killed. Another 75000 people were injured. Many later died from the results of radiation. A third of Nagasaki was wiped out in the ensuing fires.

Hypocentre Park was directly under where the nuclear bomb exploded. The exact spot is now marked by a black marble monolith. At the time of the explosion Urakami Cathedral was located here. It took 30 years to build and a couple of minutes to destroy. Part of the cathedral wall with two statues of saints on top has been preserved. Looking at pictures from the time of the explosion quite a bit of the cathedral walls remained, it is a shame they did not keep more, some of the charred statues of saints from the burnt out cathedral are now in Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum or in the grounds of the new Urakami Cathedral.We came to this park in the busy day time and again in the quieter evening. In the evening there were several Van cats in the park. These are completely white cats with one blue eye and one green eye and come from Turkey. They seemed pretty wild and we could not go too near them. There are lots of monuments around Hypocentre Park I liked the one on the site of the former tram stop. Four trams were at or around this stop at the time of the explosion. This shrine is a tribute to the staff and passengers who died, Some remains of the tram stop were in the Atomic Bomb Museum.

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Hypocentre Park .

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Hypocentre Park .

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Hypocentre Park .

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Hypocentre Park .

Peace Park

Peace Park is lined with statues from all over the world all sympathising with what happened here. The most famous statue is called peace statue and depicts a man with one hand raised towards the sky and the other pointing towards the ground. The statue was surrounded by classes of school children who laid flowers, sang songs, read poems and made speeches here. Peace Park stands on the site of the former Urakami Prison ­ parts of the prison walls remain. The inmates and staff were killed in the blast. At the opposite end of Peace Park from the statue is Peace Fountain. It is supposed to look like the wings of a dove. Survivors of the initial atomic blast begged for water shortly before they died, as the explosion left them with an unbearable thirst. The fountain is a water offering to the souls of these poor people.

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Peace Park.

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Peace Park.

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Peace Park.

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Peace Park.

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Peace Park.

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Peace Park.

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

Entry to the museum is 200 yen. It is of course a very sad museum with very distressing photos from the aftermath of the bombing and from the effects of radiation sickness. Many statues of saints from the bombed out Urakami Cathedral are located in the museum. There are also many objects from the time of the bombing such as coins and bottles which have melted together from the heat of the blast, pieces of wood with the burnt on shadows of people or objects which were next to them at the time of the explosion; clocks with their hands fused together at the time of the blast. There was also a display about the life of Doctor Nagai Takashi who devoted his life to treating the victims of the explosion until he eventually died of Leukemia himself. There is a rooftop garden with a statue of two flying children. The sculptor made it to commemorate seeing the bodies of two beautiful little girls dressed up in their best kimomos laid out dead after the blast. Interesting but disturbing.

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The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

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The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

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The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

The New Urakami Cathedral

This cathedral was completed in 1959 and replaces the Urakami Cathedral which was flattened in the blast. One nice touch is that some of the burned out statues from the original blast are located in its garden.

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The New Urakami Cathedral.

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The New Urakami Cathedral.

The Martyrs Memorial

To get to this memorial exit Nagasaki station, cross the main road, go left and climb part way up a hill. This monument is to the 26 Catholics crucified by the Japanese authorities in 1597. 6 of them were Spanish and 20 were Japanese. The youngest were boys of 12 and 13. There is a museum behind the memorial entry 250 yen. We did not visit it. There is also a strange looking chapel. While we were visiting this sight a group of Japanese people came and sat in front of the monument and sung hymns for the dead martyrs.

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The Martyrs Memorial.

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The Martyrs Memorial.

Fukasi­-ji

About 500m away from the Martyrs Shrine there is an odd looking temple called Fukasi­-ji. It is shaped like a giant turtle with an 18m figure of the goddess Kannon on its back. On the walk to it from the Martyrs Shrine I passed many temples, shrines and graveyards. There seem to be historic sights everywhere in Nagasaki. I would have explored the hillside more thoroughly if I'd had more time. Nagasaki had so much to see. This temple was built in 1979 and replaced a temple destroyed in the atomic blast. A bell is rung here at 11:02 am daily in remembrance of the blast.

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Fukasi­-ji.

Glover Gardens

We got here by taking tram 1 in the direction of Shokakujishita from Nagasaki Station then exchanging to tram 5 at Tsuki Machi and getting off at Oura Tenshudoshita. Entry to the gardens costs 600 yen and the money was well worth it. We loved it and ended up spending around 3 hours here getting totally behind on our to­ do list. The gardens themselves are beautifully laid out. There are spectacular views over Nagasaki Harbour. There are lots of houses that were once lived in by Nagasaki's foreign merchants and there is a museum of traditional performing arts. We started off by taking the escalator to the top of the gardens and visiting the former Mitsubishi Dock House ­ this once provided accommodation for the crews of ships passing through Nagasaki. There was not much to see inside but the views from the balcony over the garden and harbour were lovely. Strolling down we visited the former residence of the president of Nagasaki's District Court now a photo studio. Next was the house of a British business man Robert Neil Walker who established his Walker & Co Beverage company in Nagasaki in 1898. Next to Walker House is the Fountain of Prayers ­ a Christian memorial. Continuing down from Walker House we passed the statues of Puccini who wrote Madame Butterfly and of opera singer Tamaki Miura who played the role of Madame Butterfly. Next was the home of Frederick Ringer who came to Japan in 1864 and worked in a number of areas including tea trade and electric power generation. Past Ringer house was the home of William Alt. In my opinion the most beautiful of all the houses. William Alt was prominent in the tea trade. Nearby was the Steele Memorial School which was built in 1887. Near the bottom of the hill is Glover House ­ the oldest western style wooden building in Japan ­ once home to Thomas Albert Glover. Glover was born in Scotland and came to Japan in 1859. He established the Glover trading company, married a Japanese woman and started the first Japanese beer brewing company, now Kirin beer. At the very foot of the hill is the Nagasaki Traditional Performing Arts Museum. I would strongly recommend a visit to these fascinating gardens.

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Glover Gardens.

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Glover Gardens.

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Glover Gardens.

Oura Cathedral

Oura Cathedral is next to one of the entrances to Glover Gardens. It is a Catholic cathedral which was built in 1864 to serve the growing number of foreign merchants in the area. It is thought to be the oldest Christian church in Japan. It is open from 8am to 6pm and costs 300 yen.

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Oura Cathedral.

Dutch Slopes Or Hollander Slopes

This is within easy walking distance of Glover Gardens and Oura Cathedral or get here by taking tram 5 to Shiminbyoin­mae. We rushed this area as we were in a hurry and soon to run out of light. It is a steep hill with several wooden houses. Most were once the homes of Dutch merchants. If I make a future visit I would look around here at a more leisurely pace. There were some interesting buildings in the nearby area such as the former British consulate and the old customs house.

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Dutch Slopes.

Spectacles Bridge

To get here take tram number 5 to Nigiwabashi stop. Spectacles Bridge is the oldest stone arch bridge in Japan it dates from 1629. Its name comes from the fact that the bridge's two arches and their reflection look like spectacles. I originally thought a bridge with a reflection sounded kind of daft as a sight, but this whole area is beautiful and well worth seeing as there are many stone bridges, statues and temples around this area. Really beautiful.

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Spectacles Bridge.

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Spectacles Bridge.

Temple Walk

Two streets away from the river where you can find Spectacles Bridge and running parallel to it is a street lined with many temples. The famous ones are Kofukuji Temple and Sofukuji Temple. Both of these are open from 8am to 5pm and charge an entry fee. There are also several free entry temples and little graveyards.

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Temple Walk.

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Temple Walk.

Dejima

You can get here on tram 1 from Nagasaki Station. Entry is 500 yen. Opening hours are from 8am to 6pm. We got here just before closing time and in the dark. There was no point in going in as we were too late so we just walked around the outside of the site. Deijima was once an island and it was once the only part of Nagasaki where foreigners could stay. It was lived in by Dutch traders. It has been recently restored and looked really interesting as we peered in from outside!! It is definitely on my things to do next time list together with the cable car.

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Dejima.

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Dejima.

Deijima Visited Properly.

On our recent return to Nagasaki we visited Deijima properly. Get here by taking tram 1 from Nagasaki Station. Entry fee is 500 yen. Deijima is an artificial island and was created to house Dutch foreigners so they could trade with the Japanese but as they were located on this island and unable to leave without permission, they could not influence the locals or convert them to Christianity. Only Dutch men lived here, plus some Japanese guards and servants. The only women allowed to visit were prostitutes. The island has been restored and it is quite interesting even though it does look rather new. Some buildings house exhibitions about Deijima and other buildings are furnished in the style of Deijima's heyday. I was interested to read that at one point in history, during the Napoleonic Wars, the Netherlands was invaded by France and Britain was interfering in Dutch colonies overseas such as Batavia, so Deijima was the only place in the world where the Dutch flag was allowed to fly. The archaeology exhibit showing pottery and glassware and ornate meershaum pipes from Deijma was also interesting. There was also an exhibition showing some of the scientific knowledge brought to Japan from the west through Deijima at a time when Japan was isolated from the outside world. The Japanese were surprised by the way the Dutch decorated their homes. While the Japanese used beautiful patterned paper to decorate their partition screens, the Dutch used it to paper their walls and ceilings. The site houses an old Protestant seminary building, the elaborate residence of the chief factor of Deijima, a pretty garden, many warehouses and a miniature model of Deijima. We spent around 2 hours here. There is also a restaurant and souvenir shops on site. Some attendants in traditional Japanese clothes wander around the site, too. It is also interesting and photogenic to wander around the outside of the site. Some buildings look better from here as you can see their fronts.

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Deijima.

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Deijima.

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Deijima.

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Deijima.

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Deijima.
China Town

Get here by taking the tram to Tsukimachi Station. We visited at night when the streets were all lit up. There were several reasonably priced Chinese restaurants and shops selling Chinese goods. Worth a look and probably prettiest at night when lit up. On a later visit we wandered around Chinatown in the evening when it was beautifully lit up and chose a restaurant from one of the ones with plastic food models and clearly marked prices. We ate shredded pork on rice, roast pork noodle soup, gyoza and spring rolls; washed down with some excellent draft Sapporo beer for around 4500 yen. Friendly, pleasant service.

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China Town.

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China Town.

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Chinese Restaurant.

Mount Inasa Cable Car.

We got to Mount Inasa Cable Car (or ropeway as the Japanese translate it) by taking a tram to Takara Machi, walking across the bridge then down the first street off to the right. It was about 10 mins walk. You can reach the foot of the cable car via the road or via the steps of a shrine. It cost 1200yen for a return trip. There is a road back if you prefer to walk down. Mount Inasa has just won a competition as one of the world's top three night time views along with Hong Kong and Monaco. We arrived in daylight, watched the sunset and stayed for the night time view. A word of warning, we were not prepared for how cold it got up there after sundown. I was like a block of ice. The view was certainly stunning both by day and by night. The ropeway is open from 9am to 10pm daily. When you reach the top of the ropeway head for the observatory, walk round and round up the inside slope for a 360 degrees view, then exit on to the roof for a 360 degrees outdoor view. The sight has a restaurant, drinks machine and clean toilets.

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Mount Inasa Cable Car.

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Mount Inasa Cable Car.

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Mount Inasa Cable Car.

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Mount Inasa Cable Car.

Posted by irenevt 02:09 Archived in Japan Tagged nagasaki Comments (6)

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