A Travellerspoint blog

Beppu and Kumamoto.

Kyushu Island, Japan, 2011.

sunny

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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)

Shikoku Island

Japan 2009

sunny

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Cherry tree snow, Kotohira.

Shikoku Island

Shikoku Island is the smallest and least touristy of Japan's four islands. It is famous for having eighty-eight Buddhist temples and people do a pilgrimage on a 1,200km route to visit all of these. This is in honour of the ninth century monk Kukai.

Kochi

We wanted a base from which to explore Shikoku and decided on Kochi, because we could get a good deal on the Comfort Hotel there. I was initially against choosing Kochi as I thought it was a bit far from the other places in Shikoku that we wanted to visit, but my husband insisted and it turned out he was right. Kochi is a very pleasant town: clean, friendly, peaceful and with some sights and some good restaurants. Also while the train journey to other parts of Shikoku was time-­consuming, it was so beautiful we felt privileged to do it again and again. Kochi has a lovely castle, a bright red bridge with a legend, a Sunday market and a pleasant river. It is not a touristy place and that helped make it quiet and peaceful. There are other famous sights in or near Kochi which we did not have time to visit such as Chikurenji Temple on Mount Godaisan. This is one of the eighty-­eight temples along the Shikoku Pilgrimage Route. The city was also once the home of Sakamoto Ryoma, who played an important part in the Meiji Restoration. His Memorial Museum is located at the scenic Katsurahama Beach to the south of the city center. Kochi is the capital of Kochi Prefecture and is located on the south side of Shikoku.

Comfort Hotel Kochi: Very Pleasant Stay

For a Japanese hotel the size of the rooms was very good. The hotel is only 5 minutes walk from the station. We had free wi­fi in the room. Downstairs near reception we could use the printer for free. We found this useful for printing off train timetables as we had a Japanese rail pass. Free coffee, cold tea and water were available in the lobby between 3pm and midnight. There were also tea/coffee making facilities in the room. Free breakfast included in hotel price. Food was good and plentiful. My husband complained about having to use paper cups and plates and plastic cutlery, but apart from that we were both happy. Staff were pleasant and friendly and tried hard to communicate in English. The hotel takes 10% off room price for anyone over 50. We'd definitely be happy to stay there again.

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Inari Fox Temple, Kochi.

Kochi Castle

Kochi Castle is one of only a dozen Japanese castles that have survived intact to the present day. It was built between 1601 and 1611. However, many of its main buildings date from 1748 when they were rebuilt following a fire. Kochi Castle was once home to the Yamauchi lords who ruled over the surrounding region. From the castle tower there are apparently good views over Kochi. When we arrived at the castle, it had already closed, but we enjoyed wandering around its grounds. Darkness descended as we were leaving and lanterns were being lit along the river at the edge of the castle grounds. It was very atmospheric and pretty.

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Grounds of Kochi Castle by night.

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Kochi Castle.

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Canal near castle grounds.

Harimayabashi ­ the red bridge

Harimayabashi is a small red bridge on the west side of Kochi's main street. It is famous because it is connected with a Kochi legend. A priest from Godaisan fell in love with a girl from Kochi. However, because he was a priest, he was forbidden from marriage or sexual relationships. The couple were forced to meet in secret. One day a local busybody saw the priest buying a hair comb in one of the stalls at Harimayabashi. Suspicious, they questioned why he would need such an item and the hidden romance was discovered. The couple were forced to flee the city or face a dreadful punishment. This legend was made into a famous Japanese song sung by Peggy Hayama in the 1960s. A statue at the bridge commemorates the unfortunate lovers. The bridge is set in a small park.

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Harimayabashi.

Enoguchi River.

We took a stroll along Kochi's Enoguchi River at night. The river was nicely lit in parts and there was a full moon which made it all even prettier. I would have liked to return here in the light, but we did not have time.

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Enoguchi River.

Sunday Market.

If you are fortunate enough to be in Kochi on a Sunday, have a stroll around its large Sunday Market. This market has taken place on Sunday mornings in Kochi since 1690. It centres around Outesuji, a main street in the centre of Kochi and stretches for around 1.3 kilometers. The market sells lots of local produce and is a colourful and interesting place to visit.

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Sunday Market.

Train To Kochi.

The train journey to Kochi from Okayama or other parts of Shikoku such as Takamatsu or Kotohira passes through a spectacular gorge with wonderful scenery. Photographing it is fun. Due to the frequency of tunnels on this mountainous route, you end up with a few blank black shots. Fine on a digital camera where you can delete; not so great with a film camera.

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Train To Kochi.

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Train To Kochi.

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Train To Kochi.

Takamatsu

We travelled from Kochi to Takamatsu on a day trip. Takamatsu is the capital of the Kagawa­ken region of Shikoku Island. It was once a very important port city, but its importance has declined a bit since bridges have been built linking Shikoku to Honshu Island. Much of Takamatsu was badly damaged in air raids during World War II, so the current city is mainly very modern. Our time in Takamatsu was a little on the short side and we only got to see the main tourist sights. I would also have liked to spend time just wandering aimlessly around the town a little to get a better feel for the place. That will have to wait till next time. We began by taking a local train to the beautiful Ritsurin­Koen Park. These gardens are deservedly famous and we spent quite a long time wandering around lakes and tea houses and watching people enjoying picnicking under the cherry trees. Later we went to Takamatsu­jo Castle: parts of this castle are in ruins and parts have been restored.

Ritsurin­koen

The entrance of Ritsurin­koen is about a three minute walk away from Ritsurin­koen Kitaguchi Station. Ritsurin­koen is open from dawn to dusk. Ritsurin­koen was first laid out as gardens in the seventeenth century. These gardens were originally attached to a villa built by the Matsudaira lords. This villa has long since been destroyed, but the gardens remain. Ritsurin­koen includes a pine tree covered hill, Mount Shiun­zan, to the west. It also has ponds, bridges, islands and tea houses. The gardens are beautiful and peaceful. Although there were many people there enjoying the cherry trees when we visited, the gardens are spacious enough to accommodate us all.

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Ritsurin­koen .

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Ritsurin­koen .

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Ritsurin­koen.

Hanami ­ Cherry Blossom Viewing.

Ritsurin­koen is a popular spot for hanami ­ or cherry blossom viewing. This is a very popular Japanese pastime in the spring when crowds of people spread out their pale blue mats beneath the cherry trees and enjoy having picnics while pale pink cherry blossom petals snow down on their heads.

Takamatsu­jo

Takamatsu­jo or Takamatsu Castle was originally built in 1588. It was occupied by the Matsudaira Clan until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Only parts of the castle, such as turrets, walls, moats, remain. Parts of the castle and its grounds are being restored. The grounds of Takamatsu­jo are now a park which you can wander around for a small entry fee.

Matsuyama

Matsuyama is the capital of the Ehime­ken region of Shikoku. We went here on a day trip from Kobe and had to see the city in a bit of a rush due to lack of time. Some of Matsuyama was destroyed in World War II. However, it still has a large and impressive castle. We began our day in Matsuyama by heading off to Dogo Onsen which is located about two and a half miles north­east of the centre of Matsutyama. Dogo Onsen is one of Japan's oldest spas. It is first mentioned in historic records in the seventh century, but is believed to be even older than this. According to legend the curative powers of its waters were first noted when a beautiful white heron healed its broken leg by dipping it into a jet of hot water spilling out of a rock here. After looking at the onsen, we walked through a beautiful nearby park filled with flowering cherry trees to isaniwa­jinja shrine and Ishite­ji Temple which is temple number 51 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage Route. Then we returned to central Matsuyama and wandered through the grounds of Matsuyama Castle before heading back to Kobe

Dogo Onsen Station.

Dogo Onsen Station was built in 1895. It is an example of Meiji Period architecture. It is the terminal station to three tram lines. A steam locomotive is located in front of it. It is quite good for a quick photo.

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Dogo Onsen Station.

Dogo Onsen Spa.

Dogo Onsen is a spa town. It is one of the oldest spas in Japan and is first mentioned in the seventh century but is believed to be even older. A legend tells that the curative powers of the waters at Dogo Onsen were first discovered when a lovely white heron with a broken leg cured itself by sticking its leg into a jet of water pouring out of a rock here. Dogo Onsen's main spa building is known as Honkan. It is a pretty wooden building dating from 1894.

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Dogo Onsen.

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Dogo Onsen.

Dogo Park.

Near Dogo Onsen Spa there is a lovely park known as Dogo Park. In spring it is filled with flowering cherry trees and is very beautiful. Dogo Park is located on the grounds of a former castle. Only the moats of this castle remain today and when we visited, they were covered in pink cherry tree petals which had fallen from the trees.

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Dogu Park.

Isaniwa­jinja Shrine

About 200M away from the Honkan main spa building at the top of a steep flight of stairs stands Isaniwa­jinja Shrine. This was built in 1667. It is dedicated to Hachiman ­ a god of war. The shrine is open from 5am to 7pm. Admission is free.

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Isaniwa­jinja Shrine.

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Peter at a temple.

Matsuyama Castle is one of only twelve Japanese castles which have survived intact from the post-­feudal era. It is located on Mount Katsuyama, a steep hill in the centre of Matsuyama. Matsuyama Castle was built between 1602 and 1628. In 1635 it was given to the Matsudaira family. Matsuyama Castle can be accessed by ropeway. The closest tram stop to the ropeway is Okaido from here it is only around a five minute walk to the lower ropeway station. Okaido can be reached by tram line 5 from JR Matsuyama Station.

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Matsuyama Castle.

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The moat of Matsuyama Castle.

Kotohira

Shikoku is very beautiful with lovely mountainous scenery. It is also famous for its pilgrimage route with its eighty­-eight temples and shrines. Kotohira is home to one of the most famous of Shikoku's shrines ­ Kompira­san. This shrine is located up a mountain and you must climb 785 stairs to reach it. We were dreading the climb, but in reality it was not so bad. There were things to stop and look at on the way up and down and we just took our time and ascended at our own pace. The views from the shrine are lovely. As well as Kompira­san, Kotohira has a sake museum, Kanamuru­za Kabuki Theatre and a pleasant river. We found Kotohira to be a very fiendly place. After climbing to the top of Kompira­san we stopped off in a cafe/souvenir shop for a beer. As well as very pleasant service from the waitress, we were also given free souvenirs of Kotohira by a customer. Later at the railway station when we could find no information in English about the train, the station guard was very helpful and kind. We both really enjoyed our trip to Kotohira and the friendly locals contributed a great deal to a very pleasant day trip.

The Japanese saint Kobo Daishi, who was born in the year 774, founded the Shikoku pilgramage route. It covers eighty-­eight different shrines. By visiting these, pilgrims can free themselves from eighty-­eight different worldly passions. The pilgrimage trail covers around 870 miles or 1,400KM. Pilgrims wear conical hats, white tunics and straw sandals. They carry prayer beads and a walking stick. Traditionally this pilgrimage was done on foot and took around two months. Nowadays many pilgrims use buses or cars and complete the route in around ten days.

Kompira­san.

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Kotohiro.

Kompira­san is also known as Kotohira­gu Shrine. It is the most important Shinto Shrine on Shikoku. It is located on the slopes of Mount Zozu­san, a 1,640 foot or 500M high hill. Kompira­san is dedicated to Omono ­Nushi, the god of seafarers and travellers. To reach Kompira­san it is necessary to climb 785 stone steps. This takes around an hour depending on your level of fitness and the weather. We probably took longer as we stopped to look at many things on the way and to take many photographs. The climb starts at the shrine's main gate, ­O­mon. You will pass lots of pretty stone lanterns before reaching the Treasure Hall ­ Homotsu­kan. After that you will climb to the Shoin Reception Hall which dates from 1659. Further up again, you will reach Asahi­no ­Yashiro ­ the Shrine of the Rising Sun. This dates from the 1830s. The next sight is Honden, ­the main hall. Nearby is Emado, a hall with maritime themed offerings. After this it is a further long climb to Okusha ­ the inner shrine. This is the holiest part of the shrine. There are spectacular views from Kompira­san. At the bottom of the hill there are cafes and souvenir shops. Those that are too old or infirm to climb the 785 stone steps to the top of Kompira­san can be carried up in a palanquin. We watched two bearers struggle up the hill carrying an old lady in one of these. It looked very much like hard work and made us feel that we had it easy just having to drag ourselves up the stairs.

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Kompira­san.

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Kompira­san

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Kompira­san.

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Kompira­san.

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Kompira­san.

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Views from Kompira­san.

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Views from Kompira­san.

Kanamaru­za Kabuki Theatre.

Kanamaru­za Kabuki Theatre is located near the foot of Kompira­san Shrine. This is the oldest Kabuki Theatre in Japan. It dates from 1835 and was restored in the 1970s. Plays are still staged here every April. Kabuki is a traditional Japanese theatrical form which dates back to the Edo Period. It is one of Japan's three major theatrical forms along with noh and bunraku. Kabuki is performed by men. They wear elaborate costumes, eye catching make-­up and spectacular wigs. Actions in a Kabuki play are highly exaggerated to convey meaning as the plays are normally performed in an old form of Japanese that is difficult for the audience to understand. Revolving platforms, footbridges and trapdoors are common in Kabuki Theatres.

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Kanamaru­za Kabuki Theatre

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Kanamaru­za Kabuki Theatre

Kinryo­no­sato Sake Museum

Also close to Kompira­san Shrine there is a sake museum. This museum describes the different stages involved in sake production. We did not visit the inside of the museum. We just took photos of its overflowing sake bottle sign and its sake barrels.

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Kinryo­no­sato Sake Museum.

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Kinryo­no­sato Sake Museum.

River Walk.

It was a really pleasant and peaceful walk from Kotohira Station along the river on our way to Kompira­san. We passed by, among other things a sort of old wooden watch tower or signal tower on route.

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River Walk.

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River Walk.

Favorite thing: We went into a cafe/souvenir shop near the bottom of Kompira­san Shrine for a well earned refreshing beer. The lady who served us was really friendly and pleasant. One of her customers came over and gave us little book marks and things he made.

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Very friendly cafe.

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A Passing Pilgrim.

Posted by irenevt 02:25 Archived in Japan Tagged shikoku. Comments (2)

Kurushiki and Okayama

Japan 2009

sunny

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Kurashiki.

Kurushiki

We made a bit of a mess of going to Kurashiki. We were based in Kobe and I wanted to go to Kurashiki to see the canal district. My intention was to spend half a day there, then half a day in Okayama. We worked out which train to get and headed off to Kobe Station. We were early and noticed there was an earlier train coming in which not only went to Kurashiki, but also got there much faster than the train we were waiting for, so we just spontaneously jumped on that. When we arrived at the station we were delighted to see free maps of the canal area and set out to explore it. Now I am pretty rubbish at reading maps, so the map was promptly passed over to my husband. He is normally very good with maps.This time he was instantly confused. "It should be over there, but it just doesn't look right," he said. We set off in that general direction anyway. We walked a long way. Nothing seemed to be where it should be and we were getting angrier and angrier with the map. We returned to the station and took a different route. Still wrong. This went on for a long, long time wasting a big chunk of the day. Finally, we gave up and decided just to go to Okayama. We were scarcely on speaking terms by this time. My husband was looking at the train information board as we waited for the train to Okayama and suddenly announced that the train coming in went through Kurashiki. Eventually we worked out that we were in Shin Kurashiki Station when we should be in Kurashiki Station. We got on the train. I was all for just staying on till Okayama, but my husband insisted we got off. This time, thank goodness, the area matched the map and we were in the correct place. After all that trouble luckily, Kurashiki turned out to be a very beautiful place. Next to the station on the opposite side from the canal district is Kurashiki Tivoli Park ­ a brightly coloured mini­-Copenhagen based theme park. We had a quick look; then wandered the other way to the Kurashiki Bikan District where the canals are located.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen!!!

Slightly incongruously when you are in Kurashiki next to the station, you will see a mini­-Copenhagen based theme park called Kurashiki Tivoli Park. We did not enter the park. It was closed during our visit and we just looked at it from the outside. From what I have been reading on line it seems the park may, in fact, have permanently closed down.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen!!!

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen!!!

The Kurashiki Bikan District.

According to my guide book the word Kurashiki means an area of warehouses. The historical Kurashiki Bikan District is filled with old converted warehouse. It also has a canal along which supplies were ferried to and from these warehouses in the nineteenth century. At that time there was a cotton textile mill in Kurashiki. Nowadays the old buildings lining the canal have been converted into cafes and souvenir shops. The canals are lined with beautiful weeping willow trees: their branches leaning right into the water. They are crossed by pretty hump-­backed stone bridges and plied by little boats on which Japanese men in traditional clothes ferry tourists. This area is very pretty and very touristy.

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The Kurashiki Bikan District.

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The Kurashiki Bikan District.

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The Kurashiki Bikan District.

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The Kurashiki Bikan District.

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The Kurashiki Bikan District.

Ivy Square.

The old cotton textile factory of Kurashiki is now an ivy covered building. This building houses cafes, shops, exhibition spaces, museums and a hotel. The cotton textile factory buildings date from 1889. This is quite a pretty and interesting place to wander around.

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Ivy Square.

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Ivy Square.

Temples

There were a couple of extremely beautiful temples on the hill near the canal area. We enjoyed exploring them and especially loved their incredibly beautiful gardens. I confess I do not remember their names.

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Inari Shrine.

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Temples.

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Temples.

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Temples.

The canals are plied by little boats which are propelled along by old Japanese men in traditional dress. On either side of the canals there are traditional houses, many of which are now shops or restaurants. There are also several museums. Further away from the canal area Kurashiki also had some very beautiful temples.

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Kurashiki Canal.

Okayama

We visited Okayama twice, but both visits were rather short and it is somewhere I would definitely like to visit again in a more leisurely fashion. Our first visit should have been a half day visit and should have involved going to the castle and the Korakuen Gardens, but we started off the day in Kurashiki and ended up in the wrong station and wasted an awful lot of precious time. By the time we got to Okayama it was still light but getting late and things were closing. We walked to the river and the castle and enjoyed the castle from the outside. To be honest I don't always go into buildings anyway. We saw where the famous Korakuen Gardens were but did not have time to go into them. I love gardens so would have gone there if it had been possible.

Our second visit was when we were travelling back to Kobe from Matsuyama and changed trains in Okayama. We bought ourselves sandwiches, sushi and beers and had a picnic outside the castle. It was lovely and peaceful. The castle was beautifully lit up and there was a full moon. From my short experiences of Okayama I had a good feeling about the place. It is on a train line; it has plenty of sights, but is not overflowing with tourists. The streets are wide, there were lots of bicycles and there was a feeling of space and calm that I liked. There were also several interesting statues. Okayama has a lovely atmosphere. If we buy another Japan rail pass I would happily base myself here while using it to travel around. Historically Okayama was famous for pottery and swords. It also has several hot springs. Its nickname is the sunny land and it is well known for growing fruit especially peaches and grapes. I also read that it has the highest number of Jersey cattle anywhere in Japan and their milk is used in several local products such as yogurts and cheese.

Okayama Castle

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Okayama Fountain and Statue.

Okayama Castle is a beautiful black castle located next to the lovely Asahi River which was once its moat. Because of its black colour it is also called Ujo or Crow Castle. Okayama Castle was constructed by a powerful Japanese feudal leader Ukita Naoie and his son, Hideie. The main tower of the castle was originally completed in 1597. This tower was sadly completely destroyed in a bombing raid in 1945. Reconstruction of this six storey high structure was completed in 1966. Only one of Okayama Castle's original buildings escaped destruction in the second world war­ - the Tsukimi Yagura, or moon viewing turret, which dates back to 1620.

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Hubby by the moat

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Okayama Castle.

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Okayama Castle by night.

Korakuen Gardens

Korakuen Gardens were added to the castle as private gardens.They are located near the castle on the other side of the Asahi River. Directions: From Okayama Station walk straight down Momotaro­dori Street for about 10 minutes.

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Okayama wide streets and bicycles.

The Asahi River

Hideie, the son of the feudal lord who had started building Okayama Castle, diverted the Asahi River to form a moat around Okayama Castle. The moat made the castle easier to defend in case of an attack. Nowadays it is pleasant to stroll along the edge of the moat and watch people fishing and boating on the water. Okayama Castle is on one side of the Asahi River moat and there is a bridge across to Korankuen Gardens on the other side.

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The Asahi River.

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The Asahi River.

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The Asahi River.

Posted by irenevt 23:34 Archived in Japan Tagged okayama kurushiki Comments (2)

Fukuoka.

Japan

sunny

"Friendly Fukuoka"

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View over Fukuoka.

Fukuoka ­ Should we go or not? Just returned from a wonderful trip to Fukuoka, but with Japan experiencing earthquakes, tidal waves and radiation we almost did not go. Just before leaving Hong Kong for Fukuoka my husband managed to injure his back and severely damage one of his toes. On our way to catch the bus to Hong Kong Airport his bag caught on a paving stone causing him to fall flat on his face. We still made it to the bus and all was going fine till a car pulled out in front of the bus without warning and we almost crashed. Was someone trying to tell us not to go? Well, despite everything, we made it and so glad we did because everything in Fukuoka is perfectly normal and it turned out to be one of the friendliest Japanese cities we have ever visited.

Starting from our arrival in Fukuoka Airport when the man from the information desk saw us looking a bit confused and came over to explain that we had to take the free shuttle bus from stance one to the domestic terminal to catch the subway, through the old gentleman who saw us glance at a map outside Namasu Subway Station and came over and took us to our hotel, then on to the lady who found us totally lost when we changed to a hotel in Hakata and walked 10 minutes out of her way to take us to our second hotel and through the countless people who saw us taking photos and came over and offered to take a photo of us both together, I would have to say it was the friendliest place I have ever been. Fukuoka's people make it a wonderful destination. I am so glad we went.

City of Water

Fukuoka is a very modern city but it is a wonderful place to wander around as so much of it is located on water. There is the sea, the Naka Gawa River, many canals, lakes, moats and ponds. All that water makes for some very lovely views and gives Fukuoka a wide open, spacious feel.

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Naka Gawa River.

We spent our time in Fukuoka visiting its ruined castle, parks, the beach, several temples and some of the fancy new shopping centres. We also devoted quite a bit of time to enjoying the food and drink. My husband did very well despite the bad toe and bad back, though occasionally when he tired I did have to park him on a park bench with a supply of beer and explore a little on my own.

Just finished revisiting Fukuoka from 22nd to 26th October. Such a short break that we decided to return to somewhere we already knew. Spent most of our evenings based in Fukuoka but travelled around on a Northern Kyushu Rail Pass by day. Another superb stay and this time without the bad luck.

Just completed visit number 3 ­- 21st October to 24th October 2012. Again very short, but very enjoyable. As well as seeing a bit more of Fukuoka and revisiting some favourite places, we bought a rail pass and headed to Kitakyushu and Nagasaki.

Toyoko Inn: Pleasant Stay

This was our first experience of staying in a Toyoku Inn Hotel. The Toyoko Inn Hakata­eki Minami Hotel is located around 10 minutes walk from Hakata Station. Exit the east gate of the station, walk to the main road, turn right and walk for around 10 minutes. There is also a free shuttle which picks people up from the east gate and drops them at the hotel. Check in was quick, efficient and friendly. The receptionist who dealt with us spoke excellent English. We were offered a membership card for Toyoku Inns which we did not take, though to be honest it may have been a good deal and these hotels are found all over Japan, I believe. Our room was a reasonable size for a Japanese hotel room bearing in mind that none of them are ever very big. The double bed was reasonably comfortable, slightly hard (also normal for Japan). There was a narrow wardrobe strangely positioned right at the end of the bed. To get to the far side of the bed you had to squeeze round this. There was a window that was actually a mirror so there was no outside light. I slid the mirror panels along and discovered an opaque window behind which could not be opened.While I prefer natural light, I guess at least it was nice and dark at night. There was a hot water ring and pot in the room. There was no in room safe. Toiletry packs were handed to us at check in. These contained shampoo, conditioner sachets, hair bands, hair clips and soap. In the room there were toothbrushes, small toothpastes and razors. The toilet had a small bath and shower and the usual style Japanese toilet. Everything was clean. The hotel was quiet at night and I was sleeping soundly until about 3am when some American tourists decided to start screaming at each other in the corridor. I don't imagine this is a normal occurrence or the hotel's fault. Breakfast was included in our deal. There was miso soup, boiled rice, rice cakes, a selection of green vegetables such as okkra and broccoli, sweet potatoes and meat balls. There was also plenty of tea and coffee. There were bread rolls and bread for toasting. One strange thing was that despite there being bread and butter there were no knives available. The butter came in a packet that was half jam and half butter you folded it in the middle and the jam and butter mixed together and poured out onto your bread. Not being a fan of jam I thought this was pretty yeuky myself. Check out was until 10am and was quick, pleasant and efficient. All hotel staff were friendly and pleasant. There was a free coffee dispenser at reception and some slot machines for drinks. There was a Lawson convenience store near the hotel and the hotel was handy for Hakata Station. I would stay here again or try some of the other hotels in this group.

The B Hakata: Comfortable Stay

We stayed at the B Hakata Hotel for three nights. Thr hotel is very close to Hakata Station. From Hakata Station exit through the Chiusi Gate, walk to main road, turn right. When you see the Richmond Hotel on your left, cross the road at the crossroads and walk up the side street to your left, the B Hakata is just past the Familymart and Japanese School of Home Baking. Check in was quick, efficient and friendly. We had a double room which was small but much bigger than the one we stayed in for the first three nights of our stay. The room was very clean; the bed was comfortable. There was an open wardrobe space and two drawers. A kettle and tea bags were provided. Coffee was available free 24 hours a day from a machine in the lobby. There was no safe in the room, but a safety deposit box was available at reception. There were large refillable bottles of liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner. Toothbrushes/toothpaste, razors and hair brushes were provided. The hotel was very close to a Family Mart convenience store. There was a Chinese restaurant further along the street. It was very convenient for Hakata Station which was great for us as we were travelling around on a Kyushu Rail Pass at this point. Hakata station also had great, idiot proof, I speak no Japanese, restaurants with plastic food displays. We had a very nice curry in San Marco Restaurant there and I did not even know the Italians were noted for curries. We had breakfast included in our deal which consisted of coffee, orange juice, water, scrambled egg, other variable hot items which ­one day was braised vegetables, another was pork dumplings, then new vegetable offerings, toast, salad, steamed rice, miso soup pickles. It was OK. We always had enough to eat. I would happily stay here again. Our room window faced a brick wall, no view but also no street noise.

Best Western Fukuoka Nakasu Inn: Interesting area

We travelled to Fukuoka on a Dragon Air Holiday. Our first three nights were included in the package. We were booked into a semi­-double room in the Best Western Nakasu Inn. The hotel is located very close to Nakasu subway station exit three. If you arrive at the international airport in Fukuoka to get there you must take the free shuttle bus from stance one at the international airport then get on the subway and travel to Nakasu­Kawabata Station, go out of exit three turn left and the hotel is on the side road immediately to the right. It has a large sign in Japanese on its side and its name in English on the front. Check in was quick and efficient. The staff do not know huge amounts of English but they have a practical amount and check in/check out should go smoothly enough. Our room was a semi­-double and so was incredibly small. They have other double rooms/ twin rooms which are much better. The room was clean and had almost everything you could want, except space. There was a provided kettle with tea and coffee. No room safe but there was safety deposit at reception. The usual Japanese fancy toilet with heated seat and attachments. Everything was very clean. There was a good provision of toiletries ­ big refillable bottles of liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, soap/shaving foam, toothbrushes/ small tube toothpaste, cotton buds, cotton wool/ hair tiers, disposable razors. We were at first thrown by lack of space but realised we could hang up some clothes on provided coat hangers, squeeze the luggage in between the end of the bed and the wall and sleep the wrong way round in bed in order to avoid banging our heads on the in­built shelf over the top of the bed. I also like to sleep upside down in Japanese beds as I have a tendency to lean on the inbuilt alarm clocks in the head boards and make us miss train connections. The Best Western is located in Namasu which is basically a long narrow sand bank in the middle of the Naka Kawa River. It is very close to both Gion and Tenjin. There are lots of restaurants and shopping centres, shopping streets nearby and plenty of nearby convenience stores. The hotel was reasonably quiet and we got a good night's sleep. There was a soft drinks machine downstairs near reception and snacks were available at reception. We did not try breakfast at this hotel. I may well stay here again but would go for a proper double room. Address: 5­1­2 Nakasu, Hakata­ku, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, 810­0801, Japan

Fukuoka Castle

The ruins of Fukuoka Castle are located in Maizuru Park. To get here take the subway to Ohori Koen Station, go out exit 5, walk along the moat and you will soon see a castle gate on your right. Go through the gate and cross the road, you are now at Maizuru Park. If you climb up the main castle keep, you will be rewarded with lovely views over Fukuoka. There is not much of the keep left, just the lower walls. Wander around the park and you will discover a few remaining gates and some lovely gardens:­ cherry tree walk, lime tree walk, the iris garden, a large pond, some sports grounds and a large excavation site where the remains of a famous old Japanese travellers' inn have been found. If you want to bring a picnic to the park, you can exit Ohori Koen Station via exit 4 and you will reach a minimart convenience store before crossing the road to the moat. There is not a huge amount of Fukuoka Castle left, but this is a lovely area for a picnic or a stroll.

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Fukuoka Castle.

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Fukuoka Castle.

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Fukuoka Castle.

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Fukuoka Castle.

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Toddlers near Fukuoka Castle.

Gokoku Shrine

This shrine was at the bottom of Maizuru Park, so although it was not on our to do list we popped in and had a look. There was a Shinto wedding ceremony going on inside when we visited. We also enjoyed watching the children pester their grandfather's for 100 yen coins so they could buy bird food from the bird food dispenser and feed the pigeons.

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Gokoku Shrine.

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Gokoku Shrine.

Ohori Koen

Get here by taking the subway to Ohori Koen Station and taking exit three. Ohori Koen is a large park centred around a huge lake. A trip here can be easily combined with a visit to Fukuoka Castle ruins in nearby Maizuru Park. There is a cafe in the park and a little food store. (A cheaper 7­eleven is located across the road.) In this park you can walk, cycle or jog around the lake or cross the bridges and stroll down the islands in the centre of the lake. There is a Noh Theatre, an Art Museum and an entry charge Japanese gardens here. It is also possible to hire a boat and go for a sail around the lake.

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Ohori Koen.

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Ohori Koen.

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Ohori Koen.

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Ohori Koen.

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Ohori Koen at night.

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Ohori Koen at night.

Seaside Momochi Park

We took the subway to Nishijin Station, exited next to the Fresh Burger Restaurant and went right. Momochi Park is about 15 minutes walk away from the station. The park is located in front of Fukuoka Tower. It is not really a park; it is actually a beach. The fancy church like buildings sticking out into the sea in front of Fukuoka Tower are Marizon Wedding Centre. Next to the wedding centre you can catch a boat to Marine World. We took a walk down the beach to the Hilton Hotel, the Yahoo Dome Baseball Stadium and Hawks Town shopping and entertainment centre. Other things around Nishijin Station which we did not visit are Robosquare behind Fukuoka Tower, Fukuoka City museum and the bulwarks against the Mongolian Invasion.

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Seaside Momochi Park.

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Seaside Momochi Park.

Yahoo Dome Baseball Stadium

I have no interest in baseball but we arrived at this stadium when the crowd were pouring out at the end of a Soft Sea Hawks game. The atmosphere was great, everyone was dressed up in their team colours, some people went as far as wearing an actual hawk on their head. The team song was being played and team souvenirs were on sale. There are models of hands of famous visitors to the stadium, most were Japanese but I also saw Phil Collins and Billy Joel. There are life sized posters of the team. On a return visit we might try and watch a game here, it all looked great fun.

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Yahoo Dome Baseball Stadium.

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Yahoo Dome Baseball Stadium.

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Yahoo Dome Baseball Stadium.

Canal City

Canal City is a futuristic shopping centre/entertainment/dining complex with a canal running through it. It is very close to the banks of the Naka Gawa River. It is worth visiting for its futuristic architecture. It has a fountain display every half hour. On the hours the displays are to music, on the half hours they are without music. Next to Canal City there is a pleasant little park called Seiryu Park on the banks of the Naka Gawa River. I also took a wander over the interesting looking red bridge I could see from Canal City and ended up in the red light district. Canal City is about 10 minutes walk from Nakasu Kawabata Subway Station.

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Canal City.

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Canal City.

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Canal City.

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Canal City.

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Canal City.

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Canal City.

Fukuoka Temples And Shrines

Most of Fukuoka's temples and shrines are in the Gion area and can be accessed from Gion Subway, but we walked to them from Canal City. The most famous and most beautiful is Kushida Shrine. Kushida­jinja is right next to Kami­Kawabata, a covered shopping street which was once Fukuoka's main shopping street. If you want to walk the whole length of this street, get off the subway at Namasu Kawabata Station exit 5 and walk this covered shopping street all the way to Kushida Shrine. Kushida Shrine stores some famous Japanese Festival floats. It was a beautiful flower filled shrine with a line of red tori leading to its inari temple, a main shrine, the floats, statues and a fish pond. Tocho­ji is a Buddhist temple with a huge wooden Buddha statue which is located upstairs in the temple building. It is quite pleasant to wander around the temple grounds. Shofuku­ji is a Zen temple. It was founded in 1195 by Eisai who introduced tea and Zen Buddhism to Japan. The temple building is attractively located on a pond. All three sites are within walking distance of each other.

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Temples and shrines.

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Temples and shrines.

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Temples and shrines.

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Temples and shrines.

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Temples and shrines.

Tenjin

When we arrived in Fukuoka, it was cold and wet. We decided to visit the Tenjin area, which was not a bad choice for such a miserable day, as we exited the metro straight into a shopping mall, took a look round there, then crossed the street to another mall, then another, then another etc. In short Tenjin has lots of malls, some of which have very good department stores and supermarkets. There are also lots of restaurants. Directions: Take metro to Tenjin. We exited the exit marked Central exit.

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Tenjin.

Atago Shrine Review

On the day we arrived, we rushed off to visit Atago Shrine. I choose there because it sounded like somewhere we could visit in the light or dark and our plane did not get in until early evening. We ended up visiting in the dark, just missing the last light of the day by minutes. This was fine, but I feel a daylight visit would be better. To get there, take the subway to Muromi Station and go through exit one; walk straight ahead. You will cross a river with some nice views, then cross a major road. There is a signpost indicating the shrine is up the hill, just after you cross the road. Actually there were several shrines on the road: one at the bottom; an Inari fox shrine with distinctive rows of red tori half­way up and then Atago Shrine at the top of the hill. It was OK going with my husband at night but I would not recommend it for a woman on her own at night as it is a bit dark and lonely. There were quite good night time views from the shrine. You can see Fukuoka Tower in the distance sparkling under the night sky. The Atago Shrine is apparently the oldest shrine in Fukuoka. It dates from the first century AD and was originally called Washio Shrine. Its name was changed to the Atago Shrine in 1901. A visit there is supposed to bring good luck and help people give up smoking or drinking. Apparently there are many cherry trees here and it is beautiful in spring.

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Atago Shrine.

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Atago Shrine.

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Atago Shrine.

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Atago Shrine.

Ohori Koen At Night.

We spent the day travelling to Kitakyushu but decided to visit Ohori Koen in the evening when we returned. We were not sure whether it would be pitch black and desolate or well lit and populated. It turned out to be pleasantly well lit and filled with people either out jogging or for an evening stroll or just enjoying looking at the lights on the water. It felt perfectly safe and having an evening stroll there was a good way to unwind before heading off for dinner. Also visited the nearby moat and castle gate which was beautifully lit up at night. Went off to investigate if the castle was lit up, too, but suddenly it started pouring so we hastened back to the subway and never did find out. Subway stop ­ Ohori Koen. My camera is not great at night time shots so I will just add day time ones.

Breakfast By The Moat.

Our hotel package did not include breakfast which was fine because we preferred to travel to Ohori Koen Station and eat out breakfast by the moat. There is a convenience store just across the road from the moat for all your breakfast needs and the girl assistant in there certainly made my day when she asked if I was over 20 when I bought beer as part of hubbie's breakfast!!!! I think she could see from the fact that I danced around her shop with a huge smile on my face after this question that I probably was.

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Breakfast By The Moat.

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The Moat.

Autumn In Fukuoka.

Autumn and spring are the best times of year to visit Japan. On our last trip, end of October, autumn was just starting in Fukuoka. November would be the best time to visit to see autumn in its full splendour, but we did still spot some beautiful, colourful trees.

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Autumn In Fukuoka.

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Autumn in Fukuoaka.

Hakata Station

As with all large Japanese stations, Hakata Station has lots of places to eat. There is an actual restaurant street with lots of plastic food displays and clearly marked prices. We had a tasty meal in the San Marco Curry House which also served draft Sapporo beer (my favourite Japanese beer).

If you exit the east gate of the station and go into the arcade next to the Colonel Sanders dressed as Father Christmas model, there is another street of restaurants with clearly priced food displays. We ate in the second one. You order your food from a machine at the door and pay your money into the machine. This is easy to do even without understanding Japanese, as you are just pressing on the picture of the food/drink that you want. You then hand the receipt from the machine to the very pleasant and helpful waitress; then sit down and your food will be brought to your table. The giozas here were excellent especially the ones covered in cheese.

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Hakata Station.

Arriving At Fukuoka Airport

When you arrive at Fukuoka International Airport your best way of getting into town is to take the subway. In order to do this you must board the free shuttle bus at stance number 1 and travel to the domestic terminal. You can board the subway and travel very quickly into Fukuoka from there.

Fukuoka Metro

The metro in Fukuoka is very user friendly, comfortable and clean. Just press the English option on the ticket machine. The chart will show you the price of a journey. You can pay using coins or 1000 yen notes. The machines give change. A day pass is 600 yen, 500 at a weekend.

Posted by irenevt 05:28 Archived in Japan Tagged fukuoka Comments (0)

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