Trip Start Feb 26, 2007
Trip End Jun 16, 2007

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

I sometimes moan about the futsu trains being slow, particularly when compared to the ultra fast (and ultra expensive) shinkansen, but I actually like spending time on the`s respite from the chaos of a Japanese city! I`m usually away with the fairies, listening to my music and thinking (too much) about all kinds of stuff - it`s almost a disappointment when I arrive at my destination, as it means having to navigate through the hustle and bustle to find my accommodation. In the case of Nagasaki though, I had no such trouble as my hostel was less than five minutes away from the station, so I literally dumped my bags there and went exploring as it was a scorcher of a day...

My travel experience always leads me to take advantage of good weather, as it can take a change for the worse at any point, so with a clear blue sky over Nagasaki, I immediately got the cable car up to the top of Inasa-yama. At 333 metres high, it offered sensational views over the city, which was surprisingly picturesque, being surrounded by mountains on three sides. It reminded me of a larger scale version of Bergen in Norway, another place where I`d been blessed with glorious weather, and it was so peaceful at the lookout area, with very few tourists around. 

As I was in no rush, I decided to stay until it got dark so that I could see the night view of Nagasaki as well. In the meantime, I watched as the sun gradually got lower and lower over the mountains, before finally disappearing over the horizon, emitting a red glow into the sky. It was my `sensory moment` of the trip so far, and reminded me of the many similar experiences I`d had in New Zealand...there`s something magical about a great sunrise/sunset, witnessed in complete silence.

Back at the hostel, the owner had made plum liqueur for the guests, so I spent the evening in the lounge with a few others obligingly drinking it. There had been some confusion as to what the hell the guy had made due to the Japanese`s inability to prounounce the letter `l`...but we got there in the end, and it was very nice.

When I woke up the next morning, I didn`t envisage a successful sightseeing day as it was absolutely hammering it down outside. Just like in Hiroshima though, I didn`t mind because it provided an opportunity to visit the Atomic Bomb Museum and remain dry, without feeling guilty about being stuck indoors...

Unfortunately, I timed my visit to coincide with that of a huge group of high school children...cue lots of them saying "hello" before turning away in a fit of giggles. I`d occasionally sense, out of the corner of my eye, a group of school girls edging closer, before saying "ah so sorry" in unison...followed by more giggles! I didn`t mind really as it was all good fun, and they eventually moved well ahead, leaving the rest of the museum in peace...

Once again, it was emotional looking at the various exhibits that showed the death and destruction, although I would say that this time I knew what to expect after experiencing Hiroshima, which lessened the impact a little. Even so, seeing photographs of charred corpses, and particularly those of mothers and babies, is always going to be upsetting, and I can understand how it could be too much for some...the Norwegian guy I`d bumped into in Fukuoka had left the museum in Hiroshima early because of its graphic nature.

When I finally emerged outside, the weather had cleared up and so I was able to take a nice stroll around the Hypocentre Park, home to a black, square column that marked the exact point over which the bomb exploded. There were many more statues in and around the park, either as a memorial to the victims or as a symbol of world peace, and there were various relics that had to a certain extent withstood the blast, including a wall of  the Urakami Cathedral and half of the gate that led to the Samo-jinja (referred to as the `one-legged torii`).

In the larger Peace Park, one statue dominated proceedings, towering over everything else. The Peace Statue is symbolic in that the figure`s right hand is pointing towards the sky at the threat of nuclear destruction, while his left arm is extended to hold back the forces of was an impressive sight, and I stayed in the viccinity for a good half an hour, basking in the sun.

I caught a tram into the city centre in the afternoon and mooched around the sights, beginning with a walk to the Megane-bashi, or Spectacles Bridge, so named because the arches reflect in the water to create an image of a pair of spectacles (far fetched in my view). It was nowhere near as impressive as the great Kintai-kyo, but as the oldest stone bridge in Japan, it was definitely worth a look.

There is an interesting street parallel to the river called Teramachi (or Temple Row), beginning with Sofuku-ji and ending with Kofuku-ji, the oldest Obaku Zen temple in Japan. I took my time wandering along it, visiting the smaller temples and browsing around their gardens, before heading off for something to eat as well as enjoying a few beers in the entertainment district of Shian-bashi later in the evening...

Maybe the beers were to blame for me sleeping through my alarm the next morning, but it didn`t matter much as I still had a full day`s roaming ahead of me, beginning with a trip to the extremely helpful Infomation Centre. The next stage of my journey needed careful planning so that I wouldn`t be left stranded at the summit of an active volcano, for example. I felt really organised after talking to them, so I was able to have a steady walk to Glover Garden in good spirits...

It was steaming hot again, so I just had a leisurely stroll around the Garden, stopping occasionally to buy a drink or an ice cream from the many vending machines, or to admire the views over the city. There were many colourful butterflies fluttering around, as well as some pesky mosquitoes that got me a couple of times, and some huge bees (though it was amusing to see one Japanese guy freak out when one bee got a little too close for comfort!).

Back near the train station, the `26 Martyrs Memorial` recalled how twenty six Christians were crucified in 1597 after Japan had previously banned Christianity - two of the victims were aged just twelve and thirteen. There was a nice little park next to the memorial overlooking the port, so I sat down for a bit, before noticing the bizarre Fukusai-ji Temple in the distance...

A ten minute walk brought me to it, and it instantly became my favourite temple in won hands down. All the temples that I`ve visited so far have been beautiful in their own right of course, but this one was in the form of a giant turtle carrying a huge statue on its back! It should be Nagasaki`s number one tourist attraction in my opinion, but it`s tucked away down a back street and there wasn`t another person in sight...strange really as it is such a unique place.

I headed for Chinatown that evening, and had a final roam around the rest of the city, stopping once to exchange pleasantries in English with a young boy who had been walking at my side along the street.

I`d really enjoyed being in Nagasaki, and hoped that the rest of my journey around Kyushu would be just as productive...
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