Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Japan Dec 2011 Day 12: Nagasaki 長崎

About 2 hours from Hakata on the JR Limited Express Kamome is Nagasaki 長崎, where the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945, likewise in Hiroshima 広島. Nagasaki also has European and Chinese influences as can be seen from the architecture.

Getting around by streetcar is probably the most convenient way of sightseeing in Nagasaki. Each ride, regardless of distance travelled, is JPY 120. A one-day pass may be purchased from hotels or the tourist information booth at JPY 500 for unlimited riders.

We got on the No. 1 streetcar toward Shokakuji-shita, get off at Tsuki-machi and transferred to No. 5 toward Ishibashi. From Oura Tenshodu-shita stop, it is a short walk to Oura Catholic Church 国宝大浦天主堂, the oldest Gothic church in Japan, designated as a National treasure in 1933. It is also known as "Church of the 26 Japanese Martys" because on March 17 1865, the hidden Christians of Nagasaki, who were later martyred, were discovered here. 
From Oura Catholic Church, you may follow the road sign to Glover Garden. There was a very cute cat at Glover Garden that attracted Chris' attention. He bought fish food but ended up feeding the cat instead hahaha... and what a nice place for a kitty to hang out - near a koi pond LOL

After Glover garden, we hopped on No. 5 streetcar again to Tsuki-machi to check out the Chinatown. We tried their version of kongba bao which we felt pales in comparison to Singapore's haha. 
We got on the No. 5 streetcar to Nigiwaibashi stop and after about 2 mins walk, we reached Meganebashi 眼鏡橋. Megane means 'spectacles'. I remember when i first got my specs, the optometrist will give me these ugly glasses to test my degree of myopia and the meganebashi with its reflection in the water looks exactly like those kind of glasses! So cute!

Hopping onto the No. 3 streetcar from Kokaido-mae toward Nagasaki ekimae, we went to Matsuyama-machi stop and walked about 100m to the atomic bomb epicentre and another 500m to the peace statue. 

There is a sign that reads:

"This statue was erected by the citizens of Nagasaki in August, 1955, on the 10th anniversary of the devastation of the city by the atomic bomb... The elevated right hand points to the threat of nuclear weapons, while the outstrtetched left hand symbolises tranquilty and world peace. Divine omnipotence and love are embodied in the sturdy physique and gentle countenance of the statue, and a prayer for the repose of the souls of all war victims is expressed in the closed eyes. Furthermore, the folded right leg symbolises quiet meditation, while the left leg is poised for action in assisting humanity."

Our last stop in Nagasaki was the night view from Mt Inasa, one of the top 3 night views in Japan. A round trip ticket cost JPY 1200 but if you show the discount coupon here, you can get it for JPY 1080. We had dinner at the restaurant and I tried Nagasaki's specialty Champon, which tasted like Singaporean hokkien mee except it was soupy hahaha... It's a hotchpotch of Chinese yellow noodles, prawns, squid, clams, cabbage, bean sprouts, fish cake and hard-boiled quail egg.

Access to Ropeway for Mt Inasa:
From Nagasaki Station - Take Nagasaki bus (non-red) No. 3 or 4 from Nagasaki ekimae bus stop for Shimo-Ohashi/Koebaru/Aikawa. About 7 min to Ropewaymae bus stop and 2 min walk to ropeway station.
From near Glover Garden - Take Nagasaki bus (non-red) No. 4 from Gloveren Iriguchi bus stop for Shimo-Ohashi. About 20 min to Ropewaymae bus stop and 2 min walk to ropeway station.
From near Peace Park - Board the streetcar at Matsuyama-machi and transferat Takaramachi to the Nagasaki bus (non-red) No. 3 or 4 from Nagasaki ekimae for Shimo-Ohashi/Koebaru/Aikawa. About 5 min to Ropewaymae bus stop and 2 min walk to ropeway station.

We took a taxi from the ropewaymae bus stop to Nagasaki station and it cost JPY 850.

Nagasaki is a small city so it's possible to cover most major sights in a day or two but be preparerd to walk up and down slopes. The entire Nagasaki is very wheelchair-friendly. Every streetcar station is wheelchair accessible and although there are many stairs, there are almost always slopes for the handicapped. Even Glover Garden has travellators to access the different spots.

You could probably try JR Kyushu Nagasaki hotel which is right beside the station.

Hotel: Sunroute Hotel Hakata
About 3 mins walk from the station. Very impressed with the range of amenities =) Will stay here again =)

Japan Dec 2011 Day 11: Kumamoto Castle 熊本城

The  highlight of today is a visit to Kumamoto castle 熊本城. Although only part of the castle is original, it is still a very impressive castle worthy of a spot as one of the top 3 castles in Japan.
The visit is made even more enjoyable by staff dressed as palace guards, shogun and whatnots. Everyone wanted to take pictures of them and with them, me included hahaha

I stuck my head into one of those ready-made costume models

We ended our tour at the Honmaru Goten 本丸御殿 where the living quarters, kitchens, dining areas used to be. We had lunch at level 2, a set that replicates some of the royal dishes that used to be served. Reservations are required, by phone (Japanese only... I used my very broken Japanese again). JPY3000 per person. Do turn up if reservation is made because they actually prepare your meal, set your table with your name and have a shelf with your name for your shoes. Ask for level 2 as it is much nicer.

They spelt my name wrongly
Since we had the car, we decided to check out Tsujun Bridge 通潤橋 which sprouts water from the centre every Sunday according to the website and it was Sunday. However, to our disappointment, there was no water T-T Chris had driven 1.5 x 2 hours for nothing. I didn't even bother to take a picture haha i was just quite pissed hahaha

Dinner was a not that great yakitori at our hotel (JR Kyushu Kumamoto) restaurant. We noticed that there is a New Otani across the road that we my try the next time or perhaps the KKR.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Japan Dec 2011 Day 10: Aso Farmland 阿蘇ファームランド and Kurokawa Onsen 黒川温泉

The weather was awesome so we tried going up Aso crater again but gah! Ascent to the crater was prohibited because of gas emissions!! grrrrr… so we stopped by Aso Farmland for some shopping and food and discovered a lovely little mushroom farm inside that grows all sorts of mushrooms =) I highly recommend this place especially for people with kids. They will love the dome-shaped hotel rooms and activities (looks like a summer resort). The farmland is a huge compound with many different kinds of spas.
Dome-shaped hotel rooms in Aso Farmland

The drive to Kurokawa onsen on Route 212 is very very scenic! We stopped by an observatory along the way which sells handmade soba. If we hadn't already had lunch, we'd definitely eat there! Even the toilet cubicles have nice mountain view haha. It has a little farm that will be an educational visit for kids =) Entrance is JPY100, by integrity, no staff manning the place, just a coin box for you to deposit your fee =)

Ryokan: Okunoyu 奥の湯
A pretty large establishment in a hot spring town, this ryokan has 9 hot spring baths, some of which are mixed open-air and private (family) open-air ones. They also serve Basashi, horse meat sashimi... which taste quite nice haha like Maguro but more crunch... hope I won't lao sai LOL wifi only in the lobby...