Published: September 14th 2011September 15th 2011
This is reconstructed. Foreigners who came to Nagasaki traded here.
So I was talking to a girl at salsa class about Taiwan two weekends ago. I said that’s where I would’ve liked to have gone for summer break, but it didn’t happen (since I took the TESOL). She said I should just go for Chuseok. Chuseok is a major Korean holiday that means a 4-day weekend for me. Wow, I thought. She’s right. I could just buy a ticket and go. That was Saturday night the weekend before the holiday weekend. So Sunday I started looking at tickets. Taiwan turned out to be a no-go. The tickets were more money than I wanted to pay and the flights that were still open didn’t make good use of the time I had. But by then I had travel fever. I started looking at where I could go. I found some tickets to Japan. Normally the options are Tokyo, Osaka, or Fukuoka, by flying out of Busan. The cheapest ones, and the ones that worked best, were the ones to Fukuoka. I would leave Saturday evening and come back Tuesday mid-day.
I hadn’t really had a strong inclination to see Japan before. I figured I would go while I was in Korea,
View of the Harbor
From the Seaside Park
but I’d heard it was expensive, and I knew nothing about it. However, I’d recently looked through a friend’s Facebook pics of her trips to Japan, which intrigued me. After I had researched Fukuoka a bit, I decided there were a ton of things to do/see around it. Monday morning, I booked my airplane tickets. I felt a little crazy, but I was also wayyy excited. I did have a day in which I was a little horrified by the realization that I had no knowledge of Japanese and didn’t know what the most important things to see were.
I asked around and got some suggestions. After doing some research I decided I would go to Nagasaki for 2 nights and then come back to Fukuoka for one night. I went by myself, as everyone in my group was going on trips of their own, with boyfriends, back home in one person’s case, or to meet friends/family who had come to visit.
I made it to Fukuoka in one piece, with the only minor problem along the way being a miscommunication on the train causing me to think I was on the wrong train, only to finally be
reassured that it was the correct train. The actual flight was only 35 minutes, so that gives you an idea of how close it is to Korea. From the Fukuoka airport, I took a bus straight to Nagasaki, which took a little over 2 hours (round-trip ticket cost around $60). As we came into Nagasaki, for some reason the buildings, combined with seeing in quick sequence KFC, 7-11, and this convenience store named Lawson Market (which looked soooo familiar) gave me the feeling I was back in the US.
I walked to my hostel (Casa Noda). It was about 9:20pm or so when I got there. I knew ahead of time that the staff wouldn’t be there, and they were to leave me a key to the women’s dorm room. (I could get into the common room). Unfortunately, though, I couldn’t find the key. Also, the guys’ room was open, but no one was there. As I was sitting at the computer deciding what to do, in walked three guys who needed a place for the night. It turned out they were also foreigners living in Korea, in a town only 35 minutes from Daegu, which was strange. In
the end, they called the hostel owner to see if they could stay in the guys’ dorm. Since I couldn’t find the key, I just stayed in that dorm for the night. In the morning I got a key and moved to the girls dorm.
I really liked Nagasaki. When I was planning, I wasn’t really sure if I should have only one night there, one night in Fukuoka, and one night somewhere else, but I’m glad I spent 2 nights in Nagasaki. I think the city is great for tourists. It was really easy to walk, really easy to navigate, there was a lot of information in English, and the trams (no subways) were a flat rate. Also, the people seemed happy. It was a different feeling from living in Daegu in that I didn’t feel stared at at all. Some Japanese people (workers, other tourists) began talking to me in Japanese, realized I didn’t understand, and seemingly easily switched to English (not the best but they seemed confident enough).
Nagasaki is on the sea and has creeks running through it. It is pretty hilly, which reminded me a bit of Pittsburgh. In other ways it reminded
me of Sarajevo (another city I loved) in that it was pretty small (not many huge buildings), had trams, and had narrower roads and more pedestrians than cars. Nagasaki is well-known outside Japan as the place the US dropped the second atomic bomb. Inside Japan it is also known for being the place with the history of the most foreign influence (since Japan was closed to outsiders for about 200 years between around 1635-1853).
I had great weather the whole trip—no rain, but really warm. I walked around most of the first day sightseeing. To quickly sum up what I saw that first day (look through pics for more details): Nagasaki Seaside Park, Glover Garden, Hollander Slope, Former Chinese Quarter, Chinatown, Wakamiya Shrine, and Kofukuji Temple. One of the highlights of the day was going on an accidental detour on my way to the Glover Gardens and ending up in a great neighborhood on a hill above the bay. I ended up on paths with stairs between houses—no cars could access it. All of the houses just had the nicest plants/small gardens. I wish I’d taken more pictures. Something I’d read talked about the emphasis Japanese people place on
beauty. I definitely understood after seeing those.
That evening I took a ferry (about $12) to the island of Iojima (not the same as Iwojima btw). The price included onzen (hot springs). This is kind of the Japanese version of Korean jimjilbang, except you are to be completely clean before you get in them. At Iojima, there are some tubs outside so you can sit and watch the sea (there are bamboo mats mostly rolled down to block people from seeing you). As I was sitting in a tub, someone set off fireworks across the water. It was special. (2 quick tips for those considering going to the Iojima onzen: 1. People with tattoos aren’t allowed in. I bet you could put a strong bandaid over it if you wanted though. I didn’t see any staff actually inside the bath area who would kick you out. 2. In the summer go at night when it’s cooler outside). It was really nice to relax in the onzen after walking around all day.
I got back to my hostel after that, intending to eat some dinner and go to bed, but I was surprised to meet the other girls who
were also in my dorm. I knew one of them from orientation in Busan in February! It turned out they were all English teachers living in Busan. So I went out with them and two of their guy friends for one drink and then came home. They changed their minds and came back shortly afterwards, so then we all played Pictionary and charades in the lounge. They left early the next morning to go to Beppu, on the east coast.
The next morning I checked out of my hostel and headed to the north of Nagasaki, to the atomic bomb memorial stuff. I went to the Peace Park, to the Hypocenter, and then the Museum and Memorial Hall. I didn’t take any pictures at the museum--sorry if you were interested. I didn’t know much about the atomic bombings. I remember reading a story about folding the origami for them (apparently it was "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes”) in elementary school, but after that, not much. In fact, most of what I know about World War II was the European side of the war, especially about the Holocaust. I didn’t know much about the Pacific side of things, other
than the United States’ seizure of Japanese-Americans’ property and placing them in concentration camps.
It was interesting to see it the day after the tenth anniversary of September 11th. My country had been attacked and now I was seeing how we had attacked another’s civilian population in an inhumane way. I don’t think there is any justification for the horrific things the atomic bombs did. Read http://www.lvrj.com/news/8932727.html if you’re interested in an American military photographer’s take.
From the Atomic Bomb sites, I went back to the bus station and caught a bus back to Fukuoka Airport. The bus ride was during the day this time, which was nice because it went along the sea for part of the trip. I took the subway from Fukuoka Airport to the city. I was pretty tired of walking/sightseeing, but I stopped at a temple and a shrine before I checked into my hostel (Hakata Riverside). Then I went to a local park to read for a while. After that I walked around the downtown area and Canal City a bit, got dinner, and went back to my hostel. It had been a busy few days. In the morning, I took a
subway back to the airport and flew back to Busan.
Overall impressions of Japan:
-They drive on the left side of the road, so for me every day was death-defying. I would almost get to the point of knowing which side cars would come from and then just get really confused.
-Their smallest bills are 1000 yen, about $12, which means coins can be worth a lot of money.
-Loved it, aside from it being expensive compared to Pittsburgh/Daegu; ramen is about $2.50 even when you buy it on its own from the convenience store.
-One day in Fukuoka and two days in Nagasaki are probably enough, but there are some other sites around them if you have more time (beach, island cruise, Dazaifu, Huis ten Bosch, hiking mountains).
There are more photos below