Nagasaki #3: Shrines and Temples

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June 8th 2014
Published: July 11th 2014
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We woke up, slightly groggy from the night before. I think it was around nine when we got up. We showered, dressed, and finished packing up all our stuff. We left our stuff at the reception and asked them about what temples we should visit. No visit to Japan is complete without a visit to some kind of temple or shrine. We got the lovely blokes at reception to write out in Japanese what charms we needed. They were stars! Then we headed off to follow their recommendations. We walked for about ten to fifteen minutes following the river. We found the shrine, but since we were starving, we headed to the nearest Lawson's for breakfast. There was only one salami and cheese set, so we had to shared it. We sat outside on the steps, the locals walking past probably thought that we were tramps. I also had a coffee and this sandwich thing that I had been eyeing up, on previous convenience store perusals in Nagasaki. I was quite disturbed as the sandwich looked like egg mayo, with a mini pork cutlet in the bun too, and was on the shelf and not in the refrigerator. The pork cutlet actually turned out to be a potato croquette, not a pork cutlet, I was slightly disappointed, but at least I tried it. While we were sitting there, a woman came over and gave us a bag of fruit, she deffo thought that we were hobos.

We headed up some steps to Suwa Shrine. On the map, it looked like there were a million steps and that it would be really steep. But in reality, it wasn't too bad at all. Suwa Shrine is a Shinto shrine and was built in 1625 and holds the Kunchi festival each year in October. The temple was quite quiet, which was nice. There were a few families there taking family photos on the steps in front of the main building. Most of the families had newborn babies, I wonder if it is good luck to bring them to them temple. We headed straight to the temple shop and handed over our pieces of paper. We were shown the charms we wanted and we purchased them along with the painted wooden panels. You are meant to write messages on the panels and hang them up in the temple's grounds. They usually have an area where you can hang them. However I think they are really pretty, so take them home and put them on display in my apartment. The temple's grounds were pretty, they were not too big and we spent a good while wandering around. There were some pretty views down over the city. We wandered up and through the red ttori gates. There were some fox statues, too. The shrine was really peaceful. We enjoyed looking around it.

We wandered back towards the hostel and along by the river. We headed up a side street by the hostel and that brought us out on a street that was filled with small temples. We had a wander around the first temple we happened upon. Zenrinji Temple. These temples, I think, were all built by Chinese immigrant to Nagasaki. We had a peak around the first one, it was pretty small and there wasn't much to see. The highlight was the appearance of a monk, who stood outside the house that was attached to the temple smoking a fag. That was a first for both of us, we have seen many monks in Asia, but never one having a cigarette, especially right next to the temple.

We wandered down the street, we didn't go into any of the other temples, as they were all pretty small and seemed pretty samey. One, you had to pay to enter and it looked tiny, so we skipped that too. We wandered down to the end of the temple street and at the bottom and down a bit there was a bigger temple. You had to pay to enter, but as it looked bigger and I think we got a little bit knocked off by producing the discount card that the hostel gave us. The temple is called Sofukuji Temple and is a Chinese zen temple. It was founded in 1629 by Fujian immigrants. The temple was beautiful and nice and peaceful. I really love the vibe of temples, so calming. It was quiet, too and there weren't too may other people looking around. Another thing I'm obsessed with taking pictures of temple architecture. I realise that they must all look the same, but I just think they are so beautiful.

We wandered the back streets of Nagasaki for a bit, such a peaceful Sunday. We finally found a Castella shop, we had been on the look out for one, but hadn't found one, only regular souvenir stores that sold Castella too. This store was so fancy, dead posh. There were a few free samples about so we tried some of those. I bought a cake set made up of regular, chocolate and green tea Castella to take to work, I also purchased a couple of little regular and chocolate ones for myself and a box of Castela biscuits covered with different flavours of chocolate. Those were yummy. happy with our Castella purchases we headed back to our sushi train for one last meal of legit sushi. There was a sign up on the door, but of course we couldn't read it as it was in Japanese. We went in and waited to be seated. We were shown to a booth this time. Anyway, we found out that the sign on the door meant that the conveyor belt wasn't working. However the restaurant was still serving food. The waitress explained that we should just order from the menu, thank god it was a picture menu. We ordered quite a few sushi, two or three at a time. We were given some of ones that we didn't order and some never turned up. It was definitely less organised than being able to pluck them from the conveyor belt as they went round.

Our last stop for our time in Nagasaki was Spectacles Bridge. We must have walked past it several times, but hadn't really paid any attention to it. We walked through the little garden by the many bridges that span the river. The flowers were all in bloom and there were lots of other people strolling through. We stopped at Spectacles Bridge to take some photos. The bridge is called Spectacles Bridge because with the reflection it looks like a pair of spectacles. The bridge was built in 1634 and is the oldest stone arch bridge in Japan. People say that if you find the heart shaped stone near the bridge you'll find your true love and that when a couple touch the stone together, they'll stay together forever. We didn't find the stone, not that we looked for it, so no Mr. True Love on the horizon for me. There is an ice cream seller by the river, who sculpts the ice cream to look like a rose. Well I say ice cream, but I think it's more of a sorbet. Mel had one and said it was good, but I was too full from all the sushi I had devoured.

We went back to the hostel and picked up our stuff. We left some fruit and a beer that we didn't drink the karaoke. We took the tram up to the train station and headed to the bus station. We had just missed a bus by the time we had fannied on buying our tickets. But there was another one due about 15 minutes later. On the bus we napped our way to the airport. The airport was quite busy, it is mainly for domestic flights, we saw the sign for international check-in and headed down there. Hahaha international check-in, what a joke! This must rival Harbin airport, with it's two international flights a day. International check-in consisted on one set of desks. The queue was huge, as bags had to be screened before you could proceed to the check-in desk. To make matters worse the queue was filled with Korean golfers, with all their golf gear. We ended up waiting in the queue for ages, well over half another. A good job there was nothing at the departure gate, only two tiny shops. The plane left on time and we were given food again, not as good as the breakfast though. I mentioned in an earlier blog, that all the cabin crew and ground staff for Jin Air wear jeans, and so do the pilots as we followed them through the airport.

I really enjoyed Nagasaki, it's a great small city to explore and it would be perfect for a first time trip to Japan. It's easy to get around and each tram stop has all the major tourist sights nearby labelled in English. It's not busy or happening, but a lovely spot to explore and there's plenty to see and do. I would happily go back.

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