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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Beppu to Osaka

JAPAN | Wednesday, 9 July 2008 | Views [2798]

Sun 6th Jul - A relaxing day in order today as had a late night last night. Went for a walk along the sea front. Not too exciting I must admit and better at night when it is lit up.
Fancied trying another Onsen, so went to the Takegawa Onsen, which is about a 10 minute walk from the hostel. Set in a traditional old building, and only costing 100 Yen entrance fee, it was worth it. Simple but extremely hot at 42degC! I found it a bit too hot and couldn't spend much time in the water, which by the way is supposed to be great for Rheumatism and skin problems. Spent most of the time talking to a great guy from Osaka, who spoke good english.
Later in the evening went for dinner at an indian restaurant. Was the oddest indian I have had for a while, but then I shouldn't have expected anything too original here. Should have stayed with my original plan for another Okonomiyaki.
Today has also been a sorting day for China. Managed to get accomodation booked for the first week or so covering Shanghai and Beijing, with a train connection in between. Can relax for a bit now.

Mon 7th Jul - Catching the 10:40 bus to Nagasaki this morning. Stops on the main road by Starbucks (don't they just get everywhere!). Cost 4,500Yen and arrived shortly after 2pm at the eki-mae bus station adjacent to the main railway station. Very plush airconditioned bus with video (japanese of course), and headphones provided. Well, Beppu has been an interesting place for a few days. Could have done more here and run around but felt like relaxing instead. Onsen heaven!
Nagasaki is another famous place, unfortunately for the wrong reasons as the place where the United States dropped the second atomic bomb. On 9th August 1945, the day after they dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima, the B29 bomber Bock's Car set off with its target being Kokura, which is north east of here at the narrowest point that separates this part of Japan from the mainland. Kokura escaped as the weather was poor and due to cloud cover the pilot couldn't find the target, so aimed for Nagasaki as secondary target. Visability was still poor over the city, but a brief gap appeared in the cloud over the Mitsubishi arms factory. The actual target was to be the shipyard but they couldn't see it. So....at 11:02am the 'Fat man' 4.5 ton bomb was dropped and exploded at 500 metres above the ground, with an explosive power equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT. Hiroshima's 'Little Boy' was 13,000 tons! The bomb missed the Mitsubishi arms factory and instead hit the nearby Urakami Cathedral...the largest church in Asia! 75,000 people were killed and a further 75,000 injured out of the population of 240,000. Since then as many people again have died as a result of that blast. A third of the city was wiped out. The Urakami church took nearly 3 decades to complete and 3 seconds to destroy!! A replacement has been re-built.
I am staying at the Akari International Hostel, which had many recommendations and turned out to be run by a really nice couple. To get there was easy enough on the tram. Any journey costs 100 Yen flat fee. There is a 500 Yen pass you can buy for a whole day, so might consider one for tomorrow.
As I am planning to take an overnight sleeper bus to Osaka tomorrow night, I bought the ticket at the bus station before leaving. Cost 11,000 Yen and should get me in at 7am to Osaka Umeda central.
After check-in, didn't want to hang around as much to see. It is scorchio today...must be 30 degrees, so must head for shade. Plenty of ATMs in this area. Not mentioned this before....there are many convenience chain stores in Japan. Seven-Eleven, Family Mart, Daily Yakasawa, Lawsons etc. Great places for cheap food and drink, but 7/11 also has international ATM, so becomes a bit of a life-line for travellers. Post offices are always good for ATMs too.
Off for a walkabout....a few nice temples here, but didn't go in as i'm a bit templed out now. Instead, I aimed for the chinese quarter and the Shian-Bashi area, which is the older part of town. The route there goes through the Kanko-Dori Arcade. The streets are quite attractive at present as they are lined with bamboo bushes strung with colourful paper ornaments and tags carrying messages regarding love, work, family, friends. This is part of the annual 7th July Tanabashi celebration.
Back out of chinatown and walked towards the Nakashima-Gawa river, which is crossed by about ten stone bridges, each one different. The water is low at present, but teaming at numerous places with massive colourful carp. One of the bridges, the Megan-Bashi is alternatively known as 'Spectacles Bridge', as the reflection of it in the water looks like a pair. Felt like a cool down so stopped at one of the many coffee houses that line the arcade. Never seen so many in this size of place.
Later in the evening went out for a meal with a guy from Melbourne staying at the hostel. Found a Yakitory restaurant, of which there are many...red lantern outside. Yakitory are skewers of meat and vegetables, you choose what you want from a display and they grill it and serve it with some cabbage and Tofu plus a selection of sauces. Wash down with a nice cold beer. This area is also known as the red-light or 'entertainment' area. Interesting place!
Back to the hostel to recover after a long day.

Tue 8th Jul - Woke up this morning feeling great. Nice when that happens innit? Onto the Red line streetcar and off at Hamaguchi-Machi stop. The tram-drivers are all so gracious. Full uniform, peaked cap and white gloves, pleasant smile and a wave as you get off....the streetcars/trams vary in age, so all have individual character. Reminded me of being in San Francisco, without the hills!
First stop, all well signposted from getting off the tram, was the Atomic bomb museum. A grand red brick building with large open space entrance and a thought provoking gold statue in front of three children, one releasing a bird of peace. Entrance fee is 200 Yen and an english guide leaflet available.
A couple of things of note....throughout the area, similar to Hiroshima, are large numbers of paper Cranes (the bird, not the mechanical thing), either singly or in colourful chains of hundreds, and in all different sizes. Entire mounds of them are common and symbolise the movement for peace thoughout the world. The next noteable point at the entrance is the ticking of a clock. I arrived at 10:40. A thought provoking walk through the displays is accompanied by the ticking....until 11:02am....when it stops...shortly afterwards an announcement followed by a piece of orchestral music. This is the time the bomb described above struck...and for many, time ended....for others, they suffered the most horrendous of injuries and problems that they would have to live with for a long time to come. Exploding 500m above the ground, the Plutonium isotope 239 core generates 50% of its energy as blast force, 35% as heat and the remaining 15% as radiation. Leukemia being the most common of deseases of those who survived...many for not very long!
There is a set route around the museum, including a video presentation. After finishing the tour, you can take a break in a nice open rest and cafe area before exiting to the Peace Memorial Hall which follows next door. This building is stunning....simple effective design of dramatic long corridors, trickling water walls and other features. Amazing use of tranquil colours and culminating in the incredibly dramatic Remembrance Hall buried at its heart. This hall grabs you from the point of entry. I had it to myself....wow...a row of massive pastel green glass arches guide your view firstly to the skylight, through which today's perfect blue sky was visible, and secondly, the tall display which houses drawers containing the names off all of those killed by the A-Bomb.... 143,124 as of August 9th 2007. This hall was a fantastic place to sit alone and contemplate in total silence......
On the way out, I picked up a copy of the 2007 Nagasaki Peace Declaration by Tomihisa Taue, the Mayor of Nagasaki (I related a section from the similar document from Hiroshima). Here are a couple of extracts from the declaration....
"What crime did these children commit?"
Holding up a picture of a boy horribly burned by the heat of the atomic bomb, Iccho Itoh made this impassioned plea before the international court of justice some 12 years ago, not long after he was elected mayor of Nagasaki. In April 2007 he was shot dead in a wanton act of violence. We vow to carry on his commitment to the elimination of nuclear arms, true to the statement made together with the Hibakusha atomic bomb survivors that "nuclear weapos and humanity cannot coexist".
At Sanno shrine near the hypocenter of the bombing , two Camphor trees spread their leaves skyward. 62 years ago, the sad blackened stumps of these trees poked up from the radioactive rubble. The trees recovered, and seedlings were sent far and wide by children wishing for peace. Over time, no matter what ill winds may blow, we shall never relinquish our commitment to a future that is free from nuclear weapons....
After such a powerful experience, the next place to visit was the Atomic Bomb Hypocentre park, almost across the road from the exit. Some monuments at the entrance to this park depict some of Nagasaki's earlier portuguese history of the 16th century, when it was a busy trading port. The Hypo-centre where the bomb exploded is commemorated by a smooth black monolith set amidst an open circular paved and grassed area. Pleasant to sit for a while in the shade....it's roasting today.
Next, to the Peace Memorial Park a few hundred metres walk along the river. The main centre-piece here is the Peace Statue. An enormous blue/green statue, one leg tucked under in buddhist meditation pose, the other outstretched ready for action. Very dramatic. Many sudents around today and was approached a number of times as they were conducting a survey of our understanding of world peace and knowledge of the detail. I enjoyed sitting for a while with a couple of groups.
Last on the agenda for this area was the Urakami catholic cathedral. As previously mentioned, the original was destroyed by the bomb, so the present one is a reconstruction. I was lucky to arrive as a service was just being concluded. The area was a sea of nuns in black or turquoise dress. After they had cleared, had a quick look inside....very simple, blue tinged light filled the cathedral though the lower panels of blue stained glass. The ceiling a dark wooded arching design.
Back on to the tram....this time on the blue line with a change along the way, heading for Glover Gardens, which requires getting off at the Oura-Tenshudo stop. A nice old guy started up a conversation....brought a smile to my face as he was so happy to talk. The heat was very uncomfortable now, so didn't want to be outside for much longer....what better then, than to go to the highpoint in direct sun....not a great idea, but wanted to get it over with. A sequence of sloping escalator/lift and a 3-level vertical lift take you most of the way up. From there it was a hard hot walk to the top, to the Mount Nabekanmuri Park observatory. The hillside is covered with traditional houses, some of european feel but most local design. At the top, the view is superb. To one side the arching suspension bridge. In front, the ship-building and repair yards of the dock area, and to the north, the damatic and interesting landscape of the city. Met a group of ladies there, who were studying english, so were glad to have someone to sit for a while and practice with. All so pleasant to talk to.
After a lovely time and now feeling the heat, I didn't fancy visiting Glover gardens, so headed down the hill and back onto the tram back to the hostel, and into the cool.
Headed to the bus station an hour ahead of departure, as I prefer to be relaxed rather than rushed and there is always something going on to make it interesting. They have a TV at this one that had a nice japanese music concert on, so that wiled away the time. It is such melodic music to listen to and I love the way the women dress in traditional Kimono, Geisha style.....so pretty. All part of the inner beauty the japanese are blessed with.
The bus arrived 15 minutes before departure time and the smart driver took my backpack, tagged it, put it in the hold and gave me a matching tag. Seat allocated on ticket, so straight forward enough. They are the lie back type, not flat. Comfortable enough. Slippers, blanket and headphones for the sound system were provided. Plenty of legroom, so ok. A bit of a risk really as whether I would sleep ok, but compared with the train, which would have cost another 6,000 Yen (30GBP), a reasonable risk.
I keep thinking of things I haven't mentioned that I have noticed here in Japan. At the beginning I mentioned about mobile phones and that they are purely on 3G network. You will notice on many leaflets and at museums, galleries etc, a square containing what look like random small pixels and three larger pixels. These are like a bar-code that can be read by the phones I have been told, and link to futher information such as the website, or a map. All really clever stuff isn't it? I want one of those thingymajigs. Shame they won't work outside of Japan. I have been surprised by the cost of phones. Much more than I expected. I guess that's why so many people will have a network rental agreement to make it much cheaper. Not worth it when you're just visiting for a short while, although there are some reasonable deals around I gather.

Wed 9th Jul - The bus made a few stops on its way in to Osaka, and eventually arrived at Osaka Umeda bus station at about 7am. Got some sleep during the night although it was very disturbed. Will have to catch up in Osaka I guess.
I am staying at the J-Hoppers Hostel in Fukushima (2,500Yen per night), about 15 minutes walk from the railway station. Check-in not until 3pm but ok to use facilities until then.
Whilst settling in, I scanned through some leaflets. On caught my eye with an article about smoking in public. A young child's face catches your eye, with the simple statement "Soon I won't have to worry any more about almost being hit in the face by a burning cigarette". A 1000 Yen fine is imposed for anyone caught smoking in a non-smoking area. The leaflet goes on....The ordinance concerning the prevention of street smoking is aimed at ensuing a safe, secure and comfortable living environment by improving peoples manners and morals relating to street smoking. Wonderful for us non-smokers!
Back to basics at the hostel with some domestics....shower, washing clothes....the less exciting side of travel, but necessary. Off for another necessary function next. Had to get some currency for China, and fortunately the Nippon Travel agency at Osaka station obliged. 1 Chinese Yuan Renminbi (CNY) = 17.52 Japanese Yen(JPY). For reference ’1=13.6 CNY.If only I had thought about it earlier, I could have saved myself the walk. Was intending to to for more of an explore, but was feeling really tired, so returned to the hostel.


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