Hello! So I haven’t written anything on here for ages, mainly because it’s been rainy season and I was hibernating until it finished! And also because I have been frantically planning my summer holidays.
To kick off the holidays, I went on a driving tour of the Unzen / Shimabara peninsula, in Nagasaki Prefecture. Originally we were planning to go to Miyazaki but due to a friend having to cancel and a new friend joining the group (who had already extensively toured round Miyazaki) after much researching we decided to visit Unzen, and I’m so glad we did!!!
It is around a three to four hour drive from Fukuoka and we managed to go the whole way only paying ￥200 in tolls! And for a three day trip there is plenty to do! Getting anywhere around the peninsula is within a one hour drive pretty much, and there is not much traffic so it’s a really good place for a driving holiday.
The first day I was actually working until 2pm, so we didn’t arrive until 6pmish, just in time to see the sunset!! The views from the road are beautiful and we found our hotel in Obama town very easily. Of course we had to take photos with the town sign, of Mr. Obama relaxing in the onsen. Our hotel was opposite Hotto Futto 105, a foot onsen with views of the sea, and we sat there and enjoyed the sunset. We had dinner in a nearby restaurant, where you can steam food using the natural onsen steam, although I opted for the Tempura set.
The next day we woke up early to go see the Mount Unzen Jigoku (hells) and hike up Mount Fugen, instead of taking the ropeway up we walked, which took about 30 minutes, we were very tired when we got to the upper ropeway station. We attempted the hike to the peak of Mount Fugen as all material I’ve read says this is a “relatively easy hike”, I think this is probably true if you are not a rookie hiker and come very prepared! There are some very steep stairs and as we had eaten no breakfast or brought any food with us, we decided to call it quits and go get lunch! The views we saw up to this were still very beautiful!
I’d recommend bringing food, as it took us an hour to find a restaurant after we descended, and wearing proper hiking gear. If you need to stop and take breaks I think the hike would take around 3 hours or a bit more! If you are a seasoned hiker then you could probably do it quicker.
After lunch we went to see old Samurai houses in Shimabara and the castle there too! We finished the day with a barbecue back in Obama, with a view of the sunset.
We started our final day with dolphin watching in Minami Shimabara, the whole trip takes only an hour, but we saw so many dolphins!!! They take you out on quite a small boat, we were with around 10 or 15 other people, and it only takes around 20 minutes to get there and the dolphins stay around the boats, I guess because they are quite curious so we got to see many up very close!
After this we went to a beach, just next to the dolphin watching place and I went for a swim. After eating a picnic lunch we went on a hunt to find a waterfall, the first we tried to find is called Ayugaeri-no-taki waterfall, and the road to get to this is very very narrow! So we opted for looking for the other waterfall, the roads to this are also narrow but nowhere near as bad as the first!!!
That waterfall is called Tonosumi. We found this abandoned park and were a bit confused, but then this old Japanese man helped us find the trail down to the waterfall, which is slippery but a really pretty waterfall awaits you at the bottom! The trail starts at the back of the park, there is a gap in the hedges and a wooden sign.
Finally we went to the Mt. Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall (last admission is at 5pm, it closes at 6pm) , that has exhibits on the 1991 Mount Fugen eruption and resulting pyroclastic and debris flows that killed around 40 people. The museum is very interesting, there is a free audio guide available in English and most of the exhibits are interactive in some way. The entrance fee is ￥1000.
This area was Japan’s first national park, and has beautiful scenery! The people were really friendly and I’d really recommend visiting this area! One thing I will say is we saw very few restaurants as we were driving round, so bring snacks or don’t leave it till the last moment to go find lunch. The website for Mount Unzen Geopark (see below) has very useful pdf files for tourists in English with all these places and more listed. For most it also gives you the map code, so you can just type that into the satellite navigation (GPS) for the car and it makes driving around really easy!
I hope everyone has a great summer vacation!! It’s only just begun hoorah!!!