More sunset views

Start of Summer Spectacular! Unzen Peninsula driving holiday!

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.

Sunset from Hotto Futto 105
Sunset from Hotto Futto 105
Obama onsen
Obama onsen
Lovely Tempura dinner
Lovely Tempura dinner

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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.

 

Me at the Unzen Hells (jigoku)
Me at the Unzen Hells (jigoku)
Hello Mr Caterpillar
Hello Mr Caterpillar
My friends almost at the upper ropeway station
My friends almost at the upper ropeway station
The ropeway
The ropeway
Mount Heisei Shizan
Mount Heisei Shizan
In Shimabara at the old Samurai district
In Shimabara at the old Samurai district

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Shimabara castle
Shimabara castle
More sunset views
More sunset views

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.

 

Me on the beach!
Me on the beach!
Dolphins!
Dolphins!
Me on the search for dolphins!
Me on the search for dolphins!

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Tonosumi Waterfall
Tonosumi Waterfall
Rescue Helicopter used during the 1991 Mount Fugen eruptions
Rescue Helicopter used during the 1991 Mount Fugen eruptions
View of Mount Fugen from the Mt. Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall
View of Mount Fugen from the Mt. Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall

 

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!

http://www.unzen-geopark.jp/en-iroiromap

I hope everyone has a great summer vacation!! It’s only just begun hoorah!!!

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Birthday Shenanigans

Ahhhhhh!! So I haven’t posted anything in ages, boo!! Well in my defense I think one of my last posts was about how excited I was about the beach . . . and then rainy season hit! boo! And a mixture of not doing much and a grumpy mood put me in a bit of a creative slump blogging wise. But it wasmy birthday last week and despite the rain, I was determined to go out and have a good time!

The girls from work surprised me with cake!
The girls from work surprised me with cake!

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So me and a couple of my friends went to see some live music two weeks ago at a venue called “Early Believers” , it’s near Fubar on Oyofuko-dori and is a fairly decent size and also has a bar with some seating in the front which isn’t bad for chillaxing when you’re not rocking the dance floor.

We saw a band called “Habana” who I really like, I’ve seen them once before and thought they were awesome! It turns out that one of my friends knows a couple of the band members, so we got to hang out with them before and after the show too, which was cool!

Their music is quite difficult to explain a kind of euphoric dance but that has some traditional Japanese elements, as well as a sitar and a didgeridoo, if that helps give you any idea of their musical style lol.

The band
The band

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Working the hat
Working the hat
Tomodachi's!
Tomodachi’s!

The next morning we also woke up early to catch the England vs. Italy world cup match, which was a good game, it would have been even better if England actually won!!! And as of writing Japan only have a slim chance of going through, so I’m going to have to pick a different team to support, decisions, decisions!!!

Working another hat! This time with a grumpy face! Cos England are out! boo!!
Working another hat! This time with a grumpy face! Cos England are out! boo!

Due to having friends now who actually are down with the live music scene in Fukuoka, I feel like there will be more opportunities to post about these kind of gigs, and the plan for later in the week (after pay day!!!) is to go see an Ainu band! If they are any good, I’ll let you know!

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The Owl Cafe!!

So I finally went to the owl cafe!!! And really liked it!! Was quite an experience having a barn owl sit on your head, lol. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and instantly started comparing the owls on which would make the best owl postman! Some may be more express delivery owls, while others could carry hefty sized parcels, like a new broom for instance haha!

Anyway, you have to book in advance and probably best to go there in person, so you’ve already established how to get there. You have to book for a one hour slot, ours was 5pm-6pm. It costs ¥1000 and includes a drink, an alcoholic drink puts the price up to ¥1200. And I believe a maximum of 20 people can go in at once, our time slot wasn’t full and there were 12 of us in there.

When your time slot comes round you go up to the 2nd floor, where the staff take your drink order and then give an explanation (all in Japanese of course) of how to best handle the owls and what you shouldn’t do, e.g. stroking the owls tummy is a bad idea but the head and beak is ok! There is a card they gave us, this explains these instructions in English, so don’t worry! This takes around 10 minutes and then you get 50 minutes handling time with the owls!

Now to the owls!! In our slot there were 5 owls we could interact with, 2 large owls and 3 small ones, Gori, Mashu, Niko, Natsu and a baby one that I forgot the name of, sorry cute baby owl!! And the staff help you hold the bird and generally you can hold each owl on your hand, shoulder or on your head! But this varies on the owl. There are other owls sitting on perches on the right side of the room, you are not allowed to touch these ones, but you can take pictures (with no flash). I believe the owls who interact with the customers get rotated, and the ones on the perches are having a break, some were sleeping!! When I was holding Niko he got very sleepy and starting yawning like crazy!! All the owls were very friendly and I would really recommend checking this little place out!!

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The beautiful Gori, he would be my 1st choice postman
The beautiful Gori, he would be my 1st choice postman

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Mashu the Barn Owl
Mashu the Barn Owl
That's a big yawn!
That’s a big yawn!
Me and Niko got very sleepy!
Me and Niko got very sleepy!
Me holding little Natsu
Me holding little Natsu
Cheeky Natsu
Cheeky Natsu
Owl Selfie!
Owl Selfie!
Look it's Hedwig!
Look it’s Hedwig!

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Wink ;)
Wink ;)
Another very sleepy owl
Another very sleepy owl
Me with the little baby owl, only one month old!! He nibbles so you have to wear a glove!
Me with the little baby owl, only one month old!! He nibbles so you have to wear a glove!

To get there you can take the subway to Nakasu-Kawabata station and take the Canal City exit (I believe it’s number 5 or 6), once you get above ground turn left down the shopping arcade, keep going until you reach almost the very end, the shop will be on the right hand side if you come from this direction. Look up to see the owl sign!

 

With T 139

Let’s go to the beach, beach!

So I had a lovely weekend at the beach!!! And despite the horrible rain today, now all I can think about is the summer!!! Am getting super excited about all the awesome beach times to come!!! It got up to 27 degrees yesterday and I was brave enough to try swimming and it was well worth it! The water was so clear and I’d say more refreshing than chilly!

One of the best things about living in Fukuoka is there are a multitude of great beaches on your doorstep!! Some are easily accessible using public transport and are very close to the centre of town! Others take you out of the city to Itoshima or the islands of Nokonoshima and Shikonoshima!!

So many great beaches to choose from, my favourites are Fukutsu beach, Shikonoshima, Itoshima and Shingu. Here are some summery beach pictures – hopefully I can get in a couple more trips before rainy season swings round!! : )

Chilling on Meinohama beach during Golden Week
Chilling on Meinohama beach during Golden Week
Meinohama beach view towards Fukuoka Tower and Momochi
Meinohama beach view towards Fukuoka Tower and Momochi
Momochi beach
Momochi beach
Shikonoshima Beach
Shikonoshima Beach
View from the top of Shikonoshima of the spit below connecting it to the city
View from the top of Shikonoshima of the spit below connecting it to the city
Beach combing finds at Wajiro Beach
Beach combing finds at Wajiro Beach
Fukuma beach Sunset
Fukuma beach Sunset
Sandy toes
Sandy toes

Another Itoshima Beach

At Palm Beach Restaurant at Nishinoura Beach
At Palm Beach Restaurant at Nishinoura Beach
Swing at BBQ cafe on the way to Nishinoura
Swing at BBQ cafe on the way to Nishinoura
Nishinoura Beach in Itoshima
Nishinoura Beach in Itoshima
Shrine on the way to Shingu Beach
Shrine on the way to Shingu Beach

 

Momochi is really easy to get to as it’s basically in the city!! It’s not the most beautiful as it’s a man made beach but for convenience you can’t beat it!! The easiest way to get there is to get the subway to Nishjin, when you exit you should be able to see Fukuoka Tower in the distance, just walk towards it for around 10-15 minutes and you’ll find the beach! Buses go near there too!

Fukuma is easy to get to from Hakata Station by train, about 20 minutes (you get off at Fukuma) on trains heading towards Kokura, and then you should probably take a taxi to the beach which is only around 10 minutes away.

Shingu is also fairly easy, you go to Chihaya station on the JR and then change to the Nishitetsu station. Take the Nishitetsu to Shingu at the end of the line, the beach is a 5 minute walk from the station.

Shikonoshima is a bit harder to get to, and is much easier if you have a car. There are buses that go there, I will have to do more research into which number you should take but from Hakata station the journey time will be fairly long.

Itoshima is also easier if you have a car, but is a really nice area to explore on the weekend, and has a lot of cute beach side restaurants and cafes. If you can hire a car, I’d really recommend heading out that way as it starts to get a bit warmer!! If you drive toward Keya you can find a lot of nice beaches to stop at on the way there, I’ve never even made it to Keya as we always get sidetracked by other nice spots!!

 

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Hakata Art Aquarium

I haven’t posted anything in ages!!! Ah!! Thought my new job would make my life less busy, guess I was wrong haha!! This post is very late coming and so won’t really be useful, I hope you enjoy the pictures anyway!!

So for the last month or so there has been an Art Aquarium on the 9th floor of Hakata Station. The entrance fee was ¥1000 to get in and well worth it in my opinion!!! Created by Kimura Hidetomo, the Sky Aquarium appears regularly in Roppongi Hills in Tokyo every year, but this year they have taken the art aquarium on tour. Unfortunately the last day is tomorrow May 11th (why I said this post is really too late!)

I found this exhibition really unique and inspiring, afterwards I bought the art aquarium souvenir book, where I read how goldfish were bred from Koi Carp by the Chinese a long time ago, and since then many unique species have been created. Many of these goldfish or Kingyo (金魚)as they are known in Japanese are on display here too! I really want to buy my own fish tank now! I especially like the fish that look directly up! You’ll see what I mean from the pictures!!

Here is the link to the art aquarium website, where I discovered it is on until May 16th if you happen to live in Osaka! I believe it will also come back to Tokyo some point in the future and I’m sure that information will be available here.

 

http://h-i-d.co.jp/art/

Enjoy the pics!

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Bonborium

Bonborium
Bonborium
The four seasons aquarium that has a projection of the changing seasons behind it.
The four seasons aquarium that has a projection of the changing seasons behind it.
Prisrium no 12
Prisrium no 12

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The Oiran tank, this is meant to represent the red light district during the Edo-period and has nearly 1000 fish in the tank.
The Oiran tank, this is meant to represent the red light district during the Edo-period and has nearly 1000 fish in the tank.
Another shot of the Oiran tank.
Another shot of the Oiran tank.
Flower Aquarium
Flower Aquarium

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Choutengan fish
Choutengan fish

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Namba streets and Koya-san in the rain

I’ve had a bit of a break from blogging as it’s been “that” time of year, you know, spring, end of March beginning of April, when everything is happening!! Moving house, new job, family visits! So finally I’ve gotten round to writing this up! Phew!

So when my parents were here, we went to visit my best friend in Osaka. On the first night I enjoyed taking them to Namba and seeing their reaction! For those of you who have never been there, it’s one of the busiest areas in Osaka and is famous for a lot of big crazy signs and some really good places to eat! Now my friends husband actually comes from Osaka and so knows the place very well, and he showed us it’s other side! If you see Tsutaya and a large crab sign clicking it’s claws, you are almost in the right place! You have to look for a tiny tiny alleyway next to one of the restaurants, once you start walking down it, the noise of Namba fades away and you seem to be transported to another time. I felt like Chihiro from “Spirited Away”.

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A tiny back alley in Namba

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A hiddenshrine
A hidden shrine

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A moss covered Buddha statue
A moss covered Buddha statue

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The next day from Osaka we did a day trip to Koya-san in the rain!! Koya-san is a temple precinct in Wakayama-ken that is built on a table land at the top of a mountain! It’s a very spiritual place and well worth a visit if you are in the Osaka area.  Getting there is part of the fun, you catch the train from Namba Nankai station, and once the train leaves the city behind, it slows down winding through tunnels up the mountains, rivers and waterfalls can be seen down below. Once the train reaches Gokurakubashi (Heaven’s Bridge), you have to transfer to a vernacular that takes you up the very steep side of the mountain to the Koya-san bus terminal.

From here you can catch a bus to the end of the line Okuno-in, a large graveyard in a cedar forest, where many famous historical Japanese figures are buried. As you walk around the forest, there are some signs in English explaining more interesting graves and a some information about the people buried there.  One small wooden structure contains a heavy stone that is said to feel lighter to those without sin, we all tried to lift it and none of us could! Oh no! There is also a well, and apparently if you look at the water and don’t see your reflection you will die within 3 years, we were all too superstitious to try that one! It is a very interesting place though, and certainly has a very mystical feel about it that can’t really be described, you have to experience it!

Okuno-in
Okuno-in

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A gravestone depicting  Fugu (puffer fish), wonder how this person met there end?
A gravestone depicting Fugu (puffer fish), wonder how this person met there end?

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The whole town can be walked in around 20 minutes, and because my family are too impatient to wait for the bus we did that despite the pouring rain!! However when you book your tickets to Koya-san in Namba, ususally a full days bus pass for the Koya-san area is included in the cost of the ticket. Other interesting sights are the Tokugawa Mausoleum and the Garan complex that has a very large orange and white pagoda with some very large Buddha statues inside.

The journey to Koya-san from Namba station takes around 1 hour 30 minutes and you can book tickets at Namba Nankai station. Many of the temples in Koya-san provide lodgings and many people stay there overnight.

 

 

Cherry Blossom reflected in the water

Twilight cherry blossom

So my parents have been visiting me for the last 10 days and we did loads of stuff in that time!! It was such a busy trip for them, but I think most trips to Japan usually are! It was a really fun 10 days!! It also gave me loads of ideas for blog posts as showing them around meant I also got to visit some new places I haven’t been before. We also did a three day break to Osaka, which I will post about next week (bit busy at the mo with a new job and house to sort out!!!).

The most time specific thing I wanted to talk about is that in Fukuoka right now it is cherry blossom season!!!! They came into full bloom at the end of last week, but in other parts of the country full bloom will probably be next week or even much later. And while my parents were here we did manage to fit in one evening where we could go see the trees at Ohori Koen and Maizuru Koen. It was lucky as the weather was beautiful that day, but at the weekend it rained, if there is too much rain the cherry blossom season can be cut very short.

Maizuru Koen is a really good place to go see the cherry blossom as they light it up at night, so if you are busy during the day you can still go there up to 9:00pm or 10:00pm. There are a lot of trees there!! Also right now there are some special areas where you have to pay ¥300 to go in to view more interesting light displays. We went into one area, and although it was cool I would say there are plenty more beautiful trees you don’t need to pay to see, so not sure if it’s really worth it. Those areas are less crowded though.

If you really want to do the full hanami experience you should get there early and bring a tarp or picnic blanket, some beers and food and have a picnic. That is how Japanese people enjoy the cherry blossom!

Anyway here are some of my pictures . . .

People enjoying Hanami in Ohori Koen
People enjoying Hanami in Ohori Koen
Me posing by some cherry blossom, everyone has to do it at this time of year!! It's like a rule!
Me posing by some cherry blossom, everyone has to do it at this time of year!! It’s like a rule!

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Selfie with mum
Selfie with mum
Dad looking pensive by some cherry blossom
Dad looking pensive by some cherry blossom

 

Fukuoka tower in the distance at twilight
Fukuoka tower in the distance at twilight

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Dad taking a pic of mum posing by cherry blossom
Dad taking a pic of mum posing by cherry blossom

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If you want to get to Maizuru Park and you don’t know the way, take the subway to Ohori Koen and leave via exit 6.  You should see a street lined with cherry blossom in the distance if you turn right down that street and follow it for a little while you’ll see some steps going up on the left side of the street and Maizuru park and all the cherry trees are up there!

Next week I will write a proper post about our trip to Osaka and some nice places to go for a drink in Fukuoka city!

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