Category Archives: Thing’s I’ve done

Shimonoseki Day Trip

Hey peeps, so my latest excursion was to Shimonoseki, it’s a seaside town in Yamaguchi prefecture, right on the bottom of Honshu Island. It took about 90 minutes or a bit less to drive there from Fukuoka city, and it was a really enjoyable day trip for us. Shimonoseki sits on the Kanmon Strait a narrow channel of water that separates Honshu from Kyushu, I was expecting the two islands to be further away from each other but they are really close.

We set off from Fukuoka around 12pm, before crossing the bridge over to Shimonoseki we pulled off the highway into a services that has a viewpoint where you can climb to the top to take pictures. There are also some small shops here where you can buy Mojiko and Shimonoseki souvenirs and a restaurant.

Kanmonkyo Bridge
Kanmonkyo Bridge

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We had lunch in the restaurant, which has great views of the bridge and the Kanmon strait. The restaurant’s main dish is green tea flavoured soba noodles, topped with dried seaweed flakes, shredded egg and chicken and spring onions, served on a roof tile. This dish has a range of side dishes you can choose from, I think almost all of them contain Fugu (Pufferfish), as many people know the liver of the Pufferfish is poisonous, so I had my trepidations about trying it, it’s actually delicious though. The green tea noodles were also really good.

Takashi ordered this dish with a sashimi bowl
Takashi ordered this dish with a sashimi bowl
I went for the tempura fugu option
I went for the tempura fugu option

After lunch we crossed the bridge over to Honshu island and made our way to Karato fish market.  It was already around 3 and most of the activity happens in the early morning, but still plenty of stalls were open selling a whole range of weird and wonderful seafood. Also the sushi here is enormous!!! So if you like your sushi it’s probably best holding out for lunch until you get here!

Crossing the bridge
Crossing the bridge

Fugu pointing the way to the aquarium

Huge sushi portions at Karato fish market

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These prehistoric looking creatures are apparently a kind of shrimp!
These prehistoric looking creatures are apparently a kind of shrimp!
My best pufferfish impression
My best pufferfish impression

You can go eat your sushi out on a promenade behind the fish market where you have a great view of cargo ships passing under the bridge. Then from here you can walk round past little shops, where there is some street entertainment and cafes, to the aquarium. On the way you will past some boats which take tourists out for excursions to an island in the Kanmon strait, I think they also take you across the water to Mojiko.

Cargo ship navigating the Kanmon Strait
Cargo ship navigating the Kanmon Strait

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So after we ate our sushi we went to the Kaikyokan aquarium. It’s not so big but is a really nice aquarium, has a wide variety of fish on display and some interesting exhibits. There is a skeleton of a blue whale in the foyer which was very impressive. There main tank was very interesting you could spend ages looking at that and seeing all manner of different fish, many are camouflaged or hiding at the bottom of the tank too.  We arrived at 4 and it shut at 5:30pm and we had time to see everything.

Blue Whale skeleton
Blue Whale skeleton

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I’m sure there are many more interesting sights in Shimonoseki but as we only had an afternoon we just covered the basics, but we had a really lovely day. The views of the Kanmon strait are great too. If you go by public transport from Hakata Station probably the easiest way is to go to Mojiko. It takes just over an hour using quicker transfers or 1 hour 53 minutes direct on a local train I think. Mojiko is the town on Kyushu just across the water from Shimonoseki and you get good views of the bridge from here too. Mojiko is meant to have a retro town with some older buildings that are lit up everyday around sunset too. From Mojiko there are boats across the water to Shimonoseki. This was an easy day trip by car, by public transport it’s not so difficult either, and I think for a day trip there is plenty to do in both Mojiko and Shimonoseki for a good day out.

Hokusai exhibition

So my favourite art museum in Fukuoka has a great exhibition on at the moment of work by Hokusai, the artist famous for his sketches and wood block prints. Included in the exhibition are the 36 views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景), the well known wave picture (The Great Wave Off Kanagawa – 神奈川沖浪裏) and red Mount Fuji picture (South Wind, Clear Sky -凱風快晴) are part of this collection. Also there are a range of pictures from his travels between Tokyo and Kyoto, some horror pieces and works by his contemporaries.

Entry to the exhibition costs ¥1,200. It runs until February 15th (Sunday). Also on at the moment is a Love exhibition that runs across 3 museums in Fukuoka, this is also interesting and is free to enter if you bought the ticket to the Hokusai exhibition. On it’s own this exhibition costs ¥200. This exhibition may prove a nice outing for Valentine’s Day! For more information about both exhibitions see the link below:

http://faam.city.fukuoka.lg.jp/eng/exhibition/exd_index.html

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Postcard bought at the Hokusai exhibition – one of the 36 views of Mount Fuji (South wind, clear skies blue version)
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Another postcard I bought from the exhibition, I don’t know the name of this picture in English
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Information leaflet for the exhibition

 

 

 

First Shrine Visit of the Year – Miyajidake Shrine

A bit late, but better than never, we made the first shrine visit of the year to Miyajidake Shrine. Going to visit a shrine in the first few days following New Year is a Japanese tradition.

Miyajidake is the shrine my boyfriends family usually visit. It’s on a hill near Miyajihama beach and you can see the sea when you climb the stairs to the shrine. Apparently the large straw decoration at this shrine is the largest in Japan. We came here to pray and ask for good luck for the year ahead. We bought some charms to give us good fortune this year and wrote some wishes on small wooden boards called “絵馬” a wooden plaque, pronounced “ema” (what a great name for it!) . We also paid ¥100 each for a “みくじ” (mikuji) or good luck fortune. It’s a little drawer with a lucky dip of fortunes inside, we both got a little luck, nooooooooo! Then my boyfriend tried again and got big luck woop! Not quite sure that’s how it works but anyway!

On the way up to the shrine
On the way up to the shrine

 

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People waiting to pray
People waiting to pray

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Wooden ema plaques

At the back of the temple are more little shrines, where you can pray for different specific things, like good health, love, wealth etc. This shrine also has a “古墳” (kofun) an ancient tomb. It’s like a burial mound, there are numerous large ones in Sakai in Osaka, where one of my friends used to live. I’ve never seen the inside of one before, they have made the entrance of this small kofun into another area to pray.

Fox shrine
Fox shrine

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Hopes for love in 2015
Inside the Kofun
Inside the Kofun

If you come here to this region, I’d recommend coming in summer, where as well as the temple you can go to the beach. It is very popular in summer and good for body boarding! Both the beach and shrine are not so far from JR Fukuma station, you could get a bus or taxi, it may not be that far to walk as well.

Kuju-san

I’ve been off hiking again! This time me and my boyfriend’s family hiked Mount Kuju (九重山) in Oita prefecture. This trip was probably my fourth to this area, and I have to say Kuju and the Aso-Kuju National Park is beautiful! If you are not into hiking but have a valid driving license out here, it’s definitely worth a trip, the scenery in the park is spectacular.

Anyway we had rented a house, in a complex called “Forest Hills” in Yufuin, so we were based in the area so we didn’t have so far to drive. We woke up early, and the got to see Yufuin covered in a sea of morning mist, was quite a beautiful start to our day!

Morning mist in Yufuin
Morning mist in Yufuin

We drove from here to the start of our hike at the Makinoto-pass, which has a small shop to buy coffee and ice cream, but is basically just a place to leave the car while hiking the mountain. To the left side of the car park is the start of the route, and there is a box where you can fill in information about your party in case you go missing or have some accident while hiking.

Marker at the start of the hike!
Marker at the start of the hike!

From here we walked up a rather steep concrete path for around 15 minutes, before the real hike began and the concrete vanished and we were walked a dirt path with many rocks and boulders in our way. There were also ladders and wooden steps we had to climb at one point, but after the initial climb the way stayed fairly flat until we arrived just under the summit of Mount Kuju.

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We could see many other hikers on the path ahead of us

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There are good signs the whole route of this hike, something I like about this one is the road forks several times, at one point there are 2 other routes available both easily signposted. We were quite keen to try Hossho-san, as the route looked quite challenging, maybe next time!

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There it is – Mount Kuju!

The path stayed fairly flat until we got to just underneath Mount Kuju, here we had a descent that was extremely rocky and then levelled out to a nice rest stop. Here there was a toilet and many people were scattered around looking at the views over Aso and eating lunch.

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Smoke from Mount Aso rises in the distance

Then there was another very rocky ascent, this part of the way is quite tricky as you can’t see a particularly clear path. You just have to keep looking at your feet and picking the best way between the rocks. From here we managed to hike to the top fairly fast.  While climbing the rocky ascent the path forks and if you go to the right, you can climb Naka-dake instead if you wish, this is the highest peak on Kyushu island at 1791m, 5m higher than Mount Kuju.

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We did it!

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The summit – 1786m!

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We did this hike in the last weekend in November and had glorious weather, unfortunately the weather has turned and it’s much colder now. The way up from the rest stop to the summit of Kuju-san has yellow spots painted on rocks en route, in case of bad weather so you can more easily find the path. Also this hike took us about 6 hours with some stops for food, coming back to the car was very quick.

There is a apparently a bus you can take that drops you at the Makinoto pass, that goes from a number of different cities in Kyushu. It’s called the Kyushu Odan Bus, you can’t catch it from Fukuoka but you could get the train to Kumamoto or Beppu and go from there, although it’s probably easier to hire a car.

http://www.kyusanko.co.jp/sankobus_top/

I really enjoyed this hike, and as I said at the beginning of this post, even if you are not planning on hiking the area, the region is really beautiful. As the winter season is here, going for a drive through the mountains and stopping in some onsen towns is also an option.  Chains are recommended on your tyres if you are driving in the region while snow is on the ground.

Think the next hike on my list is Yakushima, not exactly that close to Fukuoka, for now I think the hiking is on hold until it gets a bit warmer!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

So I’m a MASSIVE Harry Potter fan! This post is just a short piece about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in Osaka, and what you need to do in order to enter that section of the park.

You need to get a special timed entry ticket to enter this area of the park during busy periods.  Using the Loppi ticket machines found in certain convenience stores, you can reserve in advance a fast pass ticket booklet.  If you get the set of 5 or 7 fast pass tickets, these include entry to “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” inside Hogwarts. This will allow you entry into the Harry Potter area as well, and will let you queue jump the line for this attraction once you’re inside.

However when me and my friends went to USJ, it was a Sunday on a three day weekend in October during Halloween season! All these fast pass booklets were sold out!!! In this case though it is still possible to get a timed entry ticket into the Harry Potter area!

There are machines inside the park, around the entrance to the Amityville section of the park, where one member of your party can queue up with all of the party’s entry tickets, to select a time slot to enter the Harry Potter zone. We arrived around 8:30-9am and were still able to get an entry slot for around 10am! So if you arrive around the park opening time you should definitely be fine! I would say arriving in the afternoon could mean you miss out though.

You can enter between the times listed on your timed entry ticket, and once inside you can stay as long as you like, but once you leave you can’t re-enter the Harry Potter area. And I believe they only issue one timed entry ticket per person per day!

Even though it was really busy when we went I thoroughly enjoyed it!!! All the food available to buy inside is delicious!! One point is there is a very long line for the sweet shop, if you only want to buy Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans there is a small separate cart selling those.

Below are pictures, if you don’t want to see spoilers of inside the Harry Potter area, don’t scroll down!

The Hogwarts Express!
The Hogwarts Express!
Oishi Butterbeer!
Oishi Butterbeer!
In "The Three Broomsticks"!!
In “The Three Broomsticks”!!
Hogwarts!!!!
Hogwarts!!!!
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Queue for ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” going through the Hogwart’s greenhouses.

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Inside the Castle!
Inside the Castle!

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Waiting to enter the sweet shop!
Waiting to enter the sweet shop!

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The Ford Anglia
The entrance to Hogwarts!
The entrance to Hogwarts!

Mount Hiko-San

So I haven’t posted anything in ages, I know I’m rubbish! I’m going to try and get back into it with some posts on my favourite season autumn!! I know it will be soon coming to an end with December right around the corner but December’s weather has known to be okayish (well compared to the dreaded chill that January and February bring anyway!!) And recently I’ve been getting very into hiking, it’s a wonderful autumn activity if you wrap up warm and bring the appropriate gear, as the scenery can be very dramatic at this time of year! And Japan is known to have a lot of mountains!! Kyushu especially has some beautiful areas for hiking.

I may have mentioned in a previous post that me and some friends tried to climb Mount Fugen Dake in Unzen national park during the summer, but being woefully unprepared made probably the best possible decision and gave up! Well I honestly learnt my lesson and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again!!

Anyway moving on, so me, my boyfriend and his father went on a little expedition to Hiko-San ( 英彦山) a mountain that lies on the border of both Fukuoka and Oita prefectures.  If you are able to rent a car it takes around 90 minutes to drive there from Fukuoka city centre (I will list information about getting there via public transport at the bottom of this post). Hiko-san is considered one of Japan’s most spiritual mountains and the path follows an old pilgrim trail still used to this day by mountain priests or yamabushi ( 山伏). And on our drive up the mountain we saw a group of them wearing traditional clothing jogging up the mountain in training. We parked the car at Seinen no Ie (青年の家) and from here got a free shuttle to the start of our trail ,the shrine, Takasumi Jinja ( 高住神社), where we stopped for a chat with a couple more yamabushi before hitting the trail.

Our new yamabushi pals
Our new yamabushi pals

The route up the mountain is easy to follow but is pretty steep, you definitely need gloves to help with gripping onto the ropes or chains you sometimes need to use to pull yourself over large rocks in the path.  Getting to the top took us around 1 hour and 20 minutes, the view from the top is fantastic! At the North summit it is a fairly easy stroll to the central summit, when we got there it was very busy with a lot of people eating lunch!! The North summit was a lot less crowded and more sheltered from the wind!! But the central summit does have a toilet and a covered viewpoint that you could sit inside if it was raining.

On the hike up!
On the hike up!
At the summit!
At the summit!
Lunch!
Lunch!

We had a good lunch cooked on a mini gas stove we’d carried up, it felt wonderful to have something hot as it got extremely windy and cold! At the top is also a very old shrine you can go inside and make an offering. On the way down the first part of the path was very easy to follow, going down an old stone staircase, obviously part of the original pilgrim trail, the scenery here was very autumnal. The route we had chosen branched off a little way down. It took us a bit of humming and haring to figure out which way we were meant to go, the map and compass we brought with us proved very useful!

Scenery on the climb down

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A lucky catch!
A lucky catch!
Lost in the woods!
Lost in the woods!

We ended up taking the bird sightseeing trail, which thankfully was the right way, during our descent we didn’t see any birds, but we did spot three deer! Finally we emerged into a gorgeous field of pampas grass which used to be an old ski slope. From here it was a very short walk to where we parked the car lucky!!!

This used to be a ski slope!
This used to be a ski slope!

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It was a challenging hike for me, a beginner, and the mountain was beautiful it did feel like a really spiritual place. Although a bit tricky to get to without a car, I would recommend it for anyone in the Fukuoka area who enjoys the great outdoors!

Some additional information, this link (see below) has some basic maps with different routes, we did route A on the 2nd page. It says this route takes 3.5-4 hours, it took us more like 6 hours, we stopped for around an hour for lunch and it took us a while to find our bearings on the descent.

http://www.fsg.pref.fukuoka.jp/hikosan/pdf/5-2tozan_sansaku_map.pdf

This hike is also listed in the Lonely Planet “Hiking in Japan” book, I found out about this after doing the hike, the route in the book is different to the one we took.

If using public transportation, you can get a train to Hiko-san station from Kokura station and it takes 1 hr 45mins. From here you can get buses to Hiko-san Bessho, and start your hike from there doing a different route to the one we chose.  Happy Hiking!

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!