Monthly Archives: September 2011

Visit to Nagasaki City

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This weekend was my second of two long weekends in September. I decided to pack up and take a bus to Nagasaki; one of the most popular places in Japan. Boy, was I happy I did so.¬†I left home on Friday morning, bright and early. Nagasaki City is about three hours away which is just enough time to enjoy a “road trip” but not too long where it just becomes annoying and tiresome. We got to the city at about 1 p.m and went straight to the hotel to drop off bags and freshen up a bit.

The first thing that caught my eyes was the amount of people and just general hustle and bustle! It definitely was not as packed as say, Tokyo, but it was a lot busier than my nice little Kumamoto. The trams were full to the brim and it was evident that a lot of folks were touring just like me. I also noticed a lot more foreigners than I usually do in Kumamoto. As a foreigner here, you definitely begin to notice your own kind more so than you normally would. As black people, I say we tend to notice each other even more than the other foreigners as there are a lot more white folks than blacks.

The first place we headed to after the hotel was to China Town which was conveniently located right across from the hotel. We did a good job picking that hotel ūüôā Now y’all know me, I love my belly, so of course we had to get food before anything else. I was really excited about the idea of eating PROPER Chinese food in China Town (a welcomed changed from home Chinese food ’cause y’all know that none of the cooks are actually Chinese, lol), but that excitement quickly dwindled when my travel buddy reminded me that it was probably going to be Japanese¬†Chinese food, since we were still in Japan.¬†¬†Aw shucks. The food was okay, nothing to write home about. Regular old egg ¬†and shrimp fried rice.

China Town Entrance

We did some walking around, just taking a look at shops. I was a little bit disappointed with the size of the place. It only stretched to about one street, with side streets jutting off, but I really thought it would have been a lot bigger. Like, oh I don’t know, a TOWN? Lol.

Next on the list of things to do was to visit the Memorial Park. If you didn’t already know, on August 9, 1945, an American warrior let go the atomic bomb “Fat Man” over the city of Nagasaki in Japan. Several thousands were killed, several thousands more were injured. This was all part of World War 2. The park is located at the centre of where the bombing took place, though the bomb never actually hit the ground. Apparently it detonated about 500m above the ground. Read more about it here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

Memorial Symbol at Ground Level of the Centre of the Bombing. Look closely and you’ll notice the offering, including bottles of water, left for the dead.

Peace Symbol. A baby (Japan) being held and nurtured by its mother (other nations of the world) which symbolizes the outpouring of assistance and concern by countries after the attack. The statue symbolizes peace and growth in Japan and the world at large, after the incident.

After the park we headed on over to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. 

Unfortunately we weren’t able to take many pictures at the museum. Above is a picture of the missile which was let off. This was such a sad experience. What stood out most to me were the accounts from children who lived on after the incident. I kept thinking over and over, “war is not the answer, war is not the answer”, though I know, realistically, with the way the word works, it’s just what has to happen sometimes. So many lives lost, so many changed forever. Some of these people live on today with the ever present, ever visible effects of this disaster. There was of course, loss of limbs, immense burning of flesh, and the worst to me, radiation exposure which led to cancers of various kinds. Ridiculous. Can you imagine just a flash of heat and light and the next SECOND, being alone in the world? One man said he remembered his family waving him off the morning as he went to work, and at 11:02 a.m, just a few hours later, that entire family was wiped out. Everyday for a year after that he sat and thought about how and when to commit suicide, and he described how he felt suddenly alone in mid-life.

After the museum we took some rest then headed out in the night to go for, you guessed it, more food. China Town was LOCKED DOWN at 9 p.m.

One of the pretty signs hanging. I think it’s supposed to be just decoration than anything else.

So disappointing, so instead we went to a Japanese restaurant and then did some walking through the streets.

DAY 2

We got up bright and early and went to see the Oura Catholic Church. It is the oldest Church in Japan, with construction taking place between December 1863 and December 1864. On March 17, 1865, the hidden Christians of Nagasaki were discovered there (there were points in history where Christianity was banned in Japan). At the moment, it is not the most widely practiced religion in the country.

Finally (in terms of touring) we went to Glover Garden. What annoyed me about this place was that none of the information was given in English (how ridiculous of me, right? I had gotten so spoiled by English translations everywhere else that I just expected it here as well). I could only walk around and look, but I didn’t understand most of what I was looking at.

Some clothes worn by someone (couldn’t tell because I couldn’t understand anything, maybe the owner and his wife?)

Float Display

This place had a beautiful view of Nagasaki City. I would love to go back there at night.

Finally, to end the day, I went shopping. I didn’t get much, just some autumn-winter items because I don’t want to wait until the cold hits me to start getting myself in order. More about that in another post.

All in all, the trip was great. I loved it. I loved the company, I loved the new people I met (big up Fi!) and of course, I loved the first hand exposure to the history and culture of this wonderful Asian gem. Need to go see Hiroshima too (the site of another atomic bombing).

Take care.

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The First of More to Come

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Quite a number of you have been asking me, or throwing hints here or there, for a blog. Well, I’m a sucker for peer pressure (actually, I’m not…mummy would be so proud, lol) and so I’ve decided to cave and give the masses what they want!

This will NOT be a blog solely about life in Japan. Why? Well, my mind is always running and I feel I could have some input on other topics of discussion. I also think, to be quite honest, that life in Japan is kinda…not that interesting? I mean it’s great don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know if I could come up with a topic frequently with regards to JUST Japan. Comprende? Okay!

I’ve been in Japan since July 24, so that’s just under two months. So far I’ve danced in one festival (they have a festival for EVERYTHING!), been to two fun days, gone to karaoke and listened to HORRIBLE singing LOL, gone to a couple bars, eaten out a million times, been to a club once, been to the beach, and oh…worked. Yeah, almost forgot about that. It’s been good, no complaints yet.

Anyway…

Yesterday was the highly anticipated Drunken Horse Festival. I’d been hearing people talk about it for weeks, and so naturally, I was really interested. Drunk horses? Drunk Japanese people? How AWESOME would that be? I’ve been craving a nice home-like party for a while and so the idea of this festival had me thinking about carnival. What piqued my interest even more was the fact that it was said to be passing right by my house. Wouldn’t have to go far to enjoy. Couldn’t get better than that.

The plan was to go down by about 8 a.m as the festival was passing by the complex but that changed and I ended up not getting to the festival until about 4 p.m, when the place was cooler and I was well rested. As a result I ended up not catching much of the festivities, but I didn’t mind.

There were thousands of festival watchers, and hundreds of people actually in one of the bands. Of course, by this time people were HIGHLY intoxicated (free beer for participants). Men, women and children alike were dancing. I particularly enjoyed the hairstyles on the women. They looked very hip-hop-ish. My favourite style of the day was one little boy with cainrows on the side and then a mohawk in the middle…baaaaad. Each band had its own costume and own music, and there was lots of chanting by one guy and then clapping and responding by everyone else following him. ¬†Music I could not understand (what else is new). Of course, there were the horses, which were not drunk, but they were pretty big! Horses were put in costume too, with some interesting hairstyles to accompany them. I actually felt sorry for them. I mean if you as a human want to spend all day partying fine, but the poor horses must be so tired!

I couldn’t dance (boo for me wanting to get my party fix), but it was fun being part of another festival and enjoying another aspect of the culture. I’ve read that many Japanese actually don’t participate in the festival because they think it promotes hatred towards South Koreans. The tale is that there was a war between the two countries which the Japanese won, and so the festival is a celebration of the defeat. ¬†In the past the festival entailed getting the horses drunk, marching to the shrine, and then at the end the horses would be slaughtered and eaten (basashi¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_meat). Yum. However, that doesn’t happen anymore. No drunk horses, no killing the horses in the end.

All in all, it was a good day. I ended it in Starbucks drinking cocoa and then heading over to a steak house and getting my delicious steak eating on. Yum.

Enjoy the pictures till next time!

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P.S, I’m still learning about this whole blog thing, so give me time, and if you have any suggestions or you see anything that looks *off*, please let me know!