Thursday, September 25, 2008


Kyushu: the third largest island of Japan; located southwest of the main Honshu Island; cities include the infamous Nagasaki, up and coming Fukuoka, and Navy base, Sasebo; and the place I spent the last three days of my life. 

It all started with some Mexaneese food, or as Courtney (my good Sado-Island travel buddy friend) would put it, “great travel food” in Niigata City.  An 8-hour overnight train to shin-Osaka, followed by a 3-hour shinkansen to Fukuoka would follow.  All great journeys have to start with a funny phrase to reminisce on throughout the rest of the trip, and ours came right at the start.  We probably should have expected to run into drunk salary-men on a train platform on a Friday night.  As we were patiently awaiting our 10:55pm train, we caught his eye.  He proceeded to invite us over and over again to his house in Sanjo, where he promised us that his very nice wife would cook for us.  Courtney, being the people watcher that she is, allowed me to handle this whole situation (even though he was really talking to her) while she stood in silent amusement.  This is how the translated conversation went:

“Come to my house in Sanjo.” salary-man

“We don’t want to go.” me

“Come to my house in Sanjo.” salary-man

“We don’t want to go.” me

“Why?” salary-man

“Because we don’t want to go.” Me

“But why?” salary-man

“Because we need to catch another train, and we don’t want to go.” Salary-man

“Buy why?” salary-man

“Because you’re scary” me

“Fine, if you don’t want to come, then don’t come.  How could you be Japanese and the number one mean person!?!” salary-man


In reality, this conversation repeated itself a lot more before he called me the number one mean Japanese person, and actually involved a couple other people on the platform who tried to help the salary-man translate until they figured out what was going on, but all in all, it was HILLARIOUS and I was called the ‘number-one mean Japanese person’ for the rest of the trip.  

So anyways, the overnight train was uncomfortable as heck, but also cheap as heck so we really can’t complain AT ALL.  Sierra and Cate drove all the way from Saza to pick us up in Fukuoka. Fukuoka is a relatively new city, but man oh man is it booming!!  I mean, when a city has an Apple store, you know that they’ve either already made it, or are on their way to the top.  A typhoon was supposed to rip through southern Japan this weekend, but found out that Courtney and I were visiting, so decided to change direction and allow for some PERFECT weather.  While northern Japan is quickly showing signs of fall, Kyushu still has the electric lime green rice fields of the summer.  We spent the day in Fukuoka eating tons of bread, then immediately eating tons of Japanese lunch, followed by tons of shopping, tons of Starbucks jelly coffee frappuccino, tons more shopping, and then tons of DELICIOUS FUKUOKA RAMEN!!!  Sierra was awesome enough to house all three of us.  Being able to stretch out on a flat futon could NOT have felt more glorious!!

YES!!  we MADE it to FUKUOKA!!
'Tick or Treat'
Coffee Jelly Frappuccino...DELISH
Fukuoka Ramen

Sunday…it was Sunday right?  (The over night train made it was a little difficult to keep track of the days).  Yes, Sunday was NAGASAKI City!!!  Well before the drive down, we had to fill our already stuffed bellies with more delicious breakfast food and breakfast drink bar green-tea-lattes and mocha-lattes.  Then Sierra took us to this beautiful mountain drive then hike-up-tons-of-stairs lookout over the beautiful Saza.  It was spectacular, really spectacular. 

Now onto Nagasaki.  Nagasaki City was full of history until the nuclear bomb, ‘Fat Man’ flattened it, which, in turn gave it even more history.  Located on a long, natural harbor, and surrounded by steep hills and mini-mountains, throughout Japan’s long period of isolation, was one of the few cities open to trade with the west.  First it was Portugal, then China, the Netherlands, and then in more recent history, America, Britain and so on, up until the Second World War.  Some of the islands off the coast of Nagasaki are actually closer to Korea than they are to one of the main islands of Japan.  With more foreign influence than the rest of the country has been exposed to, colorful Chinese temples, Catholic Churches, and European-style houses pop up amidst the traditional Japanese clay tiled roofing.  We started with Nagasaki Peace Park, then moved on to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, where many hours were spent reading, looking, and thinking about what kind of world this was 60 years ago.  We needed a break and a cleansing of the soul after all that, so headed to a little shrine at one part of the city.  After all the sightseeing, what better way to celebrate Nagasaki than with the famous Nagasaki Champon noodle soup?!  The noodles were a cross between ramen and udon, the soup tasted a little Chinesie and a little Japanesie, and the whole thing was loaded with vegetables and sea food – SPECTACULAR!!

Monday, our final day on the island of Kyushu, was spent in Sasebo.  I guess Sasabo can be described as a little city, cute shops and food (Tanuki Udon (the greatest fast-food udon establishment EVER), Mr. Donuts, Starbucks, and Baskin Robins.).  It’s also where one of the US Navy bases is located and shows its western influence with the famous ‘Sasebo Burgers.’  The burger I got was a true burger with beef, lettuce, tomato, catsup, mayo, onions, AND an egg.  Oh yeah, and I almost didn’t forget to mention the Kyujukyushima, or 99 Island boat tour.  Actually there were 208, but apparently in Japanese, 99 can be used to refer to ‘many’ of anything.  The weather was perfect, the boat ride was relaxing and gorgeous, and the company was fabulous.  The mini-cruise gave us the idea to scout a little beach spot out afterwards which ended up being equally fantastic.  Words really can’t do it justice, and neither can the orange point-and-shoot camera that I own.  But seriously I LOVE Kyushu, and ehem, Barbi: this is Sasebo, you’re next choice for stationing, WOOT!!

Navy Base in Sasebo

Monday night to Tuesday morning was a repeat of the long and uncomfortable night train ride, on which I was able to sleep most of the way and poor Courtney was left jealous watching me sleep.  We spent Tuesday morning to afternoon homeless, living out of Niigata Station’s public restroom and lockers until the Niigata Albirex Soccer game!!  Courtney and I made sure to show up with Albirex orange gear.  In order to accomplish this, Courtney would spot a person wearing an Albirex shirt, tell me to ask them where they got it, and I would.  Eventually we found a doll shop where she got a scarf and a flag while I got a child’s jersey type shirt.  The game was intense, goal Niigata, goal Kobe, goal Niigata, goal Kobe, GOAL NIIGATA!!!  Laura, Jon, Courtney, and I were able to pick up on some of the chants and songs that were sung in unison by the Albirex fans ALL game long.  “Ore no Ni-igata!!”

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