My name is Josh Dolphin and I am about to start my second year at the University of Alabama (the best school ever). Somewhere during the first crazy year, I started doing research with a great professor of chemistry name Dr. Arduengo. To make a long story short, I am now continuing the research in Japan at Hiroshima University. It should be some adventure especially since I know no one and I don't speak a word of Japanese. I guess we'll have to see if I make it through the entire two months.
Well, I made it through the night, and, to my disappointment, there was no knock on the door in the middle of the night telling me that the mountain was about to blow. I was holding out hope, but that didn’t happen, and when I woke up, the same little cloud was still blocking my view of the peak of the volcano. I did make it up for the sunrise, but soon went back to sleep for about an hour before heading back to Kagoshima. The ferry goes across the bay 24 hours a day, but the busses in the tourist areas had not started yet (it was still pretty early). I found the bus stop that I had used earlier, and figured out that I could make it halfway to the train station before the buses started. I started walking and after about 30 minutes of walking the fairs wheel came into view and I knew that I was getting close.
This was my view of sunrise from the end of the hall of the youth hostel
I got son the express train, and then decided that I would make a quick stop in Kirishima on the way to Miyazaki. I jumped on the local train, and then on the bus to the famous shrine in Kirishima. It was about a 20 minute ride, even though it was a tiny town, but I was soon hiking the short distance through the wood to Kirishima-jinja Shrine. It was one of the largest shrines that I have seen since I have been in Japan. I took a few pictures, but I was only there for about 20 minutes before I decided to head back down to the bus stop. I had wanted to go find some waterfalls that I had seen in a travel magazine I got in Kagoshima, but nobody could figure out where they were. I decided to go to the Kirishima information desk and see if they knew anything. He could not tell me any information about that, but he did tell me that I would have to wait over an hour for the bus to come to take me to the train station. Then, I would have to wait another hour at the train station to catch the local train out of Kirishima. So much for a short little pit stop.
After waiting the hour for the local train, I made it to the next large station where I could get on the express train again. I didn’t get into Miyazaki till it was already 4:30 and the Ocean Dome, which I had really wanted to see (it is the world’s largest indoor water park and only 2,000 yen ($20)), closed at 5:00. The lady at the information desk could see that I was really disappointed, and made the suggestion to take the train south to Aoshima Island. It was already late so I just grabbed a train timetable and ran back to the train terminal. While I was on the train headed for Aoshima Station, I realized that the train situation was as bad as in Kirishima, and because I realized that, I wouldn’t be able to go to Beppu anymore. Now I was really frustrated with myself. The only good thing was that I had found a night train I could take back to the northern part of the island and I wouldn’t have to pay for a motel (I have to be in Miyajima by tomorrow afternoon and that is why I couldn’t do either of these things in the morning).
I decided I would walk around the beach near Aoshima till I had to get to the night train at 11:45 in Miyazaki. While I was walking along the beach, I realized that I had been carrying my swimming trunks around Kyushu the entire weekend in hopes of staying at a hotel with a pool, and had not used them once. I found something that looked like a restroom, but, just my luck all day, there was only Japanese writing on the entrances (no little stick figures with and without a dress). Of course it was in the middle of nowhere, and I could tell that the only person in sight wouldn’t speak any English and I was right. I finally managed to a get him to point to one side, and that was good enough for me. I got changed and walked down the beach, and I had been walking so long, I wasn’t even sure exactly where I was anymore. Then, to my surprise I found a white guy walking down to the water, and decided that I would ask him because he might be the only person that would find that would speak any English there.
Here is sunset from the bridge to Aoshima
We headed over to the friend’s house, and it turned out that he was German to and he was famous in the area for making pottery. After we all talked for a while, we decided that the night train would probably be the best option. I offered to take me back to Miyazaki, but I just wanted a ride back to the island (earlier, I went a bit further on the train because I knew I would have extra time, and decide I would just walk back to the island). We made it there just in time to see the sunset. I walked across the bridge and took a quick walk around the island. It was small, but I knew if I didn’t walk to fast it would be pitch black before I got back to civilization. It was a nice walk and I could see the waves crashing against the reefs.
I headed back to the train station, but since I had read the time table wrong, I had to wait half an hour for the train. I decided that I would get out at the first train stop in Miyazaki and walk back to the main station because I still had quite a while before it would be 11:45. I found something to eat and then went into Mr. Doughnut, because they were the only place open. I bought a few doughnut and found a table near a power outlet and started trying to catch up on the blog entries that I completed. I finally got on the train at 11:30, and found that I could have been using my computer the entire trip on the train. This was the only train that I had made reservation, and I had been put in the first seat, which has a little bit less space than the others. I soon that that there was a little outlet, which made up for the lack of space. Now that I am done with this entry I am going to bed because it is already after midnight and we will arrive back at Hakata station at about 6 tomorrow morning.
Till next time,
Busses - 2
Trains – 7
Shrine – 1
hot springs – 1
Boats - 1
Oceans - 1
Islands - 1
From the train station, I took an express train the short distance to the Shinkansen station. I took the newest Shinkansen in Japan to Kagoshima. I was very nice on the outside and inside. Even though I was just in the regular non-reserved car, it felt like first class. This train was even faster than the express trains, and after only one stop, we were soon in Kagoshima. From there, I was not sure exactly what I wanted to do, but it was too early to go to the hotel and check in. I knew that I wanted to go to the southern point of the island, but at the information desk, the lady told me that that it would take a few hours to on a train, then half an hour on a boat, and finally another couple hours on a bus. I would then have to do all that in the reverse order. I decided instead I would just look around Kagoshima. I took a city tour bus (it gave an automated tour in English and Japanese) to the observation point for Sakurajima. Sakurajima is an active volcano and the main reason I wanted to go to southern Kyushu. To my disappointment, even though the sky was clear, there was one cloud around the top of the mountain, so I couldn't see the peak. The breeze was blowing, and the clouds were always moving, but the clouds stayed around the peak the entire afternoon. I left the observation point, and took the bus down to the ferry port and paid the small 150 yen fee.
When I got to the information center at the other side of the bay, I found out that there was a youth hostel it was only 2650 yen per night. That sounded good so I decided to check it out and see if it was late enough to check in. It was only a ten minute walk from the port, but it was still very hot and the ten minutes took forever. I got to the hostel and the lady at the desk didn’t speak a word of English, but I still was able to get a room. It was a very new experience for me. It was the first time I have gotten a hotel room, and not gotten a key. I went up to my room and picked out my bed from the eight bunk beds in the room. There was an air conditioner, but I could not find any controls to turn it on so I unloaded my clothes and computer (I figured it was safe because there was not another person in the entire building), and I left the room and headed to the visitor center. It was already five and the center was closed so I just looked around the lava field by myself.
I knew that I later wanted to go to Beppu which is a famous stop for hot springs. I had never been so I decided to go to a small hot spring place here that was almost empty. I made my way to the back and found the men’s side of the hot spring. There were two guys leaving, and there was only one left in the main room. I had read on the internet that you are supposed to shower first, and only get in the actual hot spring after you are completely clean. I started washing, but I guess that I was not washing nearly hard enough. An old man, the only person in the place, came over to me and took my washcloth and showed my by washing my back as hard as he could. My neighbor had that had lived in Japan had tol this was not completely unusual, but I was happy enough when he was satisfied and went back to his own stool. From then on, I scrubbed as hard as I could. There were two differen areas with water coming in from the hot springs, and then another smaller area off to the side. The other man had finished washing before me and I saw that that he would get in one, and then jump in the one off to the side and then get back into the first one. He went back and forth a few times then left, and I decided to get in the first one. It was much hotter than most of the hot tubs I have been in before. I then went and hoped in my the one off to the side, and silly me, I didn’t feel it or anything before I went in. But it took me about a quarter of a second to realize that it was cold water. Only then did I look in the back corner and see the blue colored faucet. I went back to the first one and to my surprise, it now felt much less hot than the first time. I now got up my nerves, and went to the other main area in the room. It seemed like it wad another ten or fifteen degrees hotter than the first one. I was glad that I was alone now because I only lasted there for about 30 seconds before it got too hot for me. I stayed in the cooler of the two for the rest of the time till I decided to leave.
I ran back to the hotel to drop off my dirty/sweaty clothes before going back to the waterfront to watch the sunset. After I walked down the path till I even found a “beach.” It looked like they had just brought a few truckloads of sand in and put a sidewalk around it. It was still very nice. I had my iPod, so I turned on some Jamaican music and pretended that I was on a beach in the Caribbean. Since I was going to be able to go to bed so early, I wanted to get up see the sunrise. I had asked another girl for a good spot when I dropped off my cloths, and decided to check it out now before it was completely dark. It was a long hike, and I just decided that I would be able to just see the sunrise for the end of the hall and the view was almost as good. I got some microwave pizza, and heated it up before heading up to my room (there was now one other guest, but I still had the entire room to myself), and trying to catch up on my blog entries. It is just too bad that there is no internet here. Well, it is time for bed now, and I have to sleep now if I ever want to make it up for sunrise.
Busses - 2
Streetcars – 2
Trains – 2
Castle – 1
Volcanos – 1
hot springs – 1
Boats - 1
Buses – 5
Trains – 14
Trams – 2
Castle – 2
Bridge – 2
Streetcars – 5
Subways – 2
Museums – 2
Volcanos – 1
Hot Springs – 1
Boats - 1
Well, another busy day has almost come to an end. It is especially sad to see this day go because I didn't get t o go to half of the places I had planned to. I missed the Village that was created to look like Holland in the 1700’s (actually I stopped for about ten minutes, but all I saw was the end of the fireworks show and they were already closed. Oh well, I guess I will just have to come back some time. I could have spent the night there, but by the looks of the hotel, there was no way that I would be able to afford it. I also missed Sasebo, which is where the U.S. Navy has a naval base. I just read about it in the news because there was a new anti missile ship came in the last couple of days. Having said all that, I got to many places.
I started off the day a little late (I was on the internet too late last night trying planning the day) by going to the US consulate. For some reason, I had the idea that they would be open seven days a week. I was wrong, and all I found when I got there was a bunch of Japanese police wearing bullet proof vests. I didn't see a single American in or around the place. I wasn't a completely lost excursion; the consulate was right across the street from a park. The park had a lake with a beautiful bridge to an island. I could have rented a paddle boat in the shape of a swan, but I decide to pass this time. The best part of the park was the band. When I got off the subway, I heard the bass drum almost immediately, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from. As I came into the park, I could see that there was a marching band going down the path away from me. I followed if for a while, but I wasn't catching up very fast, and they were going on the opposite direction of the consulate. After I walked around the consulate and realized that it was closed, I walked back into the park just in time to see the band coming towards me. They had gone all the way around the lake, but just as I started to get close, they stopped for a water break. I waited for them to get water and then they lined up again. The conductor gave a few commands in Japanese, but they were obviously very similar to the commands that we used at my high school. The funniest part was when he started them marching because he said "mark-time mark," which is the exact term that we use. It seemed like a very mixed group, some of them could have been in middle school while others looked like they were eight or nine years old (it might have just been my perception). One thing they did have in common was their instruments. Beside the base drum and a snare, everyone was either playing a recorder, or a strange instrument that was held like a saxophone, but had keys exactly like a little electric piano. I followed them as I made my way back to the subway, and pretty soon, they had a whole line of little kids marching along behind them.
I took the subway back to Hakata Station where I got on express train for a short time before taking a local train to Yoshinogari. The experience was different than traveling on the main island because instead of very old, very slow trains, even the local trains were quite fast and had leather seat pads and head rests. I arrived at Yoshinogari and it was so hot. I had been worrying that it would be raining the entire time I was in Kyushu, but instead it was almost as humid as Alabama and the temperature was higher. I got off at a shiny new train station (also unusual for such a small town), started trying to find the way to get to Yoshinogari.
As soon as I found the large map of the area, a lady came up and asked if I was trying to get to Yoshinogari. She gave me directions and for 200 yen kept my backpack for me (I of course removed the large envelope with my money and passport and stuck it behind my belt). I walked to 700 meters to the Yoshinogari, and that it was a very English friendly place. They had a talking guide for both Japanese and English so, even though I couldn't read the signs, the signs would be read to me. Yoshinogari was one of the first settlements in Japan and was thought to be inhabited almost 1700 years ago. From all the archeological information that had been found on the site as well as information from around Japan during the same time period, Yoshinogari was reconstructed as accurately as possible to look like the town as it did back then. There are even people playing role of people that would have lived at the time. The was one lady weaving, and another cooking traditional foods; she even offered everyone tea. I am not sure what kind of tea it was, but the bottom fourth of the cup was filled with something solid. The funny thing was that it tasted more like American tea than the Japanese tea I have started to become used to. I was walking back to the visitor center when I decided to pull the envelope with all my important papers out. To my horror, the entire cardboard envelope was soaked all the way through (like I said, it was very hot and I had been in the sun for the past hour). The only thing that wasn't wet was my passport. As I tried to dry everything out, I realized that I had about five minutes to get back to the train station or I would have to wait another hour for a train. I now jogged all the way back in my dark jeans and my dark blue shirt, and I think it is safe to say that the passport would have been gone too by the time I got back to the train station if I hadn't carried the envelope back. I made it back and felt l was going to die and I had just enough time to catch my breath before the train showed up.
I took the local train for a few minutes before hoping back on the express train headed for Nagasaki. This trip was long than I expected, but it gave me time for a nice little nap. We arrived in Nagasaki, and I soon found the information office and got an English map of the city and got directions in half English, half Japanese, which I am beginning to understand (nobody understands that I don't know a single word of Japanese, so I just nod along and get most of what they are saying from their had gestures). I jumped on the street car bound for the Nagasaki Peace Park. I accidently passed the stop so I had a little hike to get back to it. The main statue was enormous, very large and water was flowing all around it.
I looked around a while before heading over to the Atomic Bomb museum. Half of the museum was about the bomb that hit Nagasaki, and the other half was for nuclear warfare in general and all the bad affects it has had on humans. Neither part was very pro-American, and even claimed that the president knew that Japan was already going to surrender and used both bombs to justify all the money spent on the Manhattan Project. As in Hiroshima, there were many accounts from different survivors, both Japanese and foreign. These stories were all very moving, and some of the pictures were hard to look at for more than a glimpse. In the second part of the museum, they had videos of people from around the world that had been affected my radiation. There people from Russia, Germany, and even a lady from the US that had lived in Nevada near one of the test sites, and had three miscarriages so far. There was also a timeline of atomic research from countries around the world and the years that the thousands of atomic and nuclear bomb tests since the mid 1940s. I never realized the huge number of tests that had been performed both by the US, and by other countries around the world. The US alone has detonated over 600 atomic/nuclear weapons since the first one in New Mexico over 60 years ago. The museum finished with the current promises from countries around the world to reduce the number of weapons, but told that it was still not nearly enough.
By the time that I finished the tour of the museum, it was already 6:00 but I still wanted to see the Glove garden, which had once been the garden of Thomas Glover. I had actually never heard of him, but all the pictures I had seen showed the garden to be a very beautiful place. I got good directions, but it still took me over 45 minutes to finally find the place, only to find that it had closed at 6:00. I went all the way back to the train station to find out that since I had made that extra trip, I had missed all the express trains, and I had to take a local train to Sasebo. While I was on the train I was talking (or making lot of hand gestures) to a lady, I managed to learn that I would only have 20 minutes in Sasebo before the last rain, local or otherwise, would leave for the night. I had planned to go to Sasebo and then toHuis Ten Bosch, but the main reason I wanted to go to Sasebo was so that I could use the ATM on the Naval Base (I read online that I could use my ATM card there). There was no way that I could get to the base and back to the station even if they let me on the base (which I was still not too sure they would do), so I decided to just go to Huis Ten Bosch.
Because of the fact that it was a local train, it took about twice as long as the express train and by the time that I got to Huis Ten Bosch, they had locked the gates too. I could have stayed the night, but by the looks of the hotel, it would have taken all the money I had for the one night. I did make if for the very end of the fireworks show which was a nice treat, and while I was walking back to the station, I met some Americans. It was quite obvious by the loud English and after finding out that they were marines from the base I started asking them about getting on the base. The girl said that they could probably sign me on to the base, but while talking to them I found that the guy had used his ATM card from a small credit union fine at the ATM in the post office, just not very many other places. This meant that I didn't have to go to Sasebo, and I still had time to get off the train after a few stops and transfer to a train that would at least be in the direction of where I had planned to stay for the night. I had a nice conversation in English for the part of the trip that we were on the same train and learned that the guys "old man" lived in New Mexico, and he had traveled all around during the summers while he was younger. He had even been to Roswell a few times, and commented about how big of a deal the town makes of the UFO incident (he even mentioned the alien street lights).
After saying a short good-bye, I hopped on the next local train that was headed for Tosu, where I figured I would spend the night. It was a good place because, from there, I could take an express train right to Kumamoto where I had originally wanted to stay. The ride on the local train was very long (I had already gotten spoiled by the express trains), but I finally made it to Tosu. To my surprise, there were still express trains running to Kumamoto, even though the ones on the other line had stopped many hours earlier. I decided that I would take the train so I would not start out the next day behind schedule. This meant though that I didn't arrive in Kumamoto till after 12, but I had already looked up a hotel so I thought that I was still ok.
I walked out of the station, but the hotel was not where it was supposed to be. I walked into the first hotel that was close to where I thought the other one should have been, but learned the rooms were 11,000 yen ($110) per night, when the one I was looking for had single rooms for 4,500 yen. I asked man at the desk if there were any places cheaper close by and he was very helpful and gave me a map and suggested the Route Inn across the street, where the rooms where 5,000-6,000 per night. I was studied the map while I walked across the street, and found a name that looked very familiar. The internet said that the hotel was 3 minutes walking distance from the station so I decide I would save the money and just go to the one I had planned on. After wandering around the streets of Kumamoto for about 30 minutes I finally gave up. I turned around and headed back to the station, and finally decide to ask a girl riding her bike down the street for help. She couldn't understand too much, so she called someone on her cell phone and between the three of us, she said that she thought she knew of a place for about 5,500 and I would have been happy that now even though I was quickly running out of money. We went in and soon found out that the rooms were over 7,000 yen, but he called the Route Inn and told us that they had rooms for 5,500 so I thanked the girl and headed over. When I finally got to the room it was already past 1 am, and I was dead tired from hiking around all day. I started this blog entry, but was way too tired to finish it and just went to bed.
Till next time,
JoshClick for Map
Buses – 3
Trains – 12
Trams – 2
Castle – 1
Bridge – 2
Streetcars – 3
Subways – 2
Museums – 2