Thursday, 18 November 2010


Thursday 18th November 2010

MP3 track of the day: Safe Passage - The Last Samurai

Weather: Same as yesterday, a cold start followed by a beautiful day.

I woke up to another cold morning ... and fifteen fly bites (umm, looks like something took a fancy to me last night). I had a quick look around my room to see if I could see any possible candidate for the bites but alas, nothing was there. I got ready and was out the door by 9am; after yesterdays semi-chilled out day, I was ready to hit the tourist trail once more. I had decided that today would be split into two sections; firstly I would visit the twelve temples, then climb the small hill, that are located behind my hostel. Hopefully this would take me until around 2pm when I would then head back to my hostel for lunch. After this I would head towards the train station and visit an Onsen, which is located up on the hills, above the city, (more on that later) for a bathe and to watch the sunset before taking photos of Nagasaki at night, as I didn't get round to it yesterday (though I did managed to get my train ticket to Kyoto).

The twelve temples are located on a single straight road behind my hostel; the hostel is in the middle of that road so I decided to head to one end of the road first and work through the temples one-by-one until I got to the other end. First up was a Chinese temple (you can usually tell as they are normally painted in red) which you had to pay 300 yen (£2.50) to enter … flaming Chinese! I decided to pay and it was okay, but it wasn't really worth it. I proceeded to look at all the other temples, for free, in order; only having around five hours to visit twelve temples, I thought I was cutting it fine, however most of the temples consisted of a gate, followed by some steps and only one main building. It only took me two hours to visit all the temples and so I then headed up the hill to Kazagashira Park

Kazagashira Park, named after some Japanese bloke who did something good ages ago, was a very small area, on top of a hill, surrounded by loads of small houses. Again it didn't take me long to walk end-to-end taking in the view and seeing Kazagashira's monument. The view of Nagasaki from up here was pretty good; I thought that if the view from the Onsen wasn't that good, I would come back here, tonight, to photograph the city of Nagasaki.

It was now around 11:30am and I had done everything that I wanted to do this morning; as it was getting close to lunch I headed into the main shopping area where, on my way in I saw a toy shop selling, what looked like Japanese transformer models. I went in and I looked at all the different boxes which held different models; I asked the lady in charge how much one of the models were, to which her reply was that they cost around 3,000 yen (about £23.00). However she did say that they were sold as a kit and not already assembled, but they were painted; this didn't bother me too much as I have assembled kits when I was younger (the smell of the glue when I entered the shop brought back distant memories) however the Japanese instructions and the £23.00 price tag did bother me. I left the shop and decided that, if I see another shop selling the same models on my trip, I would get one (as they are very Japanese), if not then I won't (I might have a look on the internet as well).

After this I went in search of food; I found a 'go-round' restaurant which is very Japanese; guests sit on a giant round table with a moving conveyor belt in front of them. Plates of food travel on this conveyor belt and you just pick a dish that you fancy. All dishes are colour coded and when you are done, you take your empty dishes to the cashier and pay for what you have eaten. I waited for a couple of minutes, soaking in the atmosphere, however the queue for a seat was quite long and there wasn't anything that took my fancy (plus if I got the wrong plate I could end up with a bill for £25.00!).

That was all very interesting, but it didn't solve my hunger problem. Once out of the 'go-around' restaurant I found a sandwich shop which, I thought, was displaying a lunch menu offer of a sandwich (that looked bigger in the photo that in reality), a pastry and a hot drink or 590 yen (£4.20). I decided to take them up on the offer and I joined the queue. Once I got a the cashier I had in front of me what I thought was part of the 'meal deal' however I got charged 850 yen. Not knowing the Japanese for 'hang on pal, the meal deal in the shop window said 590 yen … what's going on?' I smiled and paid the extra £2; once sat down I saw the advertisement again and, as I ate my food, I felt like I had been done like a kipper.

I still wasn't full and so I headed to a small supermarket where I purchased some chocolate along with other snacks for my train ride to Kyoto tomorrow. To stop me spending even more money I headed back to the hostel (stopping at another convenience store to get a litre bottle of orange juice) where I met some of the staff having their lunch. We chatted for a while and then I looked at the photos I had already taken today.

After this I got ready for my Onsen experience (a 'must do whilst' visiting Japan). Last night I chatted to a British guy who had just been to the Onsen; he said that, first of all, you wash in a small shower cubical where you must soap, and rinse, before entering the actual Onsen. Onsen's are split male / female which is handy, as you bath in the nude. I packed my towel, swimming gear (just encase) and my camera and tri-pod so that I could take photos of Nagasaki, at night, from the top of the hill after my bath. The British guy also said that you could put your feet into a tank of water while fish ate the dead skin off them; this was quite funny as you can now get this done in my home town's shopping center, however I've been on my feet for three months and so I thought that I might give this a whirl.

At 4pm I headed to the train station where I would pick up a free shuttle bus to the Onsen complex. I was in luck when I saw the shuttle bus, which leaves the train station every thirty minutes, waiting at the train station. There was no driver in the bus and so I waited inline with what I thought was the queue. After about five minutes the shuttle bus left without me, or any of people from said queue. I soon realized, that the queue I was in was for another service and so I waited thirty minutes for the next shuttle. The bus ride was uneventful and long, stopping on every road we drove down. Once at the complex I first had to put my shoes in a locker (which I actually thought was a locker for all my stuff and I wondered how I was going to fit my bag in the locker. When I saw a lady take her bags into the complex with her I realized that their must be other lockers) and I then queued to get in. I was served by a nice lady who provided me with written instructions in English. She gave me an elasticated wrist band with an electronic tag on; I could use the tag to purchase items and services by scanning things and the tag would tally up what I had done, or bought, and I would pay the bill at the end … I was looking forward to trying this electronic tag thingy.

The lady pointed me up the stairs onto the second floor. Before heading up the stairs I noticed that there were many different rooms on the ground floor where you could have a massage, watch TV in a very relaxing chair or have your feet eaten by fish (cool) by using your electronic tag to pay for these services. I ignored all of these additional services and continued upstairs. Upstairs there were two doors, one male and one female. Having gone through the male door I was in a room with loads of lockers; as I wasn't sure if this was the area where I had to get my kit off I went to a row of lockers where there was another guy and I observed quickly. As it turned out this was the area to get nude and so I did so; I went through the same door the guy I had observed had gone through.

I arrived in another room with lots of shower cubicles with lots of naked Japanese men in; still feeling a little uncomfortable I elected a shower cubical where there wasn't too many others around and I got down to the business off washing myself with soap and rinsing (making sure I occasionally held one of my arms or legs outside the cubical so the Japanese knew I was doing things correctly). Eventually I made it to the Onsen baths; there were a couple of baths inside however I headed for the ones outside. It's quite a strange feeling being on the top of a hill, on the top floor of a building, outside at night, in the Japanese Autumn totally naked; I quickly made my way into the nearest onsen which was set at forty-one degrees. The water was lovely and the view over Nagasaki, with the sun setting, was pretty impressive. I forgot all of my uncomfortable feelings and just laid back and relaxed in the hot water. I was glad that the Onsen company had been so thoughtful; as you can imagine, news of me naked in a bath could cause chaos around the world with women grid-locking the streets of Nagasaki trying to get a glimpse, women trying to re-route planes to Nagasaki and train drivers being held to ransom unless they meet the women's demands. No luckily the Onsen had decided to keep my arrival 'low key' which was a good thing.

I tried many baths, all set at forty-one degrees, apart from one which was set at eighteen. After about thirty minutes I left the hot baths and went for a quick dip in the eighteen degree bath which, after finding out how cold eighteen degrees is compared to forty-one, became a very quick dip indeed. At this point I was pretty much ready to go, I had enjoyed my experience but I couldn't stay in the hot water any longer. I was encouraged, when I got back to my locker to get changed, to find that the same people who I had seen as I was going into the Onsen were also coming out at the same time as me; this meant that I had spent the correct amount of time in the baths, totally by accident.

Once changed I kept my socks off and headed down stairs to put my feet in the water with the fish for ten minutes. When the attendant opened the lid a whole swarm of small fish headed my way as they must have known lunch was on its way; I slowing put my feet in the tank (as not to crush the fish) and, at first, the experience felt funny. Soon I was relaxed and I even lifted my feet onto the ball so that the fish could eat the dead skin from underneath; it felt as though hundreds of little sprays of water where hitting my feet at the same time and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My ten minutes where up very quickly and so I slowly took my feet out of the water, dried them off, and inspected them. Running my hand over my feet they felt slightly silky and a lot more healthier than before. I put my shoes on and, as I hadn't used the electronic tag thing (the Onsen costs automatically went onto my account and the lady took my electronic tag away from me to put the 'fishy feet' charge onto it) yet I went to a vending machine to purchase a can of coke. My feet, obviously enjoyed the fish thing, didn't want to walk and so it felt a little weird walking to the vending machine.

After I finished my can I paid my 1,650 yen bill (£12.50) and headed out, into the car park to take some photos of Nagasaki at night (I had to shoot through a metal wired fence though) before getting back on the free shuttle bus and returning to Nagasaki train station. Once there I went onto the pedestrian foot bridge and, once again, I took quite a few photos of Nagasaki at night (this time focusing at street level) before grabbing some tea and heading back to my hostel. I had enjoyed my Onsen experience and it certainly is a must when visiting Japan, however I still prefer the baths in Budapest as a) the buildings are a lot more interesting 2) there are many more baths set at different temperatures and d) you can wear a swimming costume.

I've enjoyed my time in Nagasaki; in a hectic two week tour of Japan it's been kind of relaxing here, though I would probably only spend two nights next time. Tomorrow I catch the 8:30am train to Kyoto arriving at 2pm, meaning that I have to be up by 6am. Next stop Kyoto and my stay in a Ryokan!

Toodle Pip

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