Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Japan 2018

Full speed ahead for Nagasaki

We awoke today to find that almost every surface in the room was covered in a thin layer of volcanic ash, those close to the windows being worst affected. We had to assume that our respiratory systems were likely to be similarly affected - the perils of travel!

After finding an alternative coffee shop for breakfast, following the previous day's disappointing experience, we packed and made sure we were ready in plenty of time to catch the first leg of our two-part train journey to our next destination, Nagasaki. For both of us, the initial leg was to be our first experience of the Shinkansen, Japan's high-speed train, still probably better known in the English-speaking world as the 'Bullet Train'. Even before boarding, I was intrigued by the leading vehicle's 'duck-billed platypus' appearance, undoubtedly so designed for aerodynamic effect.

I was hugely impressed by the train's performance, attributable at least in part to the straight and level nature of the track: multiple tunnelled sections were very much the order of the day. The ride was exceptionally smooth, very quiet and stunningly fast. I managed to get a few photos, despite the high speed and poor weather.

We changed trains at Shin-Tosu. That's not a place; it's the new Shinkansen station in the city of Tosu, located about half an hour from Fukuoka. (Had this been France, it would have been called 'Tosu TGV'.) Our second train, while certainly not a Shinkansen, was also technologically impressive. Despite having a major city at either end, the line between Fukuoka and Nagasaki often seems rural in character,and twists and turns incessantly. In order to make the best of the existing line, JR has deployed tilting trains on the route. Bruce didn't care for the seats in the Green Car, which admittedly had something of an 'office' feel. We both enjoyed the ability to see through the driver's cab and out of the front windscreen, a feature that was somewhat mysteriously lost when the train was stopped at a station, when the inner partition automatically turned opaque. I was intrigued by the way that the driver constantly pointed at signals, or anything else that he was checking. We could only assume that his entire time at the controls was being recorded on closed-circuit television.

Destination Facts: Nagasaki
- In a similar manner to Kagoshima, the name Nagasaki can refer to both a city and to the wider prefecture of which the city is the capital.
- The city was founded in the late 16th century by the Portuguese. It retains a significant Christian heritage to this day.
- The current population is approximately 426,000.
- Nagasaki is one of wettest cities in Japan.
- Nagasaki has a list of sister cities around the world, of which Hiroshima (Japan) and Porto (Portugal) are perhaps the most notable.
- At 11:02 on 9 August 1945, Nagasaki became the second (and at the time of writing, the last) city in the world to experience a nuclear attack. Tens of thousands of deaths occurred instantly, with many more over the following four months.
- The modern city works tirelessly to spread the message of peace.

Our arrival in Nagasaki was precisely on-schedule, at 1250. We expected simply to be dropping our bags off at the hotel, but in the event were given immediate access to our room. Intriguingly, an ice-cream festival was going on in the station forecourt. From our room, we spotted what looked like a 'food street' across the main road and tram tracks, so we made our way over there to seek out a slightly late lunch. Our search concluded when we discovered a restaurant called Akatuki, where we initially enjoyed a mixed offering of rice, sashimi, vegetables, chicken, and miso soup, all washed down with beer. Served a little later than the other items was a local speciality: Nagasaki-style braised pork.

The plan for what remained of the afternoon was to make an ascent of Mount Inasa on the cable car, and take in the view of the city from the top. Despite the earlier poor weather and lingering mist, there were signs that conditions were improving, so we decided to cross our fingers and push ahead with the plan. We walked to the cable car base station, about 2km away on the opposite bank of the Uragami river. Much of the route was adjacent to the railway tracks, and we saw lots of work taking place in preparation for a planned extension of Shinkansen service to Nagasaki.

Finally arriving at the cable car base station, we had time for a brief visit to the adjacent Fuchi Shrine prior to making the ascent. It looked as though we were going to be the only passengers for the ascent, until we were joined at the last minute by a young German from Berlin, who would later turn out to be a 'vlogger' - that's video blogger, if you're not up to speed with these things! Our gamble in making the journey paid off, and we were rewarded with some fine views across the city and the surrounding area.

We had the cable car to ourselves for the descent. We walked back to our new base via a (deliberately) longer route, passing close to the hotel on the Uragami riverside walkway, then looping back to arrive at the station from the opposite direction.

After a short rest, we set out in search of pre-dinner drinks and found ourselves in the unlikely setting of an Irish bar, somewhat unimaginatively named The Irish Pub. It was a bit weird, being decorated with a mixture of Irish and Scottish imagery. Our first drink, part of the 'Happy Hour' promotion, was terrible - like a very watery whisky and soda. I am ashamed to say that the cheap-tasting spirit apparently hailed from Edinburgh.   Determined not to repeat the mistake, we then ordered 'Gimlet' cocktails from the regular menu, and these turned out to be excellent.

Finally, we returned to the station mall in search of dinner. We opted for Menya Always, where the speciality was Ramen.

Wed 23 May

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