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I <3 nagasaki ?

Hey everyone :emoji_smile: How has everyone been? I got home yesterday to from Kyushuu and while the weather was breezy and warm it began pouring with rain as I reached the Nagoya Bullet train terminal...lol! I thought ahhh good old Nagoya. Originally I thought since Japan was such a small country that getting from one side to another wouldnt take too long...my how my perception has changed since I got here. From Nagoya (which is in the middle of the main island of Honshuu) to Fukuoka (the "capital" of the south main island of Kyushuu) it took over three hours almost non stop on a train that can reach speeds of 200km. I can only imagine how long it would take by bus. My destination in Kyushuu was a place called Goto Retto五島列島。 An island about 1.5 hours from Nagasaki city, Kyushuu. From Fukuoka, however I took a night ferry ride that lasted about 7.5 hours! I had never really travelled by boat before so I thought for sure I would get seasick but it turned out I was fine. Unfortunately though there were lots of seasick kids on my ferry so you could here them vomit into bags...which made it all the more pleasant...

Anyway I arrived at Goto Retto and the first thing you think is WOW there are a lot of hills. for as far as you can see there are nothing but hills of forests and homes and boats are concentrated along the coast line. The weather there was cloudy but warm and I could feel a cool breeze. This was miles away different from Nagoya. When I looked at a map i was almost halfway to Korea haha. The roads are small and winding, when moving past another car you could fit a pin in between the two cars. It was that tight. There arent many shops, there is a single convenience store, supermarket and of course Pachinko parlour (for those that dont know what pachinko is: its in a similar vein to Pokies/slot machines but very very different). Of course what also strikes you is how incredibly quiet it is. In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the cities this felt like a place where time stood still and that little has changed...and little will change in the future. Boats and fisherman line the shores in the early morning as they set off for the morning catch and you feel like you have stepped back in time, long before the steam rollers, high rises and bright shining lights of the big cities.

Another difference is the dialect spoken here. It was so thick! I had heard of some Kyushuu ben before but this was different to that even. My friend had to translate our guide's Japanese across to me back in standard Japanese in which of course had to be translated to english in my brain hahaha so I'm sure something would have gotten lost in the translation. This place was Sachiko's (my Japanese friend) hometown and so we stayed at her grandmothers old home which is currently lived in by her great uncle's son's family. The island is famous for four things: Salt, Fish (particularly squid or ika), udon noodles and surprisingly: Churches. In the days before Aerial travel during Japan's "Christian Century" (14th to 15th century), Kyushuu and the other islands were important ports for sailors going into and trading with Japan. The Dutch and Portuguese in particular were important. The Dutch were Prostetant and were interested in trade and as such were not quite as zealous as the Portuguese whom were Catholic. The Portuguese influence can be felt on the island from the sheer number of Catholic Churches on the island that are still active even today. They number 30 in all and all of which can be seen along the so called "Rosary Road". Its not uncommon to see a Christian nun in the supermarket or hear children in the church singing hymns in Japanese. Unfortunately a lot of Churches were destroyed when the Portuguese were invariably kicked out of the country in the late 15th century by the Tokugawa shogunate that sought to isolate Japan and Christianity was perceived as a threat. However a lot of them were rebuilt during Meiji restoration (around about 19th to early 20th century) and the small villages that cluster around these Churches still maintain a strong faith.

It was so treacherous climbing the mountain roads I thought that in order to drive around here you'd need a fairly strong stomach haha. The people that lived higher up in the mountains were more self sustaining than those lived down below. In the middle of the mountain we found one single store that sold mainly gardening tools and vegetable seeds. This suggested a lot of the people this way really had to grow and maintain their own food. The houses were old and rusty and most on the verge of collapse but oh my the views were majestic! I hadn't seen such pretty views in my life. It reminded me a lot of New Zealand and the beautiful weather was just the icing on the cake. Each morning we'd spend on the beach going for a swim and collecting shells with the other children of the island. Then head for a drive up the mountains and other islands admiring the scenery. There really isnt much here except for scenery and churches so its certainly not the party capital. After a hard days sight seeing we'd dig into lots of fresh seafood. Most of it is eaten raw. Squid and octopus sashimi is particularly famous here as well as Udon in a broth topped with freshy caught fish and a single umeboshi (salty pickled plum). It was all sooo nice but I did yearn for some meat every now and again lol.

(Unfortunately because my SD card malfunctioned after Goto Retto, I lost all my pictures T.T I was so upset...I had to buy a new SD card in Nagasaki city...)

After spending two days on Gotto Retto we left for Nagasaki city which was only an hour and half via high speed ferry. And on the approach you can see how different the city is from Tokyo and Nagoya. Almost the entire city was built around a mountains, rivers and islands. Upon entering you can see how Nagasaki was a such an important city of the past due to the huge influence China and Dutch trade had on the region. The Chinese influence can be felt in Nagasaki's china town and also in its Meibutsu (Specialty regional dish): Chanpon and Sara udon. Both these dishes remind me a lot of Chinese cooking back home and its about 1000 en for a HUGE bowl of Chanpon or Sara udon. Chanpon is basically really thin udon in a white soup topped with vegetables and lots of seafood. Sara udon is a large flat plate with a bed of crunchy noodles topped with a seafood and vegetables cooked a special sauce. I ate both liberally...its really that good!

The first thing we saw was Meganebashi, a region of the river Nagasaki-shi is built on with European style bridges running along it. There was a heart shaped stone placed in the middle of one of the walls here that I had found...it was so strange...I wonder who put it there? My friend didnt know why either...I wonder what it was put there for? Afterwards we took around Dejima; the only point of contact Japan had with the west throughout the Tokugawa regime (when he closed Japan off completely to the rest of the world) and to be honest I didnt realise i was on a separate island off Nagasaki until i saw a big sign saying "DEJIMA". It was now an entertainment area mainly with Dutch style cafes and buildings. There were also Churches around Nagasaki...remnants of the time the Portuguese were in the region. Another Portuguese influence was the adoption of Castella as a native food. As far as I could tell "Castella", which even has Chinese characters attached to it, is a spanish sponge cake and the Japanese have spun in various flavours such as chocolate, green tea, vanilla...its really delicious though. Also i finally found where they sell Whale...I saw a big stand filled with raw Kujira sliced really thinly and sold fairly cheaply too. Needless to say I was not game enough to try :S

The views from the top of the city were beautiful but I cannot imagine climbing such steep hills on a bicycle! That would be treacherous! Also what i was surprised to see was Trams! I couldnt believe they existed in Japan too! I almost felt like I was home again...they were even the same Green and yellow colour! Trams, buses and taxis are the only real way to get around Nagasaki...that and walking. Be prepared to do some walking if you want to really travel on the cheap. If you can find a place to stay near Chinatown thats the best place to base yourself because its within walking distance of the main bus terminal. Luckily for us, my friend managed to talk the cab driver into taking us around the city for the day for only three thousand yen! We saw a lot of temples and Churches and the most important part (for me anyway) was perhaps the peace memorial statue. Nagasaki was the second target of the atomic bomb in World War II and the peace statue was erected in memory of that event. My friend had told me that her grandmother's older sister had died in the Nagasaki bombings...so I had felt sad to hear that it had an effect on her family's life. The day ended with more Chanpon and Sara udon and some Karaoke before we retired for the evening and I left for Fukuoka the next morning to start the trip home.

When I got home to Nagoya it had been raining and I was deathly tired. It was such a great trip and even though the it was sticky and hot and my room had stunk like it had sweated in the heat, I was kinda glad to be home. Mould had started growing in my bathroom over the last few days :emoji_frowning2: /sigh I have to clean that out...someday...hahahaha. But overall I had a lot of fun and ate so much nice seafood...I was just so upset i lost all my pictures of Goto Retto...But there is something comforting coming home...even though your true home is over 16000 km away...

Until next time peoples! Take care and have fun wherever you are in the world
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