A Travellerspoint blog

Japan May 2015


View Tennessee to Gwangju on Jason Willis's travel map.

Alexis and I took advantage of our close proximity to Japan, and we traveled to Kyushu - the southernmost island. We have many pictures of our excursion around the island. So, I'll leave the majority of the story to be told via the snapshots. However, for a brief overview, our trek started on a ferry ride from Busan, South Korea to Fukuoka, Japan. From there we set off to the Takachiho Gorge, meandered around Mount Aso, visited a 300 year old Wisteria garden, and toured Nagasaki. It didn't leave too much time to rest. But, there'll be plenty of time for that when we're older and grayer. We hope you enjoy the photographic documentation!

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Old meets new.

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Below is the setting sun behind the Fukuoka Tower.

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Foldin' money!

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Alexis with Kumamon - Kumamoto's mascot!

My Japanese wish list consisted of one location; Takachiho. Takachiho is not the most convenient locale to reach, especially if you don't speak the language. *We did learn basic phrases and made an effort. We traveled by rail to Kumamoto, then took a bus the remaining 50 miles. The Takachiho Gorge is definitely a must see for nature lovers. Not easy to reach, still worth the journey. It actually may help preserve the ambiance of the destination. Even though Takachiho is a popular tourist spot, it's not your typical "tourist trap". It has a warm and mystical feel to it.

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Located a short hike or cab ride away, we opted for the former, is the Takachiho Shrine. It is nestled in an old growth Cedar grove. I don't care what continent I'm on, I love me some big @** trees!

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Above is an awesome little guy we met at the shrine! Below are some random photos near the shrine, and in Takachiho.

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Shown above is a property that Alexis loved. And, below, are a couple of my favorite things to photograph!

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On the bus ride to Takachiho we met a lovely couple, on vacation themselves. We talked on the bus, shared a cab to the gorge, and ended up staying at their hotel that night. Every evening there is a performance at the shrine, guess who Alexis and I went with! Below is a picture of our gang, followed by some images of our hotel. *Long story short; we ended up sharing the bath house with them later. But, that's another story.

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Following Takachiho, Alexis and I took the scenic train around Mount Aso - the largest active volcano in Japan. And, among the largest in the world. Due to the cloudy weather - we couldn't see much, but we enjoyed the train ride.

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During a pit-stop to change trains, we took some pictures near the station and photographed some delicious ramen. I'm partial to Korean ramen, but this was the tastiest I had during our trip to Japan!

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My wife is so funny. She said this guy had the 'Sad Cow Disease'.

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Now, on to the high-speed Shinkansen!

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Atop Alexis' wish list was the 300 year-old Kawachi Wisteria Garden. The rain meant that the place wasn't teeming with tourists. It was a mud pit, and we had only one umbrella. However, Alexis was a trooper, took one for the team, and got muddy! The Wisteria definitely gives the Cherry blossoms a run for their money.

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Nagasaki, Japan was another of Alexis' must-sees. And, I must admit, I'm very glad she's the boss.

We visited The Peace Park, which was built almost on top of 'ground zero'.

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Below are some random Nagasaki stills.

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Probably the eeriest site we viewed in Nagasaki was the Urakami Cathedral. Located just a half-kilometer from the blast, the cathedral was devastated. Below are a couple photos of the ruins, with the rebuilt cathedral in the background.

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Hashima or Gunkanjima is a small island located about 20 kilometers from Nagasaki Port. Until 1974, the island served as a coal mine, and more than 5000 residents called the 480 meter long, 150 meter wide island home, resulting in the highest population density in recorded history.

To accommodate so many people in such a small area, every piece of land was built up so that the island came to resemble a massive battleship. In fact, "Gunkanjima" is a nickname that means "battleship island" in Japanese.

Managers, workers and their families all called the little island home. The residents of the island led pretty typical lives. Half of the island was devoted to the workings of the mine, the other to residential space, schools, restaurants, shops, a public bath, and a hospital.

Alexis and I took the 45 minute boat ride out to Hashima. Normally, I enjoy sunny skies when on the water, but the ominous weather added to the spooky feel of the long deserted island. *You may recognize it from the 2012 James Bond film 'Skyfall'.

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I love these fish, wind sock, thingy-majiggers!

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To round out our time in Nagasaki, we took the cable car up to the top of Mount Inasa. Touted as one of the best night-time city views in the world, our pictures do it no justice.

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Back aboard the high-speed train to end our trip where it started, in Fukuoka. Kushida Shrine was built in 757AD. It was destroyed by fire, and rebuilt in 1587.

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...and what else?!..

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Before ferrying back across the Korea Strait we took a final 20 minute train ride to Sasaguri. There, we checked off my final sight-seeing wish for our trip to Japan, Nanzoin Temple. There you will find, possibly, the world's biggest bronze statue. It is certainly the biggest bronze Reclining Buddha statue.

Its dimensions are impressive, 41 meters (135 feet) in length, 11 meters (36 feet) in height, and weighing in at 300 tons (about the weight of a jumbo jet).

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I even got Alexis to lie down and pose for me!

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We hope you enjoyed the excessive amount of photographs. Maybe it will inspire you to visit Japan. On the other hand, if you don't make the journey, maybe seeing it through our eyes is enough!

Posted by Jason Willis 21:43 Archived in Japan

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