Our Japanese Dinner
We arrived at our Japanese Hotel later than we probably should have for check in. It was 6pm, but the staff was extremely gracious and they were more than happy to accommodate our request for a 7:30 dinner. After some tea and treats in the lobby (which are usually served in the room), they showed us to our tatami room where we unpacked and relaxed while having a few drinks. I’m sure they giggled when they saw that we brought our own pillows (sorry, we are just not fans of those buckwheat pillows). Since it was already pretty late, we didn’t have time for the onsen, but we put our yakatas on anyway. It wasn’t long before our dinner server was there loading up our table with TONS of food: soups, appetizers, sushi, sashimi, and all the makings for shabu, shabu. I ate everything, it was fantastic (especially the shabu, shabu). I really thought we were done, but then she arrived with grilled fish, fried fish, more soups and sides, and some mixture to help congeal the remaining shabu shabu broth. As full as we all were, we tried a little bit of everything, but there was no way we could finish it all. Finally she came by one more time with dessert – a crepe filled with cream, strawberries and kiwi. There was no way I wasn’t going to eat that though. YUM! Immediately after dinner they cleaned everything up and laid out the futons. We had internet access finally, so we Skyped our families and then went to bed to the sound of rain.
Amazing Azalea Garden
Morning arrived in a blink. We headed downstairs for breakfast. It was hard to imagine eating breakfast since it literally felt like I just had dinner. We were wondering how they can eat so much food and still stay thin. Our Japanese breakfast consisted of lots of little bite-sized dishes, some rice, egg, nori, fruit and yogurt and a little grill to grill your own fish. Surprisingly we were able to eat quite a bit. This place must have the world’s smallest coffee cups…like from a child’s play tea set.
Immediately after breakfast, we headed outside for the garden next to the hotel, since the entry fee was included in the room price. The rain had finally stopped, but we took our umbrellas with us just in case. We walked down the hill and through the big entry gate. I immediately knew I was going to like this place. I’m sure this place is beautiful in full sun, but with the low clouds and everything still wet it was quite magical. I kept thinking how beautiful this place would be in the fall too. In the distance I could see some wisteria as we walked along the edge of the little lake. We eventually made our way to the crown center of the garden. At the foot of this granite mountain was something that looked like it came out of a children’s story book….there were hundreds of azalea bushes of every color everywhere – like little mounds of ice cream. We all felt giddy, totally amazed by the sight in front of us. We almost got lost in there and we couldn’t stop snapping pictures. Before exiting we had to pass the wisteria and, though not in full bloom, it was so beautiful and smelled so good I didn’t want to leave. We all love gardens, and this was one of the loveliest we’ve ever seen.
We headed back up to the hill and after a quick photo of all us in front of our hotel, we were on the road to Nagasaki. It was an interesting drive, because we went through more tunnels than I ever imagined there could be in one place. At least half the distance to Nagasaki was tunnels…huge, long tunnels. Even our final approach into downtown was a long tunnel. After that last tunnel, we literally only had to drive for two kilometers through the city before we reached our hotel. It was only 11am, and we couldn’t check in until 2pm, but they held onto our bags while we went out to explore the city. Robert met up with us at the hotel…he got there about 10 minutes before us. We all hopped on a street car to nearly the last stop on that line and just started walking up and down (and up and down) all the streets. Our goal was to stop at all the places highlighted on our bare bones map (it’s amazing we found anything). All the steep hills reminded us a little of San Francisco.
Our first stop was where the first Catholic Church was built in Japan….it’s now a temple. We ended up walking through several shrines and temples. We eventually found the main walking street (which was pretty quiet on a Sunday). It was around here we shopped in a few antique stores and had lunch (steamed eel) at a little local restaurant. After visiting the Spectacles Bridge, Shianbashi street, and Chinatown, we headed for the wharf area and had some drinks to relax. A little before 7pm, we had our free taxi ride up to Inasayama for the night view of Nagasaki. Even though it was a little hazy, it was still an amazing view.
Dontaku Festival Parade
The next morning, Robert left to go back to Fukuoka right after breakfast, and us girls went out to find Oura Church, Glover Gardens, Holland Street, the Western Home sites and, of course, do some more shopping. While the Japanese seemed really interested in all the ‘western’ stuff, we weren’t (we see this all the time), so we headed back down to the wharf area to check out Dejima. This turned out to be a really interesting place – about a very important part of Japan’s history. While just a replica of the island village that once stood in the same exact location, it is extremely well done. The village itself used to be an island in the harbor, but with all the land reclamation projects it is now in the city along one of the canals. Much of Japan’s modern history started on that little island, and we all found it quite fascinating. This is a must visit for anyone interested in Japan opening it’s doors to world commerce.
It was now late afternoon, so we headed back to Fukuoka, and that is were we spent our last day together. We had dinner at a Korean BBQ restaurant, went downtown to do some shopping, ate some more food at the stalls in the park, and watched some of the Dontaku Festival. Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head for the airport. 🙁 I guess all good things do have to come to an end.