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Touring Shirase Icebreaker Ship


Two Casa Noda helpers and I went to Nagasaki’s harbour to see Shirase. Shirase is a Japanese icebreaker operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. The ship is being used for Antarctic expeditions, but was in Nagasaki for a couple of days to give people the chance to take a tour and learn about their work. The ship is named after the Shirase Glacier and follows JMSDF’s internal naming rule, that says an icebreaker must take its name from a place. The Shirase Glacier is located in Havsbotn bay, Antarctica, and was named after Lieutenant Nobu Shirase, a Japanese pioneer of Antarctic exploration.


The ship is 138m by 28m, weighs 12,650 ton and can transport up to 80 scientist as well as its own crew to the South Pole. It was very interesting to see the rooms they work at and see the video and photos that showed their work.


We went on a very hot day, but thankfully there were fans all over the ship to help cool the visitors. Whenever we had questions we could ask any crew-member, they really took the time to explain everything in detail. They also had a couple of spots where visitors could take a photo with penguins, research objects and machinery from the ship. They even had blocks of ice from Antarctica which you could touch yourself!


From the ship we had a beautiful view of Nagasaki’s harbour and its ships. The water here is much clearer than the Dutch part of the North-Sea which I am used to. After leaving the ship we could watch many fish and managed to find some great spots for fishing. Outside Shirase were several motorcycles and cars of Japan’s ground forces, which people could enter and take photos of.

We had a great time touring Shirase, you should take a look yourself the next time it visits Nagasaki!

-Maike

 

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My Brief Stay In Unzen, Nagasaki


This week I went on a short two-day trip to Unzen, Nagasaki. Unzen is famous for its onsen and nature, a perfect place to take a rest from the buzzing city-life and work. I took the morning bus from Nagasaki station and enjoyed a lovely ride along beautiful scenery before arriving at down-town Unzen. I choose to go to Unzen because I am a onsen lover and this small town sounded like paradise to me. It didn’t disappoint me. After checking in at Unzen’s only guesthouse called Tsudoi (more about that later!) I followed the smell of sulfur and walked around Unzen Jigoku for a while.


Unzen Jigoku means ‘Unzen Hell’, a name I would say is very well suited to the scenery. High temperature volcanic gasses and hot springs erupt everywhere in the clay-coloured landscape followed by a strong smell of sulfur. There are several paths which you can follow, some will lead you to a wonderful view, others will bring you to a man that sells eggs that have been steamed by the hot spring’s of Unzen Jigoku. A cross stands on a hill in memory of the 33 Christian martyrs whom were tortured to death in the hot spring’s boiling water between 1627 and 1632.

When I left the geothermal park behind me I stumbled upon Shinyu, a public foot-bath. Throughout the village there are foot-baths and even finger-baths which you can use for a quick break from all the sightseeing.


After a quick lunch I walked to Shirakumo pond which took me around 20 minutes. Shirakumo pond is nearby Mt. Kinugasa, so for those of you who would like to climb the mountain, make sure to make a pit stop at Shirakumo. It has lovely views from all angles, some parts even reminded me a bit of Mt. Fuji. It’s very peaceful and relaxing to stroll around the pond and one of my top recommendations if you want a quiet retreat. Camping grounds are available as well.


I stayed the night at Tsudoi, Unzen’s first and newly opened guesthouse (2016). The location was very convenient and the accommodation pleasant. In the evening I enjoyed a beer and later got to talk to the owner of the guesthouse, whom is such a friendly and genuine man. I’m happy that I’d made the decision to book here and not a hotel as I felt very welcomed.

After a quick breakfast I started my second day in a shared taxi to Nita Pass. From Nita Pass one can walk or take a ropeway up to Mt. Myokendake. There is a platform with a gorgeous view at 1333m, from there you can either take the ropeway down again or choose to hike further up the volcano via a narrow mountain path. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t so great so I broke off my hike after about an hour when it started to become muddy due to the rain. It might be fine if you travel in a group, but since I was alone I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.


Back in downtown Unzen I wanted to warm myself and visited Iwaki Ryokan’s onsen. In total I visited 5 hot springs during my trip, but since this is the only one in the prefecture to be awarded the highest rating by the Japan Hot Spring Association, I figured it would be a nice treat after the cold hike. The entrance fee is rather on the expensive side with it being a ¥600 for adults, but I turned out to be the only guest at that particular hour and thus had a large onsen all to myself. I immediately noticed that the water quality was better than the other onsen I visited prior, my skin felt smooth and all my muscle aches disappeared within minutes. I took the afternoon bus back to Nagasaki wishing I could come back to Unzen more often. If you have the chance, take it and go!

To access Unzen from Nagasaki, please take the bus from Nagasaki station bus terminal with the direction ‘Obama, Unzen’. The drive will take 1 hour and 40 minutes and costs ¥1800 one way.

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Fukunoyu Onsen Nagasaki


Last week I was feeling rather tired and I had no energy to go sightseeing in Nagasaki. One of my colleagues invited me to join him to a local hot spring, called onsen in Japanese, that is located halfway up Mount Inasa. Fukunoyu, meaning good fortune spring, must be one of the most beautiful hot springs I have visited in Japan so far (trust me I’m a huge onsen lover, so I’ve seen plenty)!

Inside the facility you will find indoor and outdoor baths, sauna’s, steam rooms, bubble baths and other baths in all shapes and sizes. The public baths are separated in a male and female bath, but it is possible to rent a private room with a small onsen if you want to share the experience with a friend of the opposite gender. Temperatures are being shown for each bath by a digital thermometre, they are either extremely hot or very cold! In the changing room area you will find vending machines with drinks, towels, razors and other small necessities in case you have forgotten to bring your own.

The outdoor bath has the most breathtaking view of Nagasaki and is especially worth experiencing during sunset and at night. After shortly trying out all the other baths and scrubbing my pale skin with salt into a lobster-red-state at one of the sauna’s, I spent most of my time looking at the twinkling city lights.

 

I returned back to the ground floor all refreshed and relaxed (still extremely red though) and spent a good hour in the common tatami room with a drink. In the main area you will find relaxing chairs, restaurants, food stands, souvenir shops and plenty of vending machines. After enjoying dinner at one of the restaurants we took the free bus back to Casa Noda.


Sorry for not having a lot of photos to show of the hot spring. As everyone is naked it is of course prohibited to take any photos inside the bathing area. After bathing I was so relaxed and sleepy that I didn’t think at all about taking some more of the common areas either.

How to access Fukunoyu onsen: Take the free 20-minute shuttle bus from Nagasaki JR Station. The entrance fee is ¥800 for adults and ¥400 for children. The hot spring is opened from 9:30 a.m. until 1 a.m. Sunday – Thursday & from 9:30 a.m. until 2 a.m. Friday – Saturday.

For more information, please check Fukunoyu’s website (Japanese only): http://www.fukunoyu.com/nagasaki_fukunoyu.html or ask one of Casa Noda’s staff members!

-Maike

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Sofukuji Temple Nagasaki


Built in 1629 by a Chinese monk named Chaonian, Sofukuji temple is one of Nagasaki’s most visited temples. The temple, placed on the slope of a hill, belongs to the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism and was originally built for the Chinese residents of Nagasaki.


The inner gate called Daiippomon and the Buddha hall called Daiohoden were both made in Ningbo, China and shipped to Nagasaki. They each have become national treasures as they are one of the best illustrations of temple architecture of the Ming Dynasty that have remained anywhere. The Buddha hall is even claimed to be Nagasaki’s oldest building. All buildings including the entrance gate called Ryugumon (gate of the dragon palace) is coloured bright red.


I visited Sofukuji Temple on one of the hottest days of my stay. Because of the heat there was no one else to be found on the temple’s inner grounds. As the temple is built partially on the hill you have to climb some stairs, but large trees will give you the shadow needed. There are English descriptions to be found near most of the buildings that give short but adequate explanations. Even though I was having a hard time not melting away in the sunlight I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the temple. It is very beautiful and definitely worth the trip!


If you have enough time I would recommend walking the entire Teramachi road where you will find many more temples and shrines along the hillside.


If you want to pray at a Buddhist temple please be reminded to not clap, other than that there is no strict procedure you’ll need to be thoughtful of.

 

Access:

Sofukuji Temple is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day of the week. An entrance fee of ¥300 is charged for adults.

If you want to visit Sofukuji temple from Casa Noda, please take tram Line 1 (blue) bound for Shokakuji-shita from Goto-machi and get off at the last stop (Shokakuji-shita).

-Maike

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