Posted by Heliocentrism on January 2, 2014
April 28 – 30, 2012
Teaser Alert! …
Once again I apologize for not posting. I have been on a few truly unforgettable trips that I must write about. But, I feel the need to go in chronological order. So, first I will write about the smaller trips. I will try to have a new one every week.
After years of getting very lost, ending up on narrow windy back roads of Japan near heart-stopping cliffs Mark and I finally purchased a Garmin. So I no longer know the directions to any of the places we visit; I only know the coordinates. I will leave the directions up to Google Maps. You can put the coordinates into your GPS device or print out a map.
I think this trip started because of a Cracked article. I love Cracked. At the time of this trip I was a high school English teacher in Japan and didn’t do much at work because… (I could go into the many failures the public school system has of teaching English but, I won’t. So let’s just say…) my classes get cancelled a lot. Out of boredom, I read a lot at work; books, newspapers (online), Japanese lessons, and when I really just want to have fun, Cracked.
There are several articles like, Abandoned Places that will Blow Your Mind, Mind Blowing Forgotten Towns, or Creepiest spots on Earth… that will Blow Your Mind. I love these sort of articles! After reading all of them, I noticed that many of these articles include at least one place in Japan. According to Cracked, Japan is a weird place… that will blow your mind.
Creepy Japanese Places according to Cracked:
- Base of Mount Fuji
- Battleship Island
- Izu Islands
- Matsuo Kouzan
So Japan is creepy. Why fight it? That’s why for Golden Week 2012, the year the Mayan Calender ended and hence the world, we decided to see all the creepiness our Japanese islands, Kyushu, had to offer.
It was a mini city that centered around coal mining from 1887 to 1974. Everyone who lived on this island was part of the booming coal mining industry. At its peak, 83,500 people per km2 were packed onto this tiny island. The high walls that protected the people and buildings from tsunamis is what give the place that “battleship” look.
But alas, with coal being so dirty, when new forms of energy came along, like petroleum, the coal industry died. And, so did this little mining island. Everyone left and this became one of the creepiest places in Japan. The only people who go to Hashima now are tourists, movie crews, and pop stars making music videos.
The tour was a bit disappointing. There is a clear barred off path that you must follow. You are also not allow to stray too far from your tour group even when you stay on the path. The tour was in Japanese, and not very interesting so wandering off would have been the thing to do, except that there is no where to wander!
You can, illegally, pay a fisherman to take you to the island after all the tours are done and explore the island on your own. It is dangerous; abandon islands tend to be huge death traps. Having a nice job, a husband I don’t want to see hurt, and not wanting to end up in a Japanese prison myself made me not adventurous enough to try this method. The group tour was good enough for me.
Russia: Land of Ships
After the tour we went to the Nagasaki Tall Ship Festival. We walked along the dock looking at ships from various countries, mostly Russia.
“Oh look this ship is from Vladivostok!”
“So is this one.”
“… and this one.”
“…and the one next to it.”
We had tickets for something to do at the festival, but we didn’t know what it was. All I knew was that I had paid for some activity that had something to do with a ship. I had to get the ticket a couple weeks before the festival and it involved me using the Japanese return postage post card for the first time ever.
The tickets were not expensive, but the process was very complicated. I figured it must be something really special. It was for a ride on a ship which sailed around Nagasaki harbor.
The special part was, that this is a sail boat, powered by sails. But it was raining and the sails were never taken out. Everyone sat below deck trying to stay dry and not throw-up. This might have still been a treat for Mark and me had we not just spent that same morning boating up and down this whole harbor going to and from Battleship island. (At least for that boat ride it was not raining and we had a great view of the harbor.)
Eventually, after I got nauseous, we did go above deck in the cold rain to see the harbor from the sailboat that was not sailing.
Also on the list of disappointments was the Old Nagasaki Prison. Apparently 2012 was it’s apocalypse. When we got there only the main gate was still standing… and it was cleaned up! A few month earlier the town decided to tear down the old prison because people kept breaking in to the old building to take photos.
What kind of freaks would do that!?
They left the main gate, de-rusted and with a new coat of paint, because the prison is the town’s only tourist attraction. It still brings people in too. Though probably not for much longer once word gets out…
Next we went to Obama!
So there’s an area in Nagasaki called Obama. This would be a huge deal if Obama wasn’t such a common geographical name. There are tons of places in Japan called Obama. Just throw a rock…
But this Obama had a village that was wiped out by a mudslide in 1990 that was started by a volcano. One small part of the village was left as it was after the disaster as a memorial. We walked around the houses taking pictures.
We didn’t visit the museum or the school because we were running out of time. We needed to drive to Fukuoka and set up our tent before the sun set.
Because we were running a little behind schedule, we took the much faster toll express way to Fukuoka rather than the cheaper and slower highway. The toll road has the added benefit of having more signs giving directions, signs that are written clearly and in Romaji, two lanes most of the time, and people who drive like they want to get their money’s worth from a toll road. On toll roads you are less likely to get lost and that alone is worth something when time is not in abundance.
I gather that signs are very expensive here in Japan, since one can drive for miles without seeing one. Some stop signs as well as most speed limit signs are actually painted on the road. When using a paper map you first need to figure out where you are. Back in the states you can see signs along the road that tell you what road you are on. In Japan this is considered a waste of sign making material. You will only see signs for what road you can get to, and sometimes even then it’s anyone’s guess. Many times to figure out what road I am on, I will turn off onto another road, make a u-turn, and read the sign at the intersection.
I think the main reason why tolls are so expensive here is the cost of making all the extra signs.
We did manage to get to Fukuoka early enough in the afternoon that we visited the anti-zombie tower before heading to the campsite. It was very nice for a tower-that-you-can’t-go-near-because-it’s-not-actually-a-tourist-attraction.
No! Green is Bad.
This is the really apocalyptic part of the trip. After this neither Mark nor I were in any mood to continue so we went home. It started after leaving the anti-zombie tower… I don’t know why I have no photos of the trip from this point on. I did take pictures, but they are all gone… so are Mark’s photos. …odd.
We didn’t have good directions to the campsite. But, we did get to the general area. We stopped at a convenience store and asked, “Camping wa doko desu ka?” It was a badly composed sentence asking basically, “Where is camping?” It was good enough to get my inquiry across. The campsite didn’t really have a name other than east side of the Fukuoka mountain campsite, or something like that; not something that people who have not camped there would know. We were within a couple miles of the campsite, at the base of the east side of the mountain, but still no one knew where it was.
The sun had retreated for the day and it was too late to put up a tent. Defeated, we headed to downtown Fukuoka and got an internet cafe for the night. We were able to look up the campsite online and find exact GPS coordinates as well as other things to see that would fit into our end of the world themed holiday.
The next day, early in the morning, we drove to the campsite and put up the tent. It was a free campsite! The day was a bit windy, but we were up a mountain. The sun was out; it was a nice laundry-doing day.
We were running low on clean clothes. The plan was to go back down the mountain, find a laundromat to do some washing, fill the car with gas, get some supplies, then chill at the campsite for the rest of the day, or two, or three. We had plenty of days left on our Golden Week holiday.
Not too far from the mountain there was a laundromat across the street from a gas station. Perfect! We pulled into the gas station and next to a gas pump. Normally a gas station attendant would come by and ask what type of gas I wanted and how much money I wanted to spend. But that didn’t happen here. It was a self service gas station. *GASP*
I never put the most expensive type of gas in my car. When I filled up this time I selected the cheapest option and filled the tank.
When I was done I felt really proud of myself. Pumping my own gas is something I’ve always had trouble with in Japan. It’s a complicated task mainly because the pump asks you so many questions, all in Japanese, before you can get the gas out of the machine. Once the screen at the pump turned into a slot machine and before I knew it I was gambling!
Once I used a pump with an option for English. Many of the questions had to do with method of payment, whether or not a discount/ club card will be used. Is an oil change needed? Does the car need to be washed or wax? Are you free this weekend? What’s your blood type?How do you get your hair so shiny?
Mark and I got back into the car. We were about to cross the street and park at the laundromat when my car shuttered and died. I tried restarting the car. Nothing. Not even a cough. It was dead.
“What color pump did you use?” Mark asked.
J: “The cheapest one; green I think… Is that bad?”
M: “Green is bad. In the states…”
J: “No! In the states green is always diesel! Is it diesel here too?”
M: “Well, the car IS dead…”
J: “Damn it, diesel.”
Luckily, but not luckily enough to have not put diesel in a gas car, the car stopped right at the gas station. The attendants hoisted the car, drained out the diesel, cleaned the tank, and filled it with gas all while we did our laundry across the street. I think the whole thing cost us about 85USD, not including the tank of diesel that we never used and the new tank of gas.
At this point we were still within our holiday budget. The cost of taking the diesel out was not too pricey. We could still continue. We headed back up the mountain to our campsite after getting stuff for lunch and dinner. We would make the best of it.
It’s been years since I had regular access to a dryer and every time I used one it’s like I don’t know what can go in there and what cannot. I usually end up shrinking half my clothes. So, now I just stay away.
Mark did put in one load of jeans, socks, and underwear. The rest we took back to the campsite to hang up. It was quite a windy day, so I didn’t think it would take long for our clothes to dry.
When I went to hang out our laundry I realized that I had forgotten to bring clothes pins. I had to hang up the clothes by stringing the line through the t-shirts and other items. It’s a good thing the socks were already dry! We sat in a little cement shelter and ate lunch as we watched our clothes blow madly in the wind.
The rest of the day was spent looking down on Fukuoka from our mountain top campsite. The trees were really bending. Around dinner time our clothes were dry, but it was dinner time. We were going to eat then take the clothes in, but even hours after eating we still had not taken anything in.
When it started drizzling we put everything that wasn’t in our tent in the car except for the clothes, which were now wet again. There was no point since they would have to be hung out again later. When it started to rain harder we went inside our tent. We watched a movie on my android then fell asleep.
I woke up in the middle of the night when something hit me in the head. It wasn’t a hard hit. I thought that maybe Mark was moving around in his sleep and had knocked my head, but he was not near enough to me to do that. Then I though I had just dreamed it. I turned over and went back to bed.
Then it happened again. This time twice in a row so I knew what had hit me. The wind was so strong that it was making our tent lie down. I was being hit in the head by the top of our tent. I looked around our tent; I mean really looked around this time. Everything was wet. Our tent was a pool.
I woke Mark up and we went outside for a look at the campsite. I saw our clothes still on the line. It’s a good thing I forgot those clothes pins. That would not have been secure enough to keep those clothes from being blown off the mountain!
Me – This is what happens when you don’t watch TV. You don’t find out about the hurricane that is heading to your campsite.
Mark – Should we take down the tent and drive into town.
Me – How safe to you think the roads down the mountain would be?
Mark – You mean because there are no lights, it’s a windy road with falling rocks on one side and cliff drops on the other, and everyone speeds?
Me – Let’s just stay here.
So Mark and I got our towels, dried our tent out the best we could, and went back to sleep. Except we didn’t actually fall asleep. I kept waking up when the top of our tent hit me in the head. I worried that something, like our car, would be blown on top of our tent.
The wind sounded like it wanted to do some damage. I just imagined a family of campers finding our bodies the next day. “Well, at least they had sense enough not to use clothes pins and kept their laundry from blowing away. Too bad they didn’t use an anchor to keep their k-car secured to the ground.”
I slept 5 minutes out of every hour, but at least I was not cold; just scared.
I must say something about our camping equipment. The next day I looked at our tent and all the poles were just fine. We do not have a very expensive tent. It’s just an Ozark Trail 4-person tent my mom just randomly bought us, when she couldn’t find the tent we left at her house. But that little tent took a beating and survived!
There was a lot of water in the tent, but the tent itself was not leaking. We sprayed the tent with Nikwax just before we set out for this trip. Water got in when the wind blew up the fly and when the wind blew the tent flat on the ground.
Our sleeping bags by Suisse Sport kept us nice and warm and mostly dry. They are reversible, meaning that it doesn’t matter which is the inside and which is the outside. But if you sleep with the blue side out, it will keep you dry if your tent leaks. Sometimes the zippers are hard to use in the dark, but other than that I have no complaints.
By morning we had had it with Fukuoka and this trip. We packed up the car with our wet tent and wet clothes and went home. It took 2 days to dry everything out.
But I still love camping.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards.TakecashandcallyourbanktoaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)
You can get in by plane, train, and bus.
The nearest airport is and hour away from the city of Nagasaki.
Nagasaki-shi government office 〒 850-8685 2-22, Sakuramachi, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki
City Hall: 095-822-8888
Emergency Phone Numbers in Japan:
- Police 110
- Ambulance/ Fire 119
Hostels are a cheaper alternative to hotel accommodations while in Japan. But, if you have a car, this might not be true. You’ll save money on a bed only to spend it on parking. Many hostels do not have free parking.
If you have a car while visiting Nagasaki, consider staying at an internet cafe. Internet cafe, called media cafes or netto cafes (ネットカフェ) in Japan are equipped for overnight stays. They are usually near train stations or in strip malls. Many come with showers, clean towels, and toiletries for free. All offer free drinks (coffee, tea, soda) for the duration of your stay. Most, though not all, have free parking.
On this trip Mark and I stayed at Planet-Cafe. We had to pay a one time 300 Yen fee for membership then, I think, 2,300 Yen each for a single cubical. The price for 2 singles and 1 double was about the same, so we got separate compartments. We parked in the paid parking lot of a nearby mall and had our ticket validated by the cafe; parking for us was free.
- 32°37’40.2″N 129°44’18.3″E
- You will need to be part of a tour.
- The ferry leaves from the Nagasaki Port Ferry Terminal (near the Ohato tram stop).
- The boat ride takes about 50 minutes each way.
- There are 2 ferries a day.
Universal Workers – The Gunkanjima Concierge Company
Tokiwa town 1-60 Tokiwa terminal building 102 Nagasaki
- Adult 3,600~3,900 Yen (Prices are more expensive on weekends and holidays.)
- There is a 300~400 Yen discount per person if you reserve groups of 15 or more people.
- For 4~500,00 Yen you can also charter a boat and go by yourself (with the tour company) or with just friends.
- meet at 10:10 for the 10:40~13:00 tour
- meet at 13:30 for the 14:00~16:20 tour
- There is a pledge you will have to sign. It can be download or you can get one when you buy your tickets.
- Tours maybe cancelled due to bad weather conditions.
- You cannot go to the island on your own legally.
Nagasaki Tall Ships Festival
- 32°44’12.1″N 129°52’03.1″E
- Got to the Nagasaki Port (Nagasaki Seaside Park, Dejima Wharf) near the Ohato tram stop.
- Or by JR Train
Disembark at the Power Dejima stop, then take the electric tram from the Nagasaki stop on Nagasaki JR.
Nagasaki Port (Nagasaki Seaside Park, Dejima Wharf)
- +81-95-823-3631 (English Only)
- There is no charge to look at the ships.
- It costs about 1,000 Yen to take a ride on the Kanko Maru Tall Ship. You must get your ticket before the day of the ride. There is a limited number of tickets. Call for more information.
- Late April
- This event goes on for several days.
- At night there is a light show.
Old Nagasaki Prison
(Kyū Nagasaki keimusho)
- 32°50’12.8″N 130°03’22.6″E
- Near Hon-Isahaya Station (本諫早駅)
- Other than the main gate, there is nothing left of the old prison.
- ****UPDATE***** The main gate might have been taken down too.
- Disaster Memorial Hall (雲仙岳災害記念館)
- Buried Village ( Mizunashi Honjin Fukae Michi no Eki roadside park)
- Former Onokoba Elementary School
- Disaster Memorial Hall: +32° 44′ 37.01″, +130° 22′ 33.47″
- Buried Village: +32° 44′ 22.66″, +130° 22′ 2.68″
- Former Onokoba Elementary School: +32° 44′ 43.80″, +130° 20′ 26.49″
- Buried Village
- Former Onokoba Elementary School
- The Mount Unzen Disaster Museum and Buried Houses by bus from central Shimabara City
Take a bus bound for Katsusa (加津佐) and get off at the Arena Iriguchi bus stop. Then walk 5-10 minutes to the disaster museum or the Michi no Eki Fukae bus stop next to the buried houses. The bus ride takes around 30 minutes and costs about 400 yen. There are 1-2 buses per hour. (There is also a free shuttle between these two sights, but it does not come by too often.)
- The school cannot be reached by public transportation. It is a 40 minute walk and 15 minute drive from the museum.
Disaster Memorial Hall
1-1 Heisei-machi Shimabara-city Nagasaki 855-0879
- Disaster Memorial Hall
Disaster Memorial Hall email@example.com
- Disaster Memorial Hall: 1,000 Yen
- Buried Village: Free
- Former Onokoba Elementary School: Free
- Disaster Memorial Hall: 9:00 to 18:00 (admission until 17:00)
- Buried Village: 8:30 to 17:00
- Former Onokoba Elementary School: 9:00 to 16:30
All these sights have free parking
Fukuoka Anti-Zombie Tower
- Coordinates: 33°35′26″N130°29′09″E
There is plenty of free parking at the adjacent ball park.
Not too far from the Fukuoka airport. (Directions from the airport)
Google map generated address:
Fukuoka-ken, Kasuya-gun, Shime-machi, Shime, 495−3 旧志免鉱業所竪坑櫓
It’s free to look at. You CANNOT go into or unto the tower, unless of course, you are being chased by a zombie horde.