Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Our Stories from Kyushu, Japan

For easy access, I have collected all four stories from Kyushu here. 

 

Being an avid fan of belching, erupting active volcanoes, the Kyushu volcano of Sakurajima has been on my to-visit list for a while. Being Japan’s most active and one of the world’s most active, I just have to see it. Soon I find myself making my way from Tokyo, via Kyoto, all the way to Kagoshima, the city at the western end of Japan’s main islands, right in the shadow of Sakurajima itself. Then we backtrack to visit beautiful Nagasaki and industrious Fukuoka.

 

Kagoshima, First Stop in Kyushu

Sakurajima, Former Volcano-Island

Nagasaki, Pleasant City with Tragic History

Fukuoka, Largest City in Kyushu

 

THANKS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fukuoka, Largest City in Kyushu, Japan

January 2017

We end our Kyushu adventure by spending the final nights in Kitakyushu at the top end of the island, staying just next door to the Kokura Station, a major point on the Sanyo Shinkansen line. The plan is to explore this northern tip of Kyushu before returning to Tokyo with the shinkansen.

Japan is a heaven for train-spotters, I tell you. But I have no clue who these dudes are.

The thing about any big Japanese train station is, the nice way they integrate it with the other structures around it. You just happily walk along covered paths following the signage, and before you know it, you are in the lobby of the hotel. Extremely safe and convenient too, especially when weather is poor.

So we take a walk through the Kokura Station complex and soon find ourselves in a covered pedestrian path, lined with shops. There’s a construction on the side, but true to the Japanese way, it’s totally clean. Not a speck of dirt on the footpath, while an excavator is busy doing messy stuff just metres away!

We are on our way to this beautifully rebuilt Kokura Castle, the only in Fukuoka Prefecture. Originally completed in 1608 during the early Edo period, it got burnt down in 1866 (which always happened to old wooden stuff), and this is a concrete version of 1959. Japanese castles have this lovely wing-like roof design, and the way its wide base evolves into a smaller floors as it goes up. And of course the mandatory gardens (and moats sometimes) surrounding them. Kokura Castle is a very popular site for watching the cherry blossoms.

Another important historical spot in the neighbourhood is the old port of Kitakyushu. To get there we board a local train, after the morning rush hour of course.

As we approach the station of Mojiko, we can already spot some old European-style structures.

Mojiko is the terminus of the local line, with wooden structures from 1914. It is the oldest station on the long Kagoshima Line.

A short stroll from the station brings us to the waterfront, the old port itself, with buildings from the late 19th century when Mojiko (Port Moji) was an important international and domestic trading point. This particular building used to be an old club, and Albert Einstein stayed here once during a visit.

Another old building from 1917, with a sort of lighthouse attached to it.

And of course the delightful quirkiness of Japan, commemorating Mojiko as an important gateway for imported bananas!

Here’s the old Customs Building from 1912, with the Kanmon Bridge in the background which linked Kyushu and Honshu islands.

A view of the 712-metre-long Kanmon Bridge which connects Kyushu (on the right) to Honshu, opened 1973. The town on the Honshu side is Shimonoseki.

The Kanmon Bridge is high enough for big ships to pass under, in this case the ferry of Shin Nihonkai.

Sightseeing on trishaws should be nice on a cold and windy day like today’s.

I’m always impressed with Coast Guards vessels whenever I see them on my travels.

Anyway, we are back at Mojiko Station after the old port walkabout. We take the local train, and go past Kokura till the Space-World Station.

The station serves a nearby theme park called Space World. However it is due for closure at the end of 2017. But these orderly bikes belong to commuters so they should be around everyday. They are safe, nobody steals them, this is Japan, you know.

The reason we stop here is to a visit a recently-added member to the esteemed list of Unesco World Heritage Site — the Meiji Industrial Revolution steel works.

Love this comic-like map of the environs.

The tip of a huge model of the US Space Shuttle with boosters, parked at Space World, is prominent against the mountainous backdrop.

Finally the Unesco site, not easy spot to find. Being a new addition to the list, they are probably not exactly ready to receive a stream of visitors yet, but the volunteers manning the place have been most helpful and welcoming. I think they are retired workers of this historic steel plant.

The Yawata Steel Works, the nation’s first modern steel mill, built during the Meiji era. The problem is, it is still owned by a private entity so access is restricted. We can only observe the compound from a platform a distance away. Better than nothing, but the obliging guide is full of information, in broken English unfortunately. If only we had known some Japanese.

This is also part of the Yawata Steel Works. In the second half of the 19th century, Emperor Meiji realised the importance of steel-making for the industrialisation of Japan. The history of Japan’s steel-making industry actually started here, which propelled the country into an advanced state in a short period of time.

Our journey continues as we board the next train that comes along.

This time a visit to Fukuoka proper, alighting at its impressively gleaming Hakata Station, the largest in Kyushu. The Sanyo Shinkansen line from Osaka ends here. The Kyushu Shinkansen line then takes over to end in Kagoshima, 260km away.

Exiting the huge station, there’s only one big street leading right to downtown Fukuoka. Don’t you love those cute ducks telling you to stay away from the road works?

We plan to have lunch here, the Hakata Canal City, just a 15-minute stroll from Hakata Station. This is a major attraction in Fukuoka, a massive shopping and leisure complex.

There is indeed a canal within this well-presented precinct, complete with dancing water spouts. The Naka river flows along its western edge as it heads for the harbour just 2.5km away.

Fish is of course highly-regarded here, being a coastal city. Nothing beats grilled fish and rice on a cold day.

The Canal City is a good place to kill time, but really there’s nothing much else to explore in Fukuoka, so we soon find ourselves on the train back to Kokura. Of course the train also serves fliers, and I notice the airport code for Fukuoka — FUK. Now my wish is to fly FUK-SIN-HEL in one go! Maybe one fine day … 😀

 

Our Kyushu journey ends here as we leave Kokura to return to Tokyo.

> THE END

 

 

 

Nagasaki, Pleasant City with Tragic History

[PART III]

 

January 2017

 

I have always wanted to visit Nagasaki ever since I learnt in school about the horrific twin atomic bombings of 1945. After visiting Hiroshima (twice, and wrote about it HERE), my desire to visit Nagasaki reached an all-time high.

 

Now as I step out of the 787 train (Dreamliner train?) at Nagasaki Station, my ambition is almost fulfilled.

 

What greets me is a modern, quiet city, and I have an instant liking to it.

 

The cavernous Nagasaki Station is a sight to behold — it does not appear to be a train station at all. The actual station is tucked to the right.

 

Opposite the station there’s a network of pedestrian crossings across the main street (with no escalators, which is a bit of a damper), and it looks like a lovely town. 

 

I glance to the left and see the 333-metre Mt Inasa, with its communication towers and a park. It is said that the night view from here of Nagasaki is among the top three in Japan. I’d believe that.

 

In front of the train station there’s a major tram and bus halt, and commuters arrive and leave like clockwork.

 

We decide to do lunch first, and being a busy time of the day, we have to wait for a table to be free.

 

We duly register at the door and are number three in the queue … not bad.

 

Grilled fish for me, and the usual suspects. One thing about this meal is it offers a myriad of tastes, from the main course itself to the condiments accompanying it. And of course the miso soup and tea to top it up.

 

After the quick lunch, we hastily make our way back to the station to catch a local train heading north. We have a lot of walking to do today.

 

Just 20 minutes later, we are at the Nagasaki Peace Park, staring at the huge Peace Statue with its interesting pose.

 

The Peace Statue’s plaque explains it all. In Hiroshima they have Flame of Peace instead.

 

Visitors can’t just resist doing the unique pose.

 

We can’t either!  😛

 

The Peace Statue faces the Fountain of Peace, about 180 metres to the south in the Peace Park, with Mount Inasa in the background. Hiroshima also has a similar fountain.

 

The path linking the statue and the fountain is dotted with statues, contributed by various nations, all promoting peace and friendship.

 

Nearby there’s information about the horror that befell this beautiful city at exactly 11.02am on Thursday, 9th August 1945. That’s just 3 days after Hiroshima had received the same fate, 300 kilometres to the northeast.

 

The extent of the damage inflicted is graphically shown. The death toll and damage were not as severe as in Hiroshima since Nagasaki is mountainous which limited the impact of the blast. Hiroshima on the other hand is on a flat delta and bore the full brunt of the mid-air nuke explosion.

 

There’s also a poignant spot — the remnant of a prison that was blasted into oblivion on that fateful morning.

 

We leave the Peace Park and head for the hypocentre.

 

The hypocentre, or the exact location the atomic bomb exploded, is marked by a black pillar. The actual detonation happened at 500 metres in the sky above the pillar. This height is chosen to cause maximum damage to the ground.

 

Here’s how it looked like after the bomb had done its terrible deed. Note that there were 3 major schools around the hypocentre — all the poor kids died instantaneously.

 

I spot a arrow pointing downwards and I clamber down a staircase to find the original level of the ground before the blast. It is like in a trench, and grass above me is the current ground level. The additional ‘ground’ is actually debris from the catastrophic explosion itself.

 

Behind the protective glass, I peer at the debris left intact, and see bits of bottles, metal fragments, building material and of course earth — such a great destructive force unleashed by the ‘Fat Man’ atomic bomb!

 

We walk over to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, but unfortunately no photography is allowed. I must say it’s a very good museum, on par with its Hiroshima counterpart (where photography is allowed, oddly enough). However attached to the museum is this beautiful memorial to the victims.

 

There’s a serene hall with tall pillars and glasses, and at the end, a slender shelf holding records of all the 74,000 people who perished in the blast. This is a place for prayers to the victims, and for contemplation of the horrors of nuclear weapons.

 

One of the very last acts of President Barack Obama before he left office is this letter, dated 16th December 2016, displayed in the lobby of the museum.

 

The weather is getting very cold with occasional flurries of snow, so we catch a tram to return to our hotel near the train station. The visit to the memorials of the second ever A-bomb to be used on civilians has been as meaningful and traumatic as our visit to Hiroshima.

 

Back at the train station and I see that Nagasaki is expecting its own shinkansen service in 2022. At the moment the Kyushu shinkansen line between Fukuoka and Kagoshima totally skips Nagasaki, which is located on the extreme west coast of the island, a bit out of the way.

 

The sun is setting, and being winter, it’s early in the day. People are still at work and the streets are calm.

 

After a night with light snow, I make my way in the cold morning to the port of Nagasaki to spot ships and see the famous Mitsubishi shipyard across the harbour. This major shipyard was key in the industrialisation efforts of the Meiji period in the late 19th century — the old part of it is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

 

Here there’s also the Oura Catholic Church, said to be the oldest church in Japan, built in 1865, Gothic style. Centuries ago, Nagasaki was one of the first ports to be visited by foreigners — St Francis Xavier arrived here from Malacca in the mid-16th century, to become the first Christian preacher. In front of the church, there’s the western-style (old) Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank building.

 

Suddenly I’m caught in a blizzard, which puts an end to my morning adventure.

 

I find shelter under a tree, but the snow is getting heavier. 

 

When I eventually arrive back at the train station, Mt Inasa is already white with fresh snow. But we are in a hurry with no time to go up the mountain to enjoy the view.

 

Yes, we have a train to catch, and soon we are back at the station to continue with our journey to Fukuoka. Nagasaki and of course Hiroshima, are famous in history for the wrong reason. If you have the opportunity, do visit both places, to appreciate how horrific wars are, nuclear ones immensely more so.

 

> NEXT: FUKUOKA

 

Sakurajima, Former Volcano-Island

[PART II]

 

January 2017

 

Today we are visiting the famous active volcano — Sakurajima — or ‘Cherry Blossom Island’. Well it used to be an island in the Kagoshima Bay until 1914, when a huge eruption spilled lots of lava down its eastern flank thus attaching it to the mainland of Kyushu. Henceforth it became a peninsula in the bay, but the name ‘island’ remains — so I’ll refer to this place as ‘island’.

 

At Kagoshima harbour, ferries routinely ply the 3.5 km route to the pier at the Sakurajima harbour. A ferry leaves at either end on the hour, and every 15 minutes after that, 24/7, with the crossing taking only 15 minutes. A pleasant boat ride, in good weather of course.

 

These are serious-looking ferries, with the lowest deck carrying vehicles, while the rest are for passengers. I see people with shopping bags full of stuff, so these ferries are a very important means of transport for the people living on Sakurajima, who routinely come over to Kagoshima for work, shopping, recreation and other things.

 

Next to the pier, we see the much-acclaimed Kagoshima Aquarium. And in the background a whiff of ‘smoke’ indicates that Sakurajima is very much alive. Active craters are just 9 km away from us.

 

Another ferry arrives as we prepare to leave for the short ride across Kagoshima Bay on this very beautiful day.

 

Sakurajima has been erupting non-stop since 1955 (first recorded eruption was in the 8th century), and that’s quite a record. It is the most active volcano in Japan and one of the most active and dangerous in the world, since the city of Kagoshima is less than 10 km away from the crater.

 

Kagoshima Bay by itself is a caldera (that’s just a huge crater), the remnant of a gigantic eruption some 22,000 years ago, which sort of demolished the ancient volcano itself. Then Sakurajima arose in this caldera to slowly form the island. It’s similar to what had happened to Krakatoa in 1883, and now we have a volcanic island — Anak Krakatoa — in its place.

 

Our ferry docks and soon cars exit the lower deck in single file. The best way to explore Sakurajima is by car, but we are not driving today, so we have to make do with the public buses to move around. From this small port we stroll over to the Visitor Center, just a km away.

 

Along the way we notice these cute little oranges in boxes selling for just ¥100 per plastic bag, which we assume is 1 kg. Nobody is tending to these oranges and you just place the money in the box and take your fruits (truly an honour system). It turns out that these are the famous ‘komikan’ of Sakurajima — the smallest orange in the world and it only grows here in the volcanic soil of Sakurajima. We duly drop a ¥100 coin and grab a bag of komikans.

 

We also notice volcanic rocks everywhere, which is testament to the origin of this island. They even use such (hard) rocks for construction.

 

At regular intervals, a safety notice like this appears — it basically tells us how far the dangerous craters are, and where (and how far) the evacuation shelter and the ferries are. Sounds ominous. right? Well, experts are expecting a truly big eruption coming in the next 30 years, and as always, the Japanese are well-prepared, especially when the whole of Kagoshima could get evacuated.

 

We arrive at the grounds of the Visitor Center, where there is a great view of Sakurajima and its three peaks — Northern, Central and Southern. There are 3 active craters at the Southern Peak including the dangerous Showa Crater. The white plume we see below is from the Southern Peak, most likely Showa’s.

 

Here they keep a tally of eruptions since 2008. The year 2011 was particularly lively. Nothing spectacular yet for 2017, and I am bit upset — been looking forward to the fireworks!

 

They provide a bus service for visitors to the volcano so we hop onto one. Apparently nobody is allowed to within 2 km of the volcano due to its ongoing activities (erupting since 1955, believe it or not!). So do not expect trails open for independent trekking — everything is controlled here.

 

While the bus stops at a viewpoint, the Southern Peak puffs away. It’s very regular, the plumes. Northern Peak (to the left) at 1,117 metres is the highest point of Sakurajima.

 

Mainly standing room inside this volcano bus, and it’s not too comfortable when it’s crowded — especially as the bus driver deftly negotiates the countless bends along the mountain roads.

 

The highest point visitors are allowed is this site, with ample car park and a nice observation building.

 

We are at the Yunohira Observation Point, a puny 373 metres above sea level — behind us the Northern Peak at 1,117 metres.

 

From here we have a nice view of Kagoshima City, just seven kilometres away. Imagine if there is a major eruption — they would have to evacuate the whole of Kagoshima with its 600,000 people, and the surrounding areas.

 

Just below the Northern Peak there seem to be a couple of barriers constructed to block volcanic debris from being washed down the slope. This is important — when it rains, the water would carry this volcanic debris with it, forming a running sludge that would flow down the slope to cause much destruction downstream. In Indonesia they call this ‘lahar dingin’.

 

A peek at the Northern Peak, immensely scarred from previous eruptions. The craters at this peak were last active about 5,000 years ago.

 

To the right of the Northern Peak, we can see the Middle Peak and the Southern Peak. The Southern Peak has three craters, and one of them, Showa, is the most active, with the latest major eruption occurring in July 2016, when ashes went up to 5,000 metres. This is the crater being closely monitored now, as it has the potential to cause the whole of Kagoshima to be evacuated. Unfortunately the crater is on the other side of of the peak and can’t be sighted from Yunohira.

 

After the bus trip (I’m a bit disappointed for not being able to get closer to the volcano), we return to the Visitor Center and find a 7-11 nearby for a wholesome lunch.

 

Hot springs are everywhere, and there’s one behind the Visitor Center, near the sea. So they thoughtfully built a ‘Foot Bath’ for tired visitors like us. The water comes out at this end, and it’s really hot.

 

It is a freezing day, but putting our tired feet in hot water is something else. It’s quite nice — cold day, blue sky, birds singing, gentle sound of surfs, and ever-smokey Sakurajima watching over us. If only we are having a big eruption as well, that would have been very memorable.

 

I can tell that sometimes the water comes in really hot waves, maybe 45°C or more, and I just have to lift my feet out for fear of being scalded. Of course it is not that bad, but my feet are red like a cooked lobster! Anyway, it’s a nice feeling — warm feet in cold weather.

 

Meanwhile the faithful ferries keep chugging along between Sakurajima and Kagoshima, leaving and arriving right on the dot, as only the Japanese could. All this sea water is filling up a gigantic 22,000-year-old crater, and it is very deep. Those cliffs over there go all the way down to 240 metres below sea level.

 

The shores are littered with black volcanic rocks. These are sharp and very hard rocks, like reefs. You don’t want your boat hitting them.

 

On the ground, we can see volcanic ashes from previous eruptions. The fine black ‘sand’ can be carried far and wide by the winds, and can disrupt human activities. It is indeed dangerous for flights too.

 

We stroll back to the port to catch the ferry back to Kagoshima, and I notice a white speck against the black rocks.

 

It’s a cold day, and the black rock absorbs the heat from the sun, and retains it. This is one smart feline.

 

Time to say goodbye to Sakurajima as it attempts another feeble eruption. I’m a tad disappointed because I have been looking forward to a more energetic volcano. But I guess an inactive active volcano is great for the people living around here, so I should not complain. By the way, Sakurajima is number eleven in my list of visited volcanoes — tally now reads: Batur, Agung, Marapi, Merapi, Bromo, Anak Krakatao, Sinabung, Sierra Negra, Cotopaxi, La Fournaise, Sakurajima. I hope to do more hills soon!  😀 

 

NEXT: NAGASAKI

 

Kagoshima, First Stop in Kyushu

[PART I]

 

January 2017

 

Being an avid fan of belching, erupting active volcanoes, the Kyushu volcano of Sakurajima has been on my to-visit list for a while. Being Japan’s most active and one of the world’s most active, I just have to see it. On my recent trip to Japan, I soon found myself making my way from Tokyo, via Kyoto, then all the way to Kagoshima, the city at the western end of Japan’s main islands, right in the shadow of Sakurajima itself. 

 

Overnighting in Kyoto, one of my favourite cities (yes, I do like some cities), Kyoto Tower is an eye candy. At 131m tall, it was built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics right opposite the main train station, but courts controversy for being a modern structure in a venerable ancient capital of Japan. Just can’t please everybody.

 

Our journey to Kagoshima starts at Shin-Osaka Station, just a short hop from Kyoto — catching the morning shinkansen aka ‘bullet train’ for the long journey ahead. This station is especially busy since all shinkansen services between Tokyo and the western part of Japan must either pass through or begin/terminate here. By the way, Tokyo to Kyoto is about 520km and the fastest shinkansen (Nozomi) can make this trip in just 2 hours 15 minutes!

 

All very warm and comfortable inside this car of the Sakura service to Kagoshima. It’s part of an 8-car N700 train-set, which can cruise at a maximum speed of 300km/h. Of course it can go faster during trials.

 

The seat has a very generous leg-room, so even if the front seat is fully reclined, you would not notice it. The whole car is so comfortable, you’d hardly realise that the train is cruising at 300km/h, depending on the rail stretch.

 

Travelling through lunchtime entails planning for a meal, and bento sets are very popular with the locals — so I got myself a very good-looking one at Kyoto Station. I just can’t believe my lunch is so nicely packed, it simply looks too good to eat. For good measure, I also brought an onigiri, or compact rice ball, which is very filling on its own.

 

Bento unpacked and I have 5 pieces of sushi — this is the ‘persimmon leaf sushi’, a local delicacy only found in Nara, a city just 45min by train south of Kyoto. Nara is more ancient than Kyoto, and was the first permanent capital of Japan, established in 710, so this leaf sushi is a very old tradition.

 

The persimmon leaf gives a slightly ‘mature’ taste to the rice, and is said to act as preservative too, making the sushi last longer on hot summer days when there was no fridge. I also taste a hint of vinegar in the sushi, but the 5 pieces are really good. Note: do not eat the persimmon leaf.

 

Two and the half hours after leaving Shin-Osaka, the shinkansen crosses the very narrow Kanmon Strait, separating the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, and soon the landscape is filled with agricultural lands (especially ricefields), rivers, forests and mountains. The northern bit of Kyushu (Kitakyushu – Fukuoka) seems to be heavily industrialised but the rest of it, such as this area in Kumamoto, is virtually rustic, green and mountainous.

 

There’s also a shinkansen depot just south of Kumamoto city. These three look like the new Series 800 train-sets, with 6 cars each, exclusively used in Kyushu.

 

Almost 5 hours (and about 950km) after leaving Kyoto, including brief layover at Shin-Osaka to change trains, our Sakura service pulls into Kagoshimachuo station. This is the terminus of the Kyushu shinkansen line. We exit the station and stroll over to check in at our hotel right opposite it.

 

A usual, the yukatas are provided, plus a nice touch — origamis of the rare Japanese Cranes — we saw them in Kushiro in eastern Hokkaido a few years back: http://m.naim.my/the-japanese-dancing-cranes-of-kushiro/

 

First thing’s first – get to know the hi-tech toilet. Every time I come to Japan, I have to re-educate myself on this very important subject. This one is particularly interesting — it has a remote control. I mean you have to be at the toilet to use it, so I’m not sure why the remote. Anyway I found out I could control the warmth of the toilet seat, remotely of course. 😀

 

Time to explore a new surrounding, this famous city at the western end of Japan, with an ever-erupting dangerous strato-volcano next door, and a modern spaceport to boot (located 60km to the southeast, the place where Japan launches their satellites into space). I’m amazed that even this far away from Tokyo (1500km away), they still have a place as modern as Tokyo itself. I’d say the same for Sapporo on Hokkaido, at the other tip of Japan.

 

Wide grid-like streets are designed for vehicles and pedestrians alike, and everything in between. Of course guide tracks for the visually-challenged too.

 

It seems the city prides itself as a cultural centre. Statues of famous local personalities are erected throughout downtown. Kagoshima has been around for many centuries, and now has a population of 600,000 people. It is said the Japanese industrial revolution started here, when a bunch of local students broke the 17th century seclusion law to visit England and US, and to return with new ideas.

 

The city is well-served with public transportation and I’m impressed with this old tram still doing the rounds.

 

In some parts of the city, they laid turf along the tracks, which I think is very cool. I’ve seen something similar in Prague recently.

 

As usual, the Japanese are synonymous with cuteness, even with a pig on a tram, winking some more.

 

As we stroll towards the bay, there’s a rather hip commercial area, full of shops and cafes and eateries.

 

On the ground between the complex and the road, there’s running hot spring water where you can dip your tired legs in — blissful in the cold winter weather. This area is highly volcanic so hot springs are the norm.

 

Across the bay, the imposing active strato-volcano Sakurajima overlooks the city. It’s well-behaved today, I’ve been hoping it’d do the normal spectacular eruptions, so I’m a tad disappointed. This volcano used to be an island, but a massive eruption a hundred years ago caused the lava to flow down the other side and to join up with  the mainland, thus making Sakurajima a peninsula. The bay is a natural harbour and in 1549, St Francis Xavier arrived here from Malacca, as the first Christian preacher.

 

They say Kagoshima is the Naples of Japan – dangerous active volcano across the bay, sunny weather, similar temperament of the people. It was the home of the near-mythical Last Samurai – Saigo Takamori – and still has the oldest Catholic community in the country. In short, Kagoshima is a very delightful place, unless you are scared of volcanoes and earthquakes.

 

Anyway after much walkabout in the city, we retire to our hotel, but not before I grab another good-looking bento. It is quite a wholesome dinner with a myriad of tastes! Good night.

 

 

> NEXT: SAKURAJIMA

 

 

Japan, December 2011 — Collection of Stories

A collection of 8 stories on the trip we did 04-11 December 2011 — travelled a total of 3800km on 16 trains (6 shinkanshen, 6 express, 4 local) and 4 buses.

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Please click titles below.

Tokugawa Ieyasu Shrine in Nikko

Utsunomiya-Hakodate Train Journey and a Big Christmas Tree

Snowy Hakodate

Sapporo White Illumination

Historical Port of Otaru

Dancing Cranes of Kushiro

Snow Monkeys of Nagano

Tokyo International Airport Haneda (HND)

 

Please visit, thanks!

Historical Port of Otaru, Hokkaido

Japan > Hokkaido > Otaru
 
08 December 2011
 
Otaru is 35km northwest of Sapporo, and served as the main port for Hokkaido in the late 1800s. It is the gateway to Sapporo and still retains a lot of charm of yesteryears.
 
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Please click below for slideshow. For best experience, please view in HD 720p. 🙂

 

 

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Sapporo White Illumination

Japan > Hokkaido > Sapporo

 

07 December 2011

 
Our train journey from Hakodate to Sapporo, capital of Hokkaido, is about 320km long.
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Evening arrival in Sapporo from Hakodate, and we promptly have dinner at an eatery near the JR Sapporo Station. Followed by a slippery walk on ice to the famed Odori Park to witness the spectacular Sapporo White Illumination. 07 December 2011.
 
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Please click below for slideshow. For best experience, please view in HD 720p. 🙂

 

 

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Snowy Hakodate in Hokkaido

Japan > Hokkaido > Hakodate

 07 December 2011

Hakodate is almost 900km by train north of Tokyo.
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On a cold snowy day, we explore the interesting bits of Hakodate, a city of 280,000 people. First Japanese port to open to foreigners, in 1854. A beautiful seaside city set on a promontory, founded 15th century, it has many historical sites. Please click below for slideshow, thanks!

For best experience, please view in HD 720p full screen. 🙂

 

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Utsunomiya-Hakodate Train Journey and a Big Christmas Tree

Japan > Utsunomiya – Hakodate

 

06 December 2011

 
Two hitched Shinkansens bound for Tokyo, at Utsunomiya Station.
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Day-long 770km train rides from Utsunomiya (Honshu) to Hakodate (Hokkaido), via the 58km-long Seikan Tunnel underneath the Tsugaru Strait. Hakodate welcomes us with a Big Christmas Tree, a gift from Sister City Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada. Please click below for slideshow in HD 720p, thanks!
 

 
For best experience, please view in HD 720p full screen. 🙂

 

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