July 21 – “Go West, Young Man!”

map_asiaI have reached the end of the line. Literally. I’ve been riding on the JR Rail system for the entire trip and when my train arrived in Nagasaki this afternoon, the track literally stopped. Trains only go in and out of the station to the east. As you can see on the map to the left, Nagasaki is about as far east as you can go in Japan without getting into a boat or on an airplane (which coincidentally, I am on Saturday to go even further west!).

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I travelled to Nagasaki today, leaving at 11:30 from Hiroshima and arriving at 14:45 (that’s how my mind has to work with time in Japan – no AM or PM) in Nagasaki.  I sort of have to use these times because I lugging around my worldly possessions on my back.  Let me tell you what – that junk gets heavy in 90 degree heat!  I want to get to the hotel in time to check in and get settled.  In Japan, that’s either 2 or 3 PM.  I realize there are other solutions, but I’m stubborn that that’s what I’ve done.

The main problem with this grand plan of mine is that once you get checked in, room set up, ready to face the day – Japan is shutting down.  If you are looking to go check out some non-shopping site, you’d better plan to be there by about 5 or you are out of luck.

Knowing that, I knew that today would probably be a bit of a non-productive day.  I know that’s to be expected sometimes when traveling, but I hate wasting time and money (especially if it someone else’s).


Nagasaki

Pulling into Nagasaki, my first impressions is that this is the “grittiest” town I’ve been to so far. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just a working-class port town on the edge of Japan.

tjuly21-tokyo-3197After finding my way to my hotel for the next two nights, I noted that the free laundry (you have to pay for drying of course…) was not being used so I took the opportunity to throw my clothes that were quite ripe at that point into the wash.  This gave me an hour and a half or so of free time.  I started channel surfing the Japanese cable system here and stopped in my tracks when I saw the amazing sport of sumo!

From what i can tell – sumo is pretty straight forward. First person to either fall over or get pushed outside the rope ring is the loser. Sometimes it can happen pretty quick, other times you have the obese Japanese dudes grappling with each other for an uncomfortable amount of time.

After the sumo, I tried to go out and find a few sites of interest before they closed up – with no great success.  All of the A-Bomb stuff is quite a bit north of my hotel and I decided to save that until tomorrow simply because it’s quite a trek.

tjuly21-tokyo-00750One constant theme I noticed about Nagasaki is that it is heavily influenced by other countries.  As a port city on the far west side of Japan, it was a popular place for other countries to trade in.  The city has a set of old western-style houses and a large Catholic church – not items typically found in Japan.  As I was walking the streets, I noticed the old British consulate and neighborhoods that looks a bit more Western than others.  There’s also a Chinatown district right by my hotel that has some neat lighting.

Having struck out on finding interesting places to visit for the night, I went on a walk by the edge of the long bay that is the hub of shipping in the area.  It was quite a nice walk, with the sun falling behind the mountains to one side of me.

This area of Japan is heavily mountainous and as I drove in on the bullet train, it appears as if the Japanese have used every bit of non-mountainous terrain to build cities.  Imagine a country that’s roughly the size of California but has a little less than half of the population of the entire United States…there’s a reason Japan is packed!  A lot of the cultural aspects of Japan (cleanliness, politeness) have risen because their entire lives are lived in close proximity with one another.

I eventually found a department store, and with those being the only things open at that time of night, went in to investigate (and have some delicious Okonomiyaki!

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I ran into a strange site as I was walking around. In a small square next to a shopping mall, a large crowd of what looked to be teenage boys were doing some crazy things with a shrine. They had the shrine on their shoulders and were walking and running back and forth with it. At times they would throw it in the air and turn with it. All of this was accompanied by a drum.

What I can figure is that they were preparing for some sort of parade or competition.  A little ways down the way I noticed another group practicing with a big train looking thing on wheels, doing similar things.

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As I said earlier, this was a bit of a travel/laundry/down day in preparation of the remaining few days I have in the country.

Tomorrow, I will be exploring the rest of Nagasaki, including the A-Bomb Memorial and museum.