Return to Japan

We boarded our flight about 12:30 am and were soon off on our 4 hour flight to Japan. Bangkok Airways flew two cut-rate flights to Japan from Bangkok, one to Hiroshima and one to Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu. It was this latter destination that I had chosen, figuring that it might be our only chance to visit Kyushu during our stay in Japan. It wasn’t Fukuoka, per se, which interested me the most, but a city which was located on the tip of the island, 100 miles to its south, Nagasaki. We had visited Hiroshima earlier; I figured that a trip to Nagasaki was an appropriate way to bring our journey to completion.

The trip on Bangkok Airways was one of the nicer flights that we had taken, since they were not technically a budget airline, like all the rest of our flights on the trip had involved. I, however, did not take full advantage of the services, since I was asleep for most of the time. The family did not sleep quite as well, and ended up watching most of the in-flight movies. We arrived in Fukuoka about 8:30, due to the 4 hour time difference between Bangkok and Japan. A classic picture I took of the kids is of them sitting on a bench outside of Fukuoka Airport, hunched over and sound asleep. It speaks volumes about the general state of the family after 3 weeks on the road!

My original plan was to use our discount train tickets to get to Nagasaki. I had bought 10 tickets, only 6 of which we used on the trip to Hiroshima. However, in the confusion that followed a delay in Kobe that evening, Trudy had stuck the remaining tickets into her pants pocket and had subsequently washed them, destroying them completely. While I had not been happy about the loss of the tickets then (and Trudy had regretted even more the fact that tiny fragments of them could be found on our laundry for weeks), it ended up being a blessing in disguise. Instead of a 5 hour train ride using the discount trains, we ended up on a 2 hour bus ride to Nagasaki. I suspect that the former arrangement would have led to full mutiny by the other travellers, which we had already gotten dangerously close to in Ayutthaya.

As it was, the bus picked us up directly from the airport and deposited us at Nagasaki station right on schedule, during which time the family mostly slept. Once in Nagasaki, we put most of our luggage in lockers in the train station and took an overnight bag with us to the hotel, a Comfort Inn that I had booked over the internet. We took a trolley car, which was strangely reminiscent of the ones we rode in Hiroshima, to the stop nearest the hotel and walked the rest of the way. We arrived at 11:30 and I asked if there was a chance that our room was ready, since check in was not officially until 1 pm. They informed us that it wasn’t, so we replied that we would wait in the lobby until it was.

While we waited, Justin and I decided to walk over and see one of the sights that I wanted to see in Nagasaki, which happened to be just a few blocks from the hotel. Dejima was an artificial island off the shore of Nagasaki that the Japanese forced Dutch traders to live on in order to have the privilege of trading with them during the 200 year period of isolation when Japan had no other contact with the outside world. Due to subsequent land reclamation projects, the island was now surrounded by the city, but the period buildings had recently been restored to display the history of that time. We spent the next 45 minutes walking around Dejima and looking at the displays there.

By the time we returned, everyone was very hungry, so Justin and I walked to the food court of a mall which was on the harbor and picked up food from McDonalds for lunch. We ate at tables in the lobby in the area where the hotel served breakfast. During lunch, it occurred to me that the hotel was not going to check us in early, even if the room was completely empty as well as sparkling clean. We had been spoiled by checking into hotels at early as 8:30 am in Myanmar. This was Japan, and I knew without a doubt that they were not going to bend the rules one iota. Sure enough, at 1:01, they said that our room was finally ready.

We all went right to bed- we had two twin beds as well as a couch that folded out into a bed for Brennan. I only slept for about two hours, though, since I had gotten a decent amount of sleep on the plane. Since I was still in the mood for touring, I decided to set off on my own while the family was fast asleep. I started by taking a trolley to the Oura Catholic Church, the oldest church in Japan. Even before Dejima was built, Nagasaki had historically been the principle city for trade with the outside world. Portuguese missionaries had brought Catholicism to Japan for the first time in Nagasaki. After this, I traveled back to Nagasaki station and walked a few blocks to the monument of the 26 martyrs. Once the shogun had grown to regret allowing foreign influence, including religion, into the country, he ordered that a number of Christians, 20 of which were Japanese lay people, be crucified in Nagasaki, in order to make an example of them. I surveyed their likenesses, which were carved into a wall, and took a picture of the church which stood on the site.

Instead of taking the trolley back, I walked south along the harbor, until I reached the mall that we had visited earlier. There, I bought myself a “baseball crunch” flavored ice cream cone from Baskin Robbins. Most of the 31 flavors in Japan had names that didn’t give a person any clue what was actually in them. I had ordered “popping shower” on a previous trip to the chain. I then continued to walk along the harbor, scoping out places that I thought the family might want to go for dinner.

When I returned to the hotel room, around 5 pm, the family was still fast asleep. They finally started to stir about an hour later. Since Trudy didn’t really feel like leaving the hotel to eat, the boys and I returned yet again to the mall on the harbor and picked up take-out from KFC, as well as ice cream for the boys. Soon after we had eaten, the family went back to bed.

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