Monday, March 30, 2009

march (k)

The pictures from our trip are on flickr, so pop over there. What follows is a (fairly) brief account of the journey.

DAY 1: So, as I mentioned, we had to wait for the noon ferry due to the weather. Unfortunately, though it was no longer storming, the ferry ride was really rough. If you dared to look out the window, you would see the white caps of the waves for a moment then it would shift to the cloudy sky for a moment. Up and down, up and down. I am actually getting a bit seasick thinking of it so let's move on, shall we?
It took five hours to get to Nagasaki this time instead of the typical three and a half hours. So when we arrived, we immediately found our streetcar and went to the hostel. Leaving our stuff, we went out seeking dinner then came back and went to sleep. Bedtime while traveling was essentially the same, if not better, than usual. Bathtime then pajamas and storytime. The room was so snug that it made it really easy to take care of everything, making me wish we lived in an apartment again.

DAY 2: Woke up and headed to Nagasaki station where we caught a bus bound for the Biopark. The bus ride is a little over an hour but the scenery was captivating enough to keep Sebastian happy while Nico took a nap. Nico's automatic response to public transportation seems to be "it's time to sleep" as every time he would board a subway, bus, or eventually a plane, he would take off his shoes and infamous hat and settle down for a little doze.
The Biopark is a terrific place and the weather that day was beautiful. We like the Biopark because it is not like typical Japanese zoos. And because you get to touch capybaras and monkeys. It gives the animals more space and thus gives the kids a better understanding of their lives. Most Japanese zoos are throwbacks to the 1970s with one example of an animal trapped in a tiny concrete floored cage. But we'll come back to that on Day 5. Anyway, after much exploration, touching, and handwashing, we caught the bus back to the city.
There we went to the giant CocoWalk mall where we played at the Dick Bruna and Borne stores and ate a mochi that had been pressed into a waffle. Afterwards, dinner and bedtime.

DAY 3: Another bus ride but this time we went to the Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium. We were really surprised by how nice this place was. Not only penguins, it also showcased the marine life around Nagasaki. We went to a near-by park for a nice hanami (flower viewing) picnic under the cherry blossoms. The kids played for a while there then eventually we headed back to Nagasaki proper.

DAY 4: Woke up and headed to the train station to catch a limited express train to Hakata/Fukuoka. I love riding on limited express trains. The land between Nagasaki and Hakata was coastal and dotted with thatched roofs and mountains wrapped in pink from all the cherry trees. Left our stuff in a locker once we arrived and went exploring. Fukuoka is a big (huge by our standards) city, very clean and populated. So many people everywhere. Walking, driving, riding bikes and buses, eating in restaurants and drinking in cafes. Very different from Gotou. Eventually we headed to our guesthouse, which was behind a udon restaurant as in you have to go through the restaurant to get to the guesthouse. Nice little room that met our needs for the two nights we slept there. We went out for a walk and found Canal City, a mall complete with a Pokemon Center and helpful robots.

DAY 5: Headed to the American Consulate for Sebastian's passport renewal (both parents have to be present for minors to get their passports). Heavily secured building and lots of little annoying details but eventually we escaped and fled to the huge park across the way. A gorgeous place that made me envy those who got to use it on a regular basis. Leaving there, we headed to the zoo. It took a while to get there because my navigation skills were marred by riding on the subways (yeah, that means I got us lost, quite a bit). So the zoo. The zoo. Very crowded due to spring break. Many happy families climbing the steep slopes to check out tigers and tapirs. The animals? Well, not so happy. I think every single one of them was mentally ill due to being isolated and trapped in such poor conditions. Supposedly they are working to renovate the place, which I hope is true. Afterwards, the mall again. Sebastian scored a pokemon onigiri bento (riceball lunch box) and a pokemon picnic sheet for school trips. I had more coffee from my old green aproned employers and Sebastian was entertained by a very genki Australian juggler and the fountain show, performed with the music from Mamma Mia.

DAY 6: We woke early and took all of our (by this time) heavy junk out to the airport and stashed it away in a locker. Then back to the mall for some Muji shopping and some omiyage for school. We tried for another hanami picnic but the park I had spied before was now taken over by elderly people playing croquet and on the other side, some people who were using benches as beds and newspapers as blankets. So on we went until we found a vacant bench along the river that they happened to be dredging so we could eat while the boys watched. Eventually, we headed to the airport and waited for our little plane back to our little island. Then a taxi ride home and sleep.

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