Everyday over here seems to present new challenging situations, and yet each day also seems to present unbelievable experiences.
After leaving Hokkaido, I traveled down south to Kyushu via Osaka. Due to the entire country being on the move (and despite the fact that I booked my tickets two weeks in advance), I was unable to secure seats on a fast shinkansen. Instead, I went on the “SuperExpress Shinkansen” that stopped at all stations to Kurume. Sheesh. In Kurume I once again met up with previous host families and had a fantastic time. Our days were spent lazying about in the air conditioning (unbelievably hot down here in Kyushu) and going out for dinner. My first night out was at the local Chinese restaurant, where the owner still remembered me! Second night out was at a yakitori (grilled foods) restaurant. Plenty of (ice cold) beer to be had, fun times had by all. As always, leaving was difficult (sob!), but I’ll be back soon…
From Kurume I headed to Beppu. However, due to a problem with buying my rail pass in Kurume, I first had top head to the bigger city of Fukuoka to take care of my rail pass. As I’m flying out of there in 5 days time, I thought I would leave my big backpack in a coin locker there, and just cart around my small bag. So off I went to the coin locker place, and asked the guy how long you can leave a bag there, was 5 days ok? He said it was fine, so I put the bag in a locker (had to struggle to make it fit, I wasn’t going to pay the extra $1 to get a bigger locker!). The way it works is you pay the first day when you deposit the bag, then you pay whats owing when you come and get your luggage. So I paid for the first day. I then went all chatted to the girls at the information desk, and they then told me that its a max of three days for the lockers – after that they make you pay heaps of money to get your bag back. Bah! I had to go back and get my bag, and take it with me to the next place. Put it in a locker at the station when I got here, so I didn’t have to lug it to my accommodation, but still had to get it in and off the trains, very annoying!
In Beppu, the capital of hot springs in Japan, I spent my first day wandering around, attempting to keep out of the sun. While strolling down the main street, I noticed an ATM that would accept my card, and thought I may as well get some money out as backup. Big mistake – half an hour later, after many “discussions” with the guys at the bank, my credit card had been frozen, and it appeared they had $500 of my money. The rest of the night was spent on internet chat to Australia trying to sort it out. Appears to be sorted out now, but was not fun! Whilst in Beppu, I also went to a hot sand bath (in an attempt to relax after the credit card dramas). Amazing! You put on a cotton yukata (summer kimono), and then lie down in the hot black sand whilst they shovel hot sand over your body. The feeling is amazing. Afterwards, you wash yourself off and soak in a big onsen bath. My second night was spent in fear – put a bunch of drunk foreigners together with a big bag of fireworks, and what do you think is going to happen? We’re just lucky that the rain dealt with most of the blow from the crackers.
From Beppu it was down to Kagoshima, one of the most south points (other than the islands) that you can go in Japan. My first day was spent in agony – the trip was 6 hours of changing trains, and as it is the Obon holiday, tickets were sold out in most carriages. As a result, I ended up in a smoking carriage – couple that with the 3 hours of sleep I had the night before, and the copious amounts of Japanese sake and shochu I drank the night before (FREE, it was free!), I was a sorry sight by the time I made it to Kagoshima. Luckily I had the foresight to book a hotel rather than a hostel, and spent a good majority of my time asleep in my hotel room…
My last night in Japan was spent at a buddhist temple – an unbelievable experience. After checkin, I wandered about the neighbouring mossy antique cemetery – with an estimated 500,000 graves. Dinner was at 5.30pm, with an 8pm lights out! With a wake-up bell at 5.30am, the early bedtime was just as well. The next day was spent traveling to get back to the airport (with a few pre-planned stops for souvineer shopping 🙂 ).
Once again, my travels in Japan are over, but have no fear, I’ll be back again!