I know this might be a bit morbid but one subject that interests me is the World War II. Aside from your usual serial killers or mysterious events, the World War II is one keyword that pops up in my Google search history from time to time. A dream of mine is to visit as many WW2 museums as I can or maybe the Auschwitz camp in Germany. I only know four museums, actually, most of them in Japan. Last year, I visited the Peace Museum in Osaka and the experience was just heartbreaking. Children who survived the war drew portraits of what they saw and most of them had dead bodies and huge fires. My cousin’s family visited Hiroshima earlier this year and I was envious. Luckily, one of our suppliers invited us on an all-expense paid trip. Even more lucky, it was in Japan. And the best news, it included a side trip to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum!
I’ve included our itinerary for easier reference:
Since I and my sister will be joining a tour group, I knew early on that there won’t be that much tourist sites. As what my sister said, this trip was more for pleasure so I expected a lot of down time i.e. shopping.
Our flight was set on October 25 (my dad’s birthday!) morning. We arrived at Fukuoka International Airport at around 3:00PM local time and was at the hotel by 4:00PM. We had about an hour to walk around the neighborhood before going to dinner. According to the tour guide, Fukuoka City is the fifth biggest city in Japan with a population of 1.5 million. It is 2 hours away from Tokyo, about 1000 kilometers. It was the gate between Japan and the continent (China, Korea, etc). It had the government facility that granted permission from the emperor to travel. One famous dish that comes from Fukuoka is Hakata Ramen, a kind of ramen which uses a pork-bone tonkontsu broth.
Nagasaki, on the other hand, was the only open port to the west during Japan’s self-isolation. It was also one of the places where an atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. These were from the tour guide’s intro while on the bus and I haven’t fact-checked some of these so feel free to correct me. 🙂
Fukuoka has been known ever since as “Hakata”. A samurai from a town called “Fukuoka” in another prefecture then went to Hakata and established his Fukuoka Castle. This led to the division into two: Hakata and Fukuoka. However, after the Samurai era, there was a vote on what to name the city. “Fukuoka” won by one vote.
Our hotel (Hakata Excel Hotel) is comfortably situated between Hakata and Tenjing areas. From what I can recall, Tenjing area is famous for its shopping, dining, entertainment and night life while Hakata is more the laid-back and cultural area but is now starting to boom. Again, if you have more info, don’t hesitate to tell me!
We went out to grab a snack at a nearby Mo’s burger, scoured the aisles of a Family Mart and looked for the closest Don Quijote branch before going back to the hotel. Our dinner that night was at a shabu shabu place 🙂
TIL. The shabu shabu soup isn’t really meant to be drunk; you just cook the food there, one by one. Unlike what we did as seen below.. 😛
To keep this post short, I’ll just mention the highlights of our trip!
My first legit experience in a Shinto shrine
Our second day started off a little early. We were out and on the bus by 8:00AM. Our first stop was the Dazaifu Tenmangu which is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, the deity of education. The tour guide told us that students about to take entrance exams often go here praying they could pass their test. When we got there, our tour guide Keiko demonstrated the cleansing process before going inside the temple:
- Take a ladle with your right hand and scoop some water
- Pour water to your left hand to wash
- Take the ladle with your left hand. Pour water to your right hand to wash.
- Pour water to your right hand then gargle and spit at the designated area.
- Tip the ladle upwards so the water will pour to the handle to wash it
The first ladle I took had some sort of phlegmy substance at the handle. Yuck. I got a new one and hopefully got the thing out of my fingers before the gargling part. 😐
We walked towards the temple and there were chairs arranged in the middle for a ceremony that will be held later on.
In front of the temple, Keiko taught us how to pray: bow twice (for respect), clap twice (to get the attention of the diety), toss coin (as a gift), make a wish, and then bow deeply. It was so nice to have a tour guide that is willing to give us these tips!
Here are some photos on our way back to the bus! 🙂
Ichiran No Mori Factory
One of the best ramens I’ve tasted is from Ichiran Ramen. I first discovered it last year in Osaka and now, I try visit one every time I’m in Japan. After all 49 of us, finished making our wishes in the Daizafu Tenmangu, we hopped back on the bus and were on our way to Ichiran no Mori’s factory!!! We were directed through a trail lined with bamboo going to the main building. The view was great!
We walked through a hallway with windows and each window showed every stage of the production. The hallway then led to several rooms displaying several of Ichiran’s memorabilia.
At the end, there was a gift shop where you could buy ramen packets and some of their special iced tea and chili powder.
Of course, no tour would be complete without a perfectly prepared bowl of ramen and dessert. Yumyum!
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park
Like I mentioned before, this was the one I was most excited about! From Fukuoka, we travelled two hours to Nagasaki and went straight to the Atomic Bomb Museum. Keiko gave us a briefing about the schedule and left us to explore the exhibit.
The Atomic Bomb museum contained artefacts and testimonies about the day the atomic bomb called Little Fat Man was dropped in Nagasaki. Upon entering the exhibit, a clock with the hands stuck at 11:02 greeted me- this was the exact time the bomb landed in August 9, 1945 and ultimately, destroyed the clock. There was a lot of people- students, mostly- inside the room making it a little hard to concentrate. Japanese students come here as part of their education about the importance of peace.
The first thing that got my attention was this piece of clay. As the description says, a couple was saved from the blast but their children who were at home that time weren’t. The father rushed home but couldn’t find his children’s bodies. Instead, they found hardened pieces of clay. With no bodies, the couple cherished this piece of clay as a memento of their children before they donated it to the museum. I could never imagine the pain the couple must have felt all those years.
The exhibit also showed photos of the immediate aftermath to where and who the bomb hit. The bodies of dead children lying on the ruins were especially disheartening. Some photos also showed survivors desperately waiting for help. I’ve included photos below but some are very graphic and might not be for everyone. 😦
One notable man during this crisis was Dr. Takashi Nagai. He was already suffering from leukemia before the bomb hit but that did not stop him from helping other victims. He also began writing about peace until his dying day.
Nagasaki wasn’t actually the target of the second atomic bomb. It was supposed to be Kokura but the smoke cover made it impossible to lock in the target. They moved to their secondary target which was Nagasaki but cloud obscured the view as well. Just as they decided to turn, there was a sudden break in the clouds. They dropped the bomb and well, you know what happened next.
We also went down to view the exact spot where the bomb hit. Nearby, there is the Peace Park. The Peace Park holds the Peace Statue by sculptor Seibo Kitamura. The statue is 9.7 meters high made of bronze and below it, you can see a vault. The vault contains the names of the victims of the bombing, including those who died later on. Every year, on August 9, the Nagasaki Memorial Service for the Dead and Peace Ceremony is held in front of the statue. Every year, more names are added inside the vault.
This Japan trip is definitely different from my recent trips. For one, this trip was free! 😛 Since we were part of the tour, our time at each place was limited. Our days weren’t very tight though; we’d go to just one to three major places per day. It was really nice getting to know new people and reconnecting with old ones– I joined a trip the supplier sponsored when I was in second year high school and two of the people I met then were in this trip too! I’m really glad this trip suddenly popped up and hoping for more!
Here are some photos from our day at Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch-inspired theme park! 😀
And of course, food!