Dr. Chun
Fukuoka, Japan

June, 2015

The city of Fukuoka is located on the northwestern corner of picturesque Kyushu Island, Japan’s southernmost isle. With green spaces, ancient temples, and fresh seafood, this port city is considered one of the most visited metropolises in Japan. Destination Fukuoka in the summer of 2015!  I also venture out of the city and into Kyushu’s other interesting towns — Kumamoto and Nagasaki.

013Arrived at Fukuoka airport late at night and checked into a hotel near Hakata station.  Next morning, I enjoyed a super-fast, ultra-confortable Shinkansen ride to Kumamoto, which is well-known for Kumamoto Castle. 023With large castle grounds and a variety of old buildings, Kumamoto Castle is one of the most impressive castles in Japan. A band of samurai warriors welcomed the visitors at the entrance.
033Back to Fukuoka and headed for Nagasaki in the afternoon. Don't forget to buy a one-day tram pass! Had Nagasaki Champon for lunch. A variant of ramen, champon is particularly popular in the Nagasaki region. 043After the lunch at Shikairo Restaurant, I walked up the hill towards Ōura Church. The oldest church in Japan is also known as the Church of the 26 Japanese Martyrs.
053The entrance to Glover Garden is just next to the church. The garden was built for Thomas Blake Glover, a Scottish merchant who contributed to the modernization of Japan in shipbuilding, coal mining, and other fields. 063The design and atmosphere of Glover Garden reminded many visitors of the scenes in the opera "Madame Butterfly" by Puccini. As a result, statues of Puccini and diva Miura Tamaki, who played Cio-Cio-san, have been placed in Glover Garden.
073A tram ride to Dejima, which was a small artificial island in the bay of Nagasaki. It was built during the Edo Period in order to accommodate Portuguese Christian missionaries and prevent the propagation of their religion. It also used to be the residential quarters of the Dutch, the only foreigners allowed to trade in Japan during the Isolation Period. 083Snack time at Bunmeido Castella Shop! Bunmeido is famous for their Castella (sponge cakes), which was brought over by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century.
093Walked towards Spectacles Bridge, which is the oldest stone bridge in Japan. The reflection of the two arches of bridge in the water create the image of a pair of spectacles. 103A tram ride to Nagasaki Peace Park, commemorating the atomic bombing of the city during World War II. The statue's right hand points to the threat of nuclear weapons, while the extended left hand symbolizes eternal peace.
113On August 9, 1945, an atomic bomb exploded in the sky about 500 meters above the point where this monument now stands.  I had no time for Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum or National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. 123Took a tram and stopped by at the Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument that commemorates 26 martyrs, a mixture of native Japanese Christians and European missionaries, who were crucified in 1597. Returned to Fukuoka by train in the evening.
133Next morning, I took a train at Hakata station and headed for Nanzō-in Temple, which is home to a huge statue of the reclining Buddha. They say the resident priest of this temple won the lottery and built the world's largest bronze statue at this site. 143Took a local train bound for Yanagawa in the afternoon, whose characters mean "willow tree" and "river". Really enjoyed a leisurely cruise on its numerous canals. The boatman sang a low-pitched, wistful air as he poled our boat down the watery freeway.
153Took a return train to Fukuoka but got off at Dazaifu. Dazaifu Tenmangu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to a scholar who is deified as the god of learning, literature, and calligraphy. 163No wonder why Dazaifu is considered the number one pilgrimage site for high school students hoping to pass university entrance exams.  The students and their parents come to pray for success and buy an "ema" (votive wooden board) to write their pleas for academic success.
173Back to Fukuoka. A local bus took me to the beach.  I found an interesting waterfront facility, Wedding Island Marizon, which is very popular among young couples.  It is a wedding chapel with a 30 meter-long bridal walk and four ocean-view banquette room. (Did I made a reservation for my daughter?) 183Fukuoka Tower is by the Momochi Seaside Park. It looks like a skyscraper, but it actually is the tallest beach tower in Japan.  Enjoyed a stunning panoramic view of Fukuoka from three observation decks at night.
193With the 3-day rail pass, I took a train to Sasebo next morning. Huis Ten Bosch (or House in the Forest) is a theme park that recreates a Dutch town. It is named after one of the residences of the Dutch royal family. The spacious resort is suffused with a European atmosphere with its picturesque canals, iconic windmills, and beautiful gardens and architecture. 203I walked to Palace Huis Ten Bosch which houses an art museum. Nice palace, but I found it is not an art museum per se. It's raining, and I tried to stay inside as often as possible.
213The palace has very nice stroll gardens, but it kept raining! 223The observation deck of the Domtoren tower at the theme park gives a bird's eye view of the park.  A street musician inside the building played a song, "Raindrops keep falling on my head." I sang a song silently, "Rain, rain, go away!"
233Back to Fukuoka and visited several attractions in Tenjin area. Stopped by at Kushida Shrine which is fervently revered as "Okushida-san," god of immortality and success in business. Walked towards Hakata station in the rain. 243Last night in Fukuoka, and I had a sashimi dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Canal City, which is a huge shopping and entertainment complex. Next morning, a short subway train ride to the airport, and I said, "Sayonara, Fukuoka!"
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