One winter day my wife came home and announced: „We are going to Japan!”. So be it! After previous year trip to Shanghai why not to go to another East Asian country, country renowned as a economical success story, but also a mystery for Europeans due to its long-lasting isolation and hermetic culture. This time we were supposed to go to Miyazaki in the most southern of the four biggest Japanese islands — Kyūshū. We investigated the most convenient air connections and to my joy it seemed that one way we will fly through Osaka, but the return trip will lead through Tokyo. Finally Osaka was left for another journey. Well, even better, as this is impossible to learn Osaka within several hours…
Tōkyō 東京 – Miyazaki 宮崎市
Eleven and half an hour on board on KLM’s Boeing 747 passed by astonishingly quickly. We approached Tokyo’s Narita International Airport 成田国際空港 from east. This means that we flew across Sea of Japan and Japan itself, concluding our approach from over Pacific Ocean. Touch down and we were there, in the unknown land so different to what we get used to in Europe.
Our first task was… to continue the journey. The final destination was Miyazaki, a city in eastern Kyūshū 九州. Planes to Miyazaki depart from Haneda Airport 羽田空港, so we needed to transfer from Narita to Haneda. That was 17th hour of our journey. We decided to take direct connection between Narita and Haneda — a bus. It is possible to transfer between those two airports by train, however it is complicated and time consuming. The brave who decides to travel by train must calculate at least 2 changes (from Keisei to Yamanote line, and then from Yamanote to Monorail). I’ve heard that it is possible to switch from Keisei to Keikyu line to Haneda, but… I don’t know where.
After 50-minute trip we arrived to Haneda Airport, Terminal 2, where ANA flights depart from. That was definitely to early, so we spent some 3 hours waiting for the flight to Miyazaki. Interesting observations on Haneda included Pokemon Airlines airplanes
The quality of the picture is unfortunately poor. I took it with my mobile phone camera, and the plane was far away.
That was the first time when we realized that there are some challenges in Japan. We only attempted to find out flight on a big and clear departure times table…
To be fair I must admit that the table was taking turns in displaying English and Japanese descriptions. We found our gate and realized that the departure was postponed 5 minutes! We were a little bit afraid of the pilot’s mental condition as any delay is unacceptable in Japan. He was late 5 minutes and there was no earthquake that could justify late departure!
The plane took off and 1 and half hours later we landed on Miyazaki Airport and took one of these Toyota Comfort taxis to get into hotel. And believe me – it was a comfortable transfer. Taxi drivers wear suits, hats and white gloves. A door opens automatically. And man can feel and hear a sound of good old motor designed in ’80s and not changed even a bit since then.
Miyazaki is a city of 400,000 citizens. It is tiny if you compare it with huge urban areas like Tokyo or Osaka: Tokyo is 100 times bigger. But Miyazaki is a local metropolis, a capital of the prefecture of the same name.
Out sightseeing tour commenced with a visit in Japanese Garden. One can encounter Japanese gardens without any trouble in each Japanese city. Obligatory part of each Japanese garden is pond with fish. Here it is:
I really wonder how the Japanese Garden in Wrocław looks like. Here is the Prefectural Office of Miyazaki (+ obtrusive tourist):
Both places are close to Miyazaki’s main street – Tachibana-dōri 橘通. Note that all drivers drive on a wrong side of a road
Tachibana-dōri is a street crossing main commercial district. It’s a communication backbone of a city, that’s why it is so wide. If man looks for narrower, more stylish streets, it’s enough to turn into one of the numerous streets that intersect Tachibana-dōri. Some of them are even covered with a roof…
… but others are covered with cables.
Japanese are one of sparse nations that launched their own space ship. Miyazaki’s Science Museum proudly exhibits a model of HLV-1 rocket in real size just outside the building. This is good opportunity to feel a real size of such rocket. Probably it is tiny comparing to American space ships, but still it leaves unforgettable impression.
Unfortunately that was Monday when I went to Science Museum in Miyazaki, so the Museum was closed, as all museums in the world are on Mondays. I could visit the „exhibitions” outside the building only. Apart from rocket there was another one, and you may guess what was it… Japanese garden of course! Delightful one again. A place when man can find quiet, catch a deep breath, sit down and watch fish in a pond, leaves moved by the wind, and think about nothing. Just feel the moment of harmony. I think that this word describes japanese garden in a best way: harmony.
Nichinan 日南市: Obi Castle 飫肥城
There is not so much to visit on the south from Miyazaki. Actually there is not so much there. Just a countryside with several small towns and further on, a huge space of ocean with dots being archipelagos of tiny islands up to, perhaps, Papua-New Guinea. Despite this feeling of being on the end of the land, it turned out that there is something interesting to see. Nichinan.
The road winds its way through green hills and rocks sometimes submerging in tunnel under a slope of hill in order to emerge on the opposite side. Some of the tunnels were built to replace coastal road that, as it happened in the past, may be destroyed by tsunami thus cutting off remote villages from the rest of the country for even several weeks. A railroad line accompanies the road along many sections, as there is no virtually other pieces of land suitable for building transportation tracts in that area in an economically justified way. In such a terrain one can see how lucky in respect of transportation costs are the nations inhabiting plains. When it is raining, the coastal road looks like below. Imagine tsunami wave hitting the shore… Or maybe you’d better not!
Probably the most important historical place in Nichinan is Obi Castle, sometimes called Little Kyoto of Kyūshū, which… does not exist any longer. In 1978 the main gate of the castle was restored. The other remainings of Obi Castle include walls, samurai’s mansion, storehouse and merchant house.
Outside the Obi Castle, but not far from it is located the Merchant House Museum 商家資料館. Visitors may learn there Japanese merchant style of living before modernisation in 20th century.
Hospitality of our hosts led us to a house where we were served a cup of traditional tea and some… hmmm, not exactly sweets. Actually we ate two sorts of fried rice balls with a kind of syrup and without it. Pretty… interesting
Aoshima means „blue island”. Or „green”. Or something in between. It lies between Nichinan and Miyazaki. There is a convenient, and what’s also important, quite cheap rail connection from Miyazaki.
Actually I don’t know if the above train goes to Aoshima. More likely it is bound to Miyazaki Airport, but definitely it’s heading Minami-Miyazaki. Similar, but one car trains carry passengers to Aoshima and further to Nichinan.
Aoshima is a town and an isle. Quite small isle. One can go around it within 15 to 20 minutes. On the below picture, apart from Ania and bicycle one can also see a gate preceding temple.
The isle is connected with the mainland by a bridge, which used to be made of stones. The bridge is a part of the view from Aoshima to the mainland which is a header picture of my blog.
Aoshima is a place where engaged couples from all over Japan come to obtain a blessing for their marriage. In a shrine at the center of the isle…
Another interesting feature of Aoshima is its flora of subtropical type, while the mainland vegetation is of Mediterranean kind. Aoshima is also a home for numerous crabs. When taking a walk along beach be cautious not to step on one of fleeing creatures.
Another interesting findings on Aoshima are pieces of porcelain vessels on a beach. While the beach is stony and rocky unlike on Baltic Sea shore, it is not so uncommon to find small pieces of painted porcelain originating from sunken cargo ship of past centuries. We found such pieces and added to our sea findings collection.
Well, after 4 and half days in Kyūshū we boarded return JAL flight to Tōkyō. This time we flew Embraer 175, so well known from LOT flights to Stockholm. The famous and often mythologized capital of Japan or rather small part of it I shall try to describe in part 2.