Archiwa kategorii: Geography

Japan, part 1 – Kyūshū

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.

Unknown land
The Unknown Land

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 :)

Pokemon Plane
Pokémon ポケモン Plane

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…

Haneda Departure Time Table
Haneda Departure Time 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 宮崎市

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:

Japanese Garden in Miyazaki
Japanese Garden close to Prefectural Office in Miyazaki

I really wonder how the Japanese Garden in Wrocław looks like. Here is the Prefectural Office of Miyazaki (+ obtrusive tourist):

Prefectural Office in Miyazaki
Prefectural Office in Miyazaki

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 :)

Main street of Miyazaki – Tachibana-dōri 橘通
Main street of Miyazaki – Tachibana-dōri 橘通

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…

Tachibanadōrihigashi 橘通東
Tachibanadōrihigashi 橘通東

… but others are covered with cables.

Chuodōri 中央通
Chuodōri 中央通


Japanese Space Rocket Model in Miyazaki
Japanese Space Rocket Model in Miyazaki

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!

Road on the eastern coast of Kyushu
Road on the eastern coast of Kyushu

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.

Detail from Obi Castle inner gate - dolphin
Detail from Obi Castle inner gate - dolphin
Inside the samurai's mansion.
Inside the samurai's mansion.

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.

Kimono on display in Merchant House Museum
Kimono on display in Merchant House Museum

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 ;)

Ania eating "sweets"
Ania eating "sweets"

Aoshima 青島

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.

On a way to Aoshima
On a way to Aoshima

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 rail station
Aoshima rail station

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.

Aoshima isle
Aoshima isle

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.

Mainland from Aoshima
Mainland from Aoshima

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…

Aoshima shrine
Aoshima shrine

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.

Crab on Aoshima
Crab on Aoshima

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.

Shanghai Trip Relation Day 2

Sunday. Where is jet lag? Is this weak feeling of sleepiness called jet lag? Is it? So I have a jet lag at least twice per week. Each week…

Time to see real Shanghai. We decided to start from the west-most part of touristic Shanghai which is People’s Square and People’s Park. Line 2 of subway brought us here. Fast and convenient, as all of them. And air-conditioned. Over 30 degrees Celsius outside, so we start sightseeing from fountain in front of City Hall.

People Square FountainIf one turn back one can see Shanghai Museum:

Shanghai Museum

There is probably a lot to see in Shanghai Museum. If you can devote a month for visiting Shanghai then you should go there. We had only a week. Almost. So we skipped the museum at this time.

People’s Square and Park are surrounded by skyscrapers. This is nothing strange. Unusual sight in Shanghai is clear open space without any tall building up till horizon. Believe me, unusual sight does not exist in Shanghai.

As there will be a lot of higher and more impressive skyscrapers  during our journey we decided not to waste time to admire the ones around People Square and to go on to East Nanjing Road. As intuition says there are two Nanjing Roads in Shanghai: East and, what a surprise, West. West one is normal commercial street, while East one is first in China pedestrian zone. And commercial street as well.

Nanjing Xi LuWhen you reach East Nanjing Road (or Nanjing Xi Lu) you should let the crowd to take you and simply follow it. Any attempt to escape into one of the perpendicular streets would be immediately stopped by a huge mass of scooters which is impossible to pass through.

Nanjing Xi Lu perpendicular streetChinese merchants are prepared for anything. Let’s assume that you are a member of some radical Christian church, that believes that Christmas in fact should be celebrated in the beginning of September. If you wonder where to find Christmas stuff in September I have a hint:

Christmas shop„There are nine million bicycles in Beijing…” and 20 million Chinese in Shanghai:

Nanjing Xi Lu (by analog camera)

More Chinese ads…

Nanjing Xi LuModern „pagoda”:

Nanjing Xi LuSuddenly cars are back to the road. This is a sign that we are close to the Bund. Official name is Zhonshan Road and I think that Chinese prefer it as they want not to remember times when buildings that line up the street were build. This was shortly after infamous Nanjing Treaty was signed forcedly opening 6 Chinese cities to westerners and giving away the rule over Hong Kong to Brits. Although the Bund is closer, the below picture shows a panorama of Pudong – a business district.

Pudong from Nanjing Xi LuAnd here it is: The Bund in rain…

The BundThe Bund itself is not too long. It smoothly turns into skyscrapers street. As I said: a usual sight in Shanghai.

Zhonshan LuThe other bank of the river is not less exciting. This is Pudong. I’ve heard a description „Manhattan on steroids”.

PudongSatisfied by the weather (finally sun) we decided to change a little bit surroundings and find the Old Town. Shanghai call its old town Nanshi. So where is Nanshi? We know the approximate azimuth so we turned right, then left, then left again. We ended up in… Just look by yourself.

Somewhere on way to NanshiAlthough it doesn’t look too encouraging this is the real old Shanghai. The one that disappears under thousand tons of concrete and steel. These days it’s hard to find this kind of sights in places where they was common only few years ago.

If you think that it was dangerous to wander there I have to disappoint you. Even when I felt a little bit unsure, actually it was safe place.

Finally we have reached Nanshi:

Entrance to NanshiIt looks like entrance to china town in many western cities. Well, actually it is a China town. My first impression was that the city around me is somehow artificial. I tink that explanation of this feeling was simple: all the buildings around were renovated so they did not look old at all!

Nanshi - main road

The real discovery awaits for tourist away from the main road. As it appeared that was main road that we should have taken. There I realized what „crowded” means.

Nanshi insideIf you have enough of crowded streets you can line up (of course) into the entrance to Yu Yuan Garden. This is interested place. 5 centuries ago state official bought 2 hectares of land and designed a miniature of the World. The World in this case meant variety of terrain types like mountains, hills, seas, lakes and so on. So there is a lot of small isolated places where man can rest from the noisy world outside. Just like here.

Yu Yuan GardenOr here.

Yu Yuan GardenAlthough we felt very relaxed we decided to go back to hotel That was enough as for one day. It took only few minutes to find the nearest metro station. Air-conditioned train gave us relief and brought us to the hotel again.

Shanghai MetroEnd of day two.

Shanghai Trip Relation Day 1

Spending nine hours in a plane could be boring. I must admit that Finnair solved the issue very well. Their personal entertainment system works almost perfectly. Almost because their movie player tend to leave status bar visible in a way that it interfere with subtitles. I had difficulty watching „Kvinnan som lekte med elden”.

The airplane landed. We had gone to immigration desk and spent one hour in a queue. One and half hour later, after picking up our bags and walking several hundred kilometres through airport we realized that this was huge airport. In fact we were looking for Maglev Train station and we finally found it. This the first place where people from Europe are really surprised by the security measures undertaken by Chinese authorities. Your baggage must pass through security scanner and only after this check one is allowed to come on board.

Take a seat and wait until departure. Doors close. Then you feel delicate move up and weak rocking. All right: rock and roll! It feels alike on the boat. Then the journey starts. You observe speedometer. 80 km/h – nothing special. 160 km/h – top speed of trains in Poland. But wait! It still accelerates. 200 km/h – still below the highest speed I have ever travelled by Arlanda Express with. 250 km/h, my eyebrows starting to raise. 300 km/h – the world outside blinks. 350 km/h – you feel like in plane, but something is wrong because it does not take off! 400 km/h and a sudden but very short thunder. Aha! We just passed by the train crusing in the opposite direction with the same astonishing 400 km/h. Speedometer stops at 431 km/h. You can see on below picture how I looked then (observe speedometer over the passage on right):

Eight minutes later we arrived at Longyang Metro Station where we changed to subway. Just before this we shot commemorative pictures of Maglev Train:

Maglev Train at Longyang Station

Trip Members on Longyang Maglev StationWell metro is much slower than Maglev train, however this is very convenient mean of transportation. We travelled around 12 stations and left the train on Zhongshan Park station. Hotel was just around the corner. We checked in and despite short sleep during the night and approaching jet lag we decided to look around. As first aim we chose Zhongshan Park. Here are some pictures taken in it:

Zhongshan ParkNext picture shows our biggest surprise. Guess who’s there:

Zhongshan Park - Chopin monumentJet lag hit all of us, so we decided to walk around a little bit more and then come back to hotel. We reached the hotel at dusk, however streets were still bright:

Shanghai treeThat was end of day 1.

Shanghai Reflections Part 1

So I am in Shanghai, China. 7500 km away from Warsaw. In a different time zone. In a different continent. In a different world.

One tend to locate centre of his world in a place where he lives. This is natural, but this causes distortion in perception of the world. We start to think that the eyes of all the people in the world are directed to our country or continent. We, Europeans tend to think that Europe is centre of the world. Amercians think that United States is the centre of the world, and the rest is holiday or wild countries.

This is totally wrong. People here, live here, so they don’t really care about other parts of the world. That’s normal, but you have to have an opportunity to obeserve it in order to understand it. When you are in Shanghai, then center of the world shifts to Shanghai. You go to the local market, travel by local well developed subway network, consider the quality of water in your local tap, eat in the nearby restaurant which serves delicious dumplings, notice unbelievabely cheap excursion to Angkor Wat (it’s just behind the border!) and then realize that for these people here any particular country or site in the World is just like any other. For them there is nothing more special in Europe than in America. Even more, some countries which are totally exotic for people living in other parts of the world are better known for Chinese becuse they are so close! Think about Korea or Japan. It’s just short jump over the East China Sea!

To exist in the mindset of people in any aprticular place you have to come and present yourself. Then maybe do some business. Sell something and buy something. Maybe some cultural activities.

Here we reach the point of this reflection. As probably you know I am from Poland. This is middle-sized European country, kicked heavily by the history and probably thus locked mentally by it’s history.

We Poles think about Poland as a Messiah of the Nations or Christ of the Nations. We think that everybody in the World cares about what Poland and see how splendid and exeptional Poland is. The truth however is brutal. If you don’t tell people about yourself, you don’t exist! People here doesn’t know much about Poland (in contrary I don’t know much about China, however I really want to change it). Poland does not use potential to promote itself as a modern economy and country of modern culture. Yes, there are some positive signs like Polish pavilion on Expo exhibition, or new Frederic Chopin monument in Zhongshan Park, however this is not it. Chopin lived over 150 years ago. Is this the only exportable cultural good that we have? Pretty old and exploited. Expo pavilion will be removed after Expo, besides it’s not easily accessible, as you have to pay to enter the Expo exibition.

So, who is visible in China? I have flown here by finnish Finnair. In Pudong Airport I could spot Delta from US and British Airways. Then you go to the city, by Germany-made metro trains or Germany-made Maglev train. In the city you can eat American junk food (apart from delicious Chinese food), buy clothes in Spanish or Swedish clothes stores, travel by Swedish, Korean or Japanese buses (and of course Chinese ones), see American, Swedish, Japanese, German or Czech (yes! Skoda is here!) cars, and then you realize that there is no Polish products at all! So how any plain person here can ever get interested on Poland, country that does not produce anything to be spotted by average Chinese?

Yes, we can put another thousand crosses in Warsaw, enthrone Christ as a King of Poland (stupid: Poland is republic, and Christ is not a living human), argue about penalization of in-vitro (no, I am not talking about medieval Europe!) but this means that no one could ever treat us seriously. The faith and religion should be the domain of Churches. Making Poland a modern, competitive, well-known, trusted country should be a prioity of the Parliament in Poland. It’s not.