Summer in Western Japan 西日本で夏休み
I’m still on about summer. One could be forgiven for thinking that I’m having a hard time relinquishing the holidays. One wouldn’t be entirely wrong about that, but no, it’s just that I’m finally getting everything organized. But the added stretch is OK too; Xmas is just around the corner!
As I usually do during the summer, I tend to take a bit of a short trip after being home in Vancouver. I have the time, after all. This year, I decided to head to Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu. This is a part of Japan that I’m not overly familiar with so figured it would be nice to visit and explore a bit more. I used Fukuoka as my home base and then did a lot of day trips around Western Japan. Fukuoka is a nice city and it would be quite easy to live in. It’s small enough that walking around is easy and it’s nowhere near as crowded as the larger cities in Japan. Great food culture too. The mobile yatai (food carts) that come out at dusk, particularly along the riverside are great places to try some local comfort food. Pork-based ramen is particularly famous all over Kyushu.
The big day trip that I had planned was to go to Hiroshima and the island of Miyajima. I’d been to both once before, but that was about a decade ago. I left Fukuoka early on the shinkansen (bullet train), arrived at Miyajima by 9:30 am and found the place was already packed. According to accounts, Miyajima, Itsukushima shrine (a UNESCO world heritage site) in particular, is the most visited place in Japan. I believe it! I wandered around in the 37-degree heat for a few hours then hopped the ferry again for the mainland. I didn’t stay very long in Hiroshima city as I hadn’t planned on heading right into the city, but I did stay long enough for a late lunch/early dinner of Hiroshima-yaki (okonomiyaki with a Hiroshima style to it). My main goal was actually to walk around the Peace Memorial Park and see the “A-bomb” dome again (also a UNESCO world heritage site). If you go to Hiroshima, I do highly recommend the Peace Memorial museum, but on an emotional level, be prepared to be completely, utterly devastated. It’s a place that should be mandatory for every world leader to visit.
The other day trip I’ll mention here was two-fold: first was to head out to the “canal town” of Yanagawa and then the temple town of Dazaifu on the way back. I had a nice time walking around Yanagawa, but it was not quite as advertised. The canals were not at all close to the station, nor were they overly accessible for walking along. If it’s a nice canal town you’re looking for, I recommend Kurashiki in Okayama prefecture. The canals there are more accessible and the old buildings have been maintained much better. It’s much more of a step back in time. As for Dazaifu, on this trip, there were just as many people taking photos of the new Starbucks located on the Omotesando (shopping street) as were photographing the shrine. Actually, it is pretty cool, though also surprising to see one on the street leading up to a shrine.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip and I was happy to have been able to explore some new areas of Japan. I even had friends come up from Kumamoto to visit me in Fukuoka for a day, so that made the trip extra special.