Tour recap - November 2014
Chiran Peace Museum
Maid Cafes
Bullet Train Turns 50

Japan Custom Tours - Blog Archive

Tour recap - November 2014

27 December 2014 We have posted a selection of photos from our November tour on www.facebook.com/JapanCustomTours.co.nz, but as not everyone uses Facebook, we have added some here. (Our Facebook page is public, so you can view it without having to have a Facebook account.)

After flying into Narita, we travelled to the bottom of Kyushu to Kagoshima, the end of the Shinkansen line. Kagoshima provided a good base from which to visit the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamekazi pilots; the Ibusuki hot sand baths (and onsen) and the local volcano, Sakurajima.

view from Sakurajima across to Kagoshima

View from Sakurajima across to Kagoshima

Heading north again we spent a day at the sumo tournament in Fukuoka.  With the increasing popularity of sumo, we purchased tickets in advance which afforded us good seats and an excellent view. It was very exciting to be able to see the top wrestlers in action.  This included seeing the top wrestler Hakuho, who secured his 32nd Emperor's Cup and equalled the record set by the great wrestler Taiho in 1971.

We then went on to Nagoya for a few days, to catch up with friends. We visited several places that don't feature in the popular guidebooks e.g. the ScMaglav Train museum which is one of the highest rated attractions (by the Japanese) and is easy to get to from the main train station.

We were also fortunate to be able to visit Meiji Mura Museum, a 1,000,000 m2 park with buildings, vehicles and machinery etc from the Meiji era (1868 to 1912).  Some 60 buildings have been relocated to this park which is a one hour drive from the central city.

Finally, we spent a few days in Kyoto at the peak of the autumn leaf viewing season.  We went to Arashiyama and spent ages there drinking in the stunning colours of the maple leaves in this picturesque area.

Another highlight was paying a return visit to the sashimi (raw seafood, and sushi) restaurant we visited earlier this year. The chef is a wonderful, friendly host and we look forward to returning to his restaurant when next in Kyoto.

Views from Arashiyama, KyotoViews from Arashiyama, Kyoto

Views from Arashiyama, Kyoto

 

Hot sand bath, Ibusuki, Kyushu
Hot sand bath, Ibusuki, Kyushu

Sumo at Fukuoka, Kyushu

Sumo at Fukuoka, Kyushu

Spectacles bridge Meiji Mura Museum

"Spectacles" bridge Meiji Mura Museum near Nagoya

Autumn colour at Meiji Mura Museum near Nagoya

Autumn colour at Meiji Mura Museum near Nagoya

Bamboo at Arashiyama, Kyoto

Bamboo at Arashiyama, Kyoto

Chiran Peace Museum

17 November 2014 We are staying in Kagoshima for a few days as there are many things to see and do in this corner of Japan.  Today we visited the Chiran Peace Museum which was built in memory of the Tokko (Special Attack) pilots - known internationally as Kamikaze pilots - and to promote peace. The museum was built on the actual site of the airfield where the pilots trained and departed from.

There are two main ways of getting to and from Chiran: train then bus (about an hour), or bus only (hour and a half).  Taking the bus-only option is easier (Y940 each way - it is useful to have the correct change), as you do not need to find the correct bus stop after you get off the train.  The buses run hourly, so if you take the train and then miss the bus, you'll have lots of waiting time in the middle of nowhere... 

Momument at Chiran

The bus trip takes you away from the coast into the nearby hills, as the old airfield (some 500 acres) was situated a short distance inland.  After travelling through the countryside it is a surprise to arrive at Chiran and see the large number of tour buses in the car park.  Most visitors we saw were elderly Japanese and we saw only two other foreigners besides ourselves.

Our photos are all taken in the grounds outside as photos are not allowed in the museum.  Like the peace museums we have visited at Hiroshima and Ngasaki, this is a sombre place, and the grey day added to that.  The 1,036 stone lanterns mark the souls of each young  men that died in the kamikaze raids.

Inside (Y500 admission and Y100 for rental of an English audio guide) are artefacts and stories of the pilots.  There is a photograph of each man, arranged chronologically by their date of death. It is striking how young these "men" were, many facing death before getting out of their teens.  Their final words and thoughts as poignant today as they were in 1944 and 1945.

While opinions on WWII will differ, we found our visit to the museum very interesting.  It provides an enduring memorial to the young kamikaze pilots.

Type Zero fighter
Type Zero fighter

Stone lanterns, one for each pilot Stone lanterns, one for each pilot

WWII fighter plane WWII fighter plane Relics of WWII

Maid Cafes

1 November 2014 Akihabara (Tokyo) saw the first Maid Cafe established in 2001 and since then they have become an established niche in the cos-play restaurant scene.  Competing for business, most often you will encounter maids on the street handing out flyers.  Showing interest can quickly lead to being dragged to the cafe (sometimes across streets and down walkways) before exiting an elevator into the cafe itself. omlette rice maid Cafe style

Maid Cafes are a great place to experience Japanese pop culture and have a tasty rice omelette or a selection of sweet cakes.  Each cafe has its own rituals or style and may include opportunities to talk, play games or voice-over an anime on screen. 

Photo with Maid
Wendy gets the Maid treatment

Happy 50th Birthday Shinkansen

1 October 2014 The Shinkansen (bullet train) turned 50 on 1 October 2014.  As a technological feat, it was remarkable at the time and remains impressive 50 years later.

The high speed train network across Japan is more than just a fast way of getting from A to B, as it has become part of the culture of the country itself.  While the original 1964 network suffered from massive cost over-runs, the impact of short travel times has resulted in much less reliance on domestic air travel and allowed the population to enjoy easy access to many areas of the country.

More convenient than air travel, faster and more comfortable, travelling by Shinkansen is something that all visitors to Japan should experience.  With additions to the network (linking the Kyushu line to Hakata in 2011 and the proposed 2015 opening of the link to Kanazawa), the current 300 million passenger trips per year may yet surpass the peak of 353 million trips seen in 2007.

Relevant video covering the 50th anniversary can be seen at the following links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yh8BMMNiOc

Shinkansen
Shinkansen at Tokyo Station.