I was looking forward to Nagasaki this time because I'd hooked in with a small group private tour to visit places outside of town this time. The man leading the tour is Shannon and he's an Australian who has lived in Nagasaki for about 13 years. He came to teach English and ended up getting married to a local Japanese woman named Makako. They have two children.
We had a fabulous day visiting some places and sights that no ship tour could offer. After a short stop at Spectacle Bridge to take photos we visited Shimabara Castle. The ship tours go there too but this was the only place they went.
The castle was built in 1624 during a time when Christianity was banned. The peasants were taxed severely to help pay for the castle. If anyone was caught worshipping a Christian god, they were martyred. You were either hanged, drowned in the river or dropped into boiling water. FUN!! Not.
The famous sculptor who made the atomic peace park sculpture lived in this area until his death about ten years ago. He created more sculptures which we could around the castle grounds.
After the castle we visited some replicas of traditional shogun homes. We also saw the clean spring water canals that ran outside the line of these homes. Water is so clean today that you can drink it right there. A local man in his home let me take his picture. I don't think he looked much like a shogun though......
After this we visited the mud houses at the foot of the volcano right by the bay. This was a small neighborhood that experienced a horrific burying of homes in 1990, when the volcano erupted after being dormant for 198 years. How scary this must have been. Shannon told us that this volcano is a gaseous one that, when it erupts, it spews out this poisonous gas that moves at 200 mph and this is what killed most people, not the rocks and mud and lava that followed. He said they had about a 3 minute warning. That's better than an earthquake but where the hell do you go with only three minutes?
Next we headed to a local food market to pick up a light lunch. Nothing like a good lunch after viewing death and destruction at the mid houses. There were lots of types of sushi from which to choose. On the way out I even picked up a package of pale pink face masks. People all over the country wear these to help protect themselves and others from becoming sick, as well as from pollen during allergy season.
With all the sickos on the ship, I should have bought a case so I could hand them out. Sneezing, coughing and generally gross body sounds control me to plague my ears every day on board. I wish people would just stay in their rooms when they're so sick. But I digress....
We ate in the van while riding up the mountain to get closer to the volcano. Near the top of the mountain we began to see snow. Shannon told us that just a week ago the road was closed due to too much snow. Near the top there is a big resort area next to hot springs. We knew we were close when we began smelling the sulphur. Yum. First, death by poison gas and mud, then by rotten eggs. This was shaping up to be a great day!
Down the back side of the mountain we landed in Shannon's town which is a sweet seaside area. He took us to a foot bath place which is the longest one in the world - 105 meters. It is an outside foot bath too. The water is 105 degrees F. We sat on picnic tables and had some crackers and cheese and fruit and SAKI and BEER! Then we all took off our shoes and socks, rolled up our pants and sat down to put our feet in the baths. It was glorious! What a treat!
Our last stop of the day was at the Atomic Peace Park, the site of the atomic bomb that the US dropped on Nagasaki in August, 1945. It was a sobering end to an otherwise fantastic day.