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Japanese Football aka Soccer (Kyoto Sanga VS Urawa Reds) December 14, 2010

Posted by Dru in Sports.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Japanese Football aka Soccer (Kyoto Sanga VS Urawa Reds)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-xq

On November 14, I had the pleasure of being able to watch another football game in Japan. It was only my fourth time to ever watch live football in Japan, and as with my other experiences, this didn’t disappoint. In my previous visits, I had been to Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu, west of Tokyo. This time, I decided to north to Saitama to watch one of Japan’s biggest teams, the Urawa Reds. The Urawa Reds are one of the most popular teams in Japan, and their following is huge. Those who were born in Saitama are supposed to love the team. Those living in Tokyo and even Chiba like the team. Their fans always make the journey to watch their team play no matter where they play. The supporters are very vocal and it can be deafening to just be in the stadium as the team is playing. This was all at Ajinomoto Stadium, so you can imagine what it might be like at Saitama Stadium, the home of the Urawa Reds.

Getting to Saitama Stadium is very easy. Within Tokyo, taking the Toei Metro’s Namboku Line, you are directly connected to the Saitama Railway which terminates at Urawa Misono Station. This is the closest station to Saitama Stadium. It’s also a 20 minute walk from the station to the stadium. The first thing you will notice when you leave the station is that the entire area is a sea of red. No matter which way you look, you will see red everywhere. The station has various signs promoting the Urawa Reds. One of their slogans, at least for 2010, was “We are Reds”. It’s entertaining, but it isn’t the destination of the day. The signs and the walk to the stadium definitely make one excited, but unfortunately, it’s a long walk with few signs between the station area and the stadium to keep you interested. The area between the station and the stadium is nothing more than a broad walkway with a few street vendors along the way. There isn’t much to see, but if you are hungry, it’s best to buy something there. Once you reach the stadium entrance, everything becomes more expensive.

Once I got to the gate, I took a little time to enjoy the atmosphere outside. There were various street vendors selling beer and food. They even had a tent for people to transfer any liquids they had into free cups. Due to safety concerns, plastic bottles and cans are not allowed into the stadium. They do check your bag to ensure you don’t bring anything dangerous into the stadium. When I arrived, they even had a small jazz band playing music, and all of the band members were wearing Reds shirts. I doubt they could afford jerseys for a short show like that. The next thing to do was look for the merchandise. At the time I went, they had a large portable with various goods at discount prices. Due to the time in the season, they were trying to sell their 2010 merchandise before the end of the season so many things were 40-50% off. If you time your visit right, you can get some good things.

After that, I finally decided to head in. The game was a Sunday afternoon game, and they were playing Kyoto Sanga, one of the lowest ranked teams in J1. Kyoto Sanga was facing relegation into the J2 league as they were in the bottom 3. It was a must win for Kyoto. The entire stadium was obviously painted red with everyone wearing red jerseys. Even in the upper deck, it was hard to find someone who wasn’t wearing red. For the day, the only colour that was not allowed was purple, the colour of Kyoto. In fact, because it was Saitama Stadium, the supporter’s section was extremely small. They took up just one section of the entire stadium. If it was a bigger team, such as FC Tokyo, or Gamba Osaka, they would get at least 2, maybe 3, but not much more. The last game I saw was in Ajinomoto Stadium, and the reds took up the entire section behind the net, and even a little more towards the sides. It was almost impossible to see the Kyoto supporters in Saitama Stadium, but they were there, and they did their best to support their team.

The game itself was relatively predictable. With the mid ranked Urawa Reds playing the low ranked Kyoto Sanga, one could almost predict the outcome of this game before it even started. From the kick off, the Reds controlled the ball and kept it moving. They had more chances to score, but Kyoto kept capitalizing on turnovers for short chances. It was a tug of war between the two teams, and while the Reds were winning on the field they just couldn’t get the ball in the goal. At the 25 minute mark, the Reds finally converted and scored their first goal. Needless to say, the entire crowd jumped to their feet shouting in joy. I could barely hear the crowd as I was screaming way too loud to hear anything else. In fact, I screamed so loud, I almost lost my voice! High fives were exchanged between me and my friends, and I even got those around us, pretty much only behind us as those in front didn’t turn around, to also give high fives. Everyone was happy, but the game was far from over. By the second half, the game seemed to have changed. Urawa wasn’t playing as hard as before, and the opportunities didn’t materialize as much as it should have. For the team, they seemed to have stopped trying to score, and played for a 0-1 win. It was a tense second half, and by the end of regulation time, it was announced that they were adding 5 minutes of extra time. For a game that had minimal stoppage, 5 minutes was extremely strange. I thought that 2 minutes would be the most, but 5 minutes was unimaginable. I was talking to my friend about how the refs probably wanted to give Kyoto a chance to tie, but just as I was saying that, the Reds scored for a second time leading to a second round of cheers. By the time everyone had settled down to continue watching the game, the refs blew their whistles and the game was over.

While the game was over, the crowd wasn’t ready to go home yet. In the upper deck, a lot of people were heading out, and people were trickling out of the lower bowl. For those in the supporters section, not a soul had left. They were still singing and cheering and the action wouldn’t stop until all of the Urawa Reds players came out and saluted them. All of the players did their ceremonial salute to the stadium. As in Ajinomoto, the team came out, bowed, and raised their arms to the air as the crowd chanted in unison. It’s difficult to describe the chant, other than it was a long “oh”. You do have to visit the stadium itself to understand it.

Saitama Stadium is one of the only, if not the only, stadium in Japan that is dedicated to only football. The seats are very close to the pitch and all the seats are good. While I was in the upper deck, because I am a casual fan, it’s nearly impossible to get into the lower bowl for a reds game, unless you know someone. It was a lot of fun and I highly recommend going if you can. The only sad part was the fact that there are no beer girls in Saitama Stadium. Unlike Ajinomoto, they don’t make a lot of money on beer as everyone watches the game. Why drink when you should drink after the game. Needless to say, I had a great time and I’ll definitely go again if I get the opportunity. I’m still an FC Tokyo fan as I started out watching them. My second team will now be the Reds.

Urawa Reds Information:

Official Homepage (Japanese): http://www.urawa-reds.co.jp/index.html
Official Homepage (English): http://www.urawa-reds.co.jp/index_en.html

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urawa_Red_Diamonds

Access Information: http://www.urawa-reds.co.jp/english/saitama.html

Saitama Stadium Official Site (Japanese): http://www.stadium2002.com/
Saitama Stadium Official Site (English): http://www.stadium2002.com/en/index.php

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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Otaru Redux (2010) December 7, 2010

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Otaru Redux (2010)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-wH

In my last post, I talked about returning to Sapporo for the third time in my life. Being a third time in Sapporo, I decided to head over to Otaru for the second time. This time, I was going to visit Otaru in the late summer rather than mid winter. As I mentioned, the entire island of Hokkaido has two main faces, summer and winter. Winter is a true winter wonderland. There is snow all over the place, and everything is quiet and peaceful, thanks to the falling snow. It helped, of course, that on my last winter visit, it was snowing most of the time as well. This time, I visited in the late summer and I had a small mission. Thankfully, I wasn’t let down by Otaru, even on this second trip.

For those of you who have seen my previous post on Otaru, I visited during the Snow Gleaming Festival. It was a very beautiful and romantic time in the city. This time it felt completely different. It wasn’t the same romantic town that I remembered, but at the same time, I wasn’t expecting it to be that way. When I got off the train, everything looked exactly the same, sans snow. The train station hasn’t changed, and the streets are the same. One of the better things to note was that I arrived in the late morning with the sun shining, and there were no problems walking around due to the snow. There were no ice sculptures, or snow sculptures for that matter. Everything was very clean and the sky was beautiful.  It was also quite easy to get around.  There was no snow on the ground so I didn’t have to worry about slipping and falling onto the ground.

The first place I went to was the old disused railway which has been converted into a park. When I visited here in the winter, it was the focal point for sculpted snowbanks with hundreds, even thousands, of small candles. It took at least an hour to walk through and enjoy all of the sculptures and interact with everything. At that time, the snow was compacted and the snowbanks were up to 1 metre deep. Where the snowbanks once were, there are now railway tracks. When it was covered in snow, it was hard to tell that the area was anything but a small alley that was converted for the snow festival. The park itself was pretty empty as most people headed to two places, the Otaru Canal and the shopping street. Most people skip this path which makes it an even better way to access the main shopping street as it isn’t very busy.  It’s also a little fun to walk along the tracks, ala “Stand By Me” style. They even have train themed benches at one end of the park.

My main goal of the trip was to visit a famous glass maker, Kitaichi, or literally “North One”. It is located near the end of the shopping street close to the music box shop. As you walk down the main tourist shopping street, you first come to a bunch of shops selling various Hokkaido foods. Freshly grilled scallops are popular, and so are other various foods such as corn and potatoes. It depends on the season as well, but the smells and aromas are intoxicating. Once you pass these shops, you start to reach the souvenir shops and then Kitaichi’s area. They have three or four shops. A foreign brand shop, the main shop, a discount shop, and a crystal shop. Being a famous glass brand, and the fact that all items are hand made, things are priced accordingly. Don’t expect to enter and find really cheap products. If you are looking for something nice, this is a great place to go. Comparing it to western glass products, Kitaichi is very good. They have a very western feel, and yet they have Japanese style. Once you finish with Kitaichi, it’s a good idea to head to the music shop. Many people love this shop for the fact that you can enjoy buying a personal music box that will play everything from classical music to modern pop music.

Being summer, there wasn’t any real theme in the town. On the way to the main canal, there is a small access canal between the shopping street and the main canal. Along this canal, they placed various glass wind chimes along the way. It was a beautiful and peaceful experience to see. It’s easily skipped over by most people, but if you take the time to just enjoy it, it can be wonderful. The sounds of the wind chimes ringing and the hustle and bustle of people moving by can be very calming.  I also took a little time out to look at a small corner across from the main canal. There is an interesting set of shops where you can enjoy some good food at tourist prices. The good thing about the corner is that it has a Chinese theme to it, which makes for interesting photography.

On this visit to Otaru, I had to visit the main Otaru Canal. It was a beautiful hot sunny day, but not humid so it was enjoyable. The summers of Hokkaido are a wonderful change from the typically hot and humid summers of Tokyo. It was extremely busy as all of the tourists pushed their way to get the best vantage point for photos. The canal was as beautiful as ever and looked crystal clean with various tour boats plying the waters. In the winter, there are candles set up across the canal, as it’s too cold to take tours up and down the canal. In the summer, there are various artists willing to do a sketch of you and your family if you are willing to wait for it. They are, by all means, willing to do one of you, as long as you pay for it.  I wouldn’t say they are exceptionally good, but they aren’t terribly bad either, from some of the pictures I had seen.  If you feel adventurous, in the summer, you can also take a rickshaw ride around the town for a fee.  Most of the rickshaws leave around the canal area as the station is too busy with cars.

From here, I headed to my final destination, another visit to the Otaru Soku No. 1. It is one of my favourite places in Japan. It’s a little expensive, but the beer and food are great. I loved going the first time, and I had to go a second time. Needless to say, I spent several hours just relaxing, eating, and drinking. It’s not something that everyone would want to do, but after visiting Sapporo two times already, and Otaru once, there wasn’t too much left to see, at least I didn’t think so. I needed to have a good relaxing vacation, and this was one of the best ways to do it. It was mid afternoon when I entered and it was close to 5pm when I left. It wasn’t busy at all and service was really fast. The quality of the food was excellent. It hadn’t changed, aside from the seasonal specials. My favourite dish has to be the “Mozzarella and French Bread Bridge Roast”. It is a French Bread arranged into a bridge with slices of mozzarella places within the bread and toasted. It is wonderful to eat. As for beer, that’s really up to whatever you like to drink. I’d avoid the Hokkaido wine though.

A day in Otaru is more than enough, and the town probably changes even more at night. Unlike other small towns in Japan, Otaru actually changes like most of the big towns. I heard it gets even more romantic. It’s a town that I love to visit, but to be honest I probably won’t be going back anytime soon. If I do go to Sapporo, unless a friend of mine requests to go there, I won’t make any effort to go. I’d rather try to go to some of the other areas in Sapporo that I’m only starting to discover.

This is an update to my original post about Otaru in 2009.  To read more about Otaru, please head over to the original post on Otaru.

Otaru Information:

Otaru (Japan Guide): http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6700.html
Otaru (Wikitravel): http://wikitravel.org/en/Otaru
Otaru (JNTO): http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/r…ido/otaru.html
Otaru (Sapporo City Tourism Site): http://www.welcome.city.sapporo.jp/e…ces/otaru.html
Otaru (City Website – Japanese): http://www.city.otaru.hokkaido.jp/so…/otaru-map.htm

Kitaichi (English): http://www.otaru-glass.com/english/a…_08/index.html
Kitaichi (Japanese): http://www.otaru-glass.com/japanese/index.html

Otaru Beer (English): http://www.otarubeer.com/main/compon…mid,1/lang,en/
Otaru Beer (Japanese): http://www.otarubeer.com/main/compon…mid,1/lang,ja/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Sapporo Redux (2010) November 30, 2010

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Sapporo Redux (2010)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-wd

In a previous post, I mentioned that I went to the Japan Rally in September of 2010.  It was a great trip and I had a chance to visit a few new places in and around Sapporo.  Sapporo is one of my favourite cities in Japan.  In Sapporo, each season is extremely different.  In the winter, you have the snow festival where you can see huge snow sculptures along the main park, Odori Park, and ice sculptures in Susukino.  When you visit in the summer, Odori Park becomes one large beer garden where you can sit outside and enjoy several beers on a nice hot summer’s day.  You can also head out to Furano as a day trip and enjoy the beautiful fields of lavender.  On this trip, I obviously focused more on the Rally itself, but thankfully, there were a few things I wanted to try that I didn’t have a chance to do before.

The only new place that I visited was the Hitsujigaoka. Literally translated into “hill of sheep”, it’s a nice little getaway that is located next to Sapporo Dome.  To access the site, you have to take the Toho subway line to the final stop (Fukuzumi), followed by a short bus ride.  You also have to pay the entrance fee to access the main park area.  Walking is possible, but it’s very far from the station itself and not recommended.  The public access area is located at the top of the hill and there is only a small area for people to roam freely.  Unfortunately, when I visited, there were no sheep.  This could be due to the foot and mouth disease that afflicted the southern island of Kyushu earlier in the year, so they decided to protect the sheep from infection.  It could also be due to the season, but I’m not entirely sure as to why.  At the hill itself, there are only a few buildings of interest, and it only takes a few minutes to enjoy them.  One of the more spectacular buildings is the Hitsujigaoka Wedding Palace.  It’s a tall building that’s pure white inside and out and many weddings are held there.  If you are thinking that you’ll see a traditional Japanese wedding, you’ll be disappointed as the weddings here are almost always done in a western style.  I didn’t get a chance to go inside, but I did see a wedding and did get a chance to see the building itself.  Another building that is of interest is the Austrian House.  It’s an Austrian styled building that houses a souvenir shop and a small snack shop.  Inside, you can also get your palm read among other touristy things.  The last main building is the Sapporo Snow Festival Museum.  It’s a small building where they feature posters, photos, and miniature models of past snow sculptures.  There are also videos on how they run the snow festival every year.  Unfortunately, the video is in Japanese, and on a very old TV.

The main claim to fame for Hitsujigaoka is the statue of William S. Clark.  William S. Clark was an American Professor who moved to Japan for 8 months in 1886-1887.  His main goal was to set up and establish the Sapporo Agricultural College, now Hokkaido University.  He had a huge influence on Hokkaido and helped with its colonization.  His influence on this island was tremendous and he’s famous throughout Japan.  He even helped introduce Christianity to this area of Japan by creating an ethics class that utilized the Bible when the Bible was outlawed.  When he left Japan, he gave three parting words to the first class of Hokkaido University, “Boys, be ambitious”!  There are several variations added on this, but these three main words are what stuck.  Throughout Japan, many schools use this motto to help motivate their students, and it’s hard to find anyone who wouldn’t know what you meant if you said “boys be ambitious”.  At Hitsujigaoka, the statue of William S. Clark is prominently displayed with him pointing to the distance, probably to Hokkaido University, and the famous motto written under him.  It’s common for people to run up and just point in the same direction as William S. Clark’s statue for fun.  If you walk around a little more, you’ll also see another small monument that is dedicated to the Nippon Ham Fighters.  I believe it commemorates the move of the Nippon Ham Fighters from Tokyo to Hokkaido in 2004.  It’s a small, often overlooked monument that is probably not interesting to most foreign tourists.

Back at Fukuzumi Station, there is a short walk to reach Sapporo Dome.  Sapporo Dome is a very interesting area. While you may not need to go to watch a game, you can definitely go and enjoy the park behind the dome.  As you approach the dome from the station, you’ll see a very futuristic looking building.  There is a large observation platform that is easily viewable from the street.  You can enjoy a tour of the dome itself with a chance to actually walk on the baseball field, but I’m not too sure if that is possible.  Of course, both of these tours are paid services.  If you don’t want to spend money, walking past the front and approaching the park in the back is great.  It’s an amazing sight to see the football pitch sitting outside with the potential for it to be brought in for football games.  You can watch videos of this happening on their own website.  Even if you aren’t too interested in the football pitch, or the technology, the entire park has several modern art sculptures.  I couldn’t grasp the meaning of each sculpture, but it was a nice place to spend an hour or so.  You could also just lie on the grass and enjoy the nice weather, if you are lucky.

I may or may not have mentioned this in the past, but the food in Hokkaido is amazing.  If you enjoy eating, Hokkaido has everything you need to be stuffed.  Going to the Sapporo Beer Garden, you can enjoy Ghengis Khan, a type of barbecue, or a seafood buffet.  You can also head to Ramen Alley and get a nice bowl of corn butter, or seafood ramen.  Delicious is an understatement.  Recently, Soup Curry has become popular.  There are several shops located throughout Sapporo and all of them are delicious.  Keeping things traditional, you can still get seafood doburi all over the city, and being Hokkaido, chocolate, corn, and milk products are extremely popular.  When visiting Hokkaido, it’s a must to eat as much as you can.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much more for me to see in Sapporo, so I may not return for some time.  I have been there almost every year for the last 3 years and each time has been different.  The weather and season plays a huge part in how things look and feel.  The people are all the same, very relaxed. When visiting Sapporo, it’s best to just enjoy things and take it slow.  You’ll never know what you’ll discover just around the next corner.

This is an update on what is happening in Sapporo.  To read more about Sapporo, please continue to the original post on Sapporo.

Sapporo Information:

Hitsujigaoka (Japanese): http://www.hitsujigaoka.jp/amusements/fighters.html
Hitsujigaoka (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitsuji…servation_hill
William S. Clark (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_S._Clark

Sapporo Dome (English): http://www.sapporo-dome.co.jp/foreign/index-en.html
Sapporo Dome (Japanese): http://www.sapporo-dome.co.jp/index.html

Sapporo (Japan Guide): http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2163.html
Sapporo (Wikitravel): http://wikitravel.org/en/Sapporo
Sapporo (Official City Website): http://www.city.sapporo.jp/city/english/

Hokkaido (Official Tourism Website): http://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Outlet Malls of Tokyo November 16, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Outlet Malls of Tokyo” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-pk

Shopping is a major attraction of Tokyo, and the Outlet Malls are no exception.  While there is a lot of information out there on the different outlet malls, the information isn’t very detailed, and it’s difficult to understand the history of outlet shopping in Tokyo.  In Japan, shopping in large shopping malls, much less outlet malls, is a new concept.  Based on my short research, the first outlet mall is Outlet Mall RiSM located in Saitama.  This was opened in 1993.  It’s a fairly small outlet mall, from what others have said, and from their website, caters mostly to Japanese brands.  It isn’t too far from central Tokyo, but probably not worth a trip for the average person.  There are several other “independent” outlet malls with locations in Machida (western Tokyo) one on Chiba which is  east of Tokyo, and a new one that opened in Odaiba’s Venus Fort in December, 2009.  Do note that the Odaiba outlet mall is small but worth a short visit if you are in the area.

In general, there are only two companies that have outlet malls that are worth visiting.  Mitsui Outlet Parks are the largest chain of outlet malls in Japan.  They have 10 locations throughout Japan and 4 within the Tokyo area.  Depending on where you are staying or living, each one is convenient.  For those living on the east side of Tokyo, or in Chiba, the Makuhari branch is the best.  It is located next to Makuhari Messe and a lot of their business is from people visiting the convention centre and doing a little shopping at the same time.  This outlet mall is pretty good overall.  While it isn’t huge, nor is it the best, for those looking to go somewhere close by, and for only half a day, this is a good location.  Due to its relative close proximity to Tokyo, it can be very busy at times.  The other close mall would be the Tama Minami Osawa branch, located in Tama.  This one is best for those living on the west side of Tokyo.  From what I have heard, it isn’t that great, but very convenient and close enough to Tokyo to enjoy.  The last convenient branch would be the Yokohama Bayside.  This isn’t convenient for anyone in Tokyo, but for those in Yokohama, it’s a wonderful place to visit.  It’s large with many shops to see.  Unfortunately, it’s far from the station, about a 5-10 minute walk, and there is nothing else to do after you have finished.  It can take nearly one full day if you are travelling from Tokyo.  For those living in Saitama, or north western Tokyo, a trip to Iruma is also an option, but not convenient unless you have a car.  This is one of Mitsui’s largest outlet malls, and the newest one in the Tokyo region.  Unfortunately, it’s too far from the station making it tough for a regular tourist to visit.

Personally, and by many accounts on the internet, Gotemba Premium Outlets is the best outlet mall near Tokyo.  It is locate about 1.5 hours west of Tokyo and requires a bus to get there.  It’s located near the foot of Mt. Fuji creating a very picturesque scene for shopping.  Do note that Mt. Fuji is often obscured by clouds, and I have never really seen it when I have been to Gotemba.  Then again, I have been very unlucky and only visited Gotemba when it was raining.  This mall is huge, to say the least.  It can take several hours to get through all of the shops, but it can be worth it.  The food may be expensive, but thankfully, there are several places for children to have fun, including a small amusement park.  Do beware of the crowds on the weekend as it’s very popular.  Compared to the Mitsui outlet malls, Chelsea is more upscale with more foreign brands due to its foreign ownership.

For those looking for a cheap shopping experience near Tokyo, you can’t really go wrong with the outlet malls.  The only down sides are that they tend to be farther away from central Tokyo.  They also can’t compete well with the large sales that happen every few months at the department stores.  The amount you save on travel expenses may be more than enough to say home.  However, it’s still a great experience to see the other areas of Tokyo that few people experience.  If you are looking for a basic shopping mall, there are a few in eastern Tokyo, such as Lalaport Toyosu and Olinas Mall in Kinshicho.

Information:

Wikipedia index of Outlet Malls in Japan (Japanese):  http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:日本のアウトレットモール
Wikipedia on Mitsui Outlet Malls (Japanese):  http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/三井アウトレットパーク
Premium Outlets (English):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/en/
Premium Outlets (Japanese):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/
Gotemba Premium Outlets (English):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/en/gotemba/
Gotemba Premium Outlets (Japanese):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/gotemba/
Mitsui Outlet Park (English):  http://www.31op.com/english/index.html
Mitsui Outlet Park (Japanese):  http://www.31op.com/english/
Venus Fort (Japanese, but logos of the outlet shops):  http://www.venusfort.co.jp/index.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Nagasaki (Part II) November 9, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kyushu, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Nagasaki (Part II)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-uL

One of the better areas of Nagasaki is the Glover Park area.  It’s a large area at the south end of Nagasaki itself.  The area contains Glover Garden, Oura Catholic Church, and the nearby Holland (Dutch) Slope.  The Holland Slope is something that can easily be skipped.  It’s a nice place with lots of history.  There are a few items of interest, but in reality, other than a few plaques and an old style road, it’s not special.  The Oura Catholic Church is something that should be visited.  While entrance to the church requires a fee, visiting the grounds outside is free.  You can easily just walk around the outside and not worry too much.  Inside, you will see a typical western style church architecture and art.  It is the oldest church in Japan and a national treasure.  The inside of the church is not particularly interesting, but paying the fee means they can help maintain the church for historical reasons, at least I think so.  Outside, you can learn a lot about the history of the Catholic Church in Japan.  The church is dedicated to the 26 martyrs, Catholics who were crucified when Christianity was outlawed, and also the history of Catholicism during this period.  You can see a few of the artefacts on how they hid their faith within Buddhism and Shinto.  The outside ground of the church was quite interesting as you can see the Japanese influences on the surrounding gardens and their take on Catholicism.

From the church, it’s a relatively short walk to Glover Garden.  It’s a long way to the top of the hill, but when you pay the admission and get to the top, it’s a nice place to relax.  If you are from outside Asia, you might not care too much for the park.  There is a lot of history in this open air museum.  You will see old buildings of the former government officials and other foreign dignitaries in Glover Garden.  You will be able to see the history of Japan during the Meiji Restoration, I think.  It’s the period of time when Japan was becoming westernized and leading up to the period before World War II.  You can see Europeans in traditional Japanese clothes, and vice versa.  While I didn’t care too much for the buildings, I will say that the entire park was beautiful and worth a visit.  What you take from it will depend on your own personal mindset.   If you keep in mind that the architecture will be more European with Japanese accents, you’ll be able to appreciate it a lot more.  I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t a top 10 in Japan.  It was a must see for me though.

Nagasaki has two places in two different “Japan’s Top 3” lists.  The Top 3 list was created, in my opinion, to spark interest in various regions and promote tourism within Japan.  Unfortunately, this has become so rampant that the top 3 lists are losing their value, and in all honesty, I don’t think some of them warrant a mention.  For example, I mentioned earlier that the Nagasaki Chinatown was small and not very interesting, yet it’s part of the top 3 Chinatowns in Japan.  In fact, Chinatowns in Japan are far from exciting.  The second point of interest for Nagasaki, in terms of top 3 items, is the night view.  Nagasaki is part of the top 3 night views, along with Hakodate, and Kobe/Osaka.  I spent some time going to Mt. Inasa to check out the night view one evening.  Going there, you have to go through the Fuchijinja (shrine).  It’s a small shrine that is located next to the ropeway at the base of Mt. Inasa.  The ropeway is, of course, the easiest method to access the top of the mountain.  The shrine itself is beautifully set and there are some interesting smaller shrines just above the main shrine.  They have 6 shrines dedicated to the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.  It was the first time I had seen something like that in Japan, and I’d recommend a quick trip up to see these small shrines.  To reach the top of Mt. Insasa, you have to either take the ropeway, or drive up to the top.  When you go up to the top of Mt. Inasa, it’s nice to get their a little early to see the sunset along with the night view, of course.  It doesn’t take long to take a few pictures and return back to Nagasaki.  At the top, if you arrive a little late, in time for the sunset, there isn’t much to do.  Most of the shops are closed before dinner, and to be honest, there aren’t many shops at all.  I was surprised that a Top 3 Night View had so little in the way of things to do, and the ropeway closed early as well.  I’d say it’s worth the trip to the top as the view is very nice.  Whether I’d say it’s one of the best in Japan or not is debatable, but if something is recommended, why not try it.

Nagasaki is a lot bigger than you can expect.  You don’t have to do too much to get around and see everything.  While you can walk around and see almost everything without using public transportation, I didn’t get a chance to see some of the other famous sights, such as the peace park, and a Chinese temple.  It was a little far from the area I was staying in, but if I do go back to Nagasaki, those are two places that I will have to visit.  I do think that visiting Nagasaki is an important place, and there is a lot more to do than you would expect.  Whether you rush and do everything over a couple days, or take your time and spend several days there, you will leave very happy.

This is Part II of a two part series on Nagasaki.  To read more on Nagasaki, please head over to Part I.

Nagasaki Information:

Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Nagasaki
Japan’s Top 3 (Wikitravel): http://wikitravel.org/en/Japan%27s_Top_3
Japan Guide: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2162.html
Nagasaki Tourism Agency: http://www.nagasaki-tabinet.com/mlang/english/

Oura Church (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ōura_Church
Meganebashi (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megane_Bridge

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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