Posts Tagged ‘Kagoshima’

Toyoko Inn Kagoshima and Nagasaki

Friday, September 24th, 2010

I recently stayed in two different Toyoko Inn (東横イン) hotels in Kagoshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Toyoko Inn is a massive hotel chain; there are often multiple Toyoko Inn hotels in each city. Below is the outside of the Nagasaki Toyoko Inn.

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Toyoko Inn is a budget business chain. The rooms are comfortable, but nothing special. One thing you’ll notice if you stay in multiple locations is how similar all Toyoko Inn hotels are to each other. They look almost identical on the outside, the receptions look the same, and so do the rooms. If you want to stay somewhere unique this isn’t the place.

Spot the difference

Below is the bedroom from one of the Kagoshima Toyoko Inn hotels, and below that is a photo from the Nagasaki Toyoko Inn.

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Pretty similar, and so is the room’s desk. The top photo is Kagoshima and the bottom is Nagasaki. They have the same clock, TV, hairdryer, wall light, and collection of books.

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toyoko inn nagasaki 2

One area where the two hotels did differ greatly was in the view from the room. Here is the view from the Kagoshima room. Not spectacular, but acceptable.

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Here is the view from the Nagasaki room. Yes they have built a corrugated iron, multi-story carousel car park just metres from the window at the back of the hotel. This is the worst view I’ve ever had from a hotel room!

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Here is a photo from inside the bathroom. The one on the left is Kagoshima, and the one on the right is Nagasaki. Or is it the other way round…

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Here’s a zoomed in shot showing their standard shampoo / conditioner dispenser, and the toilet control panel.

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Room access

Most hotels have a ‘Do not disturb’ sign for you to use if you want to chill in your room while you are staying there. But not Toyoko Inn; they want you to be out of your room between the hours of 10am and 4pm – unless you phone the reception to tell them you are staying in your room. You can of course do this, but it is a bit of a hassle.

Their check-in and check-out times match their ‘room no-stay’ times. Check in at 4pm and check out at 11am. Most hotels let you check in at 3pm and check out at 11am.

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If you are a business man and are only using the hotel to sleep before going to your early morning meetings then none of this will be a problem. If however you are on holiday and want to relax the Toyoko Inn chain might not be for you.

Breakfast and coin laundry

Breakfast was included. In both places there were rice balls and bread.

Each Toyoko Inn had a coin laundry with washers and dryers. Very handy if you are travelling light. Coin laundries can sometimes be a pain to find in Japan.

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Overall

The rooms were comfortable and functional. Nothing special, but this is reflected in the average price. The policy of vacating your room between 10am and 4pm unless you phone reception isn’t great if you want a long sleep, but many people wouldn’t think of being in their room at those times anyway.

I don’t have any direct links for booking these hotels, but you can use the below links if you want to search for other hotels in either Kagoshima or Nagasaki.

Search for all hotels in Kagoshima… (on HotelsCombined.com)

Search for all hotels in Nagasaki… (on HotelsCombined.com)

Sakurajima Volcano Kagoshima

Monday, September 13th, 2010

If you have a few days in Kagoshima then spending one in Kagoshima city, and one visiting Sakurajima Volcano makes a good itinerary. The volcano is still active, and on some days sends smoke over Kagoshima.

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To get there take the Sakurajima Ferry. This leaves from Kagoshima Port ever 10-15 minutes for most of the day, and ever 30-60 minutes outside of peak hours. The journey to Sakurajima Port is only 15 minutes. For adults the ferry fee is ¥150 and ¥80 for children and you pay when you reach Sakurajima.

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Some of Sakurajima’s sites are located in easy walking distance of the port, but for others (especially the various view points) you’ll either need your own car, or to take the sightseeing bus. There is one bus in the morning and one in the afternoon at 9:40am and 14:20pm departing from Sakurajima Port. The trip lasts two and a quarter hours. The tickets are ¥1700 for adults and ¥850 for children. This was correct as of August 2010, make sure you check the departure times, and cost before you go!

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On the bus there is a guide who gives commentary, but all in Japanese. Fortunately if you can read English there is a translated text version of the talking. The guide will tell you which bit he/she is up to at regular intervals.

As the bus takes you round you can see the volcano from various angles. One of the stops is at the Yunohira Observation Point from where you can see the effect the volcano has had on the landscape.

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There are two buried Torii gates along the way. Here is one of them that we stopped by.

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There are plenty of volcanic rocks formed from past lava flows along the way. Here are some examples.

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The bus then drops you back at the ferry port. If you want to nearby visitor centre make sure you plan it in as it closes early (I think 5pm). Between the visitor centre and the sea if the Yogan Nagisa Park Foot Spa. From here you can soak your feet in fresh natural hot spring water. It is free and you can get a good view of the bay while you relax.

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There are other attractions on the island if you have more time such as the Sakurajima Dinosaur Park and several hot springs.

Kagoshima, Japan

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

We arrived in Kagoshima via the Naha to Kagoshima ferry and took the shuttle bus to JR Kagoshima station. At the station we picked up the very useful ‘An Insider’s Guide to Touring Kagoshima’ from the tourist information, and also bought a City View pass for ¥600 which would allow us to use the Kagoshima City View buses and the Kagoshima City Tram.

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First we took a ride in the ferris wheel on the top of the Amu Plaza shopping centre next to the station. From the wheel you can get a good view of the city, and the Sakurajima Volcano which is across the water. The volcano is still active and regularly sends smoke into the air.

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Next we got the City View bus to the Sengan-en garden which contains plants, water features, and various artifacts, such as this cannon, and model ship. The garden was built during the Edo period in 1658 and was a second home for the Shimazu family, who ruled the Satsuma domain.

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You get some great views of the volcano from the gardens, but for a slightly different view you can go to the Shiroyama Observation Point. Again this is one of the stops on the City View bus.

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The volcano’s presence is everywhere, from the views you get of it through much of the city, to the black ash which is all over the pavements.

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There are plenty of shops and cafés in the city’s large covered shopping area.

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Here is a view of part of the city at night with the usual Japanese bright lights.

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And finally this is the Amu Plaza at night with the ferris wheel. There are some good restaurants (including Indian and Italian if you don’t like Japanese food!) on the top floor of the Amu Plaza. There is also a cinema, clothing shops, and a food court.

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For more on the volcano read my post on visiting Sakurajima Volcano.

Naha Kagoshima Ferry

Monday, September 6th, 2010

To get from Naha to Kagoshima you can fly or you can get a 25 hour overnight ferry. I decided on the Naha Kagoshima ferry option.

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Naha Kagoshima ferry tickets

It cost ¥16,200 for the one way journey, staying in a shared cabin with 8 bunk beds. ¥14,200 was paid when I booked the ferry at the KNT travel agent in Japan. And ¥2000 was to be paid at the ferry terminal as a supplement for having a room, rather than sleeping on the floor. I booked in advance, but you can buy tickets on the day as well. I think the ferry had plenty of free space when I went (early August) – especially in the cabins.

My day started early as I had to be at the ferry terminal between 6am and 6:30am to check in. Naha has quite a few ferry terminals on this side of the island. My ferry was leaving from Naha port near Asahibashi monorail station.

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Inside I went to the check-in area.

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At the check-in I had to present my booking confirmation and fill in a form (‘Boarding Application’) with my name and a few other details. I had to ask the person behind the counter for a cabin, and then I paid the extra ¥2000.

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No one seemed to speak English here, and all the signs were in Japanese, so make sure you get here early so you can get everything sorted.

After I had filled in the form I got my boarding pass. The bits at the front get you onto the boat. And the yellow bit at the back shows that I have paid extra for the cabin.

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Boarding the A-Line ferry

Boarding was at 6:30am so I still had a little time to wait. There is a shop inside the port building if you need any last minute food or drink. At about 6:30am I queued up with the others to get on the ship.

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It was raining and very windy so I had to make a run for it across the concrete to the ships stairs, and then get up the stairs as fast as I could!

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This ship was the フェリーなみのうえ (Naminoue Ferry).

A-line ferry cabin

Inside I showed my ticket to one of the staff. He told me where the room was in Japanese, but as I didn’t quite understand he lead me to where it was. They don’t give you a room key, the room just stays unlocked the whole time. This is the inside of the room. Not visible in the picture on the ceiling is a control for the air conditioning, and another for the speaker volume. I recommend you set the volume to ‘1’ so you hear the announcements without being startled.

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Here is a closer look at one of the beds. There is a light, a hook, a fold-up net shelf, a blanket, and a black leather looking box.

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That black box is your pillow! It is fairly solid, and feels higher than a normal pillow. As it was quite hard I found that I couldn’t lie on my side as it squashed my ear! They do supply paper covers for the pillows for ‘hygiene reasons’, but I found it more comfortable to put the pillow in an old t-shirt. At this stage of the journey I was the only one in the cabin.

If you don’t want to pay the cabin supplement then you get to sleep in one of the large communal sleeping rooms. Each space is numbered so you’ll know which one is yours.

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Sailing from Naha on the A-line ferry

Then the ship set sail. There isn’t very much to do for the 25 hours. You can walk on the deck, there is an upstairs deck as well.

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You can sit on the seats or carpet watching the sea.

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Or you can walk around the two main floors. The upper floor had the cabins and a few communal sleeping rooms. The lower floor had the reception, ship, vending machines, some arcade games, and another sleeping room.

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Food on board

Canteen style meals are served in either the main restaurant, or the breakfast restaurant. You can buy ramen, curry rice, udon, plain rice, tofu and salad.

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You can also get food and drinks from the small shop and vending machines.

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The overall food selection isn’t great so you might need to bring some of your own food.

Loading / unloading

Every three to four hours the boat would pull into another island. Once docked people would leave or board. Fork lift trucks would spring into action taking cargo crates on and off the boat.

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Before the last stop of the day a member of the crew came into my cabin and told me that someone else would be joining. Twenty minutes later a Japanese man came in and claimed his bunk.

I got quite a good sleep on the ferry, much better than my experience on the overnight Bari to Patras ferry that I took some years ago. From that experience I’d learnt that bringing an eye mask and ear plugs is a good idea if you have to share your sleeping space with strangers. Fortunately the Japanese man was very quiet, and the rocking motion of the ship sent me to sleep.

Arriving at Kagoshima

On the reception they update a notice saying when the ship will dock in the next port. Kagoshima was the last stop. The ship was supposed to get into Kagoshima at 8:30am and at 8:40am I was able to leave the boat. I had to give my tickets to a man on the way out – so don’t throw them away when you get on.

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Outside the ferry was a paid shuttle but that took me to Kagoshima JR station.

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One word of warning – after being on a rocking boat for 25 hours I found that I were a bit unstable on my feet for the morning and a bit into the afternoon once I’d disembarked. It was as if I was still on a rocking boat. Allow yourself a bit of time to adjust to solid land again.

More information

More details on the Naha to Kagoshima ferry route are available from the A-line ferry website. You might also hear this company being referred to as ‘Marue Ferry’ group. Specific information on the ship I sailed on can be found here. Using Google Translate may help to make more sense of it.