Posts Tagged ‘Nagasaki’

Nagasaki Spirit Boat procession

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

On the 15th August 2010 I watched the Nagasaki Spirit Boat procession (精霊流し). This event takes place every August, for people to mourn family members who have died in the past year. Despite sounding a bit gloomy it is actually a very lively event with colourful floats, firecrackers, clamouring gongs and shouting!

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We weren’t sure exactly where to find it so we asked at the tourist office and they helpfully marked the main locations on a map, and told us it would start at about 6pm, with the floats slowly making their way to the harbour. The below map shows roughly where it is. The red lines are the main routes, and the floats converge in the centre.

View Nagasaki Spirit Boat Procession 精霊流し in a larger map

We made our way to the area, and walked towards Shianbashi station. While walking we started hearing firecrackers. The decided to follow the explosions! Along the road were hundreds of exploded firecracker boxes.

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By following the explosions we found our first float, being carried by a group of macho looking men. On the front of most of the floats were photographs of the loved ones whose lives were being remembered. The participants believe that the spirits of the deceased will be sent to Sukhavati (Land of Bliss).

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The firecracker explosions were very, very loud. The different floats seemed to be competing with each other to see who could make the most noise.

Some of the floats were very heavy looking so needed a lot of people to carry them. In between carrying the floats and setting of firecrackers the participants took time to rest.

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The people setting off the firecrackers were mostly well behaved, but some of them set them off closer to the spectators than they should have. The marshals sometimes gave the participants a telling off.

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Some people seemed to take pride in keeping hold of the firecracker while it exploded. Probably not the safest thing to do! Others enjoyed throwing the exploding firecrackers at their fellow participants feet to make them jump up and down.

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As we got nearer the harbour more and more floats appeared until there was a massive queue of floats leading to the water front.

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In the past people used to be able to release the floats into the water. These days what happens is the people leave their float in what looks like a ‘float car park’. A demolition crusher then picks the float off the ground, crushes it, and dumps it into a skip. A sad end for these floats – they look like they took a long time to build.

This is a fun festival to come and watch. Beware though – it is extremely loud, and the firecrackers and the small aerial fireworks that people were setting off (especially when it gets dark) could be dangerous, so stay on your guard.

Spirit Boat Video

Above is a 6 minute video of the event, you can watch it in up to 480p.

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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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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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

Search for all hotels in Nagasaki… (on

Hanabi World Cup 2010 – fireworks competition

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

On the 14th August 2010 I was visiting Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki prefecture. As luck would have it this was the day that Japan’s entry into the Hanabi World Cup 2010 fireworks competition was being performed. It cost ¥500 for the ticket. Here are my photos and a five minute video of the event.

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After the warm up fireworks display Japan’s entry into the competition began. The backdrop was a Kanko Maru Edo-Era sailing ship lit up with red lights.

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The fireworks were choreographed with the Eastern sounding music as well as a bit of rock. Watch the video at the end of this post to hear the music.

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The beginning of the display was more subtle than a ‘fire everything into the sky at once’ display that you might get on bonfire night.

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The title of this display is Hanabi ぜよ.

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Also in the competition are China, Portugal, the U.S.A. and France.

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Hanabi is the Japanese word for fireworks. It translates as ‘flower fire’. This is the kanji for Hanabi: 花火. The first one ‘hana’ means flower 花, and the second one ‘bi’ means fire 火. If you look at the flower one you could imagine that it is a picture of some hanging flowers. And the second one looks a bit like a man flapping his arms around because he is on fire. Thinking of what the kanji look like makes them easier to remember.

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Being a fireworks display in Japan everyone was very polite, and sat on the floor in rows. The spectators clapped and gasped at regular intervals, and there was lots of photo and video taking as well.

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The finale was a massive ‘shoot as many fireworks into the sky at once’ ending. Always guaranteed to please the crowd.

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Hanabi World Cup 2010 video

You can watch this in up to 480p if you change the settings on the embedded video.

Fish eating my feet (photos and video)!

Friday, September 17th, 2010

In Nagasaki I got a chance to have my feet eaten by fish! It isn’t as gory as it sounds, these are special fish that just eat the dead skin cells off your feet. They are known as doctor fish or nibble fish.

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It all happened in the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki prefecture. There was a doctor fish foot spa there. It cost ¥800 for 10 minutes and seemed worth a go. First you have to wash your feet using a basin at the front. Then you get taken to the fish tanks.

In the first tank were lots of small black fish swimming around. You carefully put your feet in (being careful not to hit the fish), and then the fish start nibbling at your toes and feet. With these fish the sensation was a bit ticklish. Certainly not painful and you wouldn’t know that they were actually nibbling you.

After a few minutes the man running the foot spa decided I was ready for something stronger. He took me to another tank, this one containing bigger yellow and blue fish (you can see them in the video above). I lowered my feet in again and this time instead of a tickling sensation it felt like being poked with little pins. It didn’t hurt, but was a very different feeling from the first tank.

After my 10 minutes was up I was given a small towel to dry my feet and then I was sent on my way.

In the evening I had a look at my feet. They definitely felt softer and had less hard skin on than before. 10 minutes wasn’t enough to remove all the hard skin but it did make a difference.

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Huis Ten Bosch theme park Nagasaki

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki prefecture is a place that has to be seen to be believed. It is a theme park whose theme is Holland. Here the Japanese have created an idealised version of Holland complete with windmills, red brick buildings and canals.

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It is about one and a half hours from JR Nagasaki on the Sea Side Liner train. The return train tickets were ¥2500 each.

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They have a slightly confusing ticketing system. You can pay just for entrance, or you can pay for a Toku-Toku ticket that gives you discounts to the various attractions that are in the park. The attractions (virtual reality rides, mazes, Thriller museum, children’s adventure areas) didn’t particularly interest us so we just got the entrance ticket. Was still ¥3000 each, so not cheap!

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The entrance to the park is impressive, and so are the buildings inside. They have spent a huge amount of money on building a fantasy version of Holland. They spent so much that they had to file for bankruptcy in 2003. That is all in the past though, and today they are open for business.

To help the Japanese understand what a Dutch person is they have some helpful cardboard cut outs near the entrance showing some ‘typical’ Dutch citizens. The one on the left has a sign on him explaining how tall Dutch people can be!

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The architecture and scale of the building is amazing. Below is one of the huge hotels that are on the site.

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There are a number of ways to get around the park. You can walk, take a boat, or hire a bike. Taking a canal boat costs ¥600 to go between the two stops (one near the entrance and one in the centre of the park).

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Hiring a bike, cart or tandem bike is a fun way to get around. To hire a two person cart for 3 hours cost ¥3000. If you want to hire a bike or cart you’ll have to get to the hire shop quick as they are very popular. The bike hire shop was the only place in the park where we saw a real Dutch person. There was a very tall Dutch man there looking after the bikes.

Huis Ten Bosch is named after one of the official residences of the Dutch Royal Family. The makers of this theme park got permission from them to build a replica here.

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It’ll cost you another ¥500 to visit the palace replica if you have only bought the basic entrance ticket, but it is worth it.

Inside they have tried to create royal looking rooms. And there is an attractive garden behind the palace.

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Here is the view of the palace from the rear. Very impressive! Remember this is a theme park, not a real palace.

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Even with just the basic entrance ticket you can spend hours walking or cycling around the Dutch themed streets.

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There are shops and restaurants in the park, and other gardens, flowers, buildings and windmills to see. If it wasn’t for the thousands of Japanese people everywhere you could forget that you were in Japan.

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In the early evening there was a small parade of floats. Nothing like the scale of a Disney parade, but worth a quick look.

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Also in the day we got a chance to let fish eat bits of our feet and in the evening was Japan’s entry into the Hanabi World Cup 2010.

A very cool place to go if you have seen the city of Nagasaki and want to see something different in the prefecture.