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Notes on Kyushu trip, rugby in Oita, Ohara, Miho Museum and typhoon Hagibis

Notes on Kyushu trip, rugby in Oita, Ohara, Miho Museum and typhoon Hagibis

Oct 11th, 2019, 11:39 PM
  #1  
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Notes on Kyushu trip, rugby in Oita, Ohara, Miho Museum and typhoon Hagibis

I hadn’t planned on doing a trip report but confined to the hotel while Tokyo braces for typhoon Hagibis, have a lot of time on my hands today. Living on and off in Tokyo for 8 years, we have been through many typhoons but this is on a different order. We are staying in the Ginza Hyatt Centric and absolutely everything is closed, from Mitsukoshi to the 7-11s. The Yamanote line stopped running at 1 PM and the city feels paralysed.
This isn’t a trip report but rather some notes.

Repatriating to London December 2018, we planned a two trip trip for the Rugby World Cup. We had never been to Kyushu so H chose an All Blacks game in Oita. Opponents weren’t known at time of ticket purchase - turned out NZ would be playing Canada....

First week was spent mostly in Kyushu, we then flew to Kansai to spend some time in Ohara before taking the train to Tokyo.

We (me, husband and adult son) flew into Hiroshima and had one night at the Rhiga Royal Hotel, a great choice. Convenient location - easy walk to both the Peace Park and the Castle. It is right next to bus station where the airport bus stops. The breakfast buffet was fantastic, everything from ochazuke with flying fish stock to grape ice cream.

Next day we trained it to Nagasaki for two nights, staying at the JR Kyushu Hotel. Small rooms but convenient - two of the best rated izakayas on Tabelog were in the attached mall so dinner was taken care of. Breakfast came from a very nice bakery in same mall.

Sightseeing highlights were the Peace Park and Dejima, the man made island to which foreigners were retricted in the early days of Japan opening to the West. The site is fascinating with more excavations scheduled to continue for many years. The ultimate goal is to reestablish it as an island.

We also went to Glover Park but the Glover Mansion is completely hidden under scaffolding which was disappointing. And we made it out to the Siebold Museum and were glad we did but it is probably only for someone with specialised interest. On the way back, we got off the tram at the Meganebashi (the Spectacles Bridge ) and had a short walk through a lovely traditional shopping area.
I will post in instalments as I usually do this on laptop and don’t quite trust the iPad for this.
Boveney is offline  
Oct 12th, 2019, 12:54 AM
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Next stop Oita for the game. The train ride - like the one from Hiroshima to Nagasaki - passed through lovely countryside: rice fields edged by higanbana, the red spider lilies/death lilies, traditional symbols of autumn in Japan, now replaced largely by black cats, spiders and jack o lanterns. I had never seen them in such profusion before.

Again stayed at JR Kyushu hotel but this one was almost brand new and of an entirely different standard. Very modern, with a swish spa including a rooftop open air infinity bath.

Oita is a really nice town. I don’t think anyone would go there other than for a special event like the RWC but I am glad we did.Everyone madly enthusiastic about the rugby, volunteers all over the place, lots of gifts for the foreign visitors (pens, postcards, tenugui etc). There is a castle and the odd local sight - in this case a public bathroom shaped like a melting cake. Only in Japan....

We’ll skip over the rugby (but final score was 63-0).

The next morning we rented a car from reliable Toyota Cars and set off for the stone Buddhas at Usuki and then on to Takachiho. Much more taken with the former than the latter. One a quiet out of the way place affording contemplation before magnificent artworks/objects of devotion, the other a very crowded touristy spot. Spent the night at the Imakuni Ryokan, nothing special, rather soulless.

Next day was the highlight of our Kyushu trip. We were heading for one of the top 3 ‘hidden places in Japan’. The Japanese have top 3 lists for everything: waterfalls, night views etc etc and I’d found Shiiba rated one of the top three hidden or secret places. It was certainly beautiful. Because I couldn’t find much information online, we stopped first in the main village of Shiiba where we collected a handbook and maps from the Folklore Museum - a wonderful facility with complete English translations for all exhibitions - unusual. We then had to back track to see sights such as a mountain village of traditional houses which afforded a pleasant stroll.

This is an area which is beginning to develop agro/eco tourism and which could well serve as a base for a few days. From the FAO site: “ ...the site is a steep mountainous site enclosed by the peaks of the Kyushu-Mountains, ranging from 1,000 to 1,700 meters in elevation. Mentioned in ancient Japanese chronicles such as the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, myths and traditions are cherished even today. In this tough, forest-enclosed environment where flat land is extremely sparse, the people have established a distinctive and sustainable composite system of agriculture and forestry in the mountainous Site through a combination of labor and ingenuity.”Takachihogo-Shiibayama Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry System | Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | GIAHS | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

However we hadn’t allotted enough time to take full advantage of the area so had to leave without exploring as fully as we would have liked. But it was good we cut short the visit in Shiiba because the drive on to the next stop proved challenging. It turns out ‘3 most hidden places’ can also be translated as ‘3 most secluded places’ and one reason for the seclusion may be down to the hazardous roads over the mountains. Though the road coming in from the East had been fine, heading to Hitoyoshi out to the west took us over single track steep and sharply winding mountain roads. We went three hours hardly seeing another car.

Luckily the Ayu ryokan in Hitoyoshi turned out to be a wonderful reward after the gruelling drive. A modern ryokan but traditional Japanese hospitality. The onsen included outdoor baths and the dinner was full kaiseki - not something to eat every night but a memorable once in a while splurge.

Boveney is offline  
Oct 12th, 2019, 01:13 AM
  #3  
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Saga

(Hmm. Looks like this is turning into a proper trip report. But the rain is still pounding down, the wind is picking up, Hagibis hasn’t even made landfall and we continue confined to the hotel.)

Next two nights were spent at the Karatsu Seaside Hotel, Karatsu. The pool was closed for the season and the beach was strewn with plastic debris, but still fun to watch the surfers and the occasional selfie stick wielding tourist.

Next to the hotel is one of the top three (!) Matsubara in Japan - a fringe of pine forest along the coast, popular with forest bathers. We had two nights in Katsura, exploring the area. Favourite stop was the pottery village of Okawachiyama, Imari. Not only a lovely mountainous village, it was fun to stroll around, visiting the various galleries and historical sites such as traditional kilns.

In contrast Imari and Arita towns were too big and spread out to be of interest. We did drive out to the Arita Porcelain Park where we were amazed to find a full scale replica of the Zwinger Palace which we had visited in Dresden last December. Quite bizarre. We also went to Arita Sera which was an outdoor mall of nothing but porcelain shops. Not really our thing but probably fun for a porcelain fan.

The next day our son flew home to London from Fukuoka while we flew to Osaka with Peach Air.
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Oct 12th, 2019, 01:38 AM
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Tourist trap Miyama, serene Sanzen-in

We picked up another car from
Toyota Rental car and drove to Miyama where we spent the night at the Ryokan Chinsen-Rou just beyond the thatched houses.

Miyama was a bit of a shock - probably one of our worst disappointments in Japan to date had been a visit to Shirakawago - and this was even worse. At least at the former you journey into the mountains and have a sense of arrival. Miyama is right along the side of the road. You’re driving along and suddenly there is a huge car park filled with coaches on one side of the road and on the other the cluster of thatched houses. As we were staying so close by we decided to head back in the morning hoping it might be quieter but though we were there reasonably early, we hadn’t beat the coaches and the place was crowded with flag waving tour leaders and attendant hordes. I am afraid we simply drove on.

The next stop was thankfully the opposite experience. I am not a fan of Kyoto, finding it uncomfortably crowded but a friend had suggested we visit the small temple complex of Sanzen-in. Technically within the Kyoto city limits, it feels quite rural, a small hillside village. No crowds, very tranquil. I was especially thrilled by the wonderful moss garden - having once visited the Kokedera in Kyoto years ago before it was so difficult to gain admission, I thought I would never see a moss garden as beautiful again.

We stayed at Ryokan Seryo, just by the steps up to the temple complex. It is a beautiful old building and location could not be more convenient but the ambience was more briskly efficient than charming. It is in the Michelin Red Guide and perhaps that is why foreign guests outnumbered Japanese.
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Oct 12th, 2019, 02:06 AM
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Miho Museum - an uncomfortable visit

And now for the real reason we’d flown to Kansai. The Miho Museum was on my bucket list. We hadn’t managed to get there in the years we’d lived in Tokyo so had scheduled a day to finally visit.

Well, another shock. I had focused only on the museum building itself, wanting to see the IM Pei designed ‘underground’ building so respectful of its mountain setting - more on that later. I hadn’t really focused on the actual collection.

There was something very disturbing entering the galleries and seeing artefacts from Pompeii, ancient Egypt, west Central Asia etc. . How had these ended up in a fairly recent private collection? It turns out most of these were amassed in just six years and most have no known provenance. The uncomfortable sense that most had been bought illegally is inescapable.

And as for the building itself, rather than burrowing into the hillside, IM Pei apparently levelled the mountain top, built the museum and then planted on top of it. So maybe not so ecologically conscious after all.

After Miho, we drove to Nagoya and took the Shinkansen to Tokyo. We are staying at the new(ish) Hyatt Centric Ginza - just two streets behind the main Uniqlo Temple and I highly recommend it. Rooms are big, very well designed, the whole vibe is young, friendly and welcoming. And the bar has Happy Hour from 5-7 daily with a 600yen cocktail list. I am writing this from there - as a crowd of disappointed rugby fans have burst into God Save the Queen on the other side of the bar.

Can’t close without saying how sad it is that what has been a brilliant RWC has been marred by this typhoon for which some commentators with no experience of tropical storms seem to blame Japan. Japan has been an outstanding host nation and I really hope the fans here will go away enriched by their encounter with omotenashi.
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Oct 12th, 2019, 06:12 AM
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oh what a treat to find this on a cold wet Cornish afternoon, while I'm watching Exeter v Bristol on the telly. I've not made it to Japan as of yet, but the RWC has piqued my interest as have the TRs [and current visits] of various fodorites, none of whom fortunately are in Tokyo at the moment but sadly also none of whom are rugby fans.

Sounds as if the bar was in for a lucrative evening. They showed some pictures of Tokyo during the Ireland v Samoa match earlier and it rather put the "plight" of Scotland in perspective especially when it talked about at least one person having died and 4 others being missing. Of course I sympathise with Scotland but as things stand if they won but only got 4 point there would be a tie on 14 points and Japan would proceed as they have won all their matches whereas Scotland lost one. SFAIK there is only one permutation which would permit them to proceed - a 4 try win in which Japan didn't get a losing bonus point or score 4 tries of their own. So if it is canceled it will not be that hard on Scotland IMO.

I hope you get through the experience unscathed and of course that there aren't any more fatalities.

Looking forward to any further posts you are able to make!
annhig is offline  
Oct 12th, 2019, 06:59 PM
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post typhoon

Thank you, annhig. That is the end of this TR though as our remaining time in Tokyo will be spent catching up with friends and in other non tourist activities. Today, as so often post-typhoon, the sky is a beautiful clear blue. Many shops/restaurants on the Ginza have signs saying they will open later than usual today but others say they will remain closed until Tuesday (Monday is a holiday here.) The RWC has announced the Scotland-Japan match is on! Brave Blossoms, Try! (one of the endearing sights here is the number of ‘No side team’ signs indicating support for both sides. However H reported virtually all of the Japanese fans at the Oita match sported All Blacks gear.]
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Oct 13th, 2019, 01:07 PM
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well thank you anyway for this short but sweet TR. Did you catch the match? Congrats to the Brave Blossoms. South Africa need to be on their guard.
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Oct 13th, 2019, 05:07 PM
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Only on TV! But thrilling nonetheless. There is an official Fanzone in Yurakacho nearby but it is unpleasantly claustrophobic. And they charge ¥1,000 for a beer, compared to less than ¥700 for three from the combini. The Oita Fanzone on the other hand was sited in a spacious outdoor plaza with a high covering against the weather and assorted food and beer stalls charging normal prices.
Japanese friends either watch at home or go out to one of the many ‘Irish pubs’ around the city.
Boveney is offline  
Oct 13th, 2019, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Boveney View Post
And now for the real reason we’d flown to Kansai. The Miho Museum was on my bucket list. We hadn’t managed to get there in the years we’d lived in Tokyo so had scheduled a day to finally visit.

Well, another shock. I had focused only on the museum building itself, wanting to see the IM Pei designed ‘underground’ building so respectful of its mountain setting - more on that later. I hadn’t really focused on the actual collection.

There was something very disturbing entering the galleries and seeing artefacts from Pompeii, ancient Egypt, west Central Asia etc. . How had these ended up in a fairly recent private collection? It turns out most of these were amassed in just six years and most have no known provenance. The uncomfortable sense that most had been bought illegally is inescapable.

And as for the building itself, rather than burrowing into the hillside, IM Pei apparently levelled the mountain top, built the museum and then planted on top of it. So maybe not so ecologically conscious after all.

After Miho, we drove to Nagoya and took the Shinkansen to Tokyo. We are staying at the new(ish) Hyatt Centric Ginza - just two streets behind the main Uniqlo Temple and I highly recommend it. Rooms are big, very well designed, the whole vibe is young, friendly and welcoming. And the bar has Happy Hour from 5-7 daily with a 600yen cocktail list. I am writing this from there - as a crowd of disappointed rugby fans have burst into God Save the Queen on the other side of the bar.

Can’t close without saying how sad it is that what has been a brilliant RWC has been marred by this typhoon for which some commentators with no experience of tropical storms seem to blame Japan. Japan has been an outstanding host nation and I really hope the fans here will go away enriched by their encounter with omotenashi.
THought provoking comments on the Milo Museum.
Thank you for your TR. we are also in Japan, but thankfully, as luck would have it,not near the typhoon.typhoon..
yestravel is offline  
Oct 13th, 2019, 09:54 PM
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Thanks for posting boveney. Have been following both the typhoon and the Rugby on the TV, The footage of the devastation was scary to put it mildly. I did briefly consider visiting for the World Cup, then I looked at the hotel rates!!
The Japan- Scotland match was the best match I have ever watched ( and there have been quite a few!) Congratulations to Japan, they are a force to be reckoned with in this, and future world cups.
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