The ‘beach’ that we’d parked by showed its true colours this morning. It’s certainly not the kind of place that I would travel to use, but I guess I’ve been spoilt by the kind of beaches that we grew up with in SE Queensland. It’d be fine for small children, I guess (except for the cats that were using the beach as a giant litter-box).
Usual big town trick, we looked for a large, unmetered car park, unpacked the ‘cub then headed into town. We first went to the port to pay for our trip today (as well as confirm the time of departure). We had a little over an hour to kill, so we went to the peace park, a park full of statues related to the bombing of Nagasaki. As we were parking our bike, we heard the music that they play every day at 11:02AM (the time of bombing). It would be quite a reminder for people living nearby, everyday being reminded. For some reason, the park was full of middle-aged white people. Was odd. Quickly on the way back from the peace park we stopped at another park, this one was the hypocenter and had more statues/monuments, including fragments of a prominent church that was destroyed. Actually, it’s something that has surprised us a little, how many churches (and how strong Christianity is) in Kyushu.
We made it back to the port just in time, which is the perfect time to arrive. We were the last to board the ferry to Ioshima. It was about a 20minute ferry ride out of the harbour, past all the giant shipyards. For some reason, we received a discounted ferry rate if we had a (free) onsen in one of the fancy hotels. We didn’t complain.
But first, we went and explored the island a little. There was large Catholic church 10 minutes walk away. It’s still strange to me seeing churches in Japan. The church was built in 1931 and survived the war. The church was only open on weekends, so we had to be satisfied with peeping through the windows and walking around the outside.
There was also an amazing looking lunch menu. I was starving (only had a slight breakfast). On the island, there is a large olive plantation, and the dish that we ordered was an olive-oil tajine. There was chicken, pork, tomato, cabbage, clam, olive, chilli and probably other things. A dressing of salt/pepper and olive oil was added, then set to cook for 7 minutes, with a further 7 minutes of waiting before we could start eating the amazing looking food. And, amazing it was. We didn’t expect to be eating something like this for lunch, and it was cheap too (¥1280).
The premier attraction of the today was to visit a tiny ex-coal mining island off the Nagasaki coastline. The island is called Hashima (but also Gunkanjima, meaning battleship island). The island was actually at one point much more densely populated than Tokyo City. There were nearly 7000 residents during the 60’s in an island that was probably smaller than my high school! In 1974 the mining operation was terminated and as a result, all the residents had to move. The island was abandoned, buildings were left as-is, many still furnished. It has been uninhabited since.
Over time, typhoons and other heavy weather have gradually started to decay the island, and it now resembles a ghost town. We were lucky enough to be able to join a tour to the island (¥3300). Once on the island, there is a 250m concrete pathway that must be followed, and only goes to the safer areas of the island. Even so, it was amazing to see how quickly nature can reclaim land. Reinforced concrete buildings were collapsing, brick buildings were rubble and a once grey island was once again green-ish.
But, as amazing as what we saw was, I really, really wanted to explore further, to walk around the old apartments, to see the old school and hospital. But, general public are strictly forbidden from accessing the area, and only members of the media may enter, and only if accompanied by a former resident. One day…
By the time that we were leaving, I was cold. Winds had picked up, the sun was nearly set and all I was wearing was a thin shirt and a pair of shorts (though, due to safety regulations, today I had to wear shoes). We’d been looking forward to using our free onsen voucher after the tour, but when we went to use it, were stopped from entering. A private group had booked it for the time that we were also trying to visit. I was really disappointed, and Risa was quite upset. We had the chance to go before our cruise, but were told that any time was fine. Risa had a few emotional words with the manager of the resort, and our money was refunded (for the ferry to Iou-jima). It was all well and good having our money refunded, but we were cold, slightly dirty, tired and really looking forward to the onsen. Plus, we’d just missed a ferry and now had to wait an extra 90minutes for the next one…
We didn’t have much choice, we just waited at the ferry terminal for the next ferry and sat at caught up on Japanese TV. We grabbed a quick dinner from the supermarket that we’d parked at and tried to get as far out of town as possible, which was to the beachside of Chijiwa.