Thursday, December 22, 2011
Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto
Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto Sorry, I just had to! And I will admit that I was very grateful for terrible 80's music because, sadly, it was just about the only exposure I had had to Japanese and it is a useful phrase! Okay, so a run-down of my days in Japan. Fukuoka: Fukuoka is the city where I arrived and my home-base for the week. Even though it makes more sense geographically to stay in each city here, it was much easier for me to not lug around my backpack so I chose to return here each night. Since my train pass I unlimited, it works out. Plus, I had to be back each night for visits with my new friends! Jyumpei!!! Fukuoka is a nice, port city that is unique, even to Japan. Because of its closeness to China and Korea, signs around town appear in 4 languages: Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and English. Even Tokyo sports only Japanese and English. It's a big city, although much smaller than Tokyo or Osaka, houses a professional Rugby, soccer, and baseball team and hosts a marathon each year. Aso: Aso is about a 2 hour train ride to town (and another 45 minute bus ride to the volcano) from Fukuoka and is home to the world's largest caldera volcano. It is still very active and erupted as recently as 1993. I set out Tuesday morning to Aso and met 4 guys from Singapore on the train. They were the only other people I heard speaking English so I instantly struck up a conversation. Turned out we were headed to the same sites so they were kind enough to let me tag along their entourage for the day. It took 3 trains to get to Aso (although that sounds much worse than it was) and when we arrived to the info. desk in town we were told that we should not waste our time taking the bus to the base since the cable car and viewing paths were all closed due to toxic gas levels spewing from the volcano. But, alas, I did not earn the nickname "Moose" for no reason. Stubborn me was not going travel this long and not even see the darn thing. We decided to risk the bus ride and take our chances that the winds would change and we'd be allowed a visit. The Singapore boys Turns out my golden horse shoe works in Japan and 5 minutes after arriving at the base, the cable car began taking folks up! We jumped aboard (actually, we stepped on lightly since it was swaying a bit and we were too cold to move our extremities quickly) and rode to the top. There is a colored light warning system that tells you the levels of gas and danger as well as which viewing spots are open. At first, only 1 was open, but as we were viewing, they all opened up except for one! We got some great photo shots and then hurried back to the semi-heated shop to await the cable car. I was glad I had made new friends because I did not calculate my cash very well and was just shy of having bus fare back. They were kind enough to chip in for my fare and I had to hope I didn't need any money the rest of the day. It always takes a few days to figure out conversions and local prices.
It was hard to breath up there! I arrived back to the hostel around 6pm and had a nice night catching up on life online. I was up until 2am posting pictures and sorting out plans online. I also needed to finalize my travel plans for Christmas but the webpage for the trains was in Korean. Luckily, my roommate was Korean so she helped me research it all—LOVE the "internationalness" of hostels! It was also neat to be in a room full of Koreans, Japanese, and Thai folks watching the news unfold about North Korea's leader dying. My big plan for the night was to blog, but it took that long to do everything else and blogging always seems to be the last thing I do since it take a lot of focus. I find it's a constant battle to find a good balance between making time to write about your experiences and ACTUALLY experiencing things. So, I apologize if my postings are not as frequent as you would like, but experiencing my travels usually wins out on the battles. After 3 days of attempting to blog at night with epic failure, I caved and brought along my laptop on my day's journey today so I can type on the train. Okay, this section is no longer about Aso. I'll move on. Done.