The Banks - Half a World Away travel blog

No, Dobbin - the other way!

You are here!

Cheese grater?

Just park it there, sir

Escalator for Madame Butterfly

For the third day in a row we assemble in the ship’s theatre at a really early hour ready for our excursion (8.25am).

Today we first visited Shimabara Castle, on a peninsula about 2 hrs drive from the port. This gave us a really good overview of the countryside, farming and areas other than the port city. Did you know that 2/3rds of Japan land area is mountains ? Total area and total population about the same as UK. So imagine a whole UK like the Lake District – with every flat bit of land, valley or coast heavily over-populated as most of the rest can’t be built on.

Despite being severely damaged in a volcanic eruption in 1792 and again in 1990, Shimabara still has some old “samurai” houses from feudal times, which we also visited. We visited one house, set up as a kind of living museum, and moved on to the next of a group of about 4 houses. In one house, some local schoolchildren were conducting a “Tea Ceremony” for the visitors to observe, which they only do on a few days a year. (Apparently they belong to the Tea Ceremony club at high school where they learn the rituals etc). As we walked back to the coach, behind me :

Him: Shame we couldn’t see the smaller house opposite, it looked much more interesting

Her: Yes, but this one had the Tea Ceremony

Him: Who wants to see a lot of messing about with cups?

You can take the tourists to the finer cultural points….

In the 1990 eruption, many houses were buried in ash and dust debris, and have been preserved as a kind of memorial, just broken rooflines visible over the surrounding surface level. Much confusion among some of our party due to not listening properly and being confused about how houses buried in 1792 could have had aircon units and tv aerials….(and concrete roof tiles? And double glazing?....)

Japanese lunch today. Beautifully laid out when we arrived, every single place setting at the table had about 6 or 7 small dishes set out in an exactly matching pattern; some with fish or pickles, some on small burners cooking meat or veg. As I was about to sit down the (slightly older) lady next to me said nervously, “Can I copy you?”. I think she was worried about eating things in the “wrong” order or something. So I tripped up as I pulled the chair out to sit down, fell onto it and banged my knee on the table – by all means copy me if you think it’s going to help, dear, but be warned !

On the bus, we all made origami Samurai hats from newspaper. Guess who finished first ? We may make you do this in the interval of the interminable photo show.

Final stop was at the Memorial Peace Park from the 1945 bombing. Quite a small, quiet park with a lot of memorial statues and monuments donated by various countries. Given the one reason that most people know the name of Nagasaki, it is surprising how much this is downplayed in the current life of the city. Our guide Akiko listed 4 reasons why Nagasaki is famous in Japanese history, none of which was The Bomb.

Finally, we walked up from the terminal to see Glover House, the house in which Puccini imagined Madam Butterfly awaiting her Pinkerton; historic colonial-type bungalow with glorious harbour views. Sadly, by the time we arrived, the gardens had closed already. However, I was delighted to see through the railings that the house, perched on the top of the sloping gardens, actually has escalator access. We have photographic evidence !

Following our first few days At Sea, we have now had 5 day trips in 6 days. Hence we are now “a bit tired”. Easter Sunday is a day At Sea, then we visit Osaka. After that, there are just 2 day trips in the next 13 days, so the volume and frequency of blog postings will decrease substantially. The whole point of At Sea days is, we do nothing and there is nothing to say !

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