15 February 2011

Looking for an unique onsen experience?

Because boy, do we have one for you!

But let's start the story at the beginning.

My two companions and I took the night ferry from Matsuyama to Kokura. Then from there we took one of the first trains out of Kokura down to Kagoshima city. It's a combination of Shinkansen and express trains, all very lovely and deluxe (notice the gold), with easy transfers.

After collecting our rental car, our first visit was to the Meiji Restoration museum. The restoration, in short, marked the end of shogunate rule, and the restoration of imperial rule. It also meant the end of extreme isolationist policies and Japan soon saw rapid industrialisation.

The guide book correctly describes the museum as "gimmicky" but indeed, also informative. The best part was a movie with English commentary available on headphones. It told of the Satsuma students from Kagoshima and how they travelled to England to study, amongst other things, modern technologies. One can only begin to imagine what an experience this must have been for them coming from 1860s Japan. Enormous ships, new languages, new food, new technologies. Like going abroad for the first time for someone today, times a billion. And they didn't go straight to Europe. They also visited Hong Kong and the Middle East. I happened to be reading about yakiniku the other day, and let's just say that the legalisation of beef is one of the myriad small yet big changes that indicate how much Japan changed after the restoration.

After indulging in a typical travelling-gaijin lunch we drove around to Sakurajima 桜島. We saw some lava rocks and listened to the peak breathing above us as some light ash sifted down. Can you say "living on the edge"?

We rounded this off with the most amazing onsen experience of all time at the Furusato Kankō Hotel. It's by the ocean and it's a shrine. What more is there to say? This is also an experience you can actually have with anyone because the mixed bathing happens dressed in white yukata.

Afterwards we hopped onto the ferry with our car and found a nice homely kaiten-zushi restaurant for our dinner. And of course if three girls are travelling together there will be terrific purikura taken.

The next day we were to hit a few hiccups on our adventure, but more about that tomorrow!

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