Wednesday 25 January 2023
Today all my preconceptions about Japanese efficiency were shattered when a little bit of snow took down the entire transport infrastructure.
Nagasaki Peace Park
But first we start the day with a a walk/slide along the icy pavements to Nagasaki Peace Park, which we thought we’d visited yesterday, but apparently we went to the wrong park.
The Peace Park is a little further along the road from the Hypocentre Park, which is opposite the Atomic Bomb Museum. It is on the hillside, but there are escalators to the top. From here, you walk along a pathway to the Peace Fountain.
At the far end is a 10 tonne statue.
Lining the path are statues gifted by other countries as gestures of peace.
Drive to Kumamoto
Today we plan to drive to to Kumamoto. There are three choices of route; by expressway (126 miles), by road and ferry (65 miles) or by local roads (113 miles). The dilemma is that it’s been snowing and we’re not sure about driving conditions.
I program Google Maps, which recommends the expressway and we set off just before 11 am. ETA 2 pm. It’s a sunny day and the snow that fell overnight has pretty much gone. However, when we reach the expressway it is shut.
Undeterred, Google attempts to take us to a different expressway. Also closed. At this point, Google decides not to play any more and freezes.
We are near some water; option three was to skirt around Ariake Bay, so the old man decides to drive around the water. Unfortunately, it’s not Ariake Bay, but Omura Bay we’ve skirted. 90 minutes after checking out of our hotel in Nagasaki, we drive past it again.
I want to give up and remain in Nagasaki until the expressways reopen. The old man is determined to soldier on. We decide to have a bash with the car GPS, even though it’s in Japanese, so we can’t understand the instructions or read the place names, which makes it impossible to program. But at least it has the closed expressway junctions indicated.
And so we set off once more on a road which takes us round the correct bay. An hour later, the GPS decides the expressway isn’t closed any more and directs us onto the next junction, where a man asks us where we’re going, mmthen tells us it is, in fact, still closed.
So we set off around the bay once more, for another 90 minutes, before the Japanese GPS decides that this road, too is closed and turns us back towards Nagasaki to catch the ferry instead. I’m not convinced – I don’t think we will reach there in time for the last ferry.
Just as we reach the outskirts of Nagasaki (again), the GPS decides that the road it said was open, then closed, is in fact now open and turns us around (again).
We re-retrace our route along the bay. We’re getting quite familiar with it by now. After a quick stop at a 7-11 for a wee and some chicken teriyaki and egg mayo sandwiches, we set off once more.
After we have been driving for 6 hours, the GPS decides once more that the expressway is open and diverts us to the nearest junction. This time a man asks us where we’re going and allows us onto the expressway and the remainder of our journey is relatively straightforward.
We reach Kumamoto shortly before 7 pm, after an epic 8 hour drive.
Kumamoto is a lot a bigger than I’d realised with a population of 740,000. Its most popular attractions are Kumamoto Castle and Suizenji Garden reproduces the 53 post stations of the Tokaido, the road, which connected Edo with Kyoto during the Edo Period, in miniature, complete with mini Mount Fuji. Obviously, they shut long before we arrived.
We fight our way through the evening rush hour traffic to find our hotel. Then we have to locate the car park, which is elsewhere, and walk back to the hotel.
Hotel Wing Kumamoto
Today’s accommodation is another Hotel Wing. It’s a very small twin room. With 4 chairs. I don’t understand why, with such limited space, you would decide to add so many chairs. We could have a game of musical chairs. Except there’s only two of us. And there isn’t room to walk around the chairs.
Hotel toilet report; has a vent in the ceiling which blows in cigarette smoke from a neighbouring room.
Dinner at Coco Ichiabanya
It’s been a long day, so we go in search of dinner. In the arcade behind the hotel there is a Coco Ichibanya. We’ve eaten at this chain before and thought it was OK. I order a vegetable curry with rice. You can choose the size of your rice portion. I opt for small. Last time, this got me a small portion of rice. This time, it just gets me a small portion. My dinner comes on a tiny plate and my vegetable curry consists of 5 chunks of potsto, 4 chunks of carrot and 2 slices of bean. Also, last time I went for spice level 1 which was mild. So this time I select level 2 of a possible 5. By the time I have finished my tiny curry, I can no longer feel my tongue. Or my lips.
17th Century Kumamoto Castle has recently partially reopened having been badly damaged by an earthquake. According to Google, it’s a 9 minute walk from our hotel. In reality, the castle is situated on a hill overlooking the city with a moat running round the base of the hill. It’s a 9 minute walk to the moat, from where you can see the castle in the distance. It is illuminated at night.