Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Get the ferry over to an active volcano? Yes Please!

Paul (one of the ensemble, a good friend) graciously gave Eric his IPM (in-port manning) card, thus freeing Eric to come on a little adventure in Kagoshima with me. The first stop in Taniyama pier, Kagoshima, was the tourist information, where we got a whole load of information/maps/tour guides, which occupied our time during the 30 minute bus-shuttle into downtown Kagoshima.
We were dropped at the Yamakataya Shopping centre in downtown, an interesting place, it even had a monk with a small bell, who would bless anyone who stopped to ask him, and ring his bell at you if you did not.

After consulting another lady at the Crystal Cruise information desk, we decded to set off for the Sakurajima Ferry Terminal, and head over to the former island (now a peninsula due to an eruption in 1914) Mount Sukarajima. The active volcano on the island last erupted in 1960, but it smokes constantly. We grabbed some canned coffee (cold coffee in cans seems to be the way to go in Kagoshima, there were vending machines about every 20 steps in town) and some strange pastries (some green buns containing bean-paste, a raspberry swirl croissant and a big slab of white bread covered in sticky sweet butter) for the 25 minute journey. There was even a widescreen TV on the ferry, obviously it usually operates as a commuter transport service rather than for tourists. We docked on the west side of Kagoshima.
Once on the island, you could smell the volcanic ash. We almost gave up on a taxi, but just as we were leaving to go wander, a taxi showed up, and took us on a 20 minute ride to the south of the island, to the Furusato Kanko Hotel, and it’s….wait for it…..MAGMA HOT SPRINGS!

In the lobby, Eric ended up drawing stick diagrams to convey our wish to visit the hot springs, for just an hour, and then that we needed transport back to the ferry. Yuki, a nice but nervous young man, ushered us to a ticket machine where we paid Y1050 each (there’s 120 to the US dollar) to go to the springs. We went to the indoor changing rooms (a mistake, we later realised we should’ve gone to the OUTDOOR changing rooms if we wanted to use the outdoor springs) armed with a bag containing our robes and the key to the locker where we’d left our valuables up at reception. Incidentally, check out the toilet controls! I’ve heard about them but never experienced it, the seat warmed to my, er, seat!

I wore just my robe, unsure about the bathing-suit issue, which Yuki seemed against. We put our clothes into a little basket provided in the separate male/female changing rooms with separate indoor Japanese-garden style baths, and then met outside, grabbed a little hand-towel (at the risk of offence, everything was very little and cute in the baths) and walked down towards the outside baths.

This is where we discovered where we SHOULD have changed, but never mind. We grabbed some flip-flops, and went for our “starter hot water” shower before entering the hot-spring bath. Luckily, Eric had discovered you’re supposed to keep the robe ON while bathing (see picture!), seems silly to me, but I’m glad he told me, because otherwise I’d have embarrassed myself by disrobing, particularly as a couple from the ship also showed up later! It was warm, but not painfully hot. Apparently this “Buddha baths” was discovered in c.1750 and used by monks. When it became available to the public, people were so convinced of it’s medicinal properties, they even drank 2 litres of it as a tonic on each visit. I inadvertently drank some, while relaxing with Eric, and I’m not so sure.
Anyway, the bath itself had a beautiful ocean view and was stunningly pretty, with a shrine, and 13 smaller buddhas secluded under a banyan tree. I took beautiful pictures of it all, but unfortunately my camera gave up on me, deciding it’s memory card wouldn’t work. Maybe it was the humidity of the bath, whatever, so this one from the brochure will have to do. It was exactly like this, except we were in the water!
An hour later, we went back up (dripping in our robes all the way up the hill, it wasn’t a warm day either!) and had a brief soak in the indoor bath, much hotter, and made use of the little bucket, stool and shower-head wash stations before changing and grabbing the hotel’s complimentary shuttle bus back to the ferry.

We had a bowl of noodles with miso broth and a deep-fried vegetable cake in it on the way back. At Y500, about $3, and remember this is food served on a ferry, in transit (the price of food on any rail/boat service in the UK is extortionate) I don’t think Japan is as expensive as people make out.

Back on the mainland and with half an hour to spare, we bought sweet potato icecream, which is very tasty, and a whole baked sweet potato, which is just like a potato and not so tasty, but filling.
In a shoe store, when I asked for a bigger size, I was sent to a special “over 25cm” section. Shoe sizes are done literally on the length of your foot in Japan, which is very sensible really, and the size on display was a teeny 22.5cm. At a UK 6, European 39 or US 7.5, I’m an ogre in Japan!

We found a Y100 store which was great, and bought more doughnut-type pastries, noodle bowls for late-night post crew-bar munchies, more bottled tea/coffees and some pickled seaweed in little packets. I also bought some gorgeous stationary. What a great day! I just hope, as we were 5 minutes late for all-aboard, I don’t get in trouble….

1 comment:

ターナー said...

Glad you liked our fair city; I wish I could pin down when the cruise ships dock.