It’s funny: we’re only at the third entry in this blog and yet I already forgot to mention our last stop in the previous blog post. So, let me tell you a little bit about Tomioka, the city that truly loved us the most so far!
Let me picture the scenario for you: imagine two foreigners riding their bikes all the way to a small and lost-in-the-middle-of-nowhere seaside village. (And with small, I mean SMALL! Something like 300 inhabitants or so…) And no, I’m not talking about two clean and smiling foreigners. I’m talking about two tired to the bone, hungry, sweating and cursing gaijins (foreigners in japanese) that just went through 50km of rain, wind, hale, all of which nicely uphill. Yep, that’s pretty accurate: that’s exactly how we reached the little city of Tomioka.
We were coming from what, so far, has been the worst ride ever: 50km uphill, always completely soaked due to the continuous rain, with a sprinkle of hale. Not to mention the strong wind that sometimes literally moved our bicycles as we were riding. The thing that made us endure all of that was the thought of reaching the hot springs in Tomioka, and to bath in hot water till late.
Once we got to the hot springs, after a short unnecessary HUGE display of joy, the owner came out and told us we couldn’t enter. We later found out that those hot springs were for elderly only. Meh.
We were almost ready to fall in despair when she stopped us, made a few phone calls, and in a matter of minutes, told us to go to a nearby minshuku ( a typical japanese pension) as they were willing to let us use their bath. With the little hope we had in us, we jumped on our bikes and follower a customer that lead us there (He must have felt some sympathy for our tired selves). What was waiting for us in the minshuku was nothing short of an amazing amount of smiles, a hot bath and some freshly made onigiri. FOR FREE. Yeah, like that.
To top it all, the daughter of the owner even took us sightseeing by car, showed us the best place to have dinner, helped us booking the ferry tickets in advance and brought us back to our bikes.
Overwhelmed with thankfulness, we said goodbye and went eating one hell of a delicious dinner in the Izakaya (typical japanese bar) that we were suggested to go to.
Completely restored by the food, we asked the barkeeper if there were any places where we could set up our tent for the night. The answer was as quick as unexpected “Of course there are, you can place your tent right in our garden! There you go” Once again, we had no words to describe how thankful we were for such an amazing hospitality.
On our way outside, our attention got caught by the sound of japanese drums, near the port. We got closer and witnessed the rehearsals of the local matsuri (the city festival) that will be held at the end of the month.
Once we were done taking photos and shooting videos of it, we saw nami-san ( the daughter of the minshuku’s owner) that came out of nowhere: she was looking for us to invite us to have breakfast at the minshuku before leaving the island. And so we did.
The morning after, at 6.30 sharp, they were waiting for us at the pension and prepared for us an amazing breakfast: rice, soup, fish, vegetables and fruit. Once again, we didn’t know what to say to thank them. We left with the promise of seeing each other again one day and took the first ferry to Nagasaki.
After almost 500km of countryside and wilderness, a couple of days in a real city felt nothing short of necessary.
The first thing we looked for was a hostel and, with our never-ending luck, we ended up booking two nights in Casa Noda: colorful walls, a hammock right in the middle of the common area and most importantly, a lot of freaking awesome people! 30 seconds after we were already feeling like at home to the point where, without even realizing it, all we did during the afternoon was a small walk in the city center and house of chatting with fellow travelers in the hostel. Once the night came, the party started in the common area of Casa Noda and we had an amazing time!
The following day, we visited Gunkanjima, the ONE place i was the most excited to see in all of Japan.
Gunkanjima is an abandoned island a few kilometers away from the Nagasaki harbor, in the past over 5000 people lived there, mostly relatives of the coal mine workers that used to work in the island, and 3 months after the mine was shut down it got completely abandoned and it remained untouched since. For people that love urban exploration and abandoned places, like myself, that place is heaven. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it does until you find out that the only way to get to the island is via an organized tour during which, for safety reason, you’re allowed on the island for 10 minutes only. Not to mention, that the only visitable part of the island is by far the most boring one. AAArgh, stupid laws!
So in the end, our visit to the legendary Gunkanjima island was nothing more than an hour ride on a boat, 10 minutes on the island, and an hour on the boat to get back, overwhelmed with delusion.
There’s nothing more we could have done this time around, but you may rest assured one day i’ll get back there on my own , like other people already did, and visit it thoroughly.
Once we were back for the most annoying tour of all human history, we payed a visit to the atomic bomb museum and then headed a little outside of Nagasaki, on the hills surrounding the city to a observatory from which you can see all of the city in it’s beauty by night. Now THAT was worth seeing!
After that, we went back to the hostel and got the party started once more! That night we met Danjyuuro, an amazing japanese actor and I couldn’t resist to ask him to pose for a couple of portraits on the rooftop. I finally had the chance to use my speed lights and a foldable soft box that I bought for that trip but that, so far, had been idle in my bags.
The day after, we said our goodbyes to all the amazing people we met at Casa Noda, visited the Nagasaki peace park, and started riding our way towards Fukuoka.
The travel goes on…
Ah, before I forget: here’s the second blog we just finished editing and posted. Yes, before you ask, it’s in Italian but I bet we can snatch a few laughs out of you even if you don’t understand a single word of it. Trust me!