Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Japan Day One: Konnichiwa, Fukuoka

Japan was not part of my 2011 travel plans so it was such a pleasant surprise when Japan beckoned.  For 7 days, I joined a tour group exploring the southern part of Japan (Kyushu Island) and spent another 7 days of D.I.Y. traveling to visit Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo. Let's get going with an account of my first day ...

After almost four hours of flying, with only an unappetizing Philippine Airlines food tray to keep me company...

I could see that I was about to set foot on Japanese soil. Let the adventure begin!

At Fukuoka Airport, we immediately embarked on a 2 hour and 30 minute bus ride to Hirado, a city in the Nagasaki Prefecture.

We made a pit stop at Kawanobori but it was, overall, an uneventful journey.

Hirado Kishotei was our hotel for the night and it is popular for its ryokan and onsen.

Onsen is a term used to describe the bathing facilities of hotels around hot spring areas with Hirado Kishotei having both an indoor and outdoor onsen.

I don't think a lot of people in our group tried the onsen though because one has to be in his birthday suit to enjoy the facilities. Talk about making a memorable first impression!

Ryokans originated from the Edo period and often feature tatami mats with sliding doors separating the room from the porch and balcony. Our room was very spacious...

save for the tiny comfort room. We still considered ourselves lucky though because most ryokans feature communal bathroom.

After resting for a few minutes, it was time to have our first authentic Japanese dinner at the hotel's main dining room. Our hearty meal consisted of:

Clear Soup

Boiled Fish in Broth

Casserole with Ibacus

and Tobanyaki (Cooking on Ceramic Plate) of Hirado beef. I have to say that these were the most tender, best slices of meat I had during the entire trip!
We also had dessert

and got to sample some of Japan's local beverages.

Tired and stuffed, it was a treat to see that our futons were ready for us to sleep on when we returned.

Sweet dreams are made of this...

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