Japan, October 2023


This is the diary of a trip by Graham, Bill and Mary in October 2023.  It was arranged by Mary with the help of Audley Travel. This was the third time our trip had been planned since 2021. The full description of our holiday was produced by Malcolm Welby and others at Audley Travel and sent to us in a binder.  The contents of the binder are here.  Our summary of a trip to Japan is that it is the most civilized country we have been to because:
A slideshow of all the photos is here  and an interactive map of where we went is here.
Instructions are here.
 For a single page with all the photos click here.


Tuesday, 3 October - London to Tokyo
Wednesday, 4 October - Eastern Imperial Garden and National Museum
Thursday, 5 October - Shibuya and Hatchiko
Friday, 6 October - Lunch with Makiko and Family
Saturday, 7 October - Tokyo to Kyoto
Sunday, 8 October - Some shrines and a Guide
Monday, 9 October - Nijo-no Castle and Imperial Palace
Tuesday, 10 October - The Philosopher's Path
Wednesday, 11 October - Kyoto to Okayama via Himeji Castle
Thursday, 12 October - Korakuen Garden
Friday, 13 October - Okayama to Hakata
Saturday, 14 October - Ohori Park
Sunday, 15 October - Nagasaki and the Atomic Bomb
Monday, 16 October - The Dutch Slope and Glover Garden
Tuesday, 17 October - Iojima and Kabashima
Wednesday, 18 October - Nagasaki to Kumamoto via the Ferry at Shimbara
Thursday, 19 October - The Ryokan via the ;Suizenji Johuen Garden and the Aso Volcano
Friday, 20 October - The Ryokan to Kagoshima
Saturday, 21 October - The Sengan-en Garden, Foreign Engineer's Residence and Glassworks
Sunday, 22 October - Shinkansen to Fukuoka
Monday, 23 October - The return home via Canada

Previous DayContentsNext dayTuesday, 3 October - London to Tokyo

We left Bill and Mary's at 8:55am on Monday, 2 October to walk to the bus stop and got the 285 bus to Heathrow; well actually to Hatton Cross station. We got on the 490 bus to Terminal 5. We got through security with a few hiccups. Thanks to Mary packing all of her carry-on luggage and her whole luggage into two separate containers; her puce carrier bag and a £45  John Lewis carry-on case. Anyway we waited around and then were directed to departure gate A10 where we went and got on a coach to the plane. The plane took off about 20 minutes late. It was a Boeing 747. Graham watched a couple of films. Graham watched Elvis which he thought was really good and then an old film called Bend it like Beckham. To finish the flight Graham watched a Jack Ryan series 2, which was very good. It ended when we landed in Tokyo. We had two meals on the plane; one they had run out of (Japanese chicken), so Graham had beef stroganoff and the other Graham had an omelette for breakfast. The flight was very good and at the airport we are met by a young Japanese lady with a face mask. The lady gave us various tickets for the bullet trains, and we found a coffee bar  because we needed to wait for quarter past one to get the taxi to our hotel, Shiba Park, which we did. We got to the hotel, went to our rooms  and had a rest. At 5:45pm we walked out to the restaurant recommended by the chap at the reception desk. Unfortunately we walked too far and had to ask two ladies to assist us in getting to the restaurant. They took us to it. It was a very small restaurant and we sat round a sushi bar and had a delightful meal. We spoke to the people who were there some of whom spoke a little English. One person had been to Liverpool twice for a couple of weeks and a young man sitting by Graham, who thought the word was teeny instead of tiny. When he repeated the country, Graham came from, he kept saying Engrand. Anyway, it was all good fun and the couple by Graham, probably a man and his son, ate special sushi food. They started off with salmon eggs and oyster and followed that with some form of leek and grated fish. There were three Australian ladies of a certain age who had been to Japan several times and had been to the restaurant before,. It was very pleasant chatting to everybody and they were very friendly. After paying the bill we were given a very large grape. We found our way back to the hotel. Bill had brought with him some whisky. Mary was ecstatic and had a bath and we decided we'd meet up at 8 o'clock for breakfast.

Previous DayContentsNext dayWednesday, 4 October - Eastern Imperial Garden and National Museum

We meet at 8 o'clock to go down for breakfast. Breakfast is a sort of Continental breakfast with various Japanese dishes and Chinese dishes as well. Graham has yoghurt and fruit followed by a pain au chocolat and a Danish pastry washed down with coffee. At 9am we meet our guide, Junko, a lady who takes us to the cafe Renoir where we have coffee again and discuss our itinerary and also how to use the cards that we have for the trains. Then after much discussion of how we deal with our itinerary and where we get the bullet trains and showing various maps, we go to get a taxi and go to the Eastern Imperial Garden. It used to be called Edo Castle. The streets are totally litter-free. The hedges are trimmed. It starts to rain so we get out our umbrellas and walk through the rain up to the grounds of the castle. We go into a building with a model of an old temple.   We walk down again through some walls made of huge stone blocks  and around a Japanese garden where there are lots of Koi carp. We walk out of the park and go to get a taxi to go Ueno station where we get out and are shown how to use our railcards and how to add money to our railcard so 1000  yen was put on each of our cards. We walked out of the station across the road and up to the top floor of the buildings opposite. We are now at the approach to the museum. We're going to the National Museum so we walk on the side of wide roads to the museum, but first of all we stop off at a Shinto shrine  where Junko gave some money and follows the process of praying at a Shinto shrine. It's throw in a coin, one bow, two claps and a further bow and that's the way it's done. If you go to a Buddhist temple and you do one bow followed by two claps, it's obvious that you've gone to the wrong place and people will correct you but the Japanese are very tolerant. We walk to the entrance of the National Museum  where Junko leaves us and explains where we can get food and where we enter the museum and because we are over 70 the entrance is free. We go into the museum and then ask where the restaurant is. We come out and we lock Bill and Graham’s umbrellas in an umbrella stand. We walk to a restaurant outside and take a ticket from the machine and wait for several minutes before we are shown a place to eat. Mary and Graham have tempura and Bill has pasta of the day, which is spaghetti with some sort of sauce. We have three large beers  and then go into the museum. We walk around two floors of the museum, the first and the second floor. There are lots of Japanese art and metallic exhibits. It's really not as good as the Shanghai museum but it's very well worth a visit. We walk to the Ueno station. A gentlemen helps us find the correct platform. We get on the JR Yamanote railway line. We get off at Hamamatsucho. The name of the next stop is displayed in the carriage and also announced in English. We stop at a street map and a young lady shows us how to get back to our hotel. We walk back to the hotel. We ask where the bar is and we are shown the machine which you can pay lots of money for a half pint, It's 400  yen for half pint so we decided to wander out and find a bar. We don't find a bar, but we do find a 7-Eleven and spend 400  yen on 3 large cans of beer and some spicy crackers which we take to our room and drink. We have a short rest afterwards and then we go to a restaurant recommended by the hotel. Our umbrellas are put into long thin plastic bags. We have tempura and noodle soup  washed down with beer. Back at the hotel we have a whisky and retire to bed.

Previous DayContentsNext dayThursday, 5 October - Shibuya and Hatchiko

Breakfast is at eight, but this time Graham tries the congee which we eat in a private room as the rest of the restaurant is full. Just after 9 o'clock we walk out to the Hamamatsucho station. Graham takes a wrong road and we have to ask somebody the correct way. Everybody is so helpful and we are told how to get to the station. We get to the station and get on the train. Today we are going to Shibuya. People on trains will move seats to enable small groups to sit together. At the station we look for the statue of the dog Hatchiko (more...)  Bill and Mary wait in a queue to stand by the statue to have their photo taken. After the photo has been taken, we make our way across the street at the busiest crossing  in Tokyo (more...). There are about seven or eight crossings and the green light goes green for all of them at the same time. Masses of people are seen crossing the road in all directions. It is one of the main to-see sites in Tokyo. We go across and make our way along some streets. Following a walking route in Mary’s guidebook. However, one of the problems in Tokyo is that the name of a street is not well shown and we therefore walk down the wrong streets. Eventually we decide that we make our way back to the station which we do. We had been unsuccessful in our search for a beer. We get on the Ginza line to Asakusa where there is a Buddhist temple. The temple of Senso-ji  is situated in a park close to the end of the Ginza line. There are masses of people wanting to see the shrine so we go down one of the side streets to avoid the masses. We look to find a place that sells beer previously in near the Shibayu station we failed to do this as the only place we could get beer from was if we bought one of the main dishes, which we thought was a bit extortionate. Anyway we find a place where we could have some beer  which we consume and make our way to the temple. We looked around the temple. Lots of girls were walking round who have hired kimono dresses and are dressed up to look like Geisha girls, they are very pretty. We walk back to the station and get on the Ginza line back to Shimbashi station. When ladies chat they nod their heads a lot. We get off and walk for several minutes back to the hotel. At the hotel we have a couple of beers and retire for a quiet siesta in the afternoon. For our meal we return to the Takezushi bar (more...)   where we eat some wonderful sushi. The chefette makes an origami bird  for Mary. We return to the hotel, have a sake and retire.

Previous DayContentsNext dayFriday, 6 October - Lunch with Makiko and Family

We have been lent a portable wireless router  which uses 4G to connect to the internet. This can be used if we get lost or need help with translations. At 7:30am we take our suitcases to the lobby. They are being forwarded to our hotel in Kyoto where we will be staying on Saturday. After breakfast we set off to visit Makiko, a school chum of Kate's. We walk to Daimon Station and board a train. Sitting opposite is a lady with a Wimbledon Champions bag with the initials GSK on it. At Shinjuku we all four get off and look at the map. The lady  uses Google maps to find where the line we all need can be found. We leave the station, cross the road and find the right platform. The lady is from New Brunswick in Canada and is going to her daughter's sports day and to have a picnic with the others in her class. Her husband is from Scotland and works for GSK in Tokyo. The lady, now known as Melissa, gets off at the stop nearest the American school. We stay on and as soon as we realise the train has changed its station numbering system from JC19 to JC52 we realise we should have got off earlier. We change platforms. Bill is intrigued by the call of a bird and goes looking for it only to discover it is coming from a loud speaker! It is to inform blind people that a train is approaching. Music is played when a train is about to depart. We retrace our stations and get off a find the correct one. We find our way to Hachioji and change onto the Yokohama line for two stops. We are greeted by Makiko  and her ten year old son. We are driven to a restaurant by her husband Tomo, who works for the Japanese MoD. [Makiko was at school in England with Mary’s daughter Kate]. We are given a bag of presents and a wonderful meal. Tomo is hoping to get a job in the UK working on a joint UK, Italian, Japanese project starting in September 2024. Mary and Bill give them presents from the UK. We return to the station and find our way back to the hotel via Tokyo station - a slightly simpler route than the outbound one. We have a short rest. At 6pm we walk out for a bite. On the way Graham has a WhatsApp video call with his daughter, Emma, who has just finished breakfast. She would like some tasteless sweets and gum as produced by Japan. We eat in a busy restaurant some deep fried chicken  and Mary has prawns and edamame beans. We return to the hotel and finish the sake.

Previous DayContentsNext daySaturday, 7 October - Tokyo to Kyoto

After breakfast we check out at 9am. We pay £12.65 for the luggage delivery service. We walk for 8 minutes to Hamamasucho station to get the train to Shinagawa. We find the way following the blue trail to the bullet train. We wait for many minutes as we are too early. The trains depart every 6 minutes. Our train  leaves at 10:37am and arrives at Kyoto 1 minute late at 12:45pm! We take a subway to Marutamachi and when we get out at exit 6 (as per the 'Self Guide' app) we ask someone where the hotel is - Kyoto Hyatt Place. It is right next to the exit! We can't book in till 3pm so we wander around looking for beer. We eventually end up at Bistrot Vapeurs - a Japanese version of a French restaurant but it sold beer and it was busy. We sit down and order beer. It came in bottles with three flutes. Bill and Graham choose the cheapest menu (just under £10) and Mary abstains. We have two courses and a coffee. We book a table for Sunday evening. We return to the hotel via a 7-Eleven and check in. Our luggage has arrived from Tokyo – phew! We wander out at 6pm in search of a Yakitori restaurant, on a recommendation by Tom Swanson, and find one but it is fully booked. We go to a nearby bar and buy expensive beer  and some delicious fried chicken. We reserve a table at the Kyoto Suehirogari for Monday. On the way back to the hotel we buy some salad meals at a 7-Eleven. They are very tasty. We think the new sake is smoother than the previous one. Another good day in Japan.

Previous DayContentsNext daySunday, 8 October - Some shrines and a Guide

At 8am we have breakfast - very similar to the previous hotel but no Peking Porridge (congee). Mary has found a walk in the park. We walk for 40 minutes to get to the Yasaka Shrine  on the edge of the park using Google maps. We wander by a lake  and walk down the narrow streets to a main road. We enter another temple into Google maps and start walking towards it. There is a roadside bar which is too good an opportunity to miss. We rest for a few minutes and get directions to a place where Mary can buy some porcelain. We follow the directions given by the lady at the bar and stop at a shop where a purchase is made. We walk down the street to join a queue waiting for taxis. It is starting to drizzle. After 10 minutes it's our turn. On getting into the taxi and showing the driver where we want to go he asks for our navigation device. Graham puts his iPhone primed with our destination into the phone holder. We get dropped at the hotel and charged £10.40 for the trip but no reduction for the use of the navigation device! At 2pm we meet a guide called Tetsuo, probably a retired gentleman. At the station the guide adds 1000 yen to our rail cards. We get on the subway and head north to a station where we transfer to a bus. On a bus  you board at the back and pay at the end of the journey at the front of the bus. Mary thought the guide was paying until the driver stopped her getting off. We walk to the golden temple in the rain at Kinkaku-ji (more...)  built by a shogun 600 years ago but burnt down and restored. In the gardens is a bonsai tree  planted by the shogun called the ship on the land. We follow the large crowd of umbrellas along the path and return to the bus stop with a lot of other people. Eventually we board a bus and many minutes later arrive at Kyoto station where we board a local train to the Shinto shrine  at Fushimi Inari Taisha (more...) which is the largest in Japan. Apparently 80% of Japanese have Shinto as their religion and 80% have Buddhism as their religion so there's a census mystery. It is raining a lot and we want to get to the restaurant we have booked. We retrace our tracks to the station and all of us get on the Karasuma line. Our guide gets off at Shijo and we get off at Karasuma Oike to walk to our restaurant arriving very close to 6pm - phew. We have the set meal of 5 courses accompanied by some wine. It is very tasty. We walk back to our hotel in the rainless balmy evening and finish off the bottle of sake. Today Graham has walked 7.4 miles.

Previous DayContentsNext dayMonday, 9 October - Nijo-no Castle and Imperial Palace

The toilet  in the bathroom is very fancy. The seat is warm and it has an automatic flush. It will also wash your nether regions if you can understand the instructions. After breakfast we use Google maps to lose us on the way to Nijo-no Castle. We pay £7 to enter it. It was built by a shogun in 1603. We enter the main building  after locking up the hotel brollies and putting our shoes in the racks. We follow the rest of the world around the large empty rooms with decorated murals. The floor squeaks supposedly sounding like a nightingale. We leave the main building and wander through the gardens  till we enter an inner moated area  and climb some steps to admire the view. We descend the steps and wander through the grounds to the exit. We find an ice-cream parlour which sells beer. We drink it outside and watch the cars and people. There are many box cars (kei cars), which range in size from four seats to many. We finish the beers and wander down a back street and on to the street where our hotel is. We stop at the Kyoto Co-op to buy a bottle of sake and leave it at the hotel. We continue on past the hotel to the corner of the Imperial Palace gardens. We enter the gardens and a man gives us a map pointing out the entrance to the palace. It is normally closed on Mondays so we are lucky. We pass a very old maku tree - a QR code gives more info (more...). We enter the palace enclosure and are given a pink tag to wear. Graham downloads the audio guide. As soon as we approach a point of interest the guide makes a sound and shows a page which plays the guide words. It's much better to look and listen than to just read the boards. We walk around the twenty spots admiring the buildings  and their surroundings.  We wander back to the hotel, have a beer and a short rest. At 5:40pm we walk to the Suehiroga restaurant (more...)   We have their set menu - 9 courses. Lots of photos  were taken. Mary ventures off to talk with two business men. One is having an art exhibition at our hotel later in October. The co-owner takes off her mask for Bill to take a photo of her. We leave as a happy threesome and return to our hotel to try our new bottle of sake. Mary is left to plot tomorrow's adventure. Graham has walked 7.5 miles today!

Previous DayContentsNext dayTuesday, 10 October - The Philosopher's Path

We send our cases off to Fukuoka. The girl at reception says they'll arrive on the 20th but after some suggestions they will arrive on the 12th one day before we do. After breakfast Mary tells us that today's walk will be the Philosopher's Path. Instead of taking the subway we decide to take a bus. We walk a couple of minutes to the bus stop near the Imperial Gardens. We confirm with a local that the bus we need is the 204 and get on one. Google Maps tells us the stop to get off at and the stop is displayed and announced in English. There is a flat fare on the buses of £1.26 per trip. We get off and walk up a slope lined with souvenir and ice cream shops. At the top we enter the Ginkakuji  with its sculptured sand garden, ponds  and moss gardens. We follow the crowds on a one way route and exit. The ideograms for exit in Kanji are the same as in Mandarin but they are not pronounced the same way. It seems the Japanese imported a lot of Chinese ideograms but pronounce them differently. We leave the place and walk down the hill. Near the bottom is an ice cream shop which also sells beer. We stop for one and then walk along the side of a canal to the Honen-in Temple. It has patterned white sand mounds  in its gardens. 30 minutes later we enter the grounds of the Eikando Temple. Bill has a rest while Graham and Mary enter the temple. We take our shoes off and pad around the wooden floors  admiring the Buddhist shrines and large rooms with murals surrounded by very peaceful mossy gardens. We return to Bill and continue along the canal path. We enter the grounds of the Nansen-ji Temple and go and view the 19th century brick built multi-arched aqueduct. It is so out of place. Using Google Maps we take a ten minute walk to a 204 bus stop. We get off at a 7-Eleven and purchase tonight's meal. We return to our hotel, have a beer and siesta. At about 6pm we gather chez Swanson in Room 613 to participate in the gourmet pleasures  purchased earlier. A pleasant time was had by all. Mary wandered off to find the roof top garden but found the gym instead. Graham and Bill found the sake bottle. Graham has walked only 5.5 miles today - what a slacker.

Previous DayContentsNext dayWednesday, 11 October - Kyoto to Okayama via Himeji Castle

The Israel-Gaza war continues to dominate the BBC World TV broadcasts. After breakfast we check out. We pay for the forwarding of the luggage - £12.10 per suitcase. We get on the subway to Kyoto. We add 1000  yen to our rail cards and make our way  to a waiting room. A gentleman moves so that Graham can sit by Bill & Mary. The train leaves on time at 9:43am. It's a fine bright day at about 20C. It arrives at Himeji on time. We deposit our excess luggage in lockers by the exit from the train and leave the station. We walk down the street  to the castle admiring the many statues  on the way. We purchase combined tickets which will enable us to visit the gardens as well as the castle. We climb steep slopes and enter a set of rooms after taking off our shoes and putting them in a plastic bag. We walk the 250 metres of corridor and rooms and then put our shoes back on. We walk up to the keep, the central part of the castle. We put our shoes in bags again. There are seven floors to this wooden framed building. The stairs are very steep. The views from the top are spectacular. The descent has slightly easier stairs to negotiate. We wander through the grounds and stop near the exit to search for the entrance to the gardens. They are in an adjacent area to the castle, on the outside of the moat. We walk around the gardens admiring the large koi carp. The gardens  are pretty but few flowers are in bloom. We walk back down the high street and purchase three beers. We sit on one of the many benches and drink the beers. People and vehicle-watching in a foreign land can be fun. We get back to the station and start the search for the lockers. It would have been helpful if Graham had the next set of tickets on him instead of leaving them in a locker. We show our keys to a member of staff and we are allowed to retrieve our luggage. We take the escalator up to the platform, move to the entrance to carriage 7 and the train arrives. We get to Okayama, and, with the help of Mr Google, find our way to the Mitsui Garden Hotel  which is close to the station. At 4:30pm we go in search of somewhere to eat tonight. Graham has found a place that provides ramen. It's in the nearby Aeon shopping mall. We enter the shopping mall and go to the sixth floor which is full of eating places. Graham has left his Wi-Fi router at the hotel so cannot use Google maps or Google translate. Bill & Mary sit on a bench and wait for Graham to get the device from the hotel. On his return we ask someone where it is and make our way to a food hall on the 4th floor. We seek further help and arrive at the counter of the Tohdai Ramen. We opt for ramen  with a meat topping. It is prepared and we are handed 3 large bowls. We sit at a table in the middle of the hall and eat the delicious broth and noodles. It has cost us £7 each including a can of beer. Mary has found somewhere to eat for tomorrow night. We walk to it and find it is full for tomorrow. We find another which is not fully booked for tomorrow. We return to the hotel via a 7-Eleven and have our usual liquid refreshments. Today Graham has walked 7 miles.

Previous DayContentsNext dayThursday, 12 October - Korakuen Garden

The breakfast is a little different from previous hotels with smaller bowls and fewer options but there is no queue for the coffee as it's in jugs not a fancy machine. We walk in an easterly direction to the Korakuen Garden where we pay 76p per over 65 person to enter. The first place we stop at is the crane aviary. Bill is excited. We walk to the edge of the main lake  and then up a hill to a Kodak spot. We cross a plank bridge  and walk around an area of cycads. A place to quench our thirsts is spotted. We sit on a bench and quaff our beers whilst watching people feed the large Koi carp with breadsticks costing 100 yen. We resume our tour of the garden and make our way back to the hotel. At each Lawson shop Graham tries to purchase tasteless gum and sweets for Emma but is unsuccessful. So far all the cars we have seen are spotlessly clean. The side streets have lines down the sides to indicate where pedestrians may walk. Mary is beginning, reluctantly, to wait for a green light before crossing a road on a zebra crossing. We return to our hotel for a relaxed afternoon. At 5:40pm we stroll out to look for the restaurant (Torikane) we booked last night. We are given a booth and menu with no English anywhere. Google translate is enlisted. You hold the camera over the script and up pops the English for it. We order a mixed yakitori dish, chips and beer. The French fries appear first followed by a tasty pancake, unordered. Two plates of skewered meat arrive. We eat all, pay £11 per person and leave contented.

Previous DayContentsNext dayFriday, 13 October - Okayama to Hakata

Having stepped out of the bath with shower the area of the mirror above the basin is completely clear whereas the rest of the mirror is fogged up - another Japanese achievement. Only dubbed CNN is the almost understandable channel on TV. We have breakfast  and check out. It's a short walk to the station but we like to get there early and watch the people. We board the Nizomi 109 bullet train to Hakata. Hakata is in the middle of Fukuoka (more...). The train takes us quickly through large conurbations, small bits of countryside and through many hills. We arrive on time at 12:18pm. It's a short walk to the hotel where we check in. Our rooms will not be ready till 3pm. Mary decides we should visit the Hakata Folk Museum. It's a 17 minute walk away. First we go to the station to get a bit more information but fail miserably. On the way we stop at a 7-Eleven and sit on a bench  outside and quench our thirsts. We make our way to the museum and watch a video of men hauling large floats around the streets. We visit the Hakata Sochinju Kushida Shrine  and then return to the hotel. Our luggage has arrived from Kyoto. We take an afternoon rest. At 5:30pm we wander to the station and the up the escalators to the 9th. Mary likes the look of the ramen which is somewhere on the 10th floor. We find Ippudo (more...) and join the queue waiting to be seated. After a couple of minutes we are ushered to a bar. We put our hand luggage into a bag box under the seat. Our tonkotsu ramen  comes in large bowls. In it is a soft boiled egg with a light brown exterior (more...). The taste is excellent and costs us £30 for the three of us. We now have to find some sake. We eventually find a 7-Eleven in the basement floor of the station but it doesn't sell sake. We find a 300ml bottle in a Lawson not far from the hotel. We find that sake and ice is a good combination. We are looking forward to another of Mary’s adventures tomorrow.

Previous DayContentsNext daySaturday, 14 October - Ohori Park

Before breakfast we go to the third floor, look at the gym, and reconnoitre the swimming pool where Mary might go. After breakfast we walk to the post office where Mary had a yen for more yen but the man says they don't do yen and he doesn't know where yen can be obtained. Attached to the post office is a row of ATM machines. Clicking on ‘English Guide' reveals all. The most you can get out with a card is 10,000  yen so Mary opts for that. It's about £55. We get to the station and find the airport subway. We get the one going to Ohori Park. At the park we walk over a bridge  onto an island in the middle of the lake. We walk across the island and cross another bridge to reach the mainland. We pass some girls practising archery  and enter a Japanese garden. Entrance is free for 65s and older. Graham shows his driving licence and the others show their passports. The garden is very pretty, neat and tidy. We leave the garden and enter the Fukuoka Art Museum. Bill waits in the entrance area while Graham and Mary enter the ‘Collection Galleries' (more...). There is a Warhol, Dali, Miro, Chagall and a Rothko plus others. There are works by Japanese artists and some you can photograph. In a second gallery are a lot of scrolls and items associated with a tea ceremony. We have some refreshments. Mary has a matcha ice cream. Bill is shown one of the pictures he missed (more...). We walk to Tinjen station passing the site of Fukuoka Castle. We go through the JR ticket barrier and find we are on the wrong line. A man resets our rail cards and we go to floor B2. We get the train to Hakata and return to room 632 for a beer. At 5:30pm we leave to go for a Yatai meal near Tenjin station. It's a feature of Fukuoka. Yatai are street food stalls with seating for a dozen people. We find one near Tenjin station but Graham is hopeless using Google Maps so we turn back after a several minutes. A young man on a bike finds out where Yatai Mamachan is. We wait for 3 places and sit at a bar. We peruse the multi-language menu and choose our dishes. Graham orders a char-sui pork ramen, Bill opts for beef tongue, and Mary orders gyoza  and fried noodles. All except the noodles arrive. The one man band performing the frantic cooking says he hasn't got time to cook the noodles. We pay £27 and leave. We find another Yatai for Mary who sits next to a Dutch couple we met at the first Yatai. A couple of Yakitori are produced. Meanwhile Bill has wandered off. Mary eats the food and pays. Graham phones Bill but there is no reply. We return to the hotel. Bill turns up. We drink sake to celebrate the success Bill has had in returning to the hotel. Graham has walked 7.2 miles today.

Previous DayContentsNext daySunday, 15 October - Nagasaki and the Atomic Bomb

Mary has discovered that the swimming pool is shut because of COVID restrictions. We have breakfast and pack up and check out. Bill and Graham walk to the Orix rent-a-car place and obtain a hire car. We are advised to take photos of all the blemishes on the car. These are not easy to spot. The car is a Mazda 2 automatic. The man shows how to use the sat nav (with English) how to get back to our hotel but he needs the telephone number. We find it, feed it in and follow the instructions back to our hotel. The indicator is on the right and headlights are on the left. The car is loaded with our luggage. We set the sat nav to Nagasaki centre and are taken to the urban expressway. We pay a toll of £5 and drive to the edge of Fukuoka. At one of the tolls we take a ticket. At Omura Mary decides we should have a detour so we get off the expressway, drive through the town and stop. We put into the sat nav the telephone number of our hotel without the country code. On the third number it accepts it and navigates us to our hotel. There has not been much countryside just a lot of towns, forested hills and tunnels. At the hotel the car is unloaded and Graham is given directions to the car park. He parks the car and joins the others. We walk to get the number 1 tram  to take us to the sites associated with the dropping of the 2nd atomic bomb. We go up the escalator to the fountain of peace  and walk past the foundations of a prison and on to the statue to peace. Many countries have donated statues to the peace park. We retrace our steps and walk to the Atomic Bomb Museum. We visit the hall of remembrance  and the go into the museum. The bomb was dropped at 11:02am on August 9th, 1945. It killed and injured over half the population of Nagasaki. Nowhere is it explained why the bomb was dropped. All that is explained are the effects of the bomb. There is a life size replica of Fat Man and many gruesome images. Let's hope that Putin visits the museum (more...) soon. We visit a Family Mart to stock up with provisions and get the tram back to the station. We check into the hotel. After some refreshments we allow Bill to lead us to our chosen restaurant. He almost succeeds but after a course correction we enter the restaurant. We are allocated a private eight seater room. They don't speak much English. We order our food  and eat it. The bill arrives and it appears we did not eat enough for what has been paid. We return to our hotel and sample the sake.

Previous DayContentsNext dayMonday, 16 October - The Dutch Slope and Glover Garden

A different breakfast today with more juices and soups. We like bowls of yogurt not individual pots. The peel is left on parts of oranges and pineapple segments and on pieces of banana. We set out at 9:30am and walk to the port of Nagasaki. We walk across Nagasaki seaside park  with several black kites flying and mewing above. We climb up the Dutch Slope. It's an area where Europeans built houses in the middle of the 19th century. We enter one  and are pleased to find some furniture in it. Our next stop is the Glover Sky Road. It's a lift up a long slope. We get off at the 5th floor and walk to another lift which goes up 3 floors. We enter Glover Garden. It's a terraced garden with old colonial houses in it. Messrs Glover, Ringer and Alt are the erstwhile owners of houses in these gardens. We stop for a refreshment. We visit the Nagasaki Performing Arts exhibit to see a video of their annual festival pulling floats. We leave the gardens and pass the Oura Cathedral. We make our way to Dejima Wharf and stop at the Attic restaurant which Bill recommends we eat at tonight so we reserve a table and have a beer. We try to find an ATM. A helpful lady (there are lots of helpful people in Japan) shows us where one is. Unfortunately it does not take our debit cards. In returning to the hotel we learn that to get yen using debit cards we need to go to the station. To use Google maps you need to search for ‘ATM currency exchange'. We trudge around all the construction work and eventually get to an ATM which accepts our debit cards. We return to Chez Swanson and celebrate our successful adventure with a beer. While Graham rests, Bill and Mary go for a walk to the ‘spectacle bridge' (more...).  At 5:40pm we march to Attic and awaiting us is a reserved table on the quayside. English menus were on the table. Mary spots it's happy hour so we choose three different cocktails. Bill is disappointed that his Blue Magharita is not blue. We order food. Two different pastas and a seafood risotto. They are delicious. Puddings seem to be in short supply so Mary has just a caramel mousse. We pay the bill - £27 the lot - much better than last night's. Back in room 905 Mary plots tomorrow's adventure made easier with sake. Graham has walked 7 miles today.

Previous DayContentsNext dayTuesday, 17 October - Iojima and Kabashima

Mary is pleased that the bathrooms have a bath and not just a shower cubicle. After breakfast we descend to floor BF2 to look for the car. It's not there but it is on the lower floor. We insert the ticket into the machine at the barrier and drive up to street level and have to make a slight detour in order to turn right. We drive down the west side of the river and pay  100 yen to cross the magnificent Megami bridge. We are on our way to the Iojima lighthouse, driven by Graham with ace navigator, Mary. We get to the island of Iojima via a bridge and drive along the narrow windy roads until we see a church. It is the Catholic Church of Daimyoji. It is a modern church but is closed. We drive back to the first church we saw on the island and park. Graham and Mary climb the steps  to the Catholic Church of Magome. It was built in 1925 and is closed. Inside it is magnificent with bright shiny pillars. Our next trip is to the Namozaki area and to Kabashima bridge. It's a long and winding road with forests and mountains lining the road. We have yet to see a large field in Japan. Before we get to the bridge we stop at a port. There's a building that looks like a restaurant so we enter it and climb the stairs. Someone is watching TV and ignores us. It looks like a dishevelled hotel so we leave. Plan B is to return to the hotel and have a refreshment there. We follow the 499 towards Nagasaki. At the first restaurant we spot we stop. We sit out in the back and order a seafood pizza and some soft drinks. Bill spots an osprey sitting on a rock in the sea. The pizza arrives and is quickly consumed. Mary would like an ice cream but can't decide which is the better, the panini or the Jersey, so one of each is ordered and shared with the Tour Guide. We return to the hotel and have a beer and a rest. We step out at 5:30pm cross over the footbridge near us and pick a restaurant. We are ushered to a booth for four. An ASUS tablet  is put in a holder on the table and we are shown two QR codes - the Japanese use QR codes a lot. One of the codes is for the drinks menu in English and the other is for food in English. We select our drinks and enter them into the tablet. Graham would like to try the red wine. The beer for the others comes and a glass bottle containing the wine  arrives. It's a new experience! Mary would like chicken and rice. The others would like beef ramen. The ramen is not available so we order three chicken and rice. It will take 30 minutes. After 15 minutes two of the three  are produced. It will take 40 minutes for the third. We wait till the timer goes off and tuck in. It will take another half hour for the third portion. We cancel it. Two is enough and very tasty  it was - £21.30  for the three of us. Food in Japan is much cheaper than in the UK. We stop off at a Family Mart and purchase a bottle of shochu  (more...)  as there is no sake which we thought was Japan's national drink. Shochu is stronger than sake and not as smooth. Mary plots tomorrow's trip.

Previous DayContentsNext dayWednesday, 18 October - Nagasaki to Kumamoto via the Ferry at Shimbara

After breakfast we check out and pay for the car parking. We descend to B2F and find the car. We decide to use the Self Guide app for directions opting not to use tolls. After a brief course alteration we head out of the city in an easterly direction. There are lots of hills and tunnels. The male navigator on the app speaks good English and tells us at which traffic light to turn. At last we see lots of farmland with terraced fields bounded by stone walls. We arrive at the port of Shimabara. We are given a plastic card  and told what do. We understand we are to join lane 2. It is not until Graham is inquisitive about the plastic card and discovers that it is to be exchanged for a boarding pass at the ticket office. Graham and Mary get the boarding pass and then wander around the shopping area  where we fail to buy any cake, sweets or dried fish. We return to the car. A man collects our boarding pass. We drive onto the ferry and chocks are put under our wheels. We make our way to the very comfortable lounge. Bill spots a kite sitting on a dead branch. As the ferry approaches the far port it passes lots of oyster beds. We disembark and find our way to the Ana Crowne Plaza in Kumamoto using the car's sat nav having entered the hotel's telephone number. When we get to it we are unsure so we do a quick turn around the block and end up at the hotel. We can get to our rooms at 3pm. A French receptionist tells how to get to the castle. We find a tram  and take it to the city hall where we walk along the river and up to the castle. It was badly affected by an earthquake in 2016 but has now been well repaired. We approach the main castle in an elevated cedar walkway. We visit the keep  but there is little English and the downloadable app does not scan the QR codes at the various points so we leave. Near the entrance Mary spots a possible refreshment spot. We sit at a table with our drinks and one of the two young ladies opposite pointed at Graham's drink and said ‘beer'. Graham points at the young lady's ice cream and said ‘matcha' which caused a fit of giggles by the locals. We walk back along the riverside and get on a tram. We get off one stop too soon. We check in to find our luggage had been taken to Room 1181. We entered the room and had a little more quenching of the thirst before deciding we would eat in the hotel this evening. We go to the Japanese restaurant which did not have an English menu. Merely from looking at the pictures Mary chooses a vegetable dish  and the others choose a beef dish. A starter  arrived in a partitioned dish. Each bit was very flavoursome. The next to arrive are the cookers for the beef and then Mary's vegetable cooker arrives. Along with the beef comes some Ponzu sauce and Soy sauce. The beef is excellent and cooked to our satisfaction by ourselves. Next comes a bowl of rice with a soup but no instructions. We agree to tip the soup into the rice. After this course comes the blancmange with fruit  and a small vessel of tea. Overall it has been a very pleasant experience but costing £30 each. In room 1181 we have a shochu experience.

Previous DayContentsNext dayThursday, 19 October - The Ryokan via the ;Suizenji Johuen Garden and the Aso Volcano

We go to reception and hand over our cases to be shipped to Fukuoka. We have breakfast. There's a French lady married to a Japanese who works on the reception desk and a French man who works in the restaurant. We check out and go to the car. Parking is free at this hotel. We use the Self Guide app to get to the Suizenji Johuen Garden. We park in a restaurant car park - naughty. We walk along a narrow river to the entrance. It is a pleasant stroll around the park which has a miniature Mount Fuji  in the middle. We chat to a young lady from Togo. Our next stop is at the Aso volcano. The man on the Self Guide app takes us there up many winding roads but we see fields. We go to the Aso Volcano Museum but don't pay. We watch a short video and look at the information displays. We have an ice cream  and then drive up to as close to the crater as allowed. At the toll gate we confirm that we are healthy enough to continue. We walk to the edge of the crater  as close as we can. There is a slight smell of sulphur and the crater is smoking. We return to the car and drive to Hozantei to the ryokan (more...)  From what we've seen there are no potholes in Japan and people drive close to 40 kph. We are shown our rooms. Graham is sharing his with a large yellow moth. Graham joins the others for refreshments. Mary is shown how to dress  for dinner in a yukata. She looks very glamorous. We meet up for the 6pm dinner. We have a private room with the table  beautifully laid out with a variety of dishes. Gina, the young lady who dressed Mary, tells us what things are. There are sashimi of various sorts including horse. A hot soup is brought in. As the many dishes are emptied the table top is dismantled. Next course includes a whole fish  all of which you can eat which we do. Next course is beef, pork, and chicken with vegetables cooked on a hot plate. The final course is a pudding  and Japanese tea. It has taken us about two hours to finish it all. We go to the Tour Guide's clients to finish off the beer.

Previous DayContentsNext dayFriday, 20 October - The Ryokan to Kagoshima

The moth has been Graham's companion for the night. Graham tries out the hot bath. It's a stone lined bath fed by a pond of hot water. Today he does not take a shower as a short soak in the hot bath is sufficient. After dressing he walks outside and finds it's raining. A few photos of the ryokan  are taken. We gather in the same cubicle as last night for breakfast. A wonderful array of food  is before us. Fortunately Gina is here to help us with the food preparation and to tell us the preferred order to eat it in. After breakfast we saunter across the pond to the lounge and bar room where we make Nespresso coffee. We pack and check out. Only the beer from last night has to be paid for. Gina and the owner carry our baggage to the car park. Gina gives us each a hug. It is a lovely send off. We drive to Oita and then to Kumamoto and south on the Kyushu expressway to Kagoshima. The problem with driving at 50 kph behind several trucks with no opportunity to overtake is that it can get tedious. The expressway is more relaxed although not as cheap. Lots of tunnels are on the way with one of over 7000 metres. We find the Solaria Hotel but stopping to unload is difficult. Mary is dumped with some bags and the others drive off to find where to hand the car back. We stop in a street where the post office is. Bill waits in the car whilst Graham searches for Orix. After asking several people he finds where it is, returns to the car and parks in a lay-by close to Orix. The Orix staff are satisfied there are no scratches and that the tank is full. The men return to the hotel. Graham is in Room 1227  and the others are in Room 1235. We find a restaurant called Kuro Katsu Tei (more...) which does black boar cutlets  in breadcrumbs on a bowl of rice. It is delicious and very filling. We return to the hotel and sample the sake we bought on the way. Graham has walked only 1.5 miles to day but has driven most of the day for seven hours.

Previous DayContentsNext daySaturday, 21 October - The Sengan-en Garden, Foreign Engineer's Residence and Glassworks

This hotel has its lobby on the 7th floor of part of the station development. There are two sets of lifts, one from the basement floor and ground level to the lobby floor and the other from the lobby floor to the bedroom floors. We have breakfast and Mary plots today's adventure. We leave at 9:40am and take the escalator down to the basement and walk to the bus terminal. A lady with a ‘volunteer guide' badge using Google translate tells us the fare for the number 4 bus is 190 yen per person. Later she apologetically tells us it is 230 yen per person. We travel past many city features to the Sengan-en garden. We enter the garden and follow the route for beginners around the garden. It's quite a small garden but houses the foundations of the first furnace in Japan which gave birth to the Japanese Industrial Revolution. At one point Mary thought she was being asked to join a group of natives for a photo as had happened to her in China. However the tour guide thought it was a request to take a team photo which was duly executed. A lot of laughter burst out. We wander around looking for the museum, the main part of which is closed but the annexe is open. It has various exhibits relating to the original owners of the garden - the Shimadzu family. We go looking for the glass factory and end up paying to enter the Former Residence of the Foreign Engineer (more...). We have to take our shoes off and get a pair of slippers. A young lady who speaks English is found to be our translator. The young lady lives in Tokyo working for Liberty. She spent a couple of years in London living near the Buffalo Line! Bill suggests it might be the Bakerloo Line. Laughter ensues. We are escorted around the display of Liberty fabrics and old English furniture. The glassworks is pointed out to us so we make our way there. A man is creating what looks like a lightbulb but it will end up as a piece of Satsuma Kiriko (more...).  We catch the 1:19pm bus back to the bus terminal and meet up in Room 1235 for some thirst quenching, followed by a rest for the tour guide. His left knee has been giving him a bit of grief for the last couple of days. Mary would like tempura tonight. Mr Google indicates that there is a tempura restaurant 64ft  away. We conclude it must be in the basement. At 5:30pm we descend to the basement. There's a map of all the restaurants but it's in Japanese. Mr Google's translate app tells us the one we want is number eight. We find it and are shown to a table. The waiter uses her phone to ask us to order drinks first. A Japanese man at a nearby table asks us, in English, where we have come from and why have we come to Kagoshima. We tell him the answer but he persists in asking the same question again - too much shochu? We order beers and then the assorted tempura. First a bowl with liquid in it and coloured salt arrives. The tour guide thinks it is a soup and drinks it. The others think it is a dip for the tempura. The first items of tempura arrive, then two more lots follow. We are still hungry so Mary orders a mushroom and the others order fried eggplant in a broth. It is very tasty. We adjourn to room 1235 and finish off the sake.

Previous DayContentsNext daySunday, 22 October - Shinkansen to Fukuoka

We have breakfast  and check out at 9:40am. We go to the basement and walk through the subway to the entrance of the station. We find our way to the entry gates of the Shinkansen, insert our tickets into a gate and find somewhere to sit. Graham plays his internet games with his children. We go up an escalator and board the train which is waiting as this is the terminal for it. We find our seats in coach 5 and wait for the train to depart on time at 10:32am. It gets to Kumamoto, where we had driven from yesterday, and has a couple of minutes stop. It stops at Kurome and arrives at Fukuoka at 12:19pm, that's an average of about 80 mph for the 140 miles. We walk to our hotel, the same one we had before, and check in. Our rooms are ready and our luggage has arrived from Kumamoto. We quench our thirst and then stride out to the nearby garden containing the Sumiyoshi Jinja Shinto shrine (more...).  On the way we snap a 7 year old girl and her 5 year old brother dressed in traditional clothes being photographed. We return to the hotel and rest. The others walk to a nearby garden. At 5:30pm we have a second trip to the Ippodu restaurant for ramen. The men have Kiwami Karaka  with extra spice and Mary has Shiromaru Classic  washed down with beer. We return to the hotel, purchasing a 300ml bottle of sake for consumption in room 630, the same room Graham had on the last visit to Fukuoka.

Previous DayContentsNext dayMonday, 23 October - The return home via Canada

We get up early and have breakfast at 6:40am. The WiFi routers are put in their envelopes and handed to reception for posting to Japan Wireless. We check out and request a taxi to the airport. It costs about £8. We check in our luggage, go through security and find a seat to wait more than an hour to board. We are informed that the flight from Tokyo to the UK is delayed an hour. We take off at 10:10am and land at 11:30am. Mount Fuji  may have been seen. We are guided to the bus lounge where a bus takes us to Terminal 3. We get through security and passport control. We stop at an ice cream shop and have a beer. It appears to be common that beer may be bought at an ice cream vendor. In the airport it costs 50% more. We chat to a couple of Quebecois who have come to Japan on a cruise from Seattle via Alaska. They are now on their way home via New York. Mary has found Japanese Kit Kat varieties (more...) which makes Graham happy and, it is hoped, his offspring. We make our way to gate 142, the furthest gate from the entrance to Terminal 3. We take off at 3:20pm and arrive at Heathrow at 10:10pm via Canada. We get the 493 bus to Hatton Cross followed by a 285 bus to Park Road. We go indoors at 12:10am and celebrate a successful trip with a whisky and cheese and crackers. Kate's roses are awaiting admiration in the kitchen.
Click here for more holidays.