The Incredible Flying Bush

Kagoshima is a decent-sized city, some 500,000 people at least. Total daylight hours Michael spent in Kagoshima last time out = 0.5 hours (the morning drive to the Sakurajima ferry). Needless to say, a return trip was inevitable. This one had a slightly different look; first off, I was alone and staying in a real dive of a hotel, no pimpin’ purple Vegas room with enormous roulette wheel on the ceiling; second off, there was no gaping wound on my chin, and my jaw didn’t feel like it had been smashed with a sledgehammer; and third off, I had no car, just my dependable feet (only 2 of them). The trip began with me and my 2 feet at 8:30 in the morning with a coffee and donut in the Miyazaki train station, a little place called Mister Donut, which is about as close to a Tim Hortons as you can get in Japan. My train arrived in downtown Kagoshima around noon, and I made my way out of the attached mall with the ferris wheel on top. Feeling a tad peckish, I sat down at a nearby bench and got out my lunch. Bad move. After a brief pigeon attack, I closed my lunchbag and proceeded to a more pigeon-free environment.

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Sauntering down the road, searching for a safer spot to eat, I came across this sign:

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I don’t know exactly why they would advertise this procedure quite so explicitly, but it certainly caused an abrupt loss of appetite. Perhaps it was a weightloss center, I didn’t stop to ask. So, with a temporary hold on the eating situation, I quickly found the Kagoshima castle remains (I have a spidey sense for castles). Not much left, I’m afraid to say, since the rest of the castle was burned down by samurais in their last defiant stand, the Satsuma Rebellion. Cool. The exterior wall and moat still remained, and that was enough for me to drool…of course, maybe it was just the smell of ramen in the air. I also found Garfield within the ruins, and attempted to scare him into action. Garfield does not scare easily.

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After the castle ruins, it was off on a short hike up the surrounding hills to Shiroyama, a great little viewspot of the city and of my nemesis, Sakurajima. Unfortunately, breathtaking views don’t always have quite the same effect in a picture, but you get the idea. There was also time for a quick trip to the local shurin before sundown, with highlights including a graduating gargoyle and a flying bush.

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By this time, poor Mikel has been walking with a heavy backpack for about 6 hours. It was time to find a hotel and relax with a drink before heading out for dinner. I managed to find a nice inexpensive hotel, if you can call it that. My “room” (used in the loosest possible sense of the word) could best be described as a decrepid 8×8′ box with sliding paper/packing-tape doors and no bed. The mirror gave the illusion of 19 Mikes in the “room” (which is a nice way of saying it was smashed), and there was a 14″ black-and-white tv and 2 water boilers stored on a small stained table in the corner, all of which did not work.

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The good news is, the owners were a sweet elderly lady and her 70-year-old husband, and despite the room condition, the sheets were clean and the eventual sleep was rejuvenating…but we’re not quite at the sleep yet. Before leaving for dinner and nightlife in the exciting Tenmonkandori district downtown, I convinced 70-year-old husband to sit at the cluttered table with plush green-seated stools downstairs and share some Kirin Whiskey with me while speaking in slow, loud, broken, arm-waving English. It was great. Then I bought a few beers from the convenience store and walked down to a funky little strip by the beach called Dolphin Port. Picking a nice bench with a view, I cracked those puppies and devoured the golden godsend inside. Life was good. Then it was off to Tenmonkandori to meet my meal, and a lot of very friendly Japanese guys. This guy was the friendliest, and showed me his confidence-exuding greeting/goodbye gesture, which apparently gets all the ladies.

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At 1:30 in the morning, I finally found my way back to my “room”, and slept as sound as I ever have. The next morning, after a quick coffee from elderly lady owner, I said my goodbyes and headed out to the aquarium. I have come to the realization that fish make horrible picture subjects, not from lack of detail, but from an unfortunate mixture of low-lighting and the inability to sit still. A hundred blurry fish shots later, I left the aquarium with these 4 discernible pictures: dead dolphins, a shy seahorse, some tall crabs, and blurry yellow jellyfish…

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The aquarium did have one very Japanese element to it. In one section, sort of a learning section for kids, there were some small tanks with local fish…complete with little models below of the dinner dishes made from them. This brought a big grin to my face, something about it just seems so cold and callous. They even had a display board next to one of the tanks with the entire detailed procedure of how the poor fish inside are turned into tasty treats. Only in Japan…

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After getting my fill at the aquarium, I had a delicious domburi lunch with udon noodles at the ferry terminal and then another quick trip to Sakurajima. I’ll spare you the pics, since I’ve already posted plenty of the monster himself, but the remainder of the day was spent hiking along the Nagisa lava trail and cycling around on the worlds shittiest bicycle, rented from the only hostel I have come across in Japan so far. This screeching brakeless bastard did bring me to a funky dinosaur park, which once again awoke the inner Mike to the simple pleasures of childhood, but the ear-piercing brakeless ride back down the hill snapped me back to reality in a hurry, along with everyone else within a 3 kilometre radius. I definitely have a new appreciation for Rusty, who drove like a Rolls Royce on the bike ride back home from the Miyazaki train station. I love you Rusty.

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~ by The Running Emu on March 24, 2007.

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