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Back to Japan
Kagoshima is situated right on the pacific about three hours or so south and a touch east of where I am. In other words, at the exact opposite end of the island. It is also a city built next door to a very large volcano, which is currently active, and which every now and again blows up in rather cool fashion.
I travelled down to Kagoshima with a pair of Japanese speakers, one from New York (Josh), one from New Zealand (Andrew). We took Andrew's car, which introduced me to the joys of the freeway system here. Um - toll road system here. All the highways here have two endearing qualities - first, a speed limit of 50 MPH, second, tolls which make your head spin. Figure a drive shorter than Detroit to Chicago cost us $57 each way. That doesn't include the $3.80 / gallon for gas. But that's OK - we like spending money here.
We departed at 6AM Saturday, thinking the drive would take longer than it did. Josh and I got off at the youth hostel near Sakurajima (the volcano), and Andrew continued on to spend the weekend with his old host family. So, after checking in, we explore the island the volcano is on, finding a nifty park filled with fake dinosaurs. Having basically exhausted the offerings of the island (not counting the volcano, which we were saving for day two) we headed into the big city. Kagoshima has about 500,000 people, and as such is a fairly lively place to be. We wandered the streets, shopped, and chatted with an ALT from the area (ALT is what I do - teaching English) to get the skinny on fun filled things in the area. Well, assuming our guide was right, there weren't any. Scary. So we continued to explore, and then took in a movie (Sixth Sense, which just opened here last weekend). After that it was dinnertime, so we hit a yakkitoria (shish kebob place) where the apparent goal of the employees was to yell greetings to the customers so loudly they could not hear for the rest of the evening. Then we returned to the hostel (the ferry over and back was a pleasure all its own - I love watercraft!) and (I'm not kidding) watched a Steven Segall flick that was on Japanese TV.
The next day, we checked out of the hostel (well past checkout time) and plotted how to get to the lookout point. First, though, we wanted to stash our bags, but noone was around to ask. So we just left them in the main entry area near a chair. I love a country where noone steals stuff! Then we began the process of finding the lookout point - basically wandering thru tiny little streets until we saw signs which pointed the way. On the climb up to the lookout, it began to rain ash, covering our clothes and making our eyes just a touch unhappy. The cars in the area were a sight to see. Anyway, some three miles later we hit the lookout, and partook of the benches until our legs quit complaining. Then obligatory photos, shopping, and trying to hook up with Andrew, who had called us just as we reached the top (yay cell phones!) to say he was going to be there soon. Well, somehow he managed to find the old road, which ended just before it got to the lookout. So we spent an hour trying to figure out how to get together (at one point, they were talking on cells, and we realized we could see and hear each other without them). Anyway, then we hopped in the car and headed for an Onsen (Japanese bath) Andrew had seen.
Amazing. That's all I can say about this place. Heated pool basically _in_ the ocean (maybe a two metre cement walkway separated the bath from the ocean). And for reasons we haven't quite ascertained, we got to wear cute little coat/robe things into the water (which was good, as it was co-ed, and I'm not quite that Japanese just yet).
After a relaxing time in the bath, we headed to the store, snagged some dinner, and drove home.
And, of course, Monday morning I realized I had spent so much money I didn't have enough to take the train to work, so I had to call someone at 7AM and borrow ten bucks. *sigh*
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