Over the Thanksgiving Holiday my friend Jason had arranged for some tickets from Detroit to Osaka. So although I had to work Thanksgiving day, and the Friday after (work being a relative term since I was late to work and went home early, as I was sick), I still intended to do something exciting for the holiday weekend. Even if I was only going to make myself sicker.

So Jason finally manages to phone me Friday morning leaving a time and a track number in Fukuoka to meet him at. After returning from work I ring Kim up and ask her if she would care to waste some time in Fukuoka, and subject herself to two obnoxious Americans. She of course said yes, and we were on our way to Fukuoka. Standing room only, of course, but we arrive and find Jason no problem. It was terribly odd to be chatting with two good friends at the same time who would normally have have at least 3000 miles between them.

Since Jason had met us at 7pm, we were able to wander the town aimlessly (after getting his bags from the waiting room, where he had left them out in the open since noone in Japan would ever rifle your things, and stuffing them in a locker). We headed from the train station outward down all sorts of back alleyways, stopping for dinner in a strange yakitoria where the shoes were taken off only before getting in the 'booth'. But the food was acceptable, and we were off again, crossing the river to get a nice view of the lights at night, and then on to Canal City, one of the best places in Fukuoka for grabbing a massive shopping overdose. While there we made printclub and admired the stores which would not have looked out of place in any mall in America.

Finally we caught a train back to Saga (probably Jason's first experience with the joy of trains on Kyushu - no english, only Kanji). Borrowing a second futon from Kim, we proceeded to turn in, after some late-night planning.

The next day, we woke fairly bright and fairly early, and caught a taxi to Saga station (originally I had planned to borrow a bike for Jason to ride, but that was before he reminded me that he does not, in fact, ride bikes). I snagged a round trip to Nagasaki in the hopes that it would be OK to split it on the way back, as we were stopping in Arita that evening to see a concert. Jason flashed his railpass and we were off.

Upon arrival in Nagasaki, we grabbed a map from the (not very obvious) tourist information kiosk, and made our way towards the monument dedicated to the Christian Matyrs. It's an interesting little church with two very odd spires on either side. And a plethora of cats residing near it. From there we could see a strange statue of a tall woman (the virgin Mary?) with children kneeling at her feet, and all of them standing on the back of a giant turtle. Apparently, or so the tour book says, there is a massive Foucault's pendulum in there, but we were unable to find the entrance, though we did find a very nice graveyard in the process.

Next, of course, is the more difficult part of the tour. We caught the tram and headed to the place closest to where the atomic bomb exploded. There was a group of schoolchildren there, taking photos with a banner of some sort. Still standing near the center are two columns of a church which was accidentally ground zero. It was about this point Jason asked me if we were being irradiated as we stood there. I responded "Probably." and we moved on. There is an interesting set of concentric circles marking ground zero, and a memorial to Koreans who had been in Nagasaki as slave labor and as a result lost their lives in the bombing.

And we then moved on to the high/low point in the tour. Certainly the most memorable. The A-Bomb museum has many artifacts from the bombing, things like clocks which stopped at 11:02 and melted rosaries, some even more disturbing artifacts which contain human remains. There was also artwork by victims of the bombing. Just a very difficult place. The testimony they had on video was very interesting, as were some of the pieces of information they had on nuclear accidents since then. Planes which crash while carrying nuclear weapons, things like that which the (U.S.) government doesn't exactly like pointed out.

We finally managed to leave, and discovered we had managed to miss the rain which had decided to fall, so luck was so far in our favor (it was going to change soon). We caught the tram and headed to one of the larger shrines in town, which had caught my eye when I had been there so I figured Jason should see it. It has a long slope with shops and tori gates on it, and then the shrine itself has more steps, but the view was amazing, and well worth the climb.

Finally, we were off to see the Drezden Baroque Orchestra in Arita. So we headed to the train station, only to find we had missed the last train to Arita. We do a little figuring, and head to the Bus station just in case. No luck there either. In the process of working out whether we could make it to Arita, we passed the women passing out tissue an absurd number of times. I'm sure she had determined that we were completely nuts.

Having worked out that we weren't going to make it to the performance, I try to call Robert (the CIR who had set it up) to let him know we would be unable to make it. Since I had left his number on my desk at home (really bright, no?) I try to call people to get his number. But I am unable to get anyone. So I head in to the police station and manage to ask them to call information in Arita and ask for Robert's number. Well, at least I think that's what they did. Regardless, we couldn't get it. So I head home, feeling more than slightly sheepish.

Once back in Saga city, there's really only one thing to do. So I took Jason to our local bar, the celtic heart. Other than a belligerent drunk, it was a fine evening, and we come back to plan our next move.

So, having worked out that Kumamoto would be a fine place to visit, the next morning Jason and I are on a train by noon (admittedly, we slept a touch late) and in Kumamoto by 13:30. We proceed to wander the streets and try to find the main attraction, the castle. We manage to find it (it's rather hard to miss) and spend a couple hours in the castle and castle grounds. This castle had some people positioned at strategic points to give an exotic flavour to the place. We posed with them after going thru the castle.

By the time we left the castle, the light was beginning to wane, so we headed to the shopping district and meandered its seemingly endless passages and stores until we were exhausted. So we considered a dinner stop, but decided instead to go for Saga city cuisine. So we boarded a train back to Saga Ken and snagged dinner at the yakitoria near my apartment. Then it was time for some cards before turning in moderately early so as to catch some sleep.

The next morning, Jason boarded a train to Nagasaki, with plans of seeing a heck of a lot in a short span of time, and I returned to the wonderful world of Kencho days.