Cycling Kyushu: Day 5 / by Ryan Mundt

JUST A SHORT ONE TO NAGASAKI

Day Five: Omura to Nagasaki  |  70km

I wake up to the most peaceful scene outside my tent. The small waves and birds in the distance sounds like one of those nature sounds cds they play when you’re getting a massage. There is a small fishing in the water with a morning fog still lingering. This is great! And being that I’m only left with 65km in to Nagasaki today I can afford to have a nice, relaxing morning.

Just me

I get my burner out and start boiling water for coffee and oatmeal and enjoy the view. There are a few other early rising locals out doing their morning walk with the dog. I finish the first coffee and decide to have another. All the misfortunes on Honshu seem to have disappeared.

Peaceful morning

Around 9am or so I start to pack up and say goodbye to the staff guy, who really resembles my friend Maruden back in Tokyo, just shorter.

I get on the bike and head to the nearest conbini for some water and an onigiri. The first sign I see for Nagasaki says 61km. Piece of cake!

Half of the ride hugs the bay, going through villages and towns. It’s another hot one today, so I’m drinking lots of water and taking breaks.

25km outside Nagasaki

When I get to the outskirts of Nagasaki I notice it’s really hilly and lots of green. The rolling hills remind me of San Francisco. Just one more short climb till I reach central Nagasaki. I get to the top and go through a long tunnel and it’s all downhill from there! Ripping down the hill I still can’t see the waterfront but the city looks cool. Old street cars going up and down the hills and electric wires for the buses form spider web shapes above the intersections. It really does seem like a Japanese version of San Fran.

Finally I get downtown and the car and foot traffic is pretty busy. I find my way to the waterfront promenade and climb off the bike. I didn’t do any research before I arrived so I didn’t know what to expect, but this is great! Plus the sky is blue. The hills of the city extend all around the bay providing great views for all the building build on them.

Downtown Nagasaki

With no plans and it still a bit too early to check in to my hostel I walk down the wooden promenade and just explore. There is a lively restaurant complex at Dejima on the waterfront. Looks like Fisherman’s Wharf.

I eventually get to an amazing park with beautifully manicured grass and tree. There are three or four old men flying kites and others sitting around on blankets enjoying the weather.

This is the perfect place to relax for a while! I go over to the closest conbini and by a snack and a beer and head back to the park and relax under a shade tree.

Kickin' back with a beer in the park

After about an hour I finally decide I should get a proper lunch. I’m eating way too many snacks. Plus my phone had gone completely dead.

I walk back to the Dejima restaurant complex and go inside one. I order a mini pizza and a coffee, and since my phone isn’t charged enough yet, I order a dessert too.

It’s finally about 3pm or so now so I wander over to the hostel I’m planning on staying at which is only a ten minute walk.

When I get there, there is no one around, just a sign saying they are away and a key to the bunk rooms. So I relax for a bit and charge my phone a bit more. Eventually another couple guests come in. I got to talking to them. They were a young Japanese couple, maybe 20 years old, from Osaka and Kobe. They are just traveling around one city to the next in Kyushu. They were both very nice and his English was pretty good.

After a while the staff came back and I put my bags up in the room and had a much-needed shower. After that I went up to the rooftop and threw a load of laundry in. While I was up there, a young girl came up to do the same. She was a student at a local uni. I couldn’t really tell why she was there. Eventually I figured out that she was just friends with the staff and hung around. Really friendly people.

I never had the whole backpacking hostel experience after college so I’m not too familiar. But being as I’m traveling alone, there’s no need to spend a lot of money. Plus it’s a great way to meet other travelers.

I decide to walk over to Chinatown for dinner tonight. Only knowing the general direction I head towards Dejima away from the water. I pass by a few old European buildings and then find the very small Chinatown. I walk around a bit, but nothing really catches my eye so I just head off in another direction. Eventually I come across a really lively bar area.

The streets are a cross between Yurakucho and Shinjuku’s Omoide-yoko-cho. The streets are lit up by tons of yellow Suntory lanterns and there bar and restaurants on the first and second floors of the old buildings. I always love these kinds of areas. The buildings, and usually the people as well, have lots of character.

Most of the places are small yakitori joints or izakayas. I pace up and down the street a few times indecisive as to where to go. Again, I want to just go from one to another all night!

I actually feel like a tourist in Japan for the first time being uncertain and not knowing what each place will be like. But alas decide on one and go sit at the bar. I order up a beer and some food. Shortly after sitting down I can tell I made the wrong decision. There was one regular sitting at the counter and not much else. The waitresses make small talk with me and are shocked to hear I’m cycling through but I’m ready to go to the next joint.

Yakitori in Nagasaki

I leave and go directly across the alley to a yakitori places I had tried to go before but was full. Half the crowd has gone but it’s still really lively. There’s a group of six or seven salarymen are sitting behind me getting pretty wasted. I order up lots of food. And after that…more yakitori and another beer. Usually I would expect a group of drunken salarymen to start conversation but they were definitely in their own little world.

I left there and made my way back to the hostel. When I get up to the shared room an Asian guy comes in. I thought he was Japanese and he spoke Japanese to me rather than English but he said he was Korean. He also was a student at a local uni and this kid wanted to drink. Having clearly had gone out on the piss already, he goes to the fridge and grabs two beers and gives me one. I don’t think they are his beers but whatever! A few minutes later the Japanese couple comes back, as well as the staff. In no time it went from just me to being a full on party. Everyone was really fun so I stay up and drink and chat with them for a while.

Finally I think it’s time for bed. Tomorrow is a planned rest day and I have to get up fairly early to go down to the port to go see Gunkanjima!

Like I said, I didn’t research anything about Nagasaki before I came. My only intention was to go to Gunkanjima. The Mecca for any haikyo enthusiast! Anything extra would just a bonus. And so far I am pretty damn impressed with Nagasaki.

So I sneak into the room, climb into my bunk and am out in no time.