Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Coming to KC

Note: I had intended to post this entry first, instead of the one that I did post yesterday. Not that the order makes a whole lot of difference, though.

Ok, I have now resettled to Kagoshima City, in the southern end of Kyushu island. For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, it should have been pretty obvious that I'd left Tokyo shortly after the March 11 quake. It's just that it's taken this long to find a new apartment and get moved in. I'd been staying at a "monthly mansion" (long-term hotel) across the expressway from the airport, which made it easy to take the airport bus either in to Kagoshima (1200 yen ($15 USD) one way), or around the airport north, east and then south, to Hayato. What had been inconvenient had been getting around to any other location because I had to walk everywhere, and the area was laid out to accommodate people with cars.

Kagoshima City is a little different in that it's one of the bigger population centers on the island, has a huge variety of shopping districts, is a major bullet train destination, is a port city facing the China Sea, is right next to an active volcano, and has a good rail system. By pure coincidence the new apartment is 100 feet from a bicycle shop. It's also a 10 minute walk from the main train station, giving me access to the shinkansen, an electronics shop (Bic Camera) and a bookstore (Kinokuniya). In the other direction is Maruya Gardens, a large department store that has a different, larger bookstore with all of the Gakken Otona no Kagaku kits that are still in print (not the missing ones that I'm still looking for, sadly).

(Dolphin Port)

This brings me to the point of this new series. Kyushu was one of the starting points of Japanese civilization, and as such has a much longer history than the main island does. This includes relics of the early Jomon era. On the other hand, by being isolated from Edo during the Tokugawa shogunate, Kyushu was one of the hotbeds of political activity when the American black ships arrived in the 1850's. And the resulting rebellion which led to the fall of the shogunate and the start of the Meiji Restoration was largely plotted and executed by leaders from Kyushu. Ryouma Sakamoto and Saigo Takamori were two such leaders, and I've written about them before. While the Kagoshima airport has the Saigo Park and statue, the real bronze statue of Saigo that acts as a tourist destination is located in Kagoshima City proper. Which means that much of the history of the Meiji Restoration is told in Kagoshima City. Couple this with the fact that KC is a major population center, with its own art galleries, history museums and universities, we're talking about some serious sightseeing. And to aid the tourist interested in viewing these sights, the city of Kagoshima put together a tourist map, which is available at the information booth in front of the main train station, as well as from some of the local museums.


Which brings me to the real point of this new series. There are over 50 numbered sites on the map, and at least that many that aren't numbered. Some of them are just statues of local historic figures. Others are galleries or museums. There's also a zoo, an aquarium, a planetarium, and a series of ferries to the other islands.

My short-term goal is to find new work (either teaching business English or something technical). Simultaneously I intend to go through the map numerically and check off the various sights. There's a tour bus that has several fixed routes that I may parallel, and one ferry cuts across the bay to Sakura-jima, which has the volcano and some good bike riding routes. What I'm really looking forward to is following the "hands-on Studios and Factory Tours" walking tour. There's a shochu brewery southwest of here that I have my eye on. There's also an exhibit on Ultraman at the Kagoshima City Art Museum until May, so this place isn't a complete backwater.

(Looking at backside of Dolphin Port toward main city.)

(Sakura-jima as seen from Dolphin Port.)

As I was walking around Dolphin Port and trying to find things to take pictures of, I turned my back on Sakura-jima. A few minutes later I turned around again and saw...

There was a taxi stand near one of the ferry piers, and a driver was perched by his car, smoking a cigarette. I commented on the sudden eruption, and he replied that it happens daily, but not on any fixed schedule. Someone else that I talked to later told me that right now the wind is blowing out to sea, but during the summer the ash blankets the city, and most of the residents get tired of it pretty quickly.

The plume after about 10 minutes.

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