The first few days of our trip had been so hectic that when we arrived in Nagasaki to stay with my friend for two nights, it was nice to slow the pace down. The weather was perfect when we got to Nagasaki on the Friday for our boat/island tour (which I’ll devote my next post to), and after that we met Siobhán who showed us around some of the local sights. We saw the famous Meganebashi (Eyeglass Bridge), Dejima where the Dutch used to live, and we walked around the Chinatown, one of three in Japan along with Yokohama and Kobe. The historic centre of Nagasaki is small because it’s hemmed in by the mountains, but the city of Nagasaki is quite spread out, so we got a bus out to Siobhán’s house to make takoyaki for dinner.
I’m not normally a huge fan of takoyaki (octopus balls), because the dough is very mushy and the octopus is rubbery, but it was really fun to make them and they tasted better homemade. Takoyaki is an ubiquitous festival food in Japan, but people also have takoyaki parties at home where they cook them in their own pan. We mixed up a batter of flour, dashi stock, eggs, octopus, green onions and ginger and poured the unappetizing mess into the molds.
But once the bottom was cooked, the fun started! Using wooden sticks you gathered the spill-over on top of the ball and then flipped it to cook the top side. There was a technique to the motion so that you wouldn’t break the round crust. A few more flips turned them into beautiful spheres, which we covered with takoyaki sauce (like Worcestershire sauce), mayonnaise and bonito fish flakes and then waited hungrily for them to cool slightly to eat. Delish.
Saturday and Sunday were rainy and/or cloudy, and on Saturday morning Christabel and I went to the Atomic Bomb Museum. We didn’t see the Peace Park because we wanted to stay in out of the rain, but the museum was definitely worth a visit. The most touching section was about the stories of the survivors, because it can be hard to imagine what you would do in a situation like that. Like the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, there was a section about the dangers of nuclear proliferation, and there were video interviews with people from areas with high radiation due to nuclear testing, such as Kazakhstan and Nevada.
Afterwards we met up with Siobhán for lunch in Chinatown. I had the sara udon (plate noodles), crispy thin noodles topped with a thick sauce of vegetables and sea food. It is one of the famous foods of Nagasaki, and though I wasn’t wild about it, it was good to try it once.
The sweet food Nagasaki is most famous for is Castella, a sponge cake that was first brought to Japan by the Portuguese in the 16th century. I ate it in an ice cream sandwich form.
The Sunday was my birthday so after a leisurely morning with a delicious birthday breakfast made by Siobhán, we went to Mt Inasa which has one of the top three night views in Japan (though we were going up on a cloudy afternoon). We took the cable car up, and because the view was so bad we were the only ones up there. We spent some time messing around taking pictures, and after a while, the clouds lifted so that we had a slightly better view down on the city.
Before we left, Siobhán took us to a cafe that’s famous for its meter tall ice creams, which I had no idea how to picture until I got there. It seems they’ve gone even farther recently and created a 120cm one.
We didn’t get ourselves a meter tall ice cream (I had bibimbap and then a 30cm parfait), but we did get to see a table of Junior High School boys order one after a Sunday morning playing tennis, or whatever club practice they had. It was very impressive.
We took the train to Fukuoka where we stayed at a hotel on Nakasu Island in the centre of town. Even on a Sunday it was a lively area and we ate at one of the famous Yatai stalls by the river and had Hakata ramen, made with pork-bone broth, rather than miso- or soy-sauce-based broth. The walk along the river was beautiful with the buildings lit up and we spotted Canal City where we were going to explore the next morning. We finished up the night with karaoke.
The next morning we had breakfast in a Moomin Café. Of course.