Wednesday, March 7, 2001
We had breakfast at 7:00 today, as we were going on a quest for a volcano and needed to get an early start. Today's journey would involve a streetcar, a train, two buses, and a cablecar. Breakfast consisted of an egg and toast again, and today's surprise item was potato salad. Now, it was good potato salad, just as good as your grandma might make, but it was a little strange having it for breakfast. Potatoes for breakast, yes, but hash browns these were not.
Anyone for tea?
A train took us as far as Isahaya, where we needed to change to a bus. We walked across the street to the bus station, and once again found not a thing in roman characters. I wrote down "Unzen" on a piece of paper and showed it to a lady who seemed like she would know. She wrote down "9:22, 3, 1300" and pointed to a machine. So that way we knew our bus left at 9:22 from gate 3 for 1300 yen each. The machine was luckily pretty self-explanatory, and we managed to catch what turned out to actually be the correct bus. Our next trick was figuring out when to get off, but with a little effort, we managed that too.
We were now in Unzen, and it was Tom's turn to get info. The lady behind the counter came around and pointed at the correct timetable for us to get to Nita Pass, then after we bought two tickets, she actually walked outside and showed us where to stand so we wouldn't miss our bus.
We had about 45 minutes in Unzen before our bus left, so we were able to explore a little. Unzen is a very active volcanic center. We walked down one of the wooden walkways through the bubbling jigoku (hells). It was very cool; much like Yellowstone. We were at elevation now and freezing our ears off, so we managed to purchase a couple of ski caps before we were to go up even higher.
Our bus arrived right on time, just as everything does in Japan. We knew it was the right bus because in the front two passenger seats sat a couple from the Netherlands we had met at the turtle temple yesterday. They spoke very good English, but it was doing them about as much good in Japan as it was us. Twenty minutes later, we were at Nita Pass.
My Lord, it was windy! And cold! Good thing we had those hats. It was so windy I was afraid the cable car would be closed. But it was open, so we piled on and rode up the mountain.
Fugen-dake! Our final destination! Fugen-dake is an active volcano that erupted in 1991 for the first time in 200 years, doing great damage and killing dozens of people. An eruption in 1792 had killed over 15,000. The views from the top were awesome. It was rugged and green and beautiful. A little hazy, but when you're this close to a smoking volcano, what do you expect?
A view from the top
It was pretty cold up there, but in addition to hats, we also had Apfelkorn schnapps, so we were fine. After a few minutes, everybody else either went off a different direction or went back down, and we had the whole mountain to ourselves. We ended up walking around up there for over an hour without seeing another soul. That was the first time that had happened to us in Japan. Fugen-dake was truly the high point of our trip.
Getting back to Nagasaki was easier than getting to the volcano, since we'd already done the trip one way. We saw a bunch of terraced farms from the train. That was pretty neat. We ate at the Royal Host again at Nagasaki station, then went back to the ryokan and crashed. We were tired. It was a long day.
ki o tsukete!