Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Birthday! - Day One in Nagasaki

We're finally calming down after lots of traveling in January. Over the weekend, we went to Nagasaki on an ITT (Information, Tours, and Travel) trip through the base. It was about a seven-hour trip by bus but they showed movies and I am pretty talented at falling asleep anywhere, anytime. 

One very unexpected highlight was that a lady sitting behind me recognized me from this blog! How thrilling! Hi, Melinda!

People unfamiliar with Japan's geography (me) might find it interesting that Japan is comprised of a few very large islands. We live on the biggest one - Honshu - and we were traveling south to Kyushu.

A mom and baby looking over the bridge to Kyushu at a rest stop.

Our Iwakuni bus and a hotel with a fun graphic behind it.
Our first stop on the trip was to see the Nagasaki Peace Park and Museum. As most people know from history class, America bombed both Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 with atomic bombs. This led to the end of the war with Japan, saving countless American lives, but these bombs devastated entire cities leaving almost no survivors at all. The stories we read in the Peace Museum were incredibly moving and brought many ethics debates into question. The most emotional artifact I saw was a clock that must have been in a basement because it had not caught on fire or simply melted from the heat of the blast. 

Image from this site
I think it symbolizes how time and life as Japanese knew it stopped and could never be the same again. There were other artifacts like a helmet with skull matter in it, melted glass bottles, Christian church remains, and more that were also horrifying to see and think about. 

Standing in the Peace Park with Peace Statue. The statue's right hand points to the threat of nuclear weapons while the extended left hand symbolizes eternal peace.

All in all, very informative, guilt-inducing, and not a great way to begin celebrating a birthday. 

So, the bus finally took us to our rooms at the Comfort Hotel Nagasaki. *Quick review: Tiny room with a hard bed and even tinier bathroom. Clean, comfortable, within walking distance to the train station even with luggage.*

We changed out of our bus clothes and got ready to hit the town for the Chinese New Year festival in Chinatown. Since I can't read Chinese, I told Joe it was for my birthday party. 

Much better! Chinatown is looking festive for my birthday!

Very pretty paper lanterns!

My favorite dude at the entrance to Chinatown
I love these lanterns!

We tried some steak on a stick, yum

Stacks of slightly sweetened pretzel-like treats
Possibly zero sugar in this steamed marble cake

Nice lanterns under the tent

Welcome to the year of the dragon!

Nice light display made of ramen spoons

Disgusting display of pig heads with candle sticks everywhere. Perhaps a sign of thanks for all the pork belly sandwiches being sold?
I love these lanterns!

Traditional dragon dance

A dragon dance in the festival square!

Festive panda: fun for kids, disconcerting for me and Joe.
A quick zoom around the square:
Tilt your head to see a lantern
Nagasaki has a rich history as the only port in Japan to allow foreigners to trade. British, Portuguese, and Dutch traders brought bits of culture over as you can see in the next video:

These acrobats were incredibly talented! I kept bracing myself every time this young man would throw a pot in the air.


I loved this Asian Jimmy Kimmel look-alike!

Jimmy Kimmel-san adds more nonsense to balance on top of:

"Oh, I'm just standing on my friend's head, wearing a leotard, doing the splits in the air, and balancing a pot on my head. What are you up to?"

 Putting your one-armed push-up to shame. 

We tried so many crazy Chinese foods (potstickers, pork belly, "bacon" sandwiches, and more) and saw so many great parts of Chinese culture on our trip to Chinatown in Nagasaki! It was very cold but braving the weather was worth it to see all the sights. 

When we got back to the hotel, Joe even surprised me with a bottle of Layer Cake Shiraz since I'm trying to stay away from sugars (even in birthday cakes!). This effort was made so much more special by the fact that you can't just go to a specialty shop for wine in Japan. He brought it all the way from his training exercise in North Carolina! What a sweetheart!


  1. Wow! They really put on a party "for you"! What beautiful, colorful pictures. Thanks for sharing a city of celebrations most of us will never see!

    1. Haha! Just for me, right!? I have a very active imagination. :)

  2. SO HAPPY to finally meet you Heather! I have really enjoyed your blog - it made Iwakuni seem like home before we left the States! I am SO excited for you and your upcoming venture. Please don't hesitate to let me know if you think that there is anything that I can do to help. Let me know if you would like to get together for coffee sometime!(

    1. It was great to meet you too! I'd love to get together sometime. I'll send an email when things quiet down a little over here. Take care!

  3. First, you are famous. Melinda proves it. Second, I love the pics from Chinatown. If I ever get around to blogging about China (I know, I know--I'm slacking) you will see the likeness I am sure. :) Lovin' catching up on your life!