Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Sasebo Part 2 - Kujukushima Aquarium+Food

I'm back! This week somehow is my presentation week (luckily I'm not actually speaking, just part of the team), so I've been rather busy with our analysis and helping brainstorm how the presentations should go. And asking the other teams lots of questions :p

Anyway, let me just finish the Sasebo recap.

After our cruise, we headed to the Kujukushima aquarium, which was just right beside the port. I tend to have rather high expectations of aquariums thanks to the SEA aquarium (still my favourite), but my family and I were pleasantly surprised by this one!

By the way, there are discounts for people holding the 1 day bus pass and JR tickets, so you should definitely bring them along with you!

I'm not going to go through the whole aquarium, so here are the highlights: In the first room, there was a huge, huge tank with this:

The turtle was pretty big too
Apparently, this big guy is pretty friendly and will let the keepers hand feed him, but does not handle crowds well.

I also saw this purple lobster!! Why is it so purple?!

They also have a feeding area. 100 yen for a capsule of food, and the fishes do seem hungry enough.

And unlike the aquarium on my zemi trip, this one had dolphins! Playful, playful dolphins!

And this wasn't quite really a tunnel but it was still pretty cool.

By the way, if you're willing to fork out more money (I think about 600 yen) you can go PEARL HUNTING!!

Step 1: Pick an oyster

Step 2: Pry it open

Step 3: Find your pearl

Apparently, my pearl is blueish. And while the irritant that eventually becomes the pearl does affect the colour, it seems like experts don't really know exactly what determines the colour of a pearl.

Oh, and they pretty much guarantee you a pearl for this, so you won't open an empty oyster. (Unlike the first time I did the pearl hunting thing, in a totally different country. My whole family tried and not one of us got a pearl)

 There's also a dolphin show which you should definitely catch.

You will probably get splashed, which is why they distribute huge sheets of plastic beforehand. And it's also why I only have two photos, because I was pretty scared of getting my phone wet.

There's also a touch pool, and a pretty good English audio guide too. The guide is free to rent, and my brother absolutely loved it. They use this "researcher from the future" to teach you about the marine life, and there are quizzes where you have to shake the guide to find out the answer. If you're here, you should definitely get the guide.

And after hearing all about oysters and pearls, I started craving oysters! Luckily, this store sells grilled oysters:

It's 500 yen for 5, or 1000 yen for 10, which is definitely on the cheaper side. We got 5 and they were amazing! Fresh and juicy, I wish I had more room in my stomach!

If oysters aren't your thing, there's a restaurant called Lucky's which sells Sasebo burgers! My mom and I shared two burgers. This delicious one is a bacon and agg burger:

And this other delicious one is a steak burger:

The steak is my favourite because I'm a fan of steaks (I like bacon too, but you'd need a lot more bacon to compete with this), but both were really delicious. You probably can't go wrong ordering either of these.

The Pearl Sea Resort is a pretty good place to spend half a day or so. But the buses there and back are rather infrequent, so it might be a good idea to plan your trip around bus timings - we ended up waiting almost an hour because I read the time table wrong (you can get a time table from the tourism information center at Sasebo station).

Monday, 5 December 2016

Sasebo Part 1 - Kujukushima (九十九島)

My mom and bro came to Japan last week, and for the weekend, we decided to go to Sasebo. Our main purpose was to go apartment hunting, but we managed to squeeze in an afternoon of touring! And due to the many, many photos, I'll be splitting the post into two parts - Part 1: Kujukushima Tour.

If you take the JR train to Sasebo, you can go to the Green Window (みどりの窓口; Midori no madoguchi) to get this cruise (on either the Pearl Queen or Mirai) + bus pass set. It's quite worth it, but if you're planning to take a different type of cruise (there were a few, some require advance reservation), then I would just get the bus pass.

So we got on the bus and headed to Pearl Sea Resort. It's about 25 minutes from Sasebo station. There, we managed to board the Pearl Queen.

The Pearl Queen is the boat on the right:

The boat on the left is the Mirai, which has a fake pirate captain on board!

And this is the Pearl Queen:

The lower decks are basically filled with tables and chairs, and there's a screen which will play a video of the outside (I didn't really look at the video since I was up on the top deck for most of the time)

We had some time before the boat set sail, so we decided to head to the food stand and get some of the original ice-cream.

This is a biwa sorbet and it's pretty nice! My mom says it tastes a bit like sour plums.

Oh, and there's a lookout point on the top deck!

And this is what the ship looks like:

And a panorama from the lookout point.

Kujukushima is actually the name given to a collection of 208 islands. In this case, the "99" means that there are an uncountable number of islands, not that the ancient Japanese miscounted.

This tour was actually really good. They have Japanese and English narration, so it was easy to follow along.

This island (above) is supposed to resemble a sleeping lion. But when I sent it to my friends, no one could see the island! My family and I saw it, though. Do you see it? (I had someone tell me it looked more like a chihuahua. And another thought a different island looked more like it)

Oh yes, and I'm obviously late but beware the incoming picture spam!

These black circles bobbing in the water are for pearl farming! Apparently this area is great for oysters, and it produces over 2 million pearls per year! (And you can buy pearls at the shops nearby)

And this rectangular thing is for oyster farming. We actually had really great oysters after this - definitely something you have to try if you're ever here!

I have a combined zemi going on tomorrow, so I'll come back with Part 2 (the aquarium and food we had) on Wednesday!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

I Passed my First Driving Test!

I hope December is treating you well! Personally, I can't believe that we're already at the end of the year. Where did the rest of 2016 go, and why does it feel like time speeds up as I'm getting older?

On the last day of November, two very important things occurred. The first is that my mom and bro came for their yearly visit. The second is that I took my first driving test!

I was actually hoping to have been able to take the test a little earlier, but it was not to be. My driving skills weren't really up to par, and the instructors didn't deem me fit until last week (but they are pretty accurate at judging, seeing how I passed on my first go).

And I don't think I've really recapped it here, so this is what happened since I entered driving school: I took 10 hours of theory classes and 18 hours of practical lessons (the curriculum is for 15 hours, but I had to extend it since I couldn't master it in time). It sounds rather little, writing it up like that, but I was doing only two or three hours a week, so it took me about a month and a half to finish. And since this is only stage one, I really have to be more diligent about stage two if I want to pass in time. Anyway, apart from lessons, once I finished my theory lessons, I took a mock theory paper (and passed it on the first go), which is one of the requirements to take this driving exam.

The Practical Exam

I was the third person in my group, so I had to wait 40+ min before it was my turn to drive! Half the time was in the waiting area and half the time was in the backseat of the car. And the thing is... I seriously thought I failed. At the slope, I forgot to pull the handbrake when I stopped and the car ROLLED BACKWARDS. I immediately braked and redid everything but I was so freaked by the whole thing that the rest of the slope portion was quite terrible.

But the instructor said that apart from that, the rest of my driving was good (because I remembered to signal and check for sudden pedestrians and bicycles and whatnot) so I guess the number of points that got deducted at the slop was less than the max number of points that could be deducted.

After that, they did a 適性検査 (suitability test) which is basically eyesight and whether you can use your fingers and stuff like that.

Theory Test

The theory paper was pretty much like the last time, but my "pass" is actually only an assumed pass. My marks still have to be checked by the part of Fukuoka that runs these things.

Although we got the results quite fast (less than 10min), it still felt like forever! Plus, the way they announce the results is that the people who don't pass have their number written on the board, so you really hope you don't see your number.

Out of the 13 people who made it to the theory round, 10 of us passed.

And then we had a briefing on how the second half of the course would go, and then a break (now) before the next lesson. The next lesson was basically a crash course on how to ride a motorised bicycle (a scooter?), since getting a drivings license means that you have a license to ride that too.

To make things clear, I have not yet gotten my driving license. All these tests were for my 仮免許 (kari menkyo - temporary license), which basically allows me on the roads in order to practice driving. Till now, I've only been driving on the school's course.

I have a kimono lesson tomorrow, so I'll sign off now. I do have a picture-filled post (or posts?) coming up, so do check back for that!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Autumn Leaves at Dazaifu

Are you ready for some picture spam? Because I went to Dazaifu with a friend to see the autumn leaves and obviously I took lots of pictures! (ok, only about 20 plus, but still!)

This was the ticket that we took: It contains the tickets there and back, free umegae mochi (which come to think of it, was probably already included in the price of the ticket) and coupons for a bunch of places. The total cost was 1000 yen, so I think it's pretty worth it.

Our first stop was Kamado Jinja (竈門神社), which is apparently known for relationships (縁結び; enmusubi). And during autumn, there are a bunch of maple trees at the side of the steps, which makes it a great autumn viewing spot!

This is actually a 40min walk away, but if you take the bus (opposite Dazaifu station - ask the information counter if you can't find the stop), it's only 10 minutes and costs only 100 yen. Both IC cards and cash are accepted.

There was also a very modern shop selling a variety of charms and other goods, but I totally forgot to take photos of it :p Was too focused on the leaves haha.

Funnily enough, someone actually recognised the place from this photo (below). Apparently, the red umbrella gave it away.

These shots were taken on the way out, and I really like how the light is shining here. The leaves look like little jewels!

After this, we went to Starbucks for a break and a chat. This turned out to be place we spent the most time, but it was so fun chatting(: The perfect break from all the walking!

I think I took a picture of the outside of the Starbucks the previous time (when I was here for the plum blossoms), so here's a picture of the inside!

I got the berry+chocolate pie and some tea!

The tea is a nectarine peach cream tea and it was very fruity and really delicious!

After our Starbucks break, we headed to Komyozenji(光明善寺), a temple that was built in the Kamakura period and also has fantastic autumn scenary. But this next picture was from the outside:

There's a 200 yen entrance fee, but it is totally worth it! And although there were "No Photography" signs at the entrance, when we went in, almost everyone had their cameras out. And not just handphone cameras, but DSLRs.

Totally love sitting on the tatami and just drinking in the autumn colours! My panorama photos didn't turn out very well though (as you can see from this) ><

Then again, I was looking at the plum blossom photos and I was like "I was that bad?!" (not like I was every very good at photography) so it's possible that I was just recognising how awful the photos were in real time instead of a time lag (that is the norm)

Dazaifu only has two spots with autumn views, but it's totally worth it. We were actually planning to go to this famous bridge in Oita, but then we found out it was 2 hours one way and transport alone would cost 5000 yen so we decided to go for this. Much nearer, cheaper, and we still got to see a lot of gorgeous maple leaves.