A Fast Walk Through Umeda North Area of Osaka

Every single time we try to use subway ticket machines in Japan by ourselves, a local runs up, asks where we are going (if they don’t speak English, they pantomime) and then guides us through the entire process. Today was no different. As I stood looking for one of the machines with an English button, a couple ran up, demonstrated how to use the machine and then walked us to the correct Metro entrance! On the return from Umeda, a subway employee took one look at us and insisted on pointing to the proper button. All a westerner has to do in Japan is stand, look perplexed and I will be very surprised if no one offers to help.

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Luxurious Hotel Monterey Grasmere, Osaka

Hotel Monterey Grasmere was selected by Oku Japan as the group hotel in Osaka. Conveniently located in Namba Central Osaka, the hotel is also connected to Namba Station with a direct line to Kansai International Airport. How convenient is that! Marine Steve and I decided to stay for two extra days at this hotel since it wasn’t worth the effort to change to another.

TIP: I strongly suggest using Booking.com (on the side bar of this site) or another hotel booking website of your choice to check rates. Oku Japan quoted higher rates to extend this stay than rates on Booking.com.

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Using Bullet Trains (Shinkansen) in Japan: Nagasaki to Osaka

I am certainly not the first to comment on how Japanese trains are a model of efficiency, cleanliness and speed. If the train schedule says 1:30p, the train will whoosh into the station at 1:30p exactly. Gates open, people board and approximately 50 seconds later (we timed it), the train pulls out. No lollygagging around in Japan!

It took countless hours and four transport changes to get from Nagasaki on Kyushu Island to Osaka on the main island of Honshu. Once again, the group made do without suitcases in Nagasaki; they were shipped ahead to Osaka and all were carrying, or at least in our case, heavy backpacks.

 

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Glover Garden and “Hollander” Slope in Nagasaki

The exquisite gardens are filled with hydrangeas, Nagasaki’s official flower, a 300 year old Sago Palm Tree given by Lord Satsuma outside one of the houses, carp ponds and fountains. We missed several interesting sights inside Glover Garden:

Stones that originally marked the boundary of this foreign settlement;

Japan’s oldest asphalt road; and

– A Guardian lion dog used as the model for Kirin Beer next to the greenhouse at Glover House. It is said the mustache was modeled after Glover’s.

 

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The Glover Garden Open Air Museum, Nagasaki

It is about a 15-minute walk from Dormy Inn Hotel up steep streets to what is called a “Slant Elevator” (video). Enter the elevator which rises on a slant similar to a funicular to exit at an overlook leading to Glover Garden. Glover Garden is an open air museum with wonderful views overlooking Nagasaki Harbor. Only three mansions built for Thomas Glover, Frederick Ringer and William Alt are original; all others were transported from their original locations.

Below is a brief summary of the most important sights along with some trivia. I never really bothered reading the wonderful brochure all visitors receive, and missed many interesting sights. It takes at least two hours to properly see Glover Gardens and we had a Shinkansen to catch in a few hours.

 

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Atomic Bomb Peace Park in Nagasaki

Matsuyama-Machi in the northern part of Nagasaki is one of several tram/streetcar stops for Nagasaki Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum, one of the most important landmarks in Nagasaki. An A-Bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, and the Peace Park was at the hypocenter of the blast when the bomb exploded 500 meters/1,500 feet above this spot. A black stone monolith marks the hypocenter.

Kokura, an industrial center on the northern coast of Kyushu Island, was the primary target for the world’s second atomic bombing but heavy cloud cover prevented visual sighting. After circling three times, it changed course for the second target, Nagasaki

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Archaeology Center in Former Dutch Trading Post of Dejima, Nagasaki

The former stone Warehouse in Dejima was built between 1853-1860. It is believed that the building was used as a warehouse for overseas exports after many Japanese ceramics were unearthed at this location. Now an Archaeology Center or Museum (#13 Former Stone Warehouse on map), it has very interesting exhibits on the main floor with relics unearthed from Dejima.

 

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The Former Trading Post of Dejima, Nagasaki

Dejima is an artificial island constructed in 1636 in Nagasaki port to segregate Portuguese residents from the Japanese population and control the spread of Christianity. The Portuguese were interned here until 1639 when their ships were banned from Japan by the Isolation Edict. It then stood uninhabited until the Dutch East India Company Trading Post was moved here in 1641. Dejima then played a large role in trade until the end of the Isolation period in 1859.

Dejima today is not an island as the surrounding area has been reclaimed. However, a number of the historical structures remain, and are being reconstructed including various residences, warehouses, walls and gates. The ultimate goal is to convert Dejima back into an island by digging canals around all four sides. Inside its stone embankments are 15 different important buildings and monuments labeled in Japanese and English for visitors to explore.

 

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Massive Hamano-Machi Pedestrian Shopping Area, Nagasaki and…

…Spectacles Bridge! Historic Megane Bridge or Spectacle Bridge as it is popularly known because its two arches resemble spectacles, was built in 1634 and is the oldest stone bridge in Japan. Either get off Green Line 5 Nigiwae Bashi Stop 37 and walk across the Nakajima River to the bridge or exit out of Hamano-Machi and walk several blocks along the Nakajima River. It is impossible to miss. Just look for throngs of tourists and school groups.

During the period of national isolation during the Edo period, the Nakajima River was important to trade which made it the central artery of Nagasaki. This bridge, along with Edo’s Nihonbashi Bridge and Iwakuni’s Kintaikyou Bridge, are considered the three most famous bridges in Japan.

 

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Day 3: Take that, Calbuco!

Go ahead Calbuco…erupt all you want because Marine Steve and I made it to Buenos Aires on a TAM Airlines flight from Sao Paulo. And let’s look on the sunny side of two days worth of delays from Chicago; we can add Sao Paulo airport to the list of “been there, done it” and flown TAM Airlines, a member of Oneworld that as fervid Star Alliance people, we avoid like the plague..

 

Bienvenido to Argentina!