Thursday, 17 September 2015

31-07-2015 ~ [Japan Rail Pass Starts] Travel from Fukuoka to Takeo-Onsen (& Arita)

We both woke around 04:00 to see the sunrise then back to sleep until 08:00. We got ready and took a taxi to Don Quijote which sells EVERYTHING you could ever want. We found Japan as whole not to be expensive, the only thing that was expensive were Taxis. It was a 5 minute journey to the shop and cost ¥850 on the way there and ¥910 on the way back (about £4.50-£5).

We took one suitcase with us for size comparison, and found 2 new suitcases that looked super sturdy with much better wheels than ours. We also bought 2 hand towels to use during the hot days (after observing the locals this was definitely the done thing) and 2 souvenir puzzle/model type things (great idea for relatives to get a taste of Japan).

The staff at Don Quijote were great! So helpful! They gave us ¥2000 in gift vouchers as we didn't know they did tax-free shopping & so hadn't asked for it when paying. They also took the broken suitcase from us to throw away.

So back to the hotel to repack everything into the new suitcases; we'd bought one same size and one larger to account for the souvenirs we'd bought and were bound to buy later, which worked extremely well. We checked out at 11:00 and got a taxi back to Tojinmachi subway station to go to Hakata Station where we exchanged our Japan Rail Pass vouchers (pre-purchased in the UK for £246 each for a 2-week pass). We were due to catch the 12:32 train to Takeo-Onsen so we bought Bento boxes to eat while we waited: both were really good!

 (Chicken, Egg, Seaweed & Rice Bento)
(Beef & Rice Bento)

Our first Shinkansen journey started at 12:32, due to arrive Takeo-Onsen at 13:40. The Shinkansen really is as fast as they say; when standing on a platform and one goes by in the middle tracks it is so incredibly fast! and long - most Shinkansens we caught had at least 8 carriages. As we hadn't been able to get reserved seats we boarded the unreserved cars (Mostly 1-3) and found an empty 3 seats (1 each for us & 1 for big suitcase) - most Shinkansen are in the format of 3x2 seats. An amazing feature of nearly all overground trains in Japan - the seats can be turned around/flipped so that you can always face the direction of travel! Very clever & something that would be very useful in the UK.

M is exceptionally good at sleeping on public transport so he missed a fair bit of scenery, however I was awake for all journeys so was able to get some really good photos (around 400 overall from all journeys so I'll only put a selection up)

We arrived at Takeo-Onsen at 13:40 and the Ryokan (Kyotoya) was a 10 minute walk from the station, very easy to find. The staff were very helpful and let us check in early for free. We were shown to our room & things were explained in limited English. The room was so beautiful! A proper traditional room with shoji screens, tatami mats, futons to sleep on, and onsen-style bathroom.

After we'd rested a while we set out for Arita to go to the Ceramics Museum, as I'd heard that Arita is famous for it's Porcelain. We caught the 15:27 Local Sasebo Line to Arita Station, where there is a very helpful information booth to the left of the doors with maps in all languages. It's a 2 minute walk to the foot of the hill (over the bridge & then over the over-pass) & then a 10 minute walk/climb up to the museum (this was pretty challenging in 35C). It's free entry to the museum which had 4 exhibition halls & a tea room display. There is a huge array of ceramics from different periods, in different styles, including a section of the first room that explains (in Japanese) how ceramics were painted/decorated. I was able to take photos of pieces of interest in all rooms (no flash photography), below is a very small sample:

After leaving the museum we stopped at the Gallery Arita (a shop/cafĂ©) across the road. This super cute Mini with the same patterns as the ceramics was parked outside. The shop had beautiful ranges of porcelain and lacquer-ware, as well as some kitsch items.

Back across the bridge to the train station (casual ceramics on the bridge, well it is the town of Porcelain after all...) and we caught the Midori Express train back to Takeo-Onsen.

We were both feeling tired so we bought dinner at FamilyMart and ate in the room & relaxed. As we arrived back at the Ryokan there was a performance happening in the lobby: a man in traditional outfit & mask was dancing/performing swordsmanship to drums and percussion - very impressive if a little intimidating as he used the space very well.

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