Monday, 20 June 2016

The Japanese Food Adventure Chapter 2 - Day 7. Visiting Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)

I gazed out of the hotel window at the calm water down below, this was a relief as todays trip demanded no waves. We were visiting the place I was most excited about seeing on the trip, Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)

As my wife dried her hair with Windy I checked out the map to find out where we had to board our boat.

About 20 minutes walk from the hotel we found the ticket office for the Gunkanjima tour, nearby this huge cruise ship had docked.

With plenty of time on our hands before the tour started we went in search of some breakfast. These places looked perfect but trying to find anything vegetarian for my wife proved impossible, we decided to try our luck closer to the train station.

On the way there we noticed how many trees in Japan are trained to grow in certain directions, this was quite a common sight.

As the sun broke through the clouds this sausage dog had a nap in the shade.

The search for vegetarian food was unsuccesful, at these times though 7 Eleven won't let you down. We grabbed a couple of coffees and some food there before returning to the park again.

My wife chose a salad and I chose a katsu sando sandwich, we couldn't resist some eggs too.

The katsu sando sandwich was amazing, breaded pork cutlet coated in tonkatsu sauce.

We weren't expecting this! We now realised that boiled eggs come in a net and uncooked eggs come in a plastic case, we didn't have a frying pan handy so in the bin it went.

Back at the ticket office we were handed a guide to Gunkanjima and an English audio guide.

Everyone formed an orderly queue waiting to board the boat. 

As the boat pulled away the people showing us onto the boat waved enthusiastically until the boat was out of sight, so nice to see people enjoying their work! The chap onboard giving a speech had lived on Gunkanjima many years ago and talked about his time on the island.

On the way to the island we passed underneath the Hirado suspension bridge. Built in 1977 it connects the islands of Hirado and Kyushu.

I'd been fascinated with Gunkanjima for quite sometime now and finally I got my first glimpse, you can see why it has the nickname "Battleship Island"

The boat slowly cruised past the island in both directions to ensure everyone on board got a really good view of it.

The boats that come here frequently are unable to stop at the island if the sea is slightly choppy. I felt incredibly lucky that the waters were so calm today and we were able to take a proper look.

The guided tour was in Japanese but our English audio guides mean't we could pop in our headphones and learn more about this fascinating place. We were told about how difficult life on the island could be with so little space. Children went to school in high rise buildings, the only open space for them to play was on the rooftops. Anyone on the island going on a date would struggle to find anywhere private to go. The handful of private spots were well know by children who would often laugh and point at any young lovers daring to spend time there. Many people were killed down the mines and massive waves frequently battered the island.

Gunkanjima is located about 9 miles from the city of Nagasaki and in 2005 was approved as an UNESCO World Heratige site. Once the most densely populated place in the world it now remains as an abandoned ghost town.  The island was populated from 1887 to 1974 as a coal mining facility. Its most notable features are the abandoned and still mostly-intact concrete apartment buildings, and the surrounding sea wall. 

It's known for its coal mines and their operation during the industrialization of Japan. Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890 and began extracting coal from undersea mines. In 1916 the company built Japan's first large concrete building (9 storeys tall), a block of apartments to accommodate their burgeoning ranks of workers. Concrete was specifically used to protect against typhoon destruction. As petroleum replaced coal in Japan in the 1960s, coal mines began shutting down across the country, and Hashima's mines were no exception. Mitsubishi officially announced the closing of the mine in 1974, and today the buildings are empty and the island is unpopulated. Travel to Hashima was re-opened on April 22, 2009, after 35 years of closure.

We listened to fascinating stories about life on the island and was shown the island from three different view points. These huge drain holes were where the sewage from the island would pour into the sea.

With another thing crossed off my bucket list we boarded the boat for the journey back to Nagasaki port.

 The tour leader played stone, scissors, paper on the journey back, there were prizes up for grabs. I had my eye on a box of biscuits but my game wasn't strong enough.

To get over the biscuit disappointment we bought some Castella ice cream cakes.

Castella cake is a specialty of Nagasaki, the cake was brought to Japan by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century. It's very similar to Madeira cake, as an icecream sandwich it was delicious.

 There are many trams in Nagasaki, fares are just ¥120 (about 80p) yen for a single journey, bargain!

We decided to go shopping and I resisted the urge to buy a hamster onigiri from a vending machine.

Daiso is a large franchise of ¥100 shops in Japan. We thought we had it good with poundland over here but in Japan you can get a much better range of things for just 66p!

I don't own a hat but if I did I may well have considered buying one of these.

Daiso sell a vast selection of sweets and snacks.

These rice crackers are really nice, they didn't last long.

Many of the shopping malls in Japan have 70's elevator musac playing inside. It can feel quite surreal and dreamy walking around them, it takes me right back to walking around the Elmsleigh centre in Staines in the late 70's.

It was time to have some dinner, we passed Hanbey where we had eaten last night. The temptation to return again was great but we forced ourselves to try somewhere different. 

 This street looked promising.

We ended up here as they served a local speciality of Nagasaki that I was keen to try, champon.

We were the only ones inside, I guess everyone eats much later around here. 

We raised a glass of Kirin to our succesful trip to Gunkanjima and studied the menu.

I ordered the champon, a noodle dish that's a regional cuisine of Nagasaki.  Champon is made by frying pork, seafood and vegetables with lard; a soup made with chicken and pig bones is then added. Ramen noodles made especially for champon are added and then boiled. Unlike other ramen dishes, only one pan is needed as the noodles are boiled in the soup. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

My wife ordered a vegetable noodle dish topped with an omelette.

We finished off with some plum wine on the rocks, Kampai!

Back at the hotel we tried out some Daiso snacks we'd bought earlier.

This savoury strip was bloody amazing, a bit like a massive bendy frazzle.

The chocolate Hello Kitty lollipops were almost too cute to eat.

We ended the night with a bag of doughnut party, delicious chocolate covered mini doughnuts.

We'd tried the green tea supplied in the hotel rooms but neither of us particularly liked it. We gave in and bought some Blendy Stick coffee and Twinings Earl Grey tea bags.

Click here for Day 8
Nagasaki Bio Park

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