From Saga on to the Goto Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture.
Often I looked at the map of these islands off shore toward Korea and wondered what they are like. In 1964 I visited a close-in one, Hirado, but never had the chance to go to these more distant isles. This was my chance,
boarding the "Shiikuiin" ("Sea Queen) in Sasebo.
boarding the "Shiikuiin" ("Sea Queen) in Sasebo.
Very clean and very tidy.
And very well maintained.
The ferrys' "mat" accommodations have been upgraded from the large non-compartmentalized tatami areas of old, indicating that the preference to be on the floor, over in a seat, still holds.
So, this is what those dots on the map look like: islands in the ocean.
Ferry terminals have also been re-worked, and are part of the over-all tourist attractions, not just the gate-way to them.
Full scale and well as reduced scale sea creatures, with info. boards and display cases below make it a museum as well as a dock.
Lodgings are equally contemporary: the "Hoteru Merissa (Hotel Melissa) is a new "business hotel"...
…which means a hotel which gets down to business without much ado or many frills: a bed, a desk, a tv and...
…a "unit bath". Note how the tub filler is also the sink filler, and shower diverter. Also note the Toto heated toilet seat and bidet….some frills have become standard items.
Even the "minshuku" (tourist home) have gone modern: the three story structure is home to the owner on the first floor, and tourist rooms on the upper two levels, with roof deck as well.
Nothing like calling on a sports hero to get a message across: "Thank you for not smoking in your room. The smoking area is this way."
Unlike traditional Minshuku, where meals are served in a dining room (or maybe the kitchen) of the owner's home, Yamaguchi-san has a restaurant in town, so our dinners and breakfasts were served there. Fusion breakfast: egg, sausage, toast, with small salad, fried fish cake, miso soup and drinkable yoghurt.
From the roof deck, looking over a typical fishing port, Fukue.
Or, from a hillside, overlooking a cemetery, another fishing town, Kamigoto.
But the ports are not filled with fishing boats as the industry declines due to lack of fish, and unwillingness of younger people to work such hard, dirty, dangerous jobs. In Japanese those three adjectives all start with "K", so such jobs are known as "three k's" work.
Walk thru back streets and lanes and more evidence of the decline of the island populations is found.
But the towns are making the best of it: a spiffed up shopping street.
A "branding" flag with the word "SMILE" on it. If pedestrians are hesitant to come in and browse, the goods are brought out to share the sidewalk with them: a pottery store with porcelain tea pots and cups.
A hardware store with signs for "Keys" and all sorts of items pulled out for display.
Even "pachinko" parlors, with their mesmerizing pinball like machines (now sharing space with Las Vegas style casino machines), have had face lifts hoping to lure in customers.
Although the islands may be remote, they are up to date with fads and ….
…the latest court game "golfing croquet"!
Of course there are religious structures, and these islands have a long history of being the first recipients of foreign influences. A Daoist Shrine, erected by early Chinese traders, was probably used by them, but Daoism never made much impact upon the locals, they already had Shintoism.
Christianity, however, made a big impact when Portugese priests arrived in the 16th Century. When the government put an end to that, many believers were exiled off the main islands onto these, where they continued their practices in secret. Once the proscription was lifted, in the late 19th Century, many stayed, and today churches are not only tourist attractions but homes to congregations as well.
A pair of photos showing outside and ...
And of course Buddhism, where many a pilgrim passed through these islands coming from or going to Korea and China.
As everywhere in Japan, Jizo, the protector of children and travelers is well respected.
And many a canned drink is offered to him and his small charges.
Where there are temples, cemeteries are close to hand.
Memorial stones are different here, possibly showing more influence from Korea and China.
Especially the upward and downward facing Lotus blossoms at the base of the pedestal, and the Eternal Flame at the top. Compare with the more contemporary stones in the background.
Here there be Jiso's as well, with a more secular plea: "Please do not Litter".
The local feudal lord, Ishida, was late on the feudal scene, such that his castle (1863) was the last one built before the modern era (1868), and one of the first torn down (1872) to prevent the rise of anti-government forces. But the walls, and...
…the garden have been kept, albeit without a lot of up-keep. The lord believed in the power of tortoises to ensure longevity, so he had a number of turtle-head like rocks installed around the shoreline: one just right of center...
and another off the upper right hand side of this island.
He had installed a number of stone lanterns as well: this one with the word "fuku" (Good Fortune) inscribed on it.
Finally, there are of course restaurants. Of, in the case of "Kurara" a good old "kisaten" (tea/coffee shop).
With a counter where drinks and light snacks are prepared while music is played in the "boom box" behind and a regular leans over his cup and chats with the hostess.
Pretty traditional restaurants abound, with tables, separated by low screening, and a counter, with a noren curtain above, serving a variety of noodle dishes.
Some restaurants have gotten into more privatization of tables ...
but the TV still plays to the empty counter area.
Not so easy to find, a meal of "Kamameshi" (flavored rice in a cooking pot): with an individual "kama" and rice paddle, side of fish, coddled egg, bit of salad, soup, and a couple pickles to eat with the rice. Ah, delightful.