Sam's Japan Picture Book

Kyushu University has an old and quite run-down campus in eastern Fukuoka. It is not very picturesque.


The building in which the Mathematical Biology Laboratory is based

However, my room was in western Fukuoka, and its windows afforded a lovely view of the Yahoo! Dome, home of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks baseball team, and beyond: the sea.


The view from my room windows

I was lucky enough to be in Japan during Cherry Blossom season. The Laboratory celebrated in traditional style, with a barbeque under the trees, known as a “hanami”.


The hanami

At weekends I would go and explore areas of Japan. One of the first places I went to was Nagasaki, which was the victim of a famous bombing.


A sign in Nagasaki

I also visited Kagoshima in southern Japan, which is loomed over by Sakurajima, an active (and often smoking) volcano.


Sakurajima looming over Kagoshima (smoke not pictured)

I also visited an island in Hakata bay, which is next to Fukuoka. The island is called Nokonoshima and is very beautiful. Here one could play a strange golf-croquet hybrid called “Noko-noko ball”.


Noko-noko ball, Nokonoshima Island Park

While in Japan, I also took the opportunity to visit Tokyo. There are a lot of people there.


Shibuya crossing, Tokyo

In Tokyo one can stay in a capsule hotel, which features communal hot baths, saunas, cold plunge pools, and capsules in which one sleeps.


A corridor full of capsules, Green Plaza Capsule Hotel, Shinjuku, Tokyo

I also visited Kyoto. It was raining when I saw the Golden Temple. I got asked a lot of questions by young Japanese students learning to speak English. It was homework for them.


The Golden Temple in the rain, Kyoto

I was luckier with the weather when visiting Himeji, which has a very pleasant castle, known colloquially as “The White Heron”. It is especially picturesque in cherry blossom season.


Himeji-jo, aka “The White Heron”, Himeji

I also visited Nara, and saw the largest wooden building in the world, the Buddha hall of the Todai-ji temple.


Todai-ji, Nara

On the way back from Kyoto to Fukuoka I stopped off in Hiroshima, also the victim of a famous bombing. Near Hiroshima is an island called Miyajima, which has a famous “floating torii”. Torii means shrine gate. It’s not really floating, but when the tide is high it looks as though it is. I was lucky: the tide was high.


The floating torii, Miyajima

In addition to the cherry blossom season, I was also very lucky that my visit to Japan coincided with Golden Week. In Fukuoka, this includes the famous Hakata Dontaku festival, which attracts over 2 million Japanese tourists every year. I found the parade mainly baffling, as it featured lots of people dressed very strangely.


Hakata Dontaku Festival Parade, Fukuoka

Fukuoka is very close to South Korea, so I was also able to go there. While in South Korea I was amazed by the number of middle-aged (or older) women with short permed hair and an aggressive attitude. I later found out that South Korea is well known for such things, and even has a word for this type of women: ajumma. While staying in Seoul I visited the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. This had a chilling atmosphere.


Panmunjeom, DMZ, Korean peninsula

For my leaving party before returning to England my colleagues and I went for karaoke. Much fun was had.


Karaoke fun, Hakozaki, Fukuoka

The plane home flew over Siberia, which was desolate.


Siberia (photo taken from the aeroplane)

Japan is a wonderful place to visit and to study in.

Page last modified on 20 jan 10 19:45