If you haven’t already read it, please check out the first part of the story to learn how our misadventures in Kyushu got started—or don’t… This isn’t a straightforward journey, so be forewarned that you enter this blog at your own peril!
Okay, okay, rather than making my blog sound like an episode from A Series of Unfortunate Events, let’s delve into what happened on the third day of our journey in Kyushu.
Day 3: Nagasaki City—Shimabara—Kumamoto City
We woke up to a cloudy day in Nagasaki City. However, it wasn’t rainy (yet), so we left the hotel as early as possible and started exploring the city. The city was relatively small, but everything was at hand so we didn’t need to travel further to the tourist spots. The farthest we went was to Nagasaki Peace Park, but even it was just a few kilometers away from the city center.
The weather must have eventually decided it was envious of our happiness because it started raining suddenly at noon. Thankfully, we had already explored most of the city by then. We visited Dutch Slope, Dejima, Oura Cathedral, Chinatown, and Nagasaki Peace Park. We were disappointed at Kyushu’s fickle skies, but as usual, Takashi came up with a new plan while a lovely local coffee shop sheltered us from the rain.
He followed a live weather forecast throughout our journey and anticipated that the weather might be better in Shimabara. So, we traveled south of Nagasaki and enjoyed a scenic drive to our new destination. A majestic mountain loomed in the distance, and we learned it was Mount Unzen—an active volcano with a tragic history.
We thought we could drive to Kumamoto City by way of the bridges connecting the Amakusa islands, but it was almost evening, so our drive wouldn’t be as scenic. On a whim, I devised a new plan and told Takashi to take us to the ferry terminal in Shimabara. We arrived at the terminal 3 minutes before the last ferry to Kumamoto City left! At that point, we celebrated: the invisible force that had been impeding our journey from day one, we said, had finally withdrawn…
Unfortunately, we spoke too soon because what happened the following day was one of my life’s most discouraging travel moments.
Day 4: Aso—Takachiho—Ariake Sea
There was nothing strange in the air when we got up on day four. The city was still sleeping, and we were ready to go to our next big destination: Mount Aso—another famous active volcano in Kyushu. I was psyched and couldn’t contain myself during the drive. I was humming and singing happy songs, dreaming of walking in the surrounding grasslands.
When we arrived in Aso City, however, the sky was suspiciously gray. “Oh, the weather in the mountains is usually unpredictable. Don’t worry! We’ll be fine!” These were the last words that came out of my mouth that morning before I almost howled in agony at the sight of the grassland, or rather its lack. A heavy fog was hanging in the air—and it didn’t seem like it had a mind to leave any soon. We couldn’t even see a few meters ahead, let alone take in the grassland!
The staff at the volcano museum told us we must have been incredibly unlucky because this weather was rare in Aso and that it would continue well into the next day. Takashi still wanted to enjoy Aso, and so did I, but the foggy weather made it impossible. The whole situation was unnerving. I recommended going to Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki Prefecture since it was close to Aso City.
Miyazaki Prefecture has a reputation for being one of the sunniest places in Japan, so no wonder the weather improved—it was as if it had never rained as soon as we left Aso. And Takachiho Gorge was lovely! We enjoyed a small hike along the river. Of course, we were no longer surprised when the staff told us that canoeing was not possible that day.
We promised to return to Aso the next day and visited another special place to close off our fourth day. Though it is the largest bay in Kyushu, the Ariake Sea is not a popular destination for travelers. However, I think I enjoyed one of the most peaceful sunsets in Japan there. It’s also home to a wetland of international importance.
The Ariake Sea turned our misadventures around and signaled the beginning of a sunny week—or so we thought.
Day 5: Amakusa—Aso—Miyazaki City
I didn’t dare to look out the window on our fifth day. I wasn’t ready for another disappointment. Takashi wanted to visit the isles of Amakusa before heading to Aso. These isles are also linked to a clandestine history of Christianity, just like Hirado Island. Five bridges bind them together into what’s called the Amakusa Pearl Line.
Not only did it not rain that morning; the weather was extra lovely as if to compensate for our suffering earlier in the week. We had a blast at Aso-Kuju National Park. A vast and striking grassland replaced the fog that had prevailed the previous day.
And perhaps the most surprising thing was seeing the horses that visitors rode until four o’clock in the afternoon. Then, we witnessed a miracle at 4 p.m.: the staff released the horses, and these regal beauties trotted and neighed in happiness right before our eyes. They were happy to “clock out” and enjoy the afternoon sun! Some rolled in the grass while the others ran to the hills in a heartbeat.
It had been a long time since I witnessed that kind of pure happiness. I stood there in awe and felt their energy run through my body until I realized I needed to take some photos to remember them. After eating dinner at a funky Pakistani restaurant (don’t ask why!), we left Aso for Miyazaki City, worn out but content.
Stay tuned for the last part of our (mis)adventures, and don’t forget to check out the first part of our journey if you haven’t already!
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