Awakened early & went up to the 12th floor for a nice buffet breakfast using the coupons given to us at check-in. This tour is very nicely arranged so that when we get to the hotels there is a table with envelopes for everybody ready with their room keys and breakfast coupons! Very nice and filling meal, its nice to know breakfast is provided every day in case we spend all our $$ buying stuff and have none left for food LOL!
At 9 AM we all met in the lobby with our tour guide Aki (Sato Akira) and got on the bus (the porters having brought our suitcases down after we left them in the hallway at 8 AM and loaded them on the bus for us). Then we drove about an hour and a half to the city of Sasebo while Aki gave us a talk on Japanese history and some background on the area. Sasebo has a large US Navy base & their most famous food is the "Sasebo Burger", the town's mascot appears to be a little burger guy you see everywhere!
We first stopped at the Kashimae Pier for a cruise on "The Pearl Queen" which took us on an hours cruise around he many islands called Kujukushima (for "99 islands" although there are many more) in Sasebo's Saikai National Park. The many of the islands are quite small and are carved out of the rock very impressively with some very cool formations. The views are very beautiful but staring at the islands I almost felt like I was visiting the set of LOST. We spotted many little buoys marking where they are cultivating pearls in oyster traps as well as pens holding fish. While waiting after the cruise to rendezvous with the tour group we met our first Japanese Neko, a beautiful little calico obviously very pregnant who did not run but did not want petting either & gave Paula a little slap. She did consent to pose for photos & happily took handouts from people & seems to have a pretty good racket as she had a very sleek well cared for coat :) Took a ton of photos of course that I am uploading now to flickr =)
After the cruise we headed into Sasebo proper in time to see the Kunchi festival procession in honor of the shinto gods where miniature shrines are carried through the streets and down through the huge shopping arcade that runs for many blocks - Aki said that the tradition allows the gods to get out and see the city - I like that mental image of them getting out a bit for some entertainment. There was music and dancing and drumming, I especially enjoyed the little kids participating who were totally hamming it up. We walked around the shopping arcade and being totally American tourists, Paula had Starbucks and I tried out a tasty "Teriyaki McBurger" at Mickey D's!
The bus picked us up and took us to our hotel, the Sasebo Washington Hotel, very similar to the previous one with tiny but very nicely appointed rooms. We crashed out a bit & then wandered back to the arcade for some shopping, found a large bookstore with tons of manga - YAY!!! Paula found the latest issue of Sayuiki Reload, I found the first new issue of my absolute fav manga Deimos No Hanoyome that has come out since about 1995!!!!! (It was serialized in one of the comic magazines a while back & I'd found a few of the issues but now has been collected into a new volume) Found a store that seemed to be the Japanese version of Hot Topic, a bit disappointed at the focus on Disney characters (I'm in Japan and want Japanese ones!!) but pleased to report that Stitch is very popular over here! After the shops started closing we wandered back to the hotel, stopping at the JR Rail station for a Sasebo Burger at a tiny take out place called Log Kit that we figured was good by the throng of locals waiting and we were right! The three girls working the tiny counter were so sweet & all bowed and thanked us as we picked up our order, looking so cute in their little cowboy hats! Everybody here is so friendly and polite, especially shop keepers and hotel/restaurant staff, it doesn't seem fake, they all seem very sincerely happy to see you and help you out, it is just a huge difference compared to home, when I get back & run into my first surly salesgirl or burger slinger I know I'll wish I was back in Japan....
LOTS of pix on flickr!!!
pirate ship at the dock
our tour guide Aki (left)
Starbucks are pretty much the same everywhere
Japanese Happy Meal toys give you a choice between Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon
Ack! Colonel Saunders as Santa Claus!
Mr Donut -yum!!!
on the shelf at Family Mart
girls at train station
Mr Sasebo Burger