I began my day in a speedy Shinkansen all the way down to reach Kagoshima, one of the most southern train stops in Japan. It was without a doubt a lot hotter than in Hiroshima and as I was weighed down with jumpers and coats the journey to my hostel was less than pleasant! In a sort of coordination with the incredible sunshine-blue-sky weather the city streets were lined with palm trees and there were plenty of glossy sea views. It was kind of like what I imagine Miami is like, filled with shopping malls but right on the beach so the tarmac is almost sticky with heat. I dropped off my increasingly heavy bag and headed straight to Sakurajima, an incredibly active volcano on an island just 15 minutes on a ferry from the mainland. It was absolutely huge and felt very surreal to be stood beneath and it was only when I began to see piles of ash coating the the coastline path around it that it was obviously a volcano. The pathway was gorgeous, lined with black volcanic rock and with views out to the sea and then the mainland beyond. I reached a tiny old observatory which was clearly rarely visited with ash piling up the stairwell. I hadn’t seen anyone else on my walk at all and it was only when I finally arrived here that I discovered a young Japanese guy composing music on his guitar so I stayed to listen, relaxing in the sun and staring up at the volcano. It was definitely one of those moments when you are like god I feel like I’m in some sort of wonderful indie movie. I eventually carried on and it was somehow already getting close to the evening so had to loop back so I wasn’t stuck on a costal path in the dark! When I finally reached my hostel again I decided I should take myself out for some local delicacies and found my way to a lonely planet recommended restaurant where I was given a little booth. I selected a small glass of local sweet potato liquor – the local must try beverage which thankfully arrived heavily watered down! From the food menu I decided to try another speciality, horse and chicken sashimi platter, yep that’s thinly sliced raw meat…! I was understandably a little nervous but when it arrived with all of its mysterious side dishes and sauces it was beautiful. The chicken was super light and tender and the horse was almost sweet! I mean probably a one off dinner as I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it but it was wonderful. Feeling throughly adventurous and quietly rather pleased with myself I strolled back through the throng of party going locals to my hostel. In the bar downstairs I was invited to join a group of young Japanese businessmen and British tourists sampling a clients gift of a huge bottle of Shochu, the sweet potato brew. I managed to get by using my very poor Japanese and was taught plenty more as the evening went on. As a parting gift I was given my name written in the three Japanese alphabets but judging by the writer’s excessive consumption of booze I’m definitely going to have to get it checked before I definitely believe the sheet just says “Abi”!
The next day I woke up to another gorgeously sunny day and headed to the roof of my hostel to do some travel research before a mission of a Shinkansen relay all the way back up to Tokyo. When I finally arrived I settled into my gorgeous hostel gutted I was only staying one night as the kitchen was like a page in an interior design magazine and I was presented with a fluffy white towel and free highball voucher on arrival! At this point in my travels my little backpack was really looking like it was about to lose a strap so I went on a mission of a journey to a department store bag and shoe repair counter across the city. Here I was told simply “it not possible” and sent away so with very little choice I bought a sewing kit from one of my ever faithful convenience stores and took it back to my room to attempt the job myself. On the way back I passed through my favourite Tokyo park where a great band were playing and stalls were bursting with street food so consoled myself with a little box of noodles and watched the show. When I was finally back, one bloody finger and two broken sewing needles later I had managed a botched repair through the leather strap of my bag much to the hilarity of my roommates and we headed downstairs to the beautiful in-hostel bar to celebrate.
(Photos; Tokyo cherry blossoms, my favourite ueno park, George and I with our names in Japanese, horse and chicken sashimi, me with sakurajima, views of sakurajima from my hostel rooftop, ash on the stairs of the viewpoint, volcanic rock, mount sakurajima)