Sometimes fate has something different set in store for you than what you want. As my dad would say “Tough luck buttercup!” He’s right; sometimes it is tough, especially when traveling and you only have one day to do something and zero luck on your side. In situations where things aren’t going as perfectly planned, I’ve taken to muttering “Hakuna matata. Hakuna matata. Hakuna matata!” under my breath. It’s a motto sure to put me in the right mindset, it’s not an outcome that’s important but the journey. I’d rather look back and laugh at bad luck than sweat the small stuff. It’s a lot easier too when you have good friends to laugh over your misadventures with. Timon and Pumba really were right when they said Hakuna Matata is a wonder phrase and not some passing craze. It’s stuck with me from my childhood and it really is a wonderful life philosophy.
We woke up in Nagasaki to a downpour that was guaranteed to last all day. Every time I felt like grumbling that my feet were soaked and I was cold I reminded myself that I would far rather it have rained on us in Nagasaki than in Sasebo when we were sailing. It’s good to be thankful for the good weather on days when it mattered the most.
First we went to Glover Garden which, due to it’s location on top of a hill, lets you see a stunning (if slightly rainy) view of Nagasaki Harbour. It’s a romantic area which retains the atmosphere of a foreign settlement area. It’s definitely more impressive to Japanese tourists who may have never seen a western style garden but it’s definitely a nice stroll for foreign visitors too. For only 500yen a ticket, I’d recommend it!
While strolling around this pretty garden keep your eyes peeled for the two love stones, it’s said if you find them you’ll be lucky in love. One of them is on your way out by a bush covered in heart shape prayers. I’ll let you try and find the other one by yourself though *wink wink*
Thoroughly cold and wet by this time, our group took the trolley to Chinatown for a well earned feast of piping hot and flavourful Chinese food. This is something I’ve really missed in Fukui, and I know that when I get back to Calgary in 4 months one of the first places I’m going to beg my family to go is for dim sum at the Silver Dragon.
I’m drooling just thinking of how good everything was. Just a heads up for other visitors to Nagasaki’s Chinatown, it was much smaller than I expected. Don’t budget a lot of time here, unless you’re eating in the area. In total we only spent about 45 minutes including our meal. My #1 recommendation in this area is the speciality of Nagasaki “kakuni manju” which is a fluffy steam bun wrapped around a thick and meltingly simmered piece of pork. I honestly could have eaten 10 of them, in hindsight I wish I had eaten more than just one.
With our stomachs happy and content we gathered our courage and headed out once again into torrential downpour and to face the emotional challenge of the history surrounding Nagasaki’s bombing. The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is arguably the most famous ‘attraction’ in Nagasaki, although I personally can’t justify in my mind calling it an ‘attraction’ because to me it’s a place filled with such sad memories. While it can be incredibly depressing to visit, I do believe that it should be visited by anyone who travels to Nagasaki. It’s a lasting reminder to present and future generations of the horrors of atomic bombs and why they should never be used ever again. As the memories of World War II are fading into history Hiroshima and Nagasaki have made it their mission to inform future generations about the horror of war, the terrible reality of nuclear weapons, and importance of peace. They consider it their duty to ensure the horror of nuclear war is not forgotten by the world. This philosophy to preserve lasting reminders of terrible historical sadness and efforts to build such museums and monuments in my opinion takes great strength and courage.
I had visited the Hiroshima Peace Museum a year prior to this trip with my friend Nicole. It was an interesting coincidence that I would visit the second bomb museum with her also, something neither of us had expected. We both commented on how different the effects of the two bombs were. Having been to one of the museums, and knowing what to expect emotionally, made the emotional turmoil I felt easier to process somehow. The last time I walked out of the Hiroshima Museum I had to sit on a park bench for half an hour feeling emotionally numb from the information I had learned and struggling not to cry. This time was difficult, but not as difficult if you understand what I’m saying.
At 11:02am on August 9th, 1945 the explosion of the atomic bomb Fat Boy devastated Nagasaki. The ferocious heat of this particular blast indiscriminately slaughtered thousands. For me personally it’s always seeing the photos of mutilated and burned children, mothers holding wounded babies and school grounds which had been full of young students completely obliterated by the blast that truly breaks my heart. The words of survivors will haunt my memories for the rest of my life. I can’t even begin to imagine what the people of Nagasaki went through, the hell they miraculously survived to only have to struggle to survive a new life without their loved ones.
The one fact that really stuck home, at least for me, while walking through the exhibit was understanding the degree of heat released by the bomb. It is said that when Fat Boy exploded over the city it was like a second sun was created. This can be seen in the way shadow images were ‘burned‘ onto solid surfaces. A ladder and man stood in front of this wall when the explosion happened, afterwards all that remained was a shadow image burned onto the wall, as seen in the picture below. Let the implications of that fact sink in, trust me it will haunt you for a long time. The museum contains collections of everyday items that melted from the heat of this explosion: coins, glass bottles, toys…
After our time in the peace museum, we were all in desperate need of fresh air to sooth our minds. We climbed the stairs to the peace park and went to see the famous statue and reflect.
We were pretty exhausted, wet and cold by the time we finished. We decided to call it a day and head in for a nap before the nighttime festivities. Honestly had I been left up to my own devises I probably would have spent my Saturday night a little something like this…
Yet, knowing full well how I always think through my stomach, my friends successfully lured me out into the miserable rain once again with the promise of spicy Jamaican food. I fell for it hook line and sinker, little did I know what tricks fate had in store for us that evening….
Luckily I was still in a hakuna matata mindset because you honestly wouldn’t believe the trouble we ran into! It’s hilarious in hindsight just how wrong everything went! First we tried to go to a Jamaican Restaurant only to discover when we arrived the restaurant was actually just a Japanese restaurant that had been mislabeled somehow. After that we attempted to go to a fun-sounding bar yet when we arrived via taxi the bar simply didn’t exist any more! WTF!?!?! How does a group of travellers have luck THAT bad you ask? Good heavens I have no idea. Hakuna Matata turned the night around though and we somehow, miraculously, had a great night out.
When we arrived at our exciting “Jamaican” restaurant we knew instantly is was not Jamaican. It was a very old and traditional Japanese style restaurant….and unfortunately for us very much not what we were in the mood for. We had found the recommendation on Trip Advisor (a very trustworthy travel resource, no?!?) but this goes to show you even the best research can be wrong. I felt terrible at the idea of just mysteriously standing up our reservation, and the lady inside kept looking worriedly at us and wondering why we were huddled outside in the rain instead of coming in. I timidly walked inside an with my only so-so Japanese attempted to explain the confusion and apologize for so suddenly cancelling. She just laughed, accepted my apology, and passed me onto a nice Japanese lady who spoke English fluently so she could recommend another restaurant.
I chatted with this new lady for a bit and she told us she owned a Spanish restaurant right around the corner if we were interested in that cuisine instead. I conferred with my cohorts and we all agreed Spanish tapas sounded amazing! We were unbelievably lucky that at the exact moment we were in a pickle at the restaurant she had just happened to have popped over to pick up some fresh seafood!
We followed our new friend like little drenched ducklings down the street to her restaurant. We opened the door, and if my memory serves me right, I am pretty sure I squealed in delight. It looked like a fantastic restaurant and after eating there I honestly can not rave about it enough! Ironically as it turned out we were very lucky to have been unlucky, if not we never would have stumbled upon this real gem of a restaurant.
The Spanish restaurant is called Muckey’s Bar and if you’re a foreigner living in Japan it’s the next best thing to a vacation in Spain. We couldn’t help ourselves and just kept the food rolling in. Everything looked so delicious we ooohed when it was presented and sighed in satisfaction when biting into.
First up was the chips and salsa, which just exploded with tangy-spicy goodness.
Followed by an assortment of foreign olives and Nagasaki olives (I had no idea olives could grow in Nagasaki!)
By this time the good times were in full swing and we were all pretty darn happy. I ordered a citrus mojito made with brandy that definitely tickled my tastebuds and I felt so giddy I could burst! Or maybe that was just my tight slinky dress that was ready to burst from all the food…
Heather ordered the dish which won the award for best item on the menu in our opinion: carrot, walnut and citrus salad. I am really determined to replicate this salad. I plan on it being the ace up my sleeve for future dinner parties.
For our main dish we ordered 2 plates of chicken and clam paella. Perfection in a bowl, we all agreed.
Our final dish of the night was a real indulgence: garlic-stuffed mushrooms swimming in brown butter oil sauce. Nicole was in heaven and we had to order more bread so the ambrosia sauce wouldn’t go to waste.
Thanking the restaurant profusely for the delicious food and fantastic service, we climbed into a cab and took off for the next destination. The bar we researched sounded like an amazing place, located on a permanently moored large old boat in the Nagasaki Harbour famous for serving unique cocktails created by a cocktail mixology expert. Who wouldn’t want to go, thanks Wikitravel for the great recommendation! Wrong. We arrived at our destination…but there was no boat…where was it? It had closed down 3 years previously! We were in a real pickle, for a second time that evening!
In the end we were saved by a kind man with an enormous curly afro which was white as snow and dressed entirely in red. It sounds so surreal it sounds like I’m making it up just to have a good story, I am well aware. But I’m telling the complete 100% honest truth. It was our own personal version of Alice in Wonderland. We followed our “white rabbit” and he led us to a bar called Crazy Horse.
The whole bar was covered in famous English music bands’ memorabilia and photos of foreigners who had come over the years. We sat down, ordered a round of Guinness beers (a real rarity in Fukui), and struck up a conversation with two nice guys from Ireland living in Nagasaki which carried us well into the night. We even got our picture taken and put on the wall!
Even though it seemed in hindsight that nothing that day went as planned, I still look back on our day in Nagasaki fondly. Things have a way of working out when you roll with the flow. Next time you feel like fate and the world are against you try to remember the wise words of hakuna matata and smile!