Hiking in Nagasaki: Unzen・雲仙 Edition

Last weekend I took advantage of a train pass sale in Kyushu and made my way over to Nagasaki. I’ve had a lot of fun at a few different national parks in the area and really wanted to see Unzen, and Mt Fugen・普賢岳 (1369m), the highest climbable peak in Nagasaki prefecture. The highest peak is easily viewable from there, but is a semi-active volcano. The last eruption was in 1995 and lasted several months! It did not erupt while I was there.

My first day in Unzen I did a quick hike around the sulphur hot springs, Kinugasayama・絹笠山, Shirakumo lake・白雲池, some little hiking paths and Oshitori lake・おしとり池 with waterfalls a bit south.

The views from the top of Kinugasayama・絹笠山 were so, so beautiful. The mountain you can see beyond the white flowers is the place I would hike the next day.

While going around the hiking paths and Oshitori lake・おしとり池 I found some shrines, ume boshi・梅干し drying in the sun, and importantly: ice cream.

Then off to Shirakumo lake・白雲池 which was about a 5 minute walk from where I was staying.

Here is that days hike on Yamap.

The next day I was off for Mt Fugen・普賢岳!

The trails were all open but the ropeway and attractions were all closed so I only saw a couple other people.

I cannot pretend to understand the science of this, but a few places around the mountain have extremely cool air flowing from within the mountain. When you pass by its quite noticeable, especially on such a hot day. Feels like a ghost although I’m sure its more to do with the geothermal activity. There were also little places where it was disturbingly hot air coming out of spots but luckily there was no volcanic activity.

I made it up to the top after a bit of fun scrambling, unfortunately a little stuck in the clouds but it was still nice.

The walk down was very nice and lush and I had a little sweet potato snack I had gotten earlier on in the village. When I made it back to civilization I bee-lined for this cafe I had seen the day before. One of the specialties is a castella cake parfait with ice cream, mochi and red bean. One of the famous foods in Nagasaki is castella so I could not pass it up.

Here is the course I took on Yamap.

The next day I started making my way to Isahaya for a little bit more light hiking. I took hardly any pictures and didn’t even connect my Yamap. Maybe I was a bit more tired than I thought but it was still very nice.

One of my favorite views of Japan in the hazy rolling hills and rice paddies, and I was spoiled with views from the train.

It was a wonderful trip and I’m so happy I got a chance to check out Nagasaki a bit more.

Hakata Minazuki: Matcha on Matcha Edition

Rounding out the month of June, or in the ancient Japanese calendar Minazuki, where this sweet gets its namesake from, I got this one from Takashima・高島屋菓子舗. I really encourage you to look at the pictures in the link, its in a very old school covered wet market alley that mainly sells produce, fish, tea and coffee and of course sweets. I love these types of places, they are always fun to explore and the quality and prices are usually much better than major supermarkets.

It’s a beautiful day out so I went outside so I get could get a view of my growing beans. To try something different, I had bought the matcha flavoured minazuki instead of the typical azuki because I am no stranger to that one! As usual its all wrapped up in a bamboo leaf. It was really a lovely change, even if having iced matcha with a matcha flavoured sweet is a little funny. It had little azuki beans throughout the jellied matcha and a really smooth taste.

Hiking in Itoshima: Tate Ishi・立石 Edition

Another sunny weekend! Rainy season is no problem if this pattern keeps up. A few people had told me about this very beautiful, mini hike in Itoshima that was a little windy so I was saving it for warmer weather. Itoshima is a bit of a beach town and it was great to explore around.

There are near panoramic view going most of the way up the mountain. Every 3 feet I stopped to take pictures, it’s really a prefect quick hike.

The terrain is unlike anything like I’ve seen in Fukuoka, you can see different rock sediment and its nearly all exposed rock. Most other places have more tree cover or are much softer earth.

These are all 3 different little beaches I popped into. Everything is so close and compact around here so it’s easy to see a lot.

Of course it wouldn’t be a hike without roadside produce! After I got off the course I waslked past some beaches and made my way over to the big rock/mini mountain. I think this is one of the most popular areas in Itoshima, every time I come to Itoshima with people we wind up here. I made my way to the other side of the rock to have lunch.

Maybe unsurprisingly I brought a sweet from Kichi Zoh with me. This one is special for June. It’s called minazuki・水無月 which is the name for June in the old Japanese calendar, before the Gregorian calendar was introduced to Japan. It literally means ‘month with no water’ which is hard to believe because June is rainy season. Interesting Japanese language tidbit, the 無・na typically means: no, none, without. However in old times it was also a possessive particle, so means the month full of water! Learning Japanese is a trip.

Anyway! The sweet minazuki is red bean on jellied mochi and was super good! I think I see more in my future this month.

As always, here is the course I took on Yamap.

New Matcha Day! Featuring Flowers

I believe this delicate blue flowers are a kind of Queen Anne’s Lace. The little pink one is a peony・bōtan・牡丹 from Kichi Zoh. The matcha is from a shop nearby using matcha leaves from Yame・八女, a city just south of Fukuoka. It has a really nice balance and flavour, but I think the last one I just finished is still my favourite! Always fun to try new ones.

Valentine’s Day Sweets

It was uncharacteristically sunny and warm on Valentine’s Day so we got to sit on a little rooftop patio to enjoy little pink sweets. I went to Kichi-Zoh because I knew they would have the heart sweet, but when I saw the set I there was no way not to get it. In Japan on Valentine’s Day women give chocolate to their partners, crushes (本命チョコ・honmei choco・true feeling chocolate), male coworkers (義理チョコ・giri choco・obligation chocolate) and friends (友チョコ・tomo choco・friend chocolate). On March 14th men will give chocolate to their romantic partner or crush. It can be quite an expensive day for women having to buy obligation chocolate for every an in the office but with all the remote working that seems to have changed.

Back to the sweets! I did give my honmei choco but of course did not stop there. Kichi-Zoh had the pink rose with white bean in the center, a white heart with pink & white bean paste, and a white bean paste with black bean ‘snow-topped mountain’ (left plate) and also plum jelly and soba flour yōkan (right plate). They were perfect and I loved them. I’m eagerly awaiting candy sales in the week to come.

Silver Linings

The sky could be falling, the four horsemen riding in, and I could still count on Rabbit Moon・兎月 to make me smile ear to ear. I went in to get a few things and one of the women started to chat me up. Their patience with my bad Japanese is truly saint-like, and is helping me improve a lot. They gave me this sliced black-bean mochi as a little gift, as they were the ends of the roll. It’s just so kind! I was so happy and appreciative to get it. I put them under my grill for a few minutes and they puffed up beautifully into tasty, chewy perfection.

I couldn’t resist having a double-whammy sweet set. This blossom namagashi is so beautiful and was equally delicious. I know it seems silly, but the kindness of the people at the shop and taking a few minutes out of the day to enjoy their sweets is something I am so grateful for.