Wednesday, March 30, 2011


As part of the field trip program planned by Kyushu University, we managed to have a glimpse of the very essence of Japanese cultures during our visit to Nagasaki few days back. The first day of of the trip, we went to Yoshinogari Historical Park and Ishiibi Historic Water Facilities at Saga-ken. Yoshinogari ruins during Yayoi period (3BC–3AD) is believed to be the ancient country of ‘Yamatai’, modern day Japan, which treasured lots of historic importance in terms of relics including copper/bronze knives, glass beads and cultivation of red-grained rice. This period also witnessed the shift from nomadic lifestyle to permanent settlements thus, elevating its cultural value. One is undoubtedly mesmerized by the pristine beauty of the civilization; the systematically planned settlements, the existence of rules and order in the community, the advancements in terms of fortification against invasion and the advance used of mortar paste (cement and sand) for construction. It was indeed a life of seclusion for the people back then – a culture that continued for generations until Japan opened itself to the rest of the world under Meiji Ishin (Restoration) in 1868.

On the other hand, Ishiibi Water Facilities offered a completely new spectrum. Once an artificial gutter and irrigation channel designed to enhance the cultivation of rice in the Yamato-cho area, the restored Megumi River proved to be functioning effectively. The restored river is currently open to public as a recreational park where visitors are expected to be impressed by the astonishing views of cherry blossoms, sakura (). The main uniqueness of Megumi River lies in its design of being among the first Japanese man-made river restoration program. The main channel was diverted to smaller canals allowing sufficient amount of water to flood the adjacent paddy fields thus, improving the rate of rice production yearly. Also, the river diversion allows longer distance for water’s self-purification process in removing suspended solids that present on its surface.

We checked-in at Nanpuro Hotel in Shimabara for a night. This was the author’s first time experience to stay in a typical Japanese hotel, complete with its very own famous public bath, onsen and massage therapy spa. At dinner, we were all fully fed and watered by the traditional style Japanese dishes and beverages, served in a way that might prevent the weak of hearts to savour! The session ended up with brief speeches and introductions among the participants as well as the 先生’s. As the night gets older, one can no longer resisted the dripping sounds of water that splashed from the nearby onsen. The author together with his friends rushed to the bath and enjoyed the night in full immersion. To our dismayed, the onsen was not the type of mixed men and women hotspring we had hoped for! As the hot water spring (400C) washed away all the remnants of the past of our bodies, so as our spirits and thoughts were weaved anew into the kind of which we never felt before – for sure, that’s the transformation that we had wished for! We concluded the day with a mini nomikai (飲み会) and spent the rest of the night listening to what the others had to say with stories as myriad as science, geeks, cultures and supernaturals. The last thing we know was that we were scrapping the bottom of the o-sake (お酒) bottle, the next moment we opened our eyes, it was already dawn and Nagasaki’s morning sunrise greeted us with a smile!

The next day, we visited Yutorogi no Yu (Hotspring for Foot) and sightseeing at Shimabara Castle (島原城). The hotspring for foot is quite similar to a normal hotspring, the only difference is that visitors are only allowed to immerse their feet. Shimabara Castle stands majestically like any other typical Japanese castles. Built by Matsukura Shigemasa in 1624 and demolished in 1874, the present structure was reconstructed in 1964. One of the attractions was that visitors would have the opportunity to snap pictures with individuals impersonating samurai and shinobi around the castle’s entrance – if you’re lucky! – because they are the hotshots!

Lastly, we went to Oonokoba Observation Post for Volcano and Unzen Disaster Memorial. Both places were built not only to commemorate and showed what happened to the affected areas and how people confronted it but also aim to raise public awareness in regards of Mt. Unzen-Fugen volcanic eruptions in the early stage of Edo period and 1990 – 1996 of Heisei period. The site reminded me of how lucky I am to be in a country with less significant natural calamities. Despite countless blows from Mother Nature, still Japan proved to be a worthy son by being the frontier of sustainable developments and tirelessly championing the course of environment.

This field trip has been truly a memorable exposure to the author personally. It has imprinted a more intricate yet remarkable site of the Japanese in particular. Should anyone look for a place where traditional cultures coincide with modern lifestyles, then search no further because Japan is the answer!

Till the next posting folks!

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