Welcome to Plant Paradise

25Apr 2012 tomocchi

This is Nagasaki Prefecture’s Subtropical Botanical Gardens, whose catchphrase is, appropriately, “a tropical feeling.”



Here you can find blue skies, the beautiful sea, white domes and many different coloured flowers.


First, if you go deep into the “white dome” in the above picture – a large greenhouse – you’ll come across a wall of some kind of huge plant…



It’s a plant I’ve never seen before and it’s really quite amazing.

It’s a “jade vine,” the symbol of the botanical garden. It’s called that in Japanese because of its resemblance to the precious stone. 



It looks like it’s bearing fruit, but these are actually flowers! I guess the best time to see these will be May.

These are rare flowers which are little seen, whose colour, shape and general size (among the biggest in Japan!) will surprise you!



Next is the Hibiscus greenhouse, which has a completely different atmosphere. These vivid, large flowers have a very tropical feel! 



If you go through the Hibiscus greenhouse, there’s a rest space where you can relax and look out over the sea. Apparently this is a secretly popular spot. I’d recommend it for dates!

The flower garden greenhouse is bright with orchids and begonias.



In the fruit greenhouse there are many plants bearing fruits from southern lands, such as mango and star fruit.

I want to eat them…but they’re up really high and I can’t reach! 



The four greenhouses within the gardens each have a different feel, so when you discover one don’t hesitate to go inside and see!

I wonder which one you would all like the most!

There are also plants to be found outside the greenhouse (unsurprising considering it’s a botanical garden…).



These lovely, bluish-purple flowers bloom by the wayside.

The subtropical botanical garden boasts 45,000 plants of 1200 species within its spacious borders. Why not take some time to come and wander? 





【Nagasaki Subtropical Botanical Garden】


Address: 833 Wakimisaki, Nagasakicity
TEL: 095-894-2050

Opening Hours: 9:00~17:00(last entry into gardens 16:30)
Closed: Third Wednesday of every month (following day if Wednesday is a national holiday), and 30th-31st December
Entry fee: Adults/senior high school 600 yen

Junior high and elementary 300 yen, infants free

Note: Junior High and Elementary school students can also enter free on Saturdays.


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Decorative Strap-making in Hasami

09Apr 2012 tomocchi

Hasami is a town of pottery. It’s a lovely, quiet town with makers and sellers of Hasamiyaki pottery dotted all over the place.

There’s even a Hasamiyaki-pottery board that welcomes you once you come off of the Hasami-Arita interchange!




Here, you can make a decorative strap that uses Hasamiyaki pottery, so I went to have a look. 
The strap-making we’re doing is at Kuwarankan, on the ground floor of the Hasamichou Tougei no Yakata building. 



Kuwarankan sells various items including Hasamiyaki pottery, folk handicrafts and local speciality goods.

Now, let’s have a go at making this strap!
First, you pick one china bead to be the central piece.

All of them have a cute picture or print hand-painted on. According to the staff at Kuwarankan, it takes a fair amount of hard work to make these china beads. 



There are two types of these beads: large and small.

A strap with a large bead (right) costs 800 yen, and one with a small bead (left) costs 600. 
There are a variety of colours and shapes so thought I’d really um and ah over which one to use, but actually I immediately went, “Ah! I’ll take this one!”  


After you choose the bead, you have to choose the rest of the adornments (the central box in the photograph below) and which thread to use.

You can use up to 5 of these smaller parts.



Choosing these, however, was really hard!

It took me a long time to work out the colour coordination and final arrangement – I kept thinking, “That’s not quite right… But neither is this…” but I managed to decide in the end! 


Once you’ve finished working that out, you thread it onto the string.

Below is Tacchan, a friend living in Sasebo who came to try this with me.

She had a lot of trouble threading it all together.



Then this is me.
At one point I threaded things in the wrong order and had to redo it all…



When it’s all threaded on, you make a knot to stop everything falling off, and you’re done!
This is what the two of us ended up with.



Tacchan’s is on the right. The pale colours give it a very sweet feel. Then mine is on the left. I used a lot of contrasting colours. Somehow, our personalities have really come out in these!


You can make many other kinds of straps depending on how you put the parts together. I really recommend making your own original strap as a memento of a trip to Hasami.




In the exhibition corner on the 2nd floor, they are currently showing the Kuwarankan Fujita Collection until Thursday 31st May 2012. 



Last May, Mr. Fujita, who lives in Osaka, presented 633 pieces of pottery from the Edo period (1603-1868) to Hasami, and about 300 pieces are now being displayed at Kuwarankan to commemorate this. 


For pottery-making Hasami, which has few pieces left from that period, these are very important. Don’t miss out!


I recommend a visit to both the ceramics building I’ve introduced to you today, as well as the surrounding area, as a place where you can come into contact with the history and culture of Hasamiyaki pottery. Make sure you go and check it out!






【Hasami Ceramics Building】

Note: Reservation required for strap-making.

Opening Hours: 9:00~17:00

Closed: 1st January
Entrance Fee: Free
Enquiries: 0956-85-2214


Kuwarankan】(Ceramics Building, Ground Floor)
Enquiries: 0956-26-7162



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On Gunkanjima

27Mar 2012 tomocchi

This is Gunkanjima.




It was originally called Hashima, but this small fortress-like island is now more popularly known as Gunkanjima due to the fact that it looks like a battleship (Gunkanjima means “BattleshipIsland”).



This is the Observation Area 1, which you reach soon after landing.




From here you can see the old coal storage conveyor belt and water tank. 



Way up high is the tank. 




Drinking water on Gunkanjima was stored in this tank, at first distilled from seawater, and later transported in via boat. After that, an undersea water supply pipe was laid on the opposite side.




These are the ruins of the conveyor belt.





Following the tour route, we move to the next spot.





Now we’ve arrived at Observation Area 2.



On the other side of the fence are mountains of rubble.




This brick building is the remains of the General Office.





Inside of this there used to be a large public bath for the coal miners, apparently.
This is what it looks like from the side.




Hmmm… unfortunately I couldn’t see if there was a bath.
Lastly, let’s move on to Observation Area 3.




What you can see in front below are the oldest reinforced-concrete high-rise apartment buildings in Japan, built in 1916.




Who knew that the forerunner to our modern apartment buildings came from Gunkanjima!
The window frames and floors are gone, but the rest of it is still standing firm.
You can see here just how sturdily built it was. 


There’s also coal to be found in amongst the debris.




It’s like it’s telling the story of how coal was mined here.



Now, although you do land on Gunkanjima, you’re only allowed to walk within the three viewing areas and the pathways between them. You are not allowed to wander freely around the island.


Also, there are unfortunately times when the boats are unable to go because of bad weather. As an aside, today the waves were very calm and we reportedly landed without incident.


In winter the sea is rough and in summer the sun is brutal, so I’d recommend going around now!






【Gunkanjima Landing Tour Cruises】 Note: advance reservation only


Enquiries & Reservations: Yamasa Shipping(

TEL: 095-822-5002
Landing Cruise Fee (boat fare + Nagasaki city facility use fee)

Boat Fare: Junior High School and above – 4000 yen

                 Elementary School Children and below – 2,000 yen

NagasakiCityFacility Use Fee: Junior High School and above – 300 yen

                                             Elementary School Children and below – 150 yen
Operating Hours: Summer timetable (April – October) departing 9:00, 13:10

                   Winter timetable (November – March) departing 9:00, 12:10

Duration: 170 minutes 


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Making Kanzarashi

06Mar 2012 tomocchi

This is kanzarashi, a food which has been loved in Shimabara since long ago.



Kanzarashi consists of small shiratama dumplings made from rice flour, which are cooled in Shimabara’s spring water and then covered in syrup and eaten.


There are many people who say, “This is an old-fashioned flavour,” even when trying it for the first time. The sticky, chewy shiratama and the gentle sweetness of the syrup go together perfectly.


I’m always eating, so I’ll happily have a go at making this!

You can make kanzarashi at the “Shimabara Yuusuikan” building on Shimabara city’s Shinmachi-doori , which is also known as Koi-no-oyogu-machi (“the town of swimming carp”).  

And it’s free!





Shimabara Yuusuikan.



There’s no need to reserve beforehand here. You just need to turn up and say, “I want to make kanzarashi!” 


So let’s get to it!

First, you add water to the kanzarashi flour, kneading it until it’s about as pliable as your earlobe.



After that you roll it out into a long, rod-like shape…



Then you roll it into little round balls.

If you’re making it in a group then be sure you all make the balls the same size! The main point here is not to make them very big. Don’t be greedy!



Finally, they’re boiled, cooled in spring water, and you’re done!



Take your time eating your kanzarashi as you gaze out on the garden.



I’ve talked about making kanzarashi here, but it’s also possible to try out making rokubee, a famous noodle dish said to be local to Shimabara, too.







Shimabara Yuusuikan

Address: 2-chome, Shinmachi, Shimabara city
Opening hours: 10:00~17:00(kanzarashi­-making carried out on request)
Cost: Free
Enquiries: Shimabara Tourism & Geopark Group
Tel: 0957-63-1111


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Going Strawberry Picking

20Feb 2012 tomocchi

On New Year’s Day I visited the ICHIGO no MORI at Nagasaki Biopark, a strawberry-picking farm for tourists which recently opened.





It’s easy to find from Nagasaki, situated along highway 206 a little way past the former Dutch village. 



At the entrance is a shop which doubles as the reception for ICHIGO no MORI, so please pay your money here! 




Inside these big greenhouses, a little way from the shop, are ten thousand strawberry plants!





However these are different to normal greenhouses. These 60-metre-long facilities allow you cultivate strawberries high off the ground and on two different levels. 



Since they’re divided into two levels, it’s like the lower one is for kids and the higher one for adults.
It makes me happy because you don’t get tired sitting down and standing up all the time!


Moreover, it’s barrier-free so visitors in wheelchairs can also come and pick strawberries.

This strawberry greenhouse is built for everyone to enjoy.



The variety of strawberries cultivated here is called beni hoppe – “red cheeks” in English.

They’re large and very tasty!



Pick and eat, pick and eat…
The green leafy part can be put in this bucket.




I also heard a way to eat strawberries that makes them even more delicious! 


Normally you eat them from the tapered end, but it’s better if you eat them from the top. Of course, you need to take off the green bit first.

That part of the strawberry is full of good nutrients, apparently, but the sugar content is higher in the tip, so if you eat a strawberry from the broad end you get the nutrients, and then you’re left with the sweetness at the end.  Did you know that?


The ticket desk is also next to Saikai Burger, where their strawberry soft-serve ice-cream, sold for 330 yen, is now very popular.





Ice-cream made with the strawberries from the ICHIGO no MORI, topped with strawberry sauce, and then actual strawberries…

It’s strawberry paradise!  


Strawberries lovers can’t live without this!





【ICHIGO no MORI, Strawberry Picking Farm】

Address: 2311-1 Torikagou, Seihi-cho, Saikai city
Opening period: Until around May
Opening hours: 10:00-17:00(ticket office open until 16:20)
Closed: Mondays (if Monday is a national holiday then it will be closed the following day)
Cost: (All-you-can-eat, up to 40min)
Adults(junior high school students and above) 1400 yen / Children (elementary school and under, minimum age 3 years) 1000 yen
Note: Saikai Burger is open all year round.


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