First, I got the chance to ride the newest Shinkansen (or bullet train), which opened March 12 to little fanfare. It opened the day after the giant earthquake in Tohoku, but it has been popular nonetheless. This new shinkansen enables people to travel from the bottom of Kyushu all the way up to the top of Honshu, the main island, via Shinkansen.
Say hello to Sakura, the main Shinkansen running from Osaka to Kagoshima
Traveling via Shinkansen isn't very cheap, but it's fast and more relaxing than road trips via car.
I especially got excited to eat the special bento (boxed lunch) at the train station in Hakata, purely for the reason that it came in a cute "Shink" box.
The food in the box wasn't bad, either
It ended up that the weather was terrible all weekend. It was rainy and unpleasant for sightseeing, but it didn't stop me. It did stop me from taking many pictures though. It's hard to take a picture when you're clutching to an umbrella in fear of being soaked! I did manage to take lots of pictures indoors... at the restaurants I went to. I humbly give you my Food (and etc.) Tour of Kagoshima:
I would be a sucker not to try the local ramen. Kagoshima is famous for black pigs, so pork is prevalent in the dishes there. The pork in this ramen was amazing. It was on the fatty side, but it melted in your mouth.
Next up, we have the popular dessert of the area, which is called a White Bear. It's shaved ice with a milky sauce topping and then covered in fruits and other toppings. Can you name all the toppings?
Gelatin, mandarin oranges, peaches, raisins/prunes, a banana, and a cherry on top. There was also melon and (believe it or not) beans too!
The picture doesn't do it justice, especially in size. It was the size of my head!
And yet I somehow ate it all....
Time was a bit tight for the weekend tour of Kagoshima, but I managed to do everything I wanted to do. First on my list was the sand bath in Ibusuki. Ibusuki is a popular local onsen (hot spring) area, and one of the beaches has a hot spring feed into it, making the sand posses the warm healing powers of the onsen. People get buried in the sand for 10 minutes, enjoying the heat and sauna-like effect. I felt pretty healthy after my sand bath.
Me looking washed out in the light while enjoying being buried in the sand
Kagoshima's big feature is a giant bay... with an active volcano in the center. Unfortunately, Sakurajima was hidden in a mass of clouds and dreariness the entire weekend.
Hiding in the safety of the train I snapped a few lousy shots
Fighting on through the dank weather, Kirishima was next on the list. It is home to a beautiful shrine, which was under a bit of repair when I went, so once again I took another hasty snapshot.
It looks like this when it's not dreary and being repaired
Lunch consisted of more local delicacies: breaded pork sandwiches and charcoal grilled chicken from nearby Miyazaki prefecture.
I know, the charcoal grilled chicken doesn't look good, but believe me, it was. You're talking to someone who hates burnt food, and this was cooked to perfection.
Last on our food adventure is pork and veggies cooked in Shabu Shabu, which is a lot like the hot pot nabe meals I've mentioned on here.
That's not bacon, I swear. It was good strips of pig.
This restaurant had a bunch of oddities around the table, like a giant gourd and handcrafted wooden knickknacks. I liked the wooden crab the best.
I'll leave you with a little bit of Engrish from Ibusuki:
"The relief to the peason who visits and happiness to the person who leaves"