Tuesday, February 12, 2008


OMG! We were without internet at our hotel in Kagoshima for two whole days. (Note to self: next time make sure we only stay in hotels with internet or wifi). It was actually good for us that we couldn't get online since Z was able to use that time to do school work instead. We're in Beppu now; in a nice hotel with internet. So here's the rundown on Kagoshima.

Kagoshima is an interesting place. The train station is the terminal point for the Shinkansen line which will eventually go all the way from Hakata to Kagoshima, but now the line is only about 1/3 complete. I could see the construction on the track, though, from our express train as we headed toward our destination. Amazing. It's literally like a giant centipede creeping across the landscape. It's a completely elevated track that pretty closely follows the local/express lines but does deviate away occasionally. It will also go through a lot of tunnels. In fact, the short stretch that we were on was about 90% through tunnels. I think I recall reading that the top speed of the trains will be 265 km/hr. It is unbelievable how close in some spots that they are building the tracks next to people's homes. I guess the people whose properties will be negatively impacted have to just suck it up as benefiting the greater good. Who knows? Maybe it's a plus to look out your bedroom window and see a Shinkansen flying by!

What's interesting about Kagoshima is that it exists in very close proximity to the active volcano, Sakurajima. When we got into town, the weather was beautiful, and we couldn't check into hour hotel (which turned out to be pretty shabby, but at least we each got our own bed), so we took a spin on the Ferris wheel on top of the department store next to the station. (Don't most department stores have a Ferris wheel on their roof?) From there we got fab views of the city and the volcano. It was not spewing smoke, but by the end of the day, it started to puff and when we woke up the next morning, it was puffing pretty heavily. That afternoon, we took a bus tour around the island and volcano. The weather got progressively worse, but it was so much warmer than anywhere else we've been on this trip so far since it is so far south. The tour was great and we got to see a lot of interesting sites. The volcano is amazing and because it spews ash so frequently (it hasn't erupted in a major way for quite a number of years), all the grave sites have roofs over the tombstones to protect them from falling ash. And many of the small villages that dot the coastline have shelters scattered throughout town for the people to hide under in the event of a big eruption. The government is also building lots of dams and drainage channels to protect the residents from lava flows and flash floods. Overall, nice place to spend a few days.

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