Usa Shrine 宇佐神宮

I went to visit the Usa [oo – sah] Shrine with Tash yesterday. The Usa Shrine is one of the most important shrines in Shintoism and is dedicated to the god Hachiman, who is the god of war and the divine protector of the Japanese islands and the Japanese people. Even though this shrine is only 30 minutes from my house, in the 3 years I have lived here, I had never been there before, so I decided to squeeze in some last minute cultural sightseeing before I return to the other USA, the United States of America. The shrine is an oasis of nature, with big trees and overgrown foliage and of beautiful, traditional architecture in an otherwise mundane modern suburban city of Usa.



Omikuji (fortune paper strips) tied to ropes.


Ema (wooden prayer plaques)



Miyazaki 宮崎

Luke and I spent the long weekend in Miyazaki, the prefecture just south of Oita Prefecture. Miyazaki is famous for its beaches and for Chicken Nanban (“Southern Barbarian Chicken”), which is a rather barbaric concoction of fried chicken slathered in tartar sauce. We spent 3 relaxing days enjoying the beach and we even attempted bodyboarding for the first time.






Quote of the day

I came across this quote today. It pretty much sums up my own life philosophy.

“Own what you can always carry with you; know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your bag.”

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn


Sushi and Waterfall 寿司と滝

Today, Luke and I went to get some conveyor belt sushi (回転寿司)for lunch and then we took a short roadtrip to Ajimu to visit a waterfall, the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon and to beat the heat of a hot July day.

Horse mackerel (鯵) swimming in the tank:


Horse mackerel sushi and sashimi (鯵の活き尽くし). It doesn’t get any fresher than this. The fish carcass was still twitching when they brought it to our table.



Japan Travel

Kitakyushu City: Moji Port and Kokura  北九州市:門司港と小倉

Yesterday, Luke and I headed up to Kitakyushu City for some sightseeing and shopping. Kitakyushu is about 40 minutes north of my house by train and is the 2nd largest city in Kyushu with just under 1 million inhabitants. The Kitakyushu City actually used to be comprised of several different cities and towns that were merged together as one city in the 1960’s, so it is quite big and sprawling.

Moji Port was once an important port for foreign trade in Japan. A few significant Meiji-era buildings remain, and today, Moji Port is a touristy area with lots of shops and art galleries. It is also the northernmost point in Kyushu, separated from Honshu, the largest island in the Japanese archipelago by the Kanmon Straits. According to our rickshaw guide, between 900-1000 ships pass through the Straits every day. In the 12th Century, the Straits were the site of the Battle of Dan-no-ura, the naval battle that decided the outcome of the Gempei War, after which the first shogunate was established in Japan. Across the narrow Kanmon Straits from Moji is Shimonoseki, a medium-sized city of 300,000 inhabitants on the southern tip of Honshu where the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed in 1895, where the Qing Dynasty of China ceded sovereignty of Taiwan to the Japanese Empire after the Chinese defeat in the first Sino-Japanese War.

The infamous fugu or poisonous pufferfish is also a famous product from this area. There are plenty of omiyage (souvenir) shops in the area that sell fugu-related merchandise. Despite the potential of death by neurotoxin, the risk is next to nothing these days. Farmed fugu has much less toxins than their wild cousins, and the preparation and cleaning of the fish is performed by specially licensed chefs. The few fugu-related deaths that occur each year usually involve old fishermen who overdose on fugu neurotoxin. Apparently, small amounts of the toxin can result in a recreational “high.”

Kokura is an ancient feudal castle town that is considered to be the “downtown” of sprawling Kitakyushu City. Like most castle towns in Japan (including Nakatsu, where I live), the orginal castle is no longer there, but there is a 1960’s reconstruction of the original castle at the site. It has had a bad reputation of being a dirty, industrial city with a large yakuza presence. However, Kokura has cleaned up its act in recent years. It is still quite industrial, but the river running through it has been significantly cleaned up and there has been some quite interesting development projects like the massive Riverwalk Mall. Kokura was the original target for the “Fat Man” atomic bomb in August 1945, but there was thick cloud cover over the city, so the pilot of the bomber plane was instructed to drop the bomb on Nagasaki instead.

L.S. and Luke in a rickshaw (below), outside of the Meiji-era Italian-inspired Moji Port Train Station. The station has been visited by several Japanese emperors and the second floor once housed the first French restaurant in Kyushu.

L.S. and Bananaman, Moji Port (below). Moji is famous for bananas because during the Japanese colonial occupation of Taiwan, Taiwanese bananas were unloaded in Moji Port and auctioned off.

Lunch: Chicken and Tofu Salad with Sesame Dressing, Lamb and Rosemary Pizza, Microbrew Beer. Moji Port Brewery Restaurant.



Custom-kun, the official canine mascot of the Japanese Customs Service. Old Customs House (now a museum and gallery space), Moji Port.


Dancing Monkey, Moji Port Boardwalk:


Kokura Riverwalk


Kokura Castle, viewed from the top of Riverwalk


Random picts of L.S.



Dinner: All-you-can-eat Dim Sum Buffet at Hong Kong Chong Long (香港蒸瀧), Riverwalk, Kokura.