My first trip to Japan didn’t include Tokyo nor Osaka – and still was GREAT

It’s pretty common for first-time Japan visitors: check out Disneyland and have some millennial snap along Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, or channel your inner Potterhead in Universal Studios in Osaka. I didn’t experience this mandatory Japan itinerary at first but, travel is still travel! My first trip ever is to Sasebo!

And okay, the title is 10% biased for a couple of reasons; nonetheless, the place is great and peaceful and chilly and perfect for unwinding. 10% consists of:

  • I spent my last week of 2016 in Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture with my boyfriend.
  • It was our first time spending the holidays together — in our eight years of relationship.
  • It was the first ever stamp in my passport (have I mentioned I’m already 23?).

Never heard of Sasebo?

Sasebo is in the south of Japan and where one of the US Navy bases is located. It’s relatively friendly for English-speaking people since establishments also consider the military dudes in the area. It’s a province, if I may call it, comparing to other well-known cities of Japan, hence is pleasantly quiet.

Alright I’m about to share my experience of the trip as a whole but if you want just the itinerary then go jump to that part.

Story Time!

It was the 24th of December when I left for Japan. Yes, that late, since I had no leave days remaining and just negotiated this week-long leave with my manager, so there were a lot of work I needed to polish before the year ended. I arrived the Land of the Rising Sun in the afternoon and first order of business in my mind then was to observe and feel the weather (and assess whether the winter clothes I bought can keep me well-warmed). I had been checking the weather app for days before leaving and noticed snow wasn’t expected and that showers occur every now and then.

Not an issue, really, since I’m coming over to really spend time with my boyfriend. We’ve been in LDR after graduating from high school so eight years for us is just a number. We still don’t know each other completely. Anyway, Sasebo…

First time travelling out of the country, meaning it’s my first time too dealing with airports on international flights. I didn’t know customs, immigration, quarantine checkpoint, and stuff, so me being a paranoid, did ~a lot~ of Googling about the airport procedure and what else to expect.

I landed at Fukuoka airport, took off the plane without a jacket or coat first. Just really wanted to feel what it’s like in a country where temperature averages only at 10°C. I’m from the Philippines, the land of the humid and the hot. Meh. “Ooooh I like this coldddd,” I first thought to myself. Then went on the procedures with a couple of embarrassing first time mistakes. Haha.

One thing I noticed though, is that the Japs are soooo approachable, jolly, and courteous. At one point one of my luggage was asked to be opened and I didn’t feel being scrutinized at all by the customs officer! He was too friendly and even talked to me in Filipino, which I didn’t recognize at first because of the accent, but it kept my calm. I mean, it’s my first time (excuses, lol) and man the excitement didn’t take off.

Tourist-ing!

And so I was finally with my boyfriend.

TripAdvisor asked, we went to (the 90%):

Miuracho Church

Miuracho Church, Sasebo

It was the 25th of December, Christmas Day! We made sure we honor and thank God for making this trip finally happen! And yes, fellow Catholic Filipinos, we have a church here! We chanced upon a Filipino priest, but my boyfriend says other days a Japanese priest hosts the mass. To note though, the Japanese practice of leaving your footwear outside is also observed even in Catholic churches. Sorry, one misconception-debunked moment here.

 

 

 

The Ginza, Sasebo

Takoyakiiiii!

Little Ginza

Yes, they have it. They have a little Ginza there which is a mile-long shopping and food center. These range from the small brands up to the known names. That’s where I had my first taste of an authentic Jap food: takoyaki. It’s way different to that being sold in the PH, of course, and I just suck at describing tastes as well as distinguishing ~insert culinary terms here~. But it was way betterrrrrr than what we have back home. We went there twice, one was on Christmas day just chilling and walking, trying out vendo machines haha and binging on free tastes. And next was on the 31st, biking and buying last-minute gifts for my people at home. Though we weren’t that sure if biking was really allowed, since there were no signs but two elder people tried to call our attention and say “No biking!” to which made us just carry our bikes halfway.

Huis ten Bosch, Sasebo

Lights, lights, Christmas lights!

This is probably the #1 search result when you Google “what to do in Sasebo.” It’s a Dutch-themed park, and depending on seasons they have different shows and events in their cities — Amsterdam Square, Harbor Town, etc. just talk about Netherlands. We spent the Christmas night there which was just perfect since the whole park was adorned with such wonderful lights and shows.

[ka-chinggg! ¥4,200 per person for night pass]

Kujukushima Aquarium and Kujukushima Islands, Sasebo

Kujukushima Islands

Ever been inside a giant aquarium? Try Kujukushima Aquarium. It’s like a walk inside the sea, along with the big family of fish species ranging from clown fish to turtles to sting ray and dolphin. And by dolphin I mean there’s the usual show of dolphin wowing you with exhibitions. Strongly recommended for kids and aqua lovers.

[ka-chinggg! ¥1,440 per person for adults]

Also known as the 99 islands, Kujukushima Islands is an experience of one freezing, refreshing sea breeze. So for one our you’ll cruise through picturesque islands with a choice from two decent ships, with one-hour tours every 30 minutes (one leaves every top of the hour, the other every bottom of the hour). Just bring a shawl or a hoodie or a bonnet in this trip ‘cos man, the sea breeze added to the 7°C temperature may ruin your stay. I say ‘may’ ‘cos “the cold didn’t bother me anyway” despite giving me a headache. We had a choice to just stay inside the ship and view the islands from the window, but heck I want no boundary from my eyes seeing the nature.

[ka-chinggg! ¥1,400 per person for one-hour cruise]

The two ships for cruising 99 Islands

One of the exhibits in the Aquarium

Shiodawara Cliffs

Roadtrip to Hirado

We went for a random roadtrip, with only the Hirado Bridge and Hirado Castle in mind. It’s an hour plus drive from Sasebo. The bridge is also called the Golden Gate Bridge ‘cos yes, it kinda mimics the one in San Francisco. It’s good though for picture-taking and social media posts. The castle was closed since it was a holiday. Nowhere to go and our butts not yet heating up on the supposedly roadtrip, we grabbed an English version of the touring map from the Hirado information center and checked out other landmarks to visit. And so our orange car brought us to…

Shiodawara Cliffs, Ikitsuki

The cliff formation was just artsy, nature teaching us how to slay it. You can’t actually cliff jump though, there’s no locals looking after the site. None that we saw of. And then here’s my crappy photograph of the cliffs.

Obae Lighthouse

Obae Lighthouse

The lighthouse is at the northern edge of Ikitsuki, where you get a wider scope of the island. There’s a mini trail leading to the tower, plus a somewhat hidden trail to the east showing you yet another good-for-panorama view of the islands. This served as our last point of destination of our roadtrip since we still wanna catch a good sight of the sunset along the Sunset Way.

Domo Arigato!

Overall Nagasaki gave me another proof that nature > city. This may sound outdated but a good 3/4 of 2016 isn’t the best time of my life; but when asked how was my 2016, I manage to say it was a year to be grateful for because of this Japan trip.

 

>> Lae

Lae

Hi! I am Lae from the Philippines. A CPA and frustrated blogger who writes mainly to create a portfolio for her accounting freelancing. I'm an Excel enthusiast in that VBA, complex formula, and Pivots fascinate me. I'm also down for cool PowerPoint presentations and visual digital documents. On the side I'd be putting in some travel experiences here in LDR as my repository of cities, culture, and people.

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