This Saturday (September 4th), I went to Nagashima resort in Kuwana! That's about a two hour train trek, plus twenty minute bus ride for me, but it was worth it (at least later on in the day)! Many of the assistant language teachers in Mie prefecture were planning to go to Nagashima Spa Land water park, and my idea was to go early and meet up with them later. Ha, ha. The water park was so crowded, I might as well have thought I could find a specific fish in this crazy cluster of carp:
Actually, this picture is from later on, and I'll get to that place later. In the mean time, I ended up wandering around by myself from 11:00-3:00, which was no fun. The rides, though numerous and fairly original, had lines nearly an hour long. The salt water wave pool (supposedly the largest in the world), was packed so dense you couldn't swim, and even the little kids area spewing geysers and dumping giant buckets of water was rife with running, screaming little munchkins ready to bowl you over if you got in their way. And everything was salt water! I guess that beats chlorine, but the whole place just felt like a fake, crowded, cemented-over beach. If I hadn't kept hoping to run into someone, I probably would have left earlier.
This was only a small portion of Nagashima Spa Land, a theme park that also includes one of Japan's best conglomeration of roller coasters and rides, the chief being the original "steel dragon," not to mention a pretty popular onsen (hot springs). They say, actually, that both the water and theme parks have the most rides in the smallest amount of space of all amusement parks in the world. So if you're into that sort of thing, I guess it's the place for you, but I'm not big on coasters. I always get really sick on anything that goes over thirty miles an hour in a less than straight line. So I avoided the extra cost of the rest of the park and decided to go to the famous flower garden nearby, nabano sato, also a part of Nagashima resort.
Now that was much more up my ally. I love flowers! It costs 1,000 yen to get in, but then they give you 1,000 worth of vouchers which you can use for dinner, shopping, or looking at special exhibits. There's also a free foot bath and cheap onsen on the premises, not to mention one of the best collections of restaurants I've ever seen in one area.
First, I just walked around the outside. That's where I took a picture of those crazy carp. I leaned over the bridge and pretended to sprinkle food into the water. Quick as bullets, they shot right up to me, opening their jawless mouths in eager expectation. Sorry, guys! Ain't got nothin' for ya. Next time I'll bring the feed I have left over from Yamanakako last year. Though you can actually buy feed at the park from a vending machine, and it's only 100 yen.
There wasn't a whole lot blooming outside because of the heat; even the roses had all wilted. In Oklahoma, they usually last through the summer and into the fall, sometimes for up to six months. Not in Japan, unfortunately. I took a ride up on the "fuji elevator" to get a view of the whole park and the surrounding ocean. Wow! Here's a picture of mountains and sea in one shot:
The last bus back to see the Nagashima Spa Land fireworks didn't leave for another two hours, so I grudging gave up my 1,000 yen in vouchers to see the most popular garden of all, the begonia greenhouse. Boy, am I glad I did! That was the highlight of the trip. They had two entire rooms of giant begonias in pots and hanging baskets, plus two full rooms of just hanging baskets and petunias. I can't really describe it; here, let me show you:
This, I think, other than maybe Full Moon Island, is my favorite view in all of Japan:
I spent an hour and half all to myself in those greenhouses, running among the flowers. I felt like a little kid. I am SO going back when the cosmos and the dahlias are blooming next month, not to mention the fall colors! I can't wait!
I had dinner at the famous "beer garden" restaurant, a fancy jazz joint that brews their own beer. I asked if I could get half a pint and they just looked at me like I was crazy. So I ended up with a cream of mushroom sea food fondu in a sour dough bread bowl. Amazing! And not too pricey, considering the atmosphere. If I still had my vouchers, it would have cost practically nothing! I would definitely call it a good "date" place.
At 6:15, I pulled myself away to catch the last bus back to Nagashima Spa Land. I still had over an hour before the fireworks, so I passed the time wandering around the shopping outlet Jazz Dream. Not very interesting to someone like me who doesn't like shopping, but I stumbled upon a street performer who specialized in fire tricks. He didn't just juggle batons. He danced with flaming nunchucks, breathed fire, and ate fire! Woah! Sorry no video...he was too fast to get anything good, and unfortunately the fire doesn't show up well.
I was just in time for the fireworks! You'd think I'd have enough after seeing four major displays already this summer, but each one is so different! This one featured ground fireworks, huge shapes that twisted and spewed sparks on poles. Gosh, I wish my camera hadn't run out of batteries! Darn. I need to start bringing spare.
I booked it outta there as soon as the fire works were over, but so did everyone else. On the packed bus I finally met up with some other ALTs, but we spent most of the next hour stressing as the bus crawled through the traffic-clogged streets, wondering if we'd catch the lasts trains out. I missed the final regular, so I had to pay extra to get the very last Limited Express, which brought me home at around midnight. At least I made it! Sleeping in a train station is not my idea of topping off a wonderful day.
So, if you happen to find yourself in the Kuwana area at any time of year, stop on by Nagashima Spa Land and Nabano Sato! Even in the winter time they have one of Japan's largest "light up" festivals that lasts for four months with millions of colored lights. It's on my list of things to do during the dreary, dark days.
Sunday after church I helped everyone clean the church. That was fun; I washed all the windows! It makes me happy that I could help make our building spick and span, all in preparation for the upcoming International Night in November and revival in December! Yea! Please pray for those events.
Until next time, keep loving and keep praying,
Laura Jane Popp (L. J. Popp)