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Raina's Japan Travel Journal
by Raina, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2015/10/20 - Kujukushima Islands and Winter Illumination at Huis Ten Bosch

View of the Kujukushima Islands from the Tenkaibo Observatory

Today, I spent the day exploring Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture, especially the Kujukushima Islands (literally "99 Islands") and the winter illumination at Huis Ten Bosch before retiring for the night at the Henna Hotel, a unique hotel staffed by robots.

It took a little over an hour to drive from Nagasaki City to Sasebo. I arrived in time for lunch, and when in Sasebo, what better lunch option is there than Sasebo Burger, one of the region's local specialties. My initial thought of a Sasebo Burger was one with specific ingredients. However, I was surprised to find out that a Sasebo Burger wasn't a specific burger, but a term used to describe made-to-order burgers with local ingredients. Specific recipes vary from store to store, leading to an interesting array of burgers to try.

My Sasebo bacon hamburger with a side of fries

After the delectable lunch, I headed to the Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort. The resort is a great jumping ground for those who want to experience and learn more about the Kujukushima Islands. The Kujukushima Islands are part of the Saikai National Park, which celebrates the 60th anniversary of its appointment this year. Even though the name Kujukushima seems to imply that there are 99 islands, there are in fact over 200 islands, and only four of them are inhabited.

Part of the Kujukushima archipelago from above

Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort occupies a fairly large area with a harbor for sightseeing boats, both large and small, that make their way around the islands. There is also an aquarium exhibiting local marine life, as well as restaurants and shops along the waterfront. I took the Kujukushima Pirate Boat Mirai, Japan's first boat with a hybrid motor, which was expertly navigated by skilled hands, running smoothly around the islands.

It was also heartening to see that the large sightseeing ships have incorporated universal design into the ship's construction, with facilities like a multipurpose toilet, an elevator and straps to secure wheelchairs near large viewing windows. Ship commentary was conducted in Japanese with additional Mandarin and/or English versions added depending on the tour groups on board.

The hybrid powered Kujukushima sightseeing boat, Mirai
Islands and oyster rafts

The 50 minute cruise took us around many of the islands in the bay, squeezing through what looked like a tiny gap between two islands, and making a U-turn at one of the deeper points before heading back to the harbor. I saw many oyster rafts during the cruise, with most being for pearl cultivation. I enjoyed being out on open water and feeling the breeze as we cruised past numerous islands and tried to spot marine life in the water. Next time, I'd love to be able to go on the smaller boats and get closer to the islands and water.

We just made a U-turn in the deep azure inlet behind the boat
Tasaki pearls being farmed in the waters here
The other sightseeing pirate boat, the Pearl Queen

After the cruise, I visited the Kujukushima Aquarium beside the harbor which exhibits local sealife. One of my favourite sections was the jellyfish displays with all sorts of jellyfish, including some impossibly tiny ones! I also managed to catch the last dolphin show of the day and was treated to the acrobatic prowess of the two resident dolphins. The compact aquarium also contains the Kujukushima Bay Large Aquarium, a large tank that lets visitors feel like they are walking in the sea.

At the dolphin performance
At the Kujukushima Bay Large Aquarium
One of the many jellyfish tanks
The outside of the Kujukushima Aquarium

After earlier seeing the islands close-up from the cruise, I next headed to two lookout points to take in a view from above. I first stopped by Tenkaibo Observatory about seven kilometers south of Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort to get a great view of the islands and a large field of cosmos flowers. Next was Ishidake Observatory, which was slightly closer to the resort and had an even more beautiful view of the islands. I arrived just before sundown and managed to see a beautiful sunset. Incidentally, the view of the Kujukushima Islands from the Ishidake Observatory was used in the opening scene of the movie, The Last Samurai.

Cosmos in autumn by the Tenkaibo Observatory
Sasebo city in the distance
A shipyard where cruiseliners are constructed and repaired
Sunset from Ishidake Observatory

From there, I headed off into the sunset for Huis Ten Bosch, an amusement park about 30 minutes away by car. It was my first time there, and what better introduction to the amusement park than to be able to see the winter illuminations! I walked around the park and got to see the different illuminations, including some Halloween themed ones. It was all very beautiful, and I can imagine it to be an all-day affair at Huis Ten Bosch with lots to see and do even after the sun sets. Illuminations at Huis Ten Bosch are available around the year, although the scale varies somewhat by season.

Sea of lights, a Ferris wheel and a bungy jumping tower in the background
Wine glasses, tulips, or both? Take your time to decide as you stroll by
Palace of Light Jewel Illumination which is a synchronized classical music and light show
A little bit of autumn colors in the evening
Begonia Garden of Light which will remain open till February 29, 2016
The Gyaman Museum lit up, with the 105 meter tall Domtoren in the background
The horror toilet was spookily decorated. Enter at your own risk!
Thriller city lit up with thumping music

My final stop for the day was the Henna Hotel, where I spent the night. The hotel is part of the Huis Ten Bosch group of hotels and slightly cheaper compared to the rest. The main attraction at the Henna Hotel are the robots and technology that can be experienced by staying guests. The check-in counter is staffed by robots that can speak Japanese and English, a luggage storage room operated by a robot, automated luggage porters that carry your bags and lead you to your room and vending machines that sell amenities, food and drink.

I hardly saw any human staff when I was there, which definitely made for a different hotel experience. Entering the room could be done by a simple swipe of the keycard or by face recognition which I had the thrill of setting up and using. In the room, there were minimal light switches and a talking robot that could answer simple questions in Japanese and perform simple tasks. There is a restaurant a short walk from the hotel that offers buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Dinosaur check-in staff
Robot cloak room - deposit your bag on the right and the machine does the rest
Check-in in progress
Inside the room with Churi-chan, the talking robot, on the night stand

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List of Posts:
2017/07/24 - Remote Riches in Toyama
2017/07/03 - Spiritual Chichibu
2017/05/02 - Fuji Shibazakura Festival
2017/04/14 - Sneak Peek from Ginza Six
2017/03/21 - A bit of everything in Fukui
2017/03/13 - Nikko Toshogu Uncovered
2017/02/15 - Subculture in Ikebukuro
2017/02/07 - Travel to the Goto Islands
2017/02/06 - Nagasaki Lantern Festival

2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/12/19 - Winter Illuminations in Tokyo
2016/10/24 - The way of old on the Kunisaki Peninsula
2016/10/11 - Following the Tadami Line in Oku Aizu
2016/08/27 - Fool's Dance at Koenji Awa Odori
2016/08/16 - The three sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan
2016/06/20 - Train travel into the Ise-Shima region
2016/04/03 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2016/03/08 - The hunt for Namahage on the Oga Peninsula
2016/03/02 - Sake Sangria
2016/02/20 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2016/01/26 - Tour de Reinan: Obama, Oi and Takahama
2016/01/25 - Tour de Reinan: Tsuruga, Mihama and Wakasa

2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/10 - 48 hours in Tokushima
2015/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Kankakei
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2015/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2015/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2015/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Dazaifu
2015/10/28 - The 44th Tokyo Motor Show
2015/10/21 - Hirado, where East meets West
2015/10/20 - Kujukushima Islands and Winter Illumination at Huis Ten Bosch
2015/10/19 - Navigating the Christian sites in Nagasaki
2015/10/18 - Cosplay at Haco Stadium Tokyo
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Route 292
2015/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2015/09/24 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2015/09/16 - Nakanojo Biennale 2015
2015/08/19 - Traditional culture and hot springs of the Aizu Region
2015/08/17 - Nature and Hot Springs at Naruko Onsen
2015/08/04 - Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 2015
2015/04/30 - Sapporo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/29 - Hakodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/23 - Kakunodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/22 - Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/21 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/16 - Sendai Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/09 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/08 - Fukushima Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/06 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/02 - Nara Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/01 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/31 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/27 - Fukuoka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/26 - Kumamoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/25 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Sendai
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Tokyo
2014/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2014/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2014/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2014/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/10/31 - Autumn Color Report: Karuizawa
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2014/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2014/10/01 - Autumn Color Report: Oze National Park
2014/09/29 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/06/19 - Toranomon Hills opens in Tokyo
2014/04/24 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/23 - Morioka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/22 - Aizu-Wakamatsu Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/16 - Matsumoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/15 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/14 - Yoshino Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/13 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/12 - Kanazawa Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/10 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/06 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/05 - Hiroshima Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/04 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/02 - Nagoya Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/31 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/26 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/04 - Early Tokyo Blossom Report