Iki Island, though close to Fukuoka, belongs to Nagasaki Prefecture. It is home to beautiful beaches, quaint communities, and quite possibly hundreds of shrines. GenkiJACS routinely organizes student field trips here, and I was blessed with the opportunity to take part!
Katiya and I met in the Sharely Style lobby and headed out with enough time to allow for last minute “Wait, I forgot this!” moments. XD Once at Hakata Station, we found the bus headed for the smaller port (Hakata-eki Nishinippon City Bank Mae F) and hopped on. So many fellow students joined us that the bus was basically packed with foreigners.
It was colder by the water, and I was quite glad I had brought my scarf!! Otherwise, the weather was beautiful.
Demi-san did roll-call, handed out rental forms for the electric bicycles, and then we headed inside.
While waiting in the very long pre-boarding line (Japanese seem to like queuing up well before boarding actually starts; at the very least they will leave their luggage in a line to hold their spot), I spotted a convenient omiyage store that had tote bags.
Because I’d had to abandon using my purse, and I was holding a lot in my hands, I felt like it would be a good idea to go ahead and pick up a bag here, even if it was just a tote bag. The one I wanted was zip-tied down, so I got a Hello Kitty Kyushu bag instead. XD
Man, I was thanking the Lord over and over again for that thing the whole trip and afterward.
Hyun Sook, the student from Korea who did orientation with me on the same day, stayed with me pretty much the whole trip. She’s a mom and her daughter is in college (so a bit younger than me), and after she told me I reminded her of her daughter, I understood why she was probably hanging out with me.
She’s really nice and truly a mom—she kept taking a bag or two from me and helping me carry my stuff. ;v; I love moms. Moms are the best.
I also appreciated that she tried to talk to me in Japanese a lot of the time! Practice is good.
I started out excited, because this was my first experience on an ocean ferry. While the upper deck would have been more enjoyable with a better view, there were so many people smoking up there that I literally felt sick after a few moments.
Maybe that was what set me off, because I ended up nauseous for the duration of the voyage.
Thank the Lord I never actually got sick, but I ended up having to stand near the railing so the ocean spray and the frigid winds would whip into my face and keep my body temperature low enough to ward off the nausea. Before that, Demi-san came to check on us and suggested I go inside. But it was so hot and humid in there that I felt worse, so I didn’t even try. I just told him it would help more if I could feel the cold wind.
Hours dragged by until finally we arrived on Iki Island! A small welcome committee was there to greet us, and we all posed for a picture with the huge banner they had. Mario greeted us as well. XD
This was our ferry! Ferry Chikushi.
After getting things sorted out, we left our heavier bags in the back of one of the cars, and all piled into the tour bus. As we watched the scenery pass by, I was struck by how much it reminded me of Tennessee. The island has so much greenery, and large swaths of flat land, mainly home to rice paddies, which are broken up by green mountains and surrounded on all sides by a sparkling, blue sea.
It felt more like a lake to me, but it was gorgeous all the same.
Our first stop was a grocery and souvenir shop, where I picked up two muffins (not gluten or dairy free but there surprisingly wasn’t much I could get there, and I didn’t want to dig out my lunch to eat on the bus) and ate one.
Hyun Sook kindly also gave me a cookie, which I found out quickly was peanut flavored, but didn’t complain. (I’m not supposed to eat peanuts.)
On the way, Demi-san and the other trip leaders passed out a sign-up sheet for girls and boys rooms. Hyun Sook and I signed up to share a 3-person room.
Tatami mats! The door to our room was peculiar in that it wouldn’t lock from the outside—so you had to lock it from the inside and then pull it shut—AND it wouldn’t unlock from the outside unless you pushed and jiggled and banged it a certain way. The second day, the staff just apologized and told us not to lock it unless we were inside…
Once we arrived, we were given our room keys and allowed some time to orient ourselves before splitting up for our individual activities.
I filled out the bicycle rental form and gave it along with a copy of my passport (left over from my trip to China; thank the Lord that he gave me the idea to bring it!) and my payment to the leader. Then we got a quick rundown of how the bikes worked and where we could go.
The bikes were mamachari style (that is, with a basket) so I was able to put my bag, water, and camera in the basket and not worry about it weighing down my neck. Bikes have three speeds: fast, normal, and light (which is basically manual) and the batteries are good for about four hours.
One thing I discovered about electric bicycles: the motor helps a lot, but keep in mind that it’s still you operating it. When you’re pedaling up a steep hill or mountain (as we often were), the motor alone is not going to get you to the top. You still have to put effort into it and pedal like mad.
On the whole, I enjoyed the ride; I just wish the pack leaders, who were fellow students, had not been such intense riders. I wanted to take my time and enjoy the scenery, and had expected to have a professional tour guide take us to specific places where we could stop, take photos, and learn about the area. The whole self-guided thing didn’t work for me, especially because I had to spend my time just trying to keep up and not get lost. 🙁
Thankfully, we made it back before the rain moved in. (You totally can’t tell from the photos, but as time passed, clouds rolled in.) The winds were pretty strong, though, sometimes at 30 mph! I almost got blown over at one point, and I’m not even kidding.
After getting back, we had plenty of time to pick up our luggage, rest and recharge before dinner, but Hyun Sook and I couldn’t get into our room because our roommate had taken the key. (At this minshuku, you’re supposed to leave your key at the front desk because you’re sharing the room with others, but our roommate didn’t know that.) So we had to wait until she got back, because she was part of the bike-riding group that had split off from the rest of us and taken a different path while we were coming back to the “hotel.”
Once she returned, we retreated to the room. She went to go take a shower before dinner, while I ate some of my lunch because I didn’t want it to go bad.
In another part of the building, there are a couple of dining tatami rooms, where we enjoyed quite the feast.
We had the larger one, and our meals were already set before us, complete with name cards for those with a specialized diet like me.
Demi-san, Katiya, Hyun Sook, Sara and Stefan from my class, and another girl ate at that table, although only Demi-san, Katiya, and myself had special meals. Here you can see my potato salad in the middle, and…
Sashimi (sliced raw fish)
Hijiki (seaweed) noodles with fried egg
Grilled fish with salad
And inside this mysterious thing…
…was something like a fish and vegetable soup. It tasted amazing.
I gave Demi-san my sashimi and the bones of my fish. He, for some reason, likes eating the fish with bones and all! It was bizarre. He was polishing off others’ leftovers too. XD I ate most of Katiya’s untouched hijiki noodle soup (hijiki noodles are so good!) and Demi-san even ate the rest of that. Oi. This guy can eat a lot.
I opted not to go to the Kabuki performance happening that night because I was tired, but we couldn’t get into our room again (because, remember, when you lock it from the inside, it won’t unlock from the outside). Hyun Sook also stayed behind and sat with me in the common room with her legs in a massaging machine while we talked about lots of things: language, traveling, courage, and even some political stuff.
Finally, at about 9 PM, I was so tired I went looking for someone who could not only give us the key (because I had waited due to them being busy with clean up) but let us into the room. I was so grateful to finally get inside.
Sleeping on the floor, as a side-sleeper, is not exactly comfortable. I didn’t sleep that well because my hip kept hurting. It didn’t help that part of the group that came back from Kabuki stayed up past midnight, talking and laughing really loudly. It was only after they finally went to bed that I was able to get any sort of sleep.
Hyun Sook commiserated with me; the noise had kept her up too. I was disappointed in our classmates because most of the students are adults! I had thought they would be more considerate and responsible…