We awoke bright and early again to make a short hop on the train to Oita city from where we would get another coach across the whole width of Kyushu to Kumamoto. We didn’t have a ticket for the coach sorted before we arrived, so it required a little running around from the station car park which supposedly doubled up as the bus stop to a department store 5 minutes away which for some reason contained a bus ticket office.
The route from Oita to Kumamoto passes by the largest active volcano in Japan, Mt Aso, bang in the middle of Kyushu. It is supposedly a nice place for hiking, as you can get right up close to the crater if it’s not too dangerous and spewing toxic gases, but on our whistle-stop tour we couldn’t really afford the time to do that so we had to make do with a glance from afar from the bus window. The journey took about 4 hours in total.
Kumamoto is famous for two things: Kumamoto castle, and basashi. The castle is considered one of the three best castles of Japan, along with Matsumoto and Himeji, but sadly it was severely damaged in an earthquake in April 2016. When we went in early January 2017, access was still heavily restricted, so we couldn’t enter the grounds, but again only look on from afar. Although we knew in advance that it was unlikely we would get in, it was still a little disappointing as you never know just how bad the damage was going to be. As you can see from the pictures though, the damage was considerable and we can only imagine how bad it must be inside., and as ever o rht and ass ever for Japan beautifully coiffeured gardens
The Japanese absolutely love their food, and whenever I mentioned I was going to Kumamoto I was always told that I must try their local delicacy, basashi. Helen wasn’t really too keen on even trying it, as basashi is raw horse meat. We went to an izakaya for dinner as we thought that they must have it on the menu, but by some quirk of fate we must have picked the only restaurant in Kumamoto that didn’t have it! Or at the very least we couldn’t find it on the menu. [As an addendum, however, it’s quite easily found all over the country so I tried it when we got back to Tokyo, and it was delicious. A little chewy though.]
Also worth a mention in Kumamoto was the beautiful Suizenji park, an idyllic little haven in the centre of town.With typically Japanese stunningly coiffured gardens, it was a perfect place to rest and have a cup of matcha next to the picturesque lake.