Thursday, August 2, 2012

Place #4: Kumamoto! 4カ所目:熊本!

We had a whole day to explore Kumamoto and its wonders before taking the train, ferry and another train to our next destination- Nagasaki. Of course, we hit the Kumamoto Castle first. If you manage to see me in the above photo, that is how BIG it is. Really, really big.


As one of the three premier castles in Japan, Kumamoto castle impressed us with its size, but also their stone walls. You could just imagine how much energy or tactics it'd take for the enemy to even consider reaching into this castle.


We climbed up one of the side towers- original from back then, 1607. It was hard to believe that it had been there 400 years and only the surroundings had changed so much. We saw countless little holes in the walls that they used as peek holes to check the enemies' arrival, as well as holes that were used to put in the weapons. 


Of course we climbed up the main castle tower as well (though that was reconstructed in 1960s). At the top was a gorgeous view overlooking the Kumamoto city and even the mountains far far away. It must have felt quite grand to be the daimyo and to overlook his territory. 


We also visited the Honmaru Goten, a beautiful palace where public administration was done and as well, people just lived the general life. The tatami rooms were huge and with a neat design- the rooms getting smaller and smaller the further one goes, but the ceiling getting higher and higher.



These rooms led to the "Shokunno Ma", the most highly regarded room of all- everyone can see that just by looking at it. The ceilings and the walls were covered in gold with beautiful intricate drawings. 

As you can see, we were felt right at home at Kumamoto Castle! ↓

After the morning at the castle, and lots of walking within the castle area, we enjoyed another local food- Karashi renkon korroke burger. Karashi is spicy mustard and renkon, a lotus root vegetable. The local Kumamoto food Karashi renkon, combines these two by filling the spicy mustard in the gaps of the lotus root.
The shop that specialized in karashirenkon had gone even further to create a recipe using this as an ingredient, karashirenkon croquette burger, to attract more young people and tourists to enjoy the local food.


And how was the taste? It was quite yummy- crunchy bits of spicy lotus in the potato mash in the croquette was interesting and definitely not something we had ever tasted before. But, it wasn't a jaw-dropper, like I'd die to eat one ever again.


What struck our chords more, touching our souls was the gift the hostel owner made for us. As we went to say goodbye, he handed us this little accessory for the phone. Made from a 5yen coin, called Go-en in Japanese, signifies also the other word Go-enご縁, meaning something like "meant to be" or "linked by fate". It was by fate that we arrived at his lovely japanese style hostel, and that we stayed there two nights. All over the place around this hostel there were little pieces of kindness, little pieces of his passion for the place, traveling and for his guests- and we sensed this strongly with just the 2 nights that we stayed there... looking back too, it was one of the loveliest places I have ever stayed in, and I am always reminded when I see this attached to my phone. It also leaves a new message from him- to treasure every person you meet, because you are "linked by fate" with them for some reason.


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