Kumamoto, a place that stole my heart the moment I stepped off the bus when I visited during my year abroad. With the top of Kumamoto castle peering over the edge of the trees, it watches over all of Kumamoto. My stay last time, however, had been brief, so when Chad suggested we join our friends on their Golden Week Kumamoto travels, I was overjoyed.
We were to set out the day after we got back from Kitakyushu, and the 5 am wake up call was less than desirable. So, a Gasto breakfast later, the four of us; me, Chad, Mamie and Ethan all crammed into Chad’s little car and off we went, following the wonderful Nakamura family, our party leaders for this mini excursion. Catching the ferri from Shimabara to Kumamoto, we arrived in the late morning, and already the city area around the castle was jam packed with cars from all over Japan. We even saw some number plates from Hokkaido!
With food on the mind we happily followed the Nakamura’s to a little Ramen shop, tucked away down some inconspicuous street. Chad was sweetly worried because I’m a veggie, and in honestly, so was I. Not that I told him that of course. Thankfully, I managed to nap some meat free cold noodles, and scoffed them down as well as I could, leaving only a little. We were, however, greeted by a surprise as we left, with a line of people queuing up down the street waiting to get into the small restaurant. Unbeknown to us all, Mr.Nakamura had cleverly timed this, making sure we got there before the rush of hungry people wanting to try some of Kumamoto’s finest ramen. Damn, if only I had payed closer attention to the name of the place!
It was then off to the castle. Just as it had before, the large , grand architecture of Kumamoto castle wowed me once more. I would have probably spend forever staring at it had The Nakamura’s daughter not attracted herself to me early on into the trip and was thus my ever playful companion. She dragged me this way and that and by the time we sat down for a drink I was beat. Thank go for Chad’s quick thinking, pulling up the games on his phone for her to play with, buying me ten minutes to have a reprieve. With winding staircases, far off views of buildings protected by mountains and golden walls that transport you back to a much different time, Kumamoto castle is defiantly a place I would recommend. Sadly, the small samurai show I saw two summers ago wasn’t on today; my new little sister would have enjoyed that.
We were soon off again, calling to buy some materials before making our way to our accommodation for the evening, a cabin near Mt. Aso. It was compact and cozy, with high ceilings and porch which I refused to step out on thanks to the millions of bugs gathering there. The Nakamura’s took the downstairs bedroom, while me, Chad, Mamie and Ethan took the two double beds in the loft. Our evening was spent playing Uno, dining on delicious vegetable curry (curtesy of Mamie and Mrs. Nakamura) and a lovely soak in the indoor onsen. Yes, you heard right, on top of everything, this place had an indoor onsen like bath, with windows that covered two walls, allowing us to see into the forestry outside. All in all, it was a perfect end to a perfect first day.