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Totes Kumamotes Good Time

What we did in Kumamoto

semi-overcast -25 °C

For our first activity, we both signed up to tie dye tshirts at our hostel. You haven't seen anything this crafty since Art Attack:

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Incidentally, the hostel owner asked us to hold up our tshirts so he could get a picture of us with them to go on the wall. There is a collage of similar photos in the kitchen. Emma misunderstood the instructions and started putting hers on, Ashton followed suit to keep her company. You should know we are going to look like the mega keenos in that collage of tie-dyers.

After that 2 hour arts & crafts extravaganza, we hit the road to Kumamoto Castle. It's fair to say that our map reading skills seem to have improved vastly as we walked to the castle without getting lost. Did we mention that it was fairly close and well sign posted (you can see it from the hostel roof terrace).

Until you reach the entrance of the grounds, it is difficult to appreciate how massive the whole grounds and structure are. You walk up a winding path with intimidatingly big walls on either side. The walls are so high about you, once on the path you can't see anything else but stone. The steps are enormous so you feel like a child trying to make it up them.

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We ventured around the grounds admiring all the different buildings. We went inside a hall area which would have been used as a theatre, a turret (1 of almost 50) and the castle itself. Looking at a scale model on site, it seems as if the castle and its grounds once took up around 1/5 of Kumamoto City. Internally and externally, the architecture is so different from anything we have seen at home. It made us a bit embarrassed about our own local castle- step it up Arundel!!

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We hiked to the top of the castle and entered the top floor, panting like a couple of asthmatic grannies but ready to enjoy the view nonetheless. As ever, it was spectacular. Wherever we have been in Kyushu, you can always seen the surrounding mountains on the horizon, covered in a sun haze and cloudy mist. It has a slightly magical feeling about it.

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We also headed to the Suizenji Jojuen Garden. This was built by one of the lords who presided in Kumamoto castle and took 80 years to construct in total. The site was chosen because it has fresh spring water which originates from Mt Aso, which meant they could use it for their green tea ceremonies. We think the healthy water has helped the inhabiting fish grow because the buggers were massive.

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As an aside, the bees here also reach outrageous proportions and we found out yesterday that they have a venomous sting. The bee dodge dance we do now when we see one makes apparent how scared we are of them.

The garden is beautiful and the landscape represents stops on an old road leading to Kumamoto, there is a representation of Mt Aso itself. See pics below:

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We have noticed in Kumamoto more than Kagoshima that people really gawk at us in a mouth open, unflinching stare sort of way. Most of the kids wave and say hello. It's quite fun but becomes borderline uncomfortable sometimes.

Another thing we noticed is that everyone cycles but no one seems to lock their bike up.

Also the roads here are INSANE! Bikes on the pavement dodge pedestrians by dismounting into oncoming traffic. Mopeds drive off the road onto pathways. At junctions, cars from all sides drive at once and there doesn't seem to be much of a system to it rather than weaving about what gets in your way. If there's road rage though, no one shows it, it's a honk-free zone. As a pedestrian, when you see the green walking man sign to cross the road, sometimes that still means cars can cross that section. You have to keep your wits about you!!

You'll be pleased to know that we are well and safe considering and excited about moving on to Nagasaki tomorrow!
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Posted by Ashton and Emma 05.10.2012 23:52 Archived in Japan Tagged garden castle kumamoto suizenji jojuen

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