What is he doing all the way over there ? [04]

by Grungi

Well, no, you’re not dreaming, this is finally the follow-up to my articles written when I was in Japan last spring. I’ll try to dig up some of the more interesting stories from that time now almost lost in the mist of the past, mainly because SOMEONE is bugging me to see some more photos (also, sorry, but I’m going to skip a few days for which I don’t have any picture)…

Anyway, if you remember, last thing I blogged about was going into Takahiro’s family for a couple of days.

So let’s start from there.

Day 5 [03/05] : Journey into the morn

We had a whole lot to do that day… After waking up quite early (for a vacation), we embarked, Takahiro, his mother, his brother, Pascale and I, into a car, a started our journey around the surroundings of Kumamoto by going to a viewing spot in the nearby mountains.

There were wind turbines there. Did I mention that I find those very pretty ?

Then, the next stop was at a spring. Photographs can’t do it justice very well, but it was funny, as the water was coming out of the ground, through gravel. Bubbles ensued.

The spring was surrounded by a temple and a couple of buildings. Very relaxing atmosphere, and the weather was beautiful.

After praying at the temple, we were starting to get hungry. Not sure if there was a causality link, but anyway, we went to a nearby ramen shop where we had some finger-lickin’ good ramen. We were told it was a “special” kind of ramen, but as to what made it special… That’s still some kind of a mystery. But without delving further into the matter, we got into the car once more, for it was time for the “main event” of the day :

Yes, that’s the crater of a live volcano. It’s impressive. The smell is, too.

That was my first time seeing a live volcano, it’s kinda humbling. That is, until the wind carries the awful smell towards you. If you’re curious, take a sandwich with eggs in it, and leave it there for 10 days or something. It should give you a pretty accurate simulation.

Our noses (and lungs) were happy when we moved to another viewing spot, and then into a spa. Before you ask, no, I did not go to an onsen. That’s just not for me… But walking around the complex, lost in a deep valley, between trees, was a very relaxing way to spend the end of the afternoon.

A view of the spa.

We had walked quite a bit during the day, and I must admit stopping for a while to dip your feet in hot spring water was a real treat.

Then, the time came to go back to Kumamoto, where Takahiro’s family would join us for a supper in a nice restaurant. Well, to be honest, it was more us joining them seeing how we arrived late thanks to pretty hardcore traffic jams. The thing I’ll remember of this supper is Takahiro’s very extravert uncle, who amongst other things told me I used my chopsticks “in a very elegant way”. Not sure it was a real compliment though.

Need I say I fell asleep pretty quickly that night ?

Day 6 [04/05] : Castle in the mist

The 4th of may was the day we were going back to Fukuoka. But before that, we went to see Kumamoto Castle. 

Kumamoto Castle : black, white, and big.

 The castle, while kinda crowded, was beautiful. Of course, as most of Japan’s historical buildings, the castle has been totally rebuilt according to the original plans after burning down. Several times apparently. And in case you’re wondering how many people are needed to build that kind of structure, the answer is : a lot.

A whole lot actually. The names of those people filled several rooms in the castle !

 It was also a good occasion to discover how ninjas probably managed to infiltrate enemy castles. In fact, thanks to non-vertical walls, it doesn’t seem too hard.

On the left, Pascale trying to scale the wall. On the right, a sign explaining that it is forbidden to do so.

 All in all, a very interesting visit, thanks to all the plans and models exposed inside the castle. I just love looking at those.

Before hopping once more into the car that was going to take us back to Fukuoka, we had a last nice lunch in a … weird kitsch restaurant, then finally, said goodbye to our ever-so-nice hosts.

Really grateful for all they did for us during those few days… So many interesting sights.

Day 7 [05/05] : Through the looking glass

After that awesome, but tiring, trip, we decided to take it easy for once, and went to one of those crazy shopping malls you can find in Japan.

 Canal City. Yes, this is a shopping mall.

Canal City is built next to, you guessed it, a canal. It’s pretty huge, has got a nice HMV, and countless shop selling pretty much everything. There’s also a cinema burrowed in there somewhere. At some point, there was some kind of circus show going on.

Afterwards, we decided to go grab something to eat near the sea (we had some super spicy chinese-style noodle soup, simply awesome) before going back to Canal City to watch Alice in Wonderland, spending a few coin in an arcade, peaceful… WHAT. IS. THAT ?

Laugh all you want. This little guy was WALKING AROUND CARRYING A BALLOON. It freaked me out.

Oh wait, I know what it is. It’s Rilakkuma, one of Japan’s most popular mascot, whose name comes from the contraction of “Relax” and “kuma” (bear in Japanese). Relax ? Around this ? Honesty, I don’t know how people find it “cute”. I’m sure he’s planning evil things. Poor children… And the ressemblance to an infamous internet character sure doesn’t help.

The weather was nice enough to let us enjoy some pretty night views of Fukuoka. See Fukuoka Tower over there ?

Speaking of evil things, we found out that canal city is inhabited, at night, by robots… They clean the place, look like humans for no apparent reason, and speak to you when you stand in their way. Japan will probably be the first country to be overcome by robot overlords…

 [Tune in next time for some more !]