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All the Way to Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle

A couple weeks ago (before the the Great Stomach Plague), Satomi and I had a Sunday with nothing to do. But with a new driver’s license in hand, I had great ambitions. We thought about taking a day drive maybe to Oita City (hour and a half south west from Nakatsu) or maybe Kokura (hour and a half north) … but it wasn’t enough. When you want to drive, then that’s what you should do. When you want to go far, then you should go far.

I thought that maybe three hours one way just to see a castle was a bit much. I thought maybe we should just settle for less, I guess because it would seem ridiculous to most people. I looked at Satomi and asked where she wanted to go. She was up for anything, even Kumamoto, so it was decided … mega Sunday drive to Kumamoto.

So here I’ll just lay out my message for the day: When you have a day off, you should do what you want, as ridiculous as it is. It’s your day, so screw all else if you can.

It’s not what you should do, it’s what you want to do.

…. I remember reading that in a manga a while ago and it really stuck with me. A young boy had taken over a giant mech warrior suit to save the city, and in the end with all his newfound power he asked his master, “WHAT SHOULD I DO!” “It’s not what you should do, it’s what you want to do.” the master replied.

So yeah, great life lessons from Japanese comics.

 

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So, we drove from Nakatsu on the coast to Hita City inland about an hour. The drive is beautiful passing through cherry blossom lined mountains on a small windy road.

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Coffee, my own music, driving. Despite the price of gas I do a good job about forgetting, it’s all so simple.

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We all have different skills and tendencies, I imagine. All of that can really come out in what we do with our free time. I’d say I’m good at rallying energy and trying to do exciting things, but I’m also really bad at just relaxing and enjoying the moment. My wife is completely the opposite. This often makes for the perfect balance … or the perfect storm! Today it was good.

I am as much a warrior learning the ways of marital arts. I’d say I’m lucky to have a loving and fierce partner.

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Is it just me or is driving in light rain and mist more fun than in the sun?

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From Hita we got on the expressway that would take us through Fukuoka and Saga Prefectures and eventually to Kumamoto. There was a scenic mountain route which would add an extra hour each way, but we just didn’t have that much time. I figured it would be the first time I’d see any of this, so no matter the road it would be interesting.

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Three hours later we finally got to Kumamoto City! I didn’t realize it would take almost another hour to get through the city to the castle. I was impressed with Kumamoto City, but damn it had narrow roads and lots of traffic. Within five minutes I remembered very sharply why I don’t want to live in a city. I don’t care what the city has, I’ll take my rice fields and country inconveniences happily.

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It was rainy in Nakatsu, and didn’t expect many people to be out driving, but in Kumamoto it was sunny, and we realized it was Sunday in peak cherry blossom season, which made the city packed, and the castle even more so. But it wasn’t overbearing, really, and to see the cherry blossoms at a time and place like this, it was definitely all worth it, if not lucky. People parked on tarps under the trees with picnic foods and beers … I have to admit I was a bit jealous and even contemplated staying the night.

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View from the castle.

 

They were having Yosakoi competitions, a kind of modern Japanese dance were large teams give elaborate dance shows. It’s one of those things that’s impressive for a song, but after that I think it’s mostly for the participants. I suppose I’d say the same for kyudo.

We went into the castle and I was impressed by the elaborate English descriptions. I’ve given up expecting good translations in such places, but I guess it is one of the most famous castles in the country. Saying that, it really is impressive and something I’ve wanted to see for a long time.

Kumamoto Castle

However, I’d still rate Matsumoto Castle in Nagano as the best I’ve seen. Most castles in Japan, Kumamoto Castle included, have been rebuilt using modern materials to look like they did in traditional Japan. What you usually get is an impressive image on the outside, and a carved out museum on the inside. It’s not bad, but maybe I’ve just seen to many. But if you can get to one of the few that have remained intact (a miracle considering all the earthquakes, fires, and bombings, these castles must have endured over centuries) that’s where the real treasure is, like Matsumoto Castle.

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But anyway, I was really impressed with Kumamoto City as a whole and happy to finally see Kumamoto Castle. Definitely be heading back again soon, maybe for more than just a Sunday afternoon.

Oh! Also found a really good local brew down in Kumamoto. I forget the name (damn me), but I’ll find it again and let you know. When I first came to Kyushu I asked people about local brews and heard nothing … BUT THEY ARE OUT THERE!!! You may not be able to find a top class IPA like I dream of (though Shiga Kogen brewery in Nagano comes pretty close) … but there are plenty of delicious local beers in Kyushu if you look hard enough. (Found others in Yufuin and Kuju in Oita … definitely will let you guys know some more info in the future.)

So yeah … do what you want when you can, cause it’s not always the case.

Go to your castle!

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