Kumamoto, room with a view

Day 3

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View from my room

In Kumamoto, we were very pleased staying at the KKR Kumamoto, our room with a view of the castle. It was a 5 mins uphill walk from the tram station and the main shopping street. Quite a distance from the JR station -20 mins by public transport. Since I’d had my shopping fix in Tokyo and Fukuoka, the cultural experience was more important.

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The hotel was less than 5 minutes walk to one of the entrances to the castle, the Prefecture Arts and the Traditional crafts museum. It’s a 9 min walk to Shimtori, the sheltered mall where you get lots of eating places including yakitori at cross sections of the street malls.

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Wang Zhaojun

Why visit Kumamoto
Having visited the Osaka and Nagoya castles, I would still recommend visiting this castle built in 16th century and recently renovated. Most of the sights close at 6pm and stop admission at 5pm. Castle deserves a good 2hrs.

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Beautiful detailing on ceiling

My favourite is the room with painting of the Chinese princess Wang Zhaojun. A volunteer guide told us that the Chinese name for Zhaojun sounds like Shogun. Behind the screen sat many warriors who would spring out to defend their master.
http://www.manyou-kumamoto.jp/en/plan-your-visit/honmaru-palace-hall.html

Who is Wang Zhaojun
She’s one of the 4 beauties in ancient China who played major political roles. Wang voluntarily married Chanyu, the chieftain of the Hun in an era of political alliance through marriage. She is revered in history for her bravery, loyalty to Chinese emperor and a symbol of cohesion. The artwork is reminiscent of a time when Japanese culture was heavily influenced by China.

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Cons of the hotel
It’s 9 mins walk from the nearest tram station. So it’s better to get a taxi from the train station.

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Getting around
Within Kumamoto, tram is fast and cheap especially if you get a day pass. Includes 100¥ off castle entrance fees.

From Kumamoto as a base in middle of Kyushu , our plan was to drive to Takachiho gorge. (Public bus available by SunQ).
http://jprail.com/destinations/kyushu-area/my-trip-to-takachiho-how-to-access-to-takachiho-how-much-can-we-use-japan-rail-pass.html
http://www2.tocoo.jp/en
Our initial preference was to book through Toyota but as we cant read Japanese, our only option was to make a IDD phone reservation or do so when we arrive in Kyushu. I didn’t want to wait for the possibility of no available cars so we booked in Singapore and a few companies had English websites such as Nippon rent a car. In Furano Hokkaido, the Toyota car rental had many cars available on site just beside the JR train station. Not so in Kumamoto and Fukuoka. You have to pre-book and reserve.

Eventually we went through Nippon Rent a Car via the tocoo website as they allowed English online booking and pick up from Kumamoto and drop off at Hakata JR station for a fee. (Another reason to stay near the JR station.) They have drop off points opposite the JR stations. Very convenient.

Driving is expensive with extras thrown in like snow tire, insurance coverage and English translation services – just in case you get into trouble. But you never know. But as the weather was turning cold, I am grateful not to have to wait for the public bus in the cold.

When we booked online for a 1.5 litre prius, we were told it was available. Closer the date only a 1.8 or 1.3 litres was available. Although we were glad we got a 1.8 litres because of the hilly terrain through Mt Aso. The Toyota Prius went through beautifully. Not sure why the car rental said we had to get snow tires even as it was not snowing. Destinations are programmed through phone numbers. So it’s important to take down the phone of the hotel and any destinations.

The Y5 buddy was silent for 3 days from Kumamoto through the mountains and Kurokawa onsen. We depended on the Ryokan’s WiFi network so the English GPS was indispensable. Never get a WiFi router for the mountains and Australia. No coverage. For 2 persons travelling, I’ll buy a SIM card in future. Although the disadvantage is that for hot spot it drains the battery.

This is a good website comparing pros and cons of WIFI vs SIM card. I couldn’t get access to my WIFI in the mountains or Ryokan. Could be my particular provider Y5 buddy.
https://www.sakuramobile.jp/japan-wifi/prepaid-sim-cards-or-pocket-wifi-in-japan-which-device-is-best/

If you’re fascinated by trains, there’s a variety of speciality trains to take. But check out their schedule as they don’t run everyday. The SL Hitoyoshi and Aso Boy have their fans so reserve seats early to avoid disappointment.

https://www.jrkyushu.co.jp/english/train/sl.jsp

Highly recommend the Taiwanese travelogue 九州大人理想的休日 by Milly.

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Horse meat

Try BBQ horse meat. Good quality ones can be flavourful, sweet and tender almost.

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Bottom picture: delicious Japanese breakfast spread at KKR Kumamoto. Quality of the dishes not expressed through the photos. There’s fresh blueberry and raspberry jam. Try the Aso milk and yogurt and the local mustard lotus root at bottom right. Legend has it that a monk cured one of the samurai by recommending this dish. (Chinese believe that stewed lotus root removes toxin from the body.) The mustard is very spicy.

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6 thoughts on “Kumamoto, room with a view

  1. Hi, I am planning a self-drive Kyushu holiday in April & really glad to come across your blog. Can I check with you on a few things? I am planning to drive from Kumamoto to Takachiho Gorge to Mt Aso to Kurokawa Onsen or Beppu in one day – is it do-able? How would you describe the road condition to the Gorge and Mt Aso (not sure if you have been to Cing Jing in Taiwan? that mountain road is full of sharp and steep bends). Would appreciate your advice.

    • I went to Cing Jing in 1995. Probably it’s improved over the years. So I think the roads in Kyushu are better. And very scenic.
      Is it do-able. My husband is not a long distance driver. So it’s very tiring for him. There was just 2 of us. I’m only a cheerleader. Even if you’ve 4 drivers, each way takes 1 hr. Most attractions close at 6pm. How do you budget for meals?

      • Thanks for your reply, Joanne. If we set off early, like 8am, from Kumamoto, it is do-able, right? I don’t understand the question about meals.

      • I went to Cing Jing in 1995. Probably it’s improved over the years. So I think the roads in Kyushu are better. And very scenic.
        Is it do-able. My husband is not a long distance driver. So it’s very tiring for him. There was just 2 of us. I’m only a cheerleader. Even if you’ve 4 drivers, each way takes 1 hr. Most attractions close at 6pm. How do you budget for meals?

      • Each meal takes about 1hr at least right ? Waiting for the food to be served? Enjoying the experience ?

        Enjoying the walk around the place? The 4 places you described – we didn’t go to Beppu, but we took about 3 days for 3 places – 1 day for each, whereas you are doing all in 1 day.
        Sounds rushed to me – even if it’s do-able physically and weather permitting. There weren’t many cars when we were there.
        We took many photos and took long walks even though I didn’t post many.

        I lived in Taiwan for 3 years. Taiwan from the past, has small plots of nice view that fit the camera. But the camera doesn’t take in the rubbish piles next to it. You take photo and go. Japan countryside I feel is different. For me, the entire landscape is so relaxing and breathtaking that I want to absorb the entire countryside experience. The weather was beautiful when we were in Kyushu.

        Maybe I’m not the right person to ask because I like to do it slow.

        So give it at least 1.5-2 days for 4 places. Try the milk and dairy products in that region. Some Korean tour bus did this whirlwind journey as you described in 1 day.

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