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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

3 November 2015

And then it exploded

8 October 2015

We hired our car today and headed off into the Kyushu countryside. This proved a tiny bit trickier than expected, as the SatNav that came with the car was entirely in Japanese. But with luck and persistence we found the option that allows you to enter a phone number (Japan has a neat system – if you enter a phone number into a SatNav in Japan, it’ll locate the building the number is registered to) and so we were off! It was just a matter of finding at least one phone number for the places we wanted to visit. Other than that, driving in Japan is a doddle – they drive on the correct side of the road, at sensible (slooooow!) speeds, and the roads are in perfect order.

So we went first to Takachiho, where there is a famous gorge cut through the basalt rocks and filled with a deep river, and where you can attempt to row boats along the gorge to admire the towering walls and the waterfalls. Suicidal ducks paddled among the wildly splashing oars in search of anyone with bread. It was quite busy… though not as busy as I’d feared. Good noodles in broth for lunch, at a grubby little place over the gorge – I swear the equivalent cafe in most other countries would have sold dispiriting and overpriced sandwiches and sausage rolls with nasty coffee. Touch wood, but it seems to be quite hard to find bad food in Japan.

Takachiho gorge from a boat

Takachiho gorge from a boat


Our second stop was Mount Aso, the gigantic caldera (collapsed volcano) in the middle of Kyushu that still has an active volcano in its centre. The whole landscape you can see in this picture is inside the caldera – it’s vast – and the craggy mountain in the background is the active volcano. We went as close as you’re currently allowed to get, whereupon it exploded. Actually, not really. That huge black cloud appeared suddenly but completely silently – just a great big poof of smoke, no explosion at all. It was really quite eerie.
A very quiet kaboom

A very quiet kaboom


Dinner tonight was at a really friendly restaurant called Aoyagi where among other dishes we got to try a local speciality – horse sashimi. The lean horsemeat was genuinely delicious, though I must admit that the “mane fat” didn’t really do anything for me. Kumamoto seems to be a well organised city, having one big covered mall that is the centre of the entertainment district; it and the surrounding streets are just packed with all manner of restaurants, shops and very dubious bars. Is a “ladies bar” a bar for ladies, or a bar containing ladies? Hmm. Anyway, for no good reason I find I like Kumamoto. Perhaps it’s the influence of Kumamon? What? Stay tuned…
Basashi - horsemeat sashimi

Basashi – horsemeat sashimi


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