14 Jul
Days adrift.  Click here to see our best and worst experiences so far.
Number of flights.  Click here to go to the itinerary page.
Bus, train and taxi rides.  Click here to see all posts relating to transport. (56 posts)
Miles walked.  Click here to see all posts relating to walking and trekking. (43 posts)
Countries visited.  Click here to see what we think of them. (14 posts)
Number of species spotted.  Click here to go to our wildlife page.
Photos taken.  Click here to go to the photo gallery. (94 posts)
Rainy days.  Click here to find posts relating to the weather. (50 posts)
Number of times scammed.  Click here to read all about it!  (2 posts)
Otters spotted.  Click here to go to our website about otters: amblonyx.com
...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

7 November 2015


10 October 2015

It’s surprising that the Japanese, who have taken toilet seat technology to a level not even dreamed of in other countries, also have some toilet facilities (in cheap restaurants or temples) that still have the eastern squat toilet. There seem to be plenty of other instances of this – where Japan seems very high tech on the one hand, but also less modern in other ways. Some of this sense must be more about my own western view of what is modern, but every single set of roadworks we’ve encountered has men with flags at either end to control the traffic rather than mobile traffic lights. And signs in stations and cities are often simple print-outs laminated in plastic; the kind of notices a receptionist might put up in an office. Public signs in England are invariably professionally produced (presumably with all the cost entailed)… you can decide whether that example is modern or simply wasteful.

DVD players have nothing on Japanese loos

DVD players have nothing on Japanese loos

Today we took a ferry over to Shimabara, a port town in the shadow of the volcano Unzen. Having only a few hours we probably shouldn’t have bothered with the long looong loop road around the volcano, though it did at least get us close enough to see the craggy dome formed by the most recent eruption in 1990. But it left us only an hour or so to find lunch. The little Shimabara tourist brochure we picked up made it sound like a town of numerous culinary specialities, but in the event we only found one shabby looking restaurant that did a dismal version of the local “guzoni” broth, and a bowl of the sweet but uninteresting “kanzarashi” (balls of rice flour in cold sugar syrup – mmm!). So: a long drive and a poor lunch, not really a great day out.
Dank lunch, Shimabara

Dank lunch, Shimabara

Back in Kumamoto we went for a stroll and found that we had happened completely by chance upon “Waterlight”, an annual festival in the city. There was taiko drumming from various local groups with the castle for a backdrop, lots of delicious snacks and sake on sale from stalls in the courtyard, an atrocious rock band playing another part of the castle, an odd procession of princesses in huge clogs to the sound of a shamisen orchestra, more snacks being sold by the shops nearby, and the centrepiece which were thousands of bamboo and paper lanterns filling the area around (and in) the river at the foot of the castle.
Drummers in front of the castle

Drummers in front of the castle

We ate plenty of yummy stuff: delicious beef and onion noodles, octopus balls (tako-yaki), chestnut buns with tea, local sakes, sea urchin croquettes, and others I forget. Taking one last wander around the mall later I managed to arrange an accidental yakiniku! It had seemed a nice idea to finish our visit to Kumamoto with a final nibble of horse sashimi and a drop of sake… but I misunderstood the pictures outside the little restaurant we picked and ended up with a whole load of cuts of marbled beef to be grilled ourselves on a little stove on our table (yakiniku = you grill your own meat). Oh well, at least it was delicious!
Waterlight lanterns

Waterlight lanterns

I have enjoyed Kumamoto. The day trips out have all been quite low-key, rather short on wonders, but it’s the city itself that I’ll remember best. It’s just a typical provincial city, albeit with a castle, but it’s certainly not a place at all geared for tourists like Kyoto or Nara. Rather like someone coming to England on holiday and visiting Shrewsbury (something I would thoroughly recommend to anyone visiting the UK).


Leave a Reply