Kyushu, Day 8: Kumamoto City

Not going to leave Kumamoto without seeing the Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece). Eiichiro Oda, the creator of One Piece, grew up in Kumamoto and donated a huge amount of money after the devastating earthquake in 2016.

MARCH 11, 2020

Not going to leave Kumamoto without seeing the MONKEY D. LUFFY STATUE (One Piece). Eiichiro Oda, the creator of One Piece, grew up in Kumamoto and donated a huge amount of money after the devastating earthquake in 2016. To commemorate his generous act, the Kumamoto government decided to build statues of the Strawhat crew in different locations in Kumamoto.

We went to KUMAMOTO CASTLE afterwards but we only saw the outside. The castle suffered serious damage from the 2016 earthquake and reconstruction is still ongoing.

For lunch, we went to MATSUYA and ordered gyumeshi. But our curiosity was piqued with the cheese hamburg so we also got this but for sharing. Sooo good! Even better than the gyumeshi.

Kyushu, Day 7: Kurokawa Onsen

The tour spots in Mount Aso though were still foggy so we abandoned the idea that we can still go here. Helen brought us instead to Nabegataki Falls.

We went to a good viewpoint after lunch and had a bit of good weather…

The tour spots in Mount Aso though were still foggy so we abandoned the idea that we can still go here. Helen brought us instead to NABEGATAKI FALLS. It is considered as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Japan, and it offers the experience of being able to go behind it.

It was a very fun experience despite the rain. At that time, I thought that if it was summer season, it would be tempting to have your feet dipped into the water.

Our next (and last) stop was KUROKAWA ONSEN, one of the popular hot spring towns in Japan. What is interesting here is that you can buy a tegata (wooden pass) which you can use to go to 3 different onsen in the town aside from the ryokan where you booked. There is a shrine in the town where used tegata can be used as an ema.

Near the shrine is a face steamer which we tried. Warning though that it gave off a bit of rotten egg smell.

Some more exploration of the town…

…until we reached this ryokan known for its hot spring with beautifying effect. They had a free ashiyu so we took a quick rest here. The temperature was bearable especially because it was very cold on that day.

Before going to Higo-ozu Station, Helen was kind enough to go to Ozu Central Park first so that we could check if Roronoa Zoro’s statue (One Piece) was already there. Unfortunately, nope.

We said our goodbyes then C and I had dinner in Ippudo. I tried the tantanmen – it was delicious but I still prefer my all-time favorite shiromaru. Hehe.

Kyushu, Day 7: Aso Tour

We met again with Helen (Explore Kumamoto) to do the full-day tour on Mount Aso. However, we had bad weather as it was raining and quite foggy. Good thing Helen was prepared with a back-up plan!

MARCH 10, 2020

We met again with Helen (Explore Kumamoto) to do the full-day tour on Mount Aso. However, we had bad weather as it was raining and quite foggy. Good thing Helen was prepared with a back-up plan!

We went first to SHIRAKAWA FOUNTAINHEAD, Southern Aso’s most sacred and beautiful spring. Helen shared that this was one of Japan’s top 100 water sources and we could fill our bottle with the spring water. It was really nice that there was no weird taste plus the water was cold. Helen said that the temperature never changes.

Next stop was KAMISHIKIMI KUMANO IMASU SHRINE. Quite a mouthful to say but Helen asked if we knew of Hotarubi no Mori e. I told her that I watched it and it was good for a short film. Apparently, this shrine was the inspiration for the setting of the film and the creator, Yuki Midorikawa, grew up in Aso region. Midorikawa-sensei is also the mangaka of Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume’s Book of Friends), which I am a huge fan of.

The gloomy weather made the shrine look mystical and straight out of a manga setting. After paying respect in the shrine, we trekked uphill and Helen shared another folklore involving oni.

The previous day, I shared with Helen that my most favorite manga / anime would be One Piece… and she told me we can visit the statue that was in Aso. HUHU SO NICE!!! We visited Usopp’s statue!

There was a local grocery nearby and I bought this Aso milk cheese pudding (¥300). Not a fan of milk but this was super yummy!

For lunch, she brought us to 鉄板焼 阿蘇まーぼー where we ordered akaushi teppanyaki (¥1,700). The owner cooked our akaushi to perfection (medium) and the egg was runny, yay!

We spotted a shop nearby selling Cremia (¥500) sooo what else to do but buy, right?

Kyushu, Day 6: More of Takachiho Tour

After lunch, we visited Takachiho Shrine. The shrine is surrounded by Japanese cedar trees with the oldest estimated to be 1000 years old.

MARCH 9, 2020

After lunch, we visited TAKACHIHO SHRINE. The shrine is surrounded by Japanese cedar trees with the oldest estimated to be 1000 years old.

Helen showed us the Meoto Sugi, believed to be a male and a female tree growing side by side and married to each other. She shared that walking around the two trees 3x clockwise with your partner will ensure happiness.

As usual, I was fascinated with the ema designs…

Helen led us to the back area of the shrine and shared a story on how a god cut a demon’s body part to teach it a lesson never to come back. We also visited the theater where Kagura dance is performed every night.

Our last stop was in Iwato, to visit the shrine and cave associated with Amaterasu, the sun goddess and Japan’s most revered kami. We went first to AMANO IWATO SHRINE.

Helen shared the folklore on how Amaterasu became the most important kami in Shintoism – not gonna spoil it though! 😉 After visiting the shrine, we had a bit of a trek to reach AMANO YASUKAWARA CAVE.

Helen asked us to pick up a stone from the shrine entrance before going here, and the custom was for us to place the stone on top of any pile of stones in the cave. In this way, our prayers may be answered. We had to be careful not to knock down the pile because each pile contains prayers from different people.

We went back to Higo-Ozu Station and bid goodbye to everyone. Back at Kumamoto city, we had dinner at COCO ICHIBANYA and I got my favorite cheese hamburg with omelet.

Kyushu, Day 5: Kokutei Ramen (Kumamoto)

We ate dinner at Kokutei, famous for their Kumamoto-style ramen. Chicken is added to the tonkotsu broth and plenty of garlic is added – garlic oil and garlic chips. Right up my alley!

MARCH 8, 2020

How do you know you are in Kumamoto? When you see this mascot named Kumamon!

We ran a few errands after checking in and we found a great discovery for ofuro! It is called babu, a carbonated bath tablet. KAO is one of the popular brands for this and we bought the lavender variant. We used it every night and it was such a treat for the body ache/pain.

We finished around sunset and we decided to walk to our dinner place, which was almost 2km away. No regrets because we were treated to this view:

We ate dinner at KOKUTEI, famous for their Kumamoto-style ramen. Chicken is added to the tonkotsu broth and plenty of garlic is added – garlic oil and garlic chips. Right up my alley! I ordered their bestselling Tamagoiri ramen (¥1,250) and what was served was a bowl of ramen with pork fillets and two fresh egg yolks. The egg yolks added creamy texture to the broth which made it even nicer.

No ramen meal is complete without an order of gyoza. Nomnom!