No classes today, so Yoshihiro and I are off to Kumamoto Castle and then to Hotel Greenpia Minamiaso and the Unzen hot spring baths. It’s about a 4-hour trip without the castle stop time. It’s a cloudy overcast day as we wind thru the outer suburbs of Fukuoka, reminding me a bit of the English countryside. Yoshihiro pops an early 90’s Michael Jackson CD (Go figure) into the player and boom, we hit the expressway. As we pass thru the countryside heading south the sights are really interesting. Almost every bit of land that has not been built on has some sort of crops planted on it. At the same time we passed at least 3 mammoth Golf Driving ranges. They have 2 stories here in Japan! Moving further south we pass over the Chikugo River. After an hour we pull over into a rest station. Holy Smokes! The rest stop is magnificent! Clean, 4 kinds of restaurants, snack shops, a bakery, gourmet sweets, a drugstore and a Starbucks, the Rodeo Drive of rest stops!
We finally arrive at the castle. It’s quite spectacular, bigger than anything I ever saw in Europe. Dating back to the 14th century it occupies a huge tract of land. It is surrounded by a graduating series of stone bulwark walls at least 60 feet in height. There were originally 11 massive turrets defining the outer perimeters. At its highest point, the castle is set on about the square equivalent of two football fields. Before entering the castle you are in open parade grounds. I was able to talk Yoshihiro out of having my picture taken with the walk around characters. You did have your choice of Samurai, Ninja or Court Ladies, Renaissance Fair …look out! In the castle we scaled seven flights of stairs with museum exhibitions on each floor. At the top was the most magnificent of views. You could see for miles in a 360-degree advantage. I made a note to myself to look up more information about the castle on line. Of the hundreds of visitors I saw today I was the only non-Japanese person. So the information at the castle was limited in English. I felt like a character in a James Michener novel.
On the road again, I discovered a bootleg Beatle cd in Yoshihiro’s limited Cd collection. So we drove for the next hour up into the mountains to early Beatles, Perfect!
Arriving at the Hotel, it reminded me of the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia with the same magnificent view of the surrounding mountains. After a quick check in Yoshihiro and I headed for our suite. It took a quick phone call back to Fukuoka and Yuko so that I could correctly understand the kimono that I was to wear for my stay. You wear certain things underneath for different situations etc. really did not want to be caught blowing in the breeze at the wrong time if you know what I mean….. Nuff Said.
So we headed down to the Spa part of the hotel and the waters of Unsen. The Men’s section basically has three kinds of natural rock hot pools. One inside that is medium hot; the second inside one is very hot. Then if you are feeling brave you walk out side (Remember it’s winter and you are naked) to the outdoor spring that is really, freaking’ hot. Bring some eggs; hard boiling will not be a problem. I have to admit a daily soaking could be addicting.
Like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Numb, Yoshihiro and I headed upstairs to the library for some mind numbing Sumo television. Nothing like watching 400 pound men in g-strings kick the snot out of each other, to cap off a rather cultural day….Nuff Said!
My Japanese athletic education finished for the moment, it was now time for the feast that they call dinner at the Hotel Greenpia Minamiaso.
The 15-course meal was amazing. I promise to write more about this at another time it deserves it’s on chapter. Oddly it was all served in a restaurant with a German name and Swiss setting, go figure.
Not much or anything to do after, but then what else is there to do after a meal like that? So, Yoshihro watched TV, and I read Ben Franklin.
The Waters helped my feet and the meal sent me to bed by 9:00pm.