Beneath the Bear
Next step on the Kyushu odyssey was heading back inland to Kumamoto:
We stayed in the Ichiban-kan, an awesome, cheap hotel just near the station. If every hotel in Japan was 5000 yen for a double and had free washing and internet, there would be some serious staying to be done. Alas.
Lunch: Kokutei Ramen.
Tiny, crappy, dirty store that only sells ramen. AWESOME! We arrived at about 1, just after NHK had been in to do some filming and tell the country how fantastic this place is. The Kyushu ramen specialty is tonkotsu
, which basically means it's flavoured with pork bones and has cha-shu
, or pork strips, in it. The tonkotsu
at Kokutei is just cosmic. You can quote me on that. You could tell by the people lining up around the corner and the grannies who had probably been working there since they were hot young girls.
Kumamoto Castle was nice enough; for whatever reason, not as good as Himeji, but with the sakura blooming around it, it was tough to pass.
Suizenji Garden was also quite pretty; if I lived nearby I'd take a book down there on lazy Sunday afternoons.
In the evening it was the much-awaited arrival of Dan and Bron, fresh off their parent-entertaining trials in onsen town Kinosaki
In most largish cities in Japan, there's a free magazine called Hot Pepper, which mostly has discount coupons from restaurants - such as the 1000 yen all-you-can-drink all-night we enjoyed at Ohayo! Score! The Kumamoto special mustard lotus root (karashi renkon
) was awesome, unlike the off-milk Kahlua. Dan had a busy night between trying in vain to balance chopsticks (and getting sadly beaten by Kana) and trying in vain to beat muscular wait staff (and getting sadly beaten by them too).
Kumamoto: a nice town. Worth a visit. LP says there's a bar here with sand instead of carpet too.