Saturday, August 1, 2015

14 Days - Downtown Kumamoto

The hotel manager sweetened my day so badly. After having driven us not only to the ryokan and to Aso station, she even brought us back to the train. I've never met a person laughing so often and sweet-hearted like a koala, and she bowed so much saying goodbye, gave us all a high five and some air kisses. I really hope she gets all this kindness that she pushes into her job back from her guests. 

Kumamoto Castle was quite funny - after being destroyed in Japan's civil war in the 1870ies, it was rebuilt in the 1960s with concrete. From the outside, it looks quite historic - but from the inside it looks and feel like a school or public admin building from the 1960ies. Fortunately they planned in an air conditioning system! On the castle's grounds you could hardly exist in the 35 degrees sunshine, so the air conditionned eating room was quite popular.

As I'm interested in architectural studies, I found the always similar Japanese
castle building scheme very impressive: As many roofs as possible, some side
windows in the middle axis on each side and these amazing sprawling
foundations that are defined in several stone order styles.

In the same breath we went for a walk through the wonderful Suizenji Park. The garden was created in 1636 and needed around 80 years to be completed. Its uniqueness lies in the (especially for Europeans) not directly recognizable composition: the multiple hills around the pond shall represent 53 stations along the ancient path from Kyoto to Tokyo. The best recognizable point is Mt. Fuji for sure, with its fluffy small trees symbolizing clouds around the summit (and an uncountable number of XL red dragonflies and cicadas).

For comparison click here

Next to the park's Shinto Shrine we washed our hands and mouth, more because it was so freakin' stuffy air, in a seemingly usual well. As we found out later, it happened to be a special well with "water for a long life", being fed from a 50-mile-long subterrain natural pipe from Mt. Aso in central Kyushu. Hope it counts for us non-buddhists as well.

Not my favourite insect, I have to admit

As I looked for a place to sit in the tram back from the park to our hotel, I thanked an elderly man in Japanese who moved over so that I could sit down. He immediately began speaking Japanese with me, and as an answer I said "wakarimasen", which means "I don't understand". Then he asked in not very understandable English where I was from, and so a conversation began. Mainly about our countries, how beautiful Switzerland and especially the Matterhorn is, how beautiful Japan is, what places I visited recently, and so on. He could even pronounce "Dankeschön" (ger. thank you). When I said it was too hot here for a Swiss person, he gave me his fan which I wanted to return in the last second before he left, but he just said "present!". What an incredibly nice talk, even though it wasn't too fluid, because he couldn't speak too well. When he left I just remembered that one vocabulary and screamed "hajime mashite" through the tram. No matter, the gesture is what matters and he really sweetened my day, what a kind and open-hearted man! These little moments really touch me.

Maybe the reason why all the people looked at us like omg what's that was my pink underpants under my white skirt or that we seemed to be the only Western tourists in town (there is a growing number of Chinese tourists in Japan). Or because we were arguing in front of a brothel whether to go in or not (there was a restaurant beneath). As the restaurant didn't seem to have an English menu, we decided to find another one. That took us quite a while, because it's difficult to recognize a restaurant when every shop looks the same, and we didn't find plastic meal displays either. Until we found our sushi restaurant, we came across four other brothels at least. Interesting prices and an interesting Japanese barbie girl selection that you could have a look at on large posters in the middle of the sidewalk. By the way we did not land in a tourist trap, because there are hardly any tourists in Kumamoto. Best sushi ever - with a large slice of fish on top, great selection.

Very surprising was the enthusiastic reception: never say again that Japanese are quiet and calm. Upon us entering the restaurant, the whole staff began screaming some hello-words towards us, and I admit I got some kind of scared in the first moment. The staff seemed to like us, and we were asked again where we were from and so on.

Maybe because it darkens at 6 o'clock already, at 10 o'clock the first freaky people appeared on the street - on a Thursday. The first persons that I imagined whole Japan to look like - or at least the youngsters. These three girls were styled so freaky: all of them wore so much make up and probably coloured contact lenses (Japanese girls seem to like this as I saw many). One of them got ash blond hair, and even though she and her friend wore really high platforms, like 15cm high but flat, no high heel. And they were all giggling. Another thing is that I will pay attention about is talking about other people: if you're not sure what language they speak, do not whisper! That's the most conspicious thing you can do. I experienced that in the tram back to our hotel, especially when I got up, two girls were whispering and giggeling heavily, probably because they were surprised about my height...

Yes, it's complicated sometimes.

Fancy bamboo forest, sticks with 10-15cm diameter

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