All posts by rhubarb

Heading Home

Another early morning greeted us so that we could grab a taxi to the train station, hop on a train to the airport, then catch our flight to Dallas, then switch planes to fly to Pittsburgh. Before checking in to our flight, we picked up all the bags and boxes Gale put in storage so we can have them as checked bags for the flight.

The flight back was uneventful, if not a bit cramped for the amount of time we need to sit in the same spot. It’s good to be home!

Day 14: Nagasaki

We woke up early this day to pack up and head to Nagasaki. We visited a couple museums related to the atomic bomb dropped there. We then had a picnic lunch in the peace park. The park had many statues and  sculptures that were donated to Japan from various countries. Another park we visited had a memorial at the hypocenter of the explosion.

We then took a bus ride to the airport and flew back to Tokyo. Tomorrow we fly back to the US.

Day 13: Gorgeous​ Gorge

I found a place that was advertised as the Grand Canyon of Japan. The reviews were all 5 stars, so we decided to take the 3 hour bus ride (one way) to the gorge. I heard it was small, and it was, but I think it was worth doing once. We rented a row boat and paddled up and down the gorge including past some waterfalls. We ate lunch at a place that slides noodles down a bamboo water chute and you need to catch them with your chopsticks. We opted to just have them served to us normally given our lack of skills with chopsticks and not really understanding what that option was about. We then proceeded to hike a trail following the river that runs through the gorge. The trail then split off and lead to a shrine with giant ancient cedar trees. The three hour bus ride back to Kumamoto ended our tiresome, but good day.

Day 12: Musashi Miyamoto

My favorite movie trilogy is called The Samurai Trilogy. It is about the life of a samurai that lived in the 1600s named Musashi Miyamoto. He won over 60 duels in his lifetime including his most famous Ganryu duel against one of Japan’s top swordsman of the time. In this duel, he used psychological tricks on his opponent, such as showing up late (extremely rude and probably angered his opponent). As he was being rowed out to the island where the duel was to take place, he picked up a piece of driftwood and carved it into a sword with his metal sword, then proceeded to use the wooden one for the duel. Historians also theorize that showing up late allowed him to have a stratigic position as both the water and the sun were at his back for the duel. Mushashi won the duel with a single blow that killed his opponent. After winning, he retired from dueling and took up the usual hobbies of painting, meditating, etc. He also spent the last year’s of his life in a cave writing a book, The Five Rings (an art of war style book).

It isn’t often that a samurai gets to retire, so I found it interesting to learn more about his life. We visited the cave where he wrote his book. It still remains pretty far from the closest city. Other important people have used the cave throughout the years (both before and after Musashi was there). The path leading to the cave has 500 statues, all unique, that are scattered all over the place. Just outside the entrance to the path, there was an antique shop / cafe. Both the food and atmosphere was great. It was a unique experience for the trip.

On the way back into Kumamoto, we stopped at a museum of art which had on display Mushashi’s swords, including the piece of driftwood used in the Ganryu duel. They had a few of his paintings, which were very good. We bought a book of his artwork. We stopped at another cafe just outside the museum, which was filled with artistic trinkets. This place was also very nice.

Day 11: Disaster At Kumamoto Castle

About a year ago, a 7.0 earthquake occurred under Kumamoto. The quake damaged several of the buildings within the castle and toppled many of it’s walls. We walked around the perimeter of the castle walls as the castle itself is closed during repairs. Many of the cherry blossoms were blooming which gave the scene a contrast between the disaster and beauty. Much of the rubble is still in place where it fell, while other rocks have been cataloged and moved to a field until they can put them back. They estimate the repairs to be finished by 2036.

Afterwards, we went to a park where there was a lake with many birds. The trails around the lake were relaxing. There was also a man-made hill that was roughly in the shape of Mt Fuji.

Day 10: Another Day In Kyoto

For our second day in Kyoto, we visited a temple that had about a bagillion temple gates. Temple gates are basically a really large pi symbol that you walk through. Most temples have one or maybe a small handful spread out over the complex. This area had them lined up back to back for about a mile (a guesstimate).

Next we explored the Uji temple. The center building had pheonixes on the roof and a very large Budda statue inside. We didn’t go inside, but we saw pictures of the statue.

From here we walked to the Tale of Genji museum. Along the way we saw some birds that were caged up. I think a guy there was trying to tell us they used the birds for fishing, but I’m not quite sure how that works other than if the birds coughed the fish back up… Which is what the guy was mimicking. The guy also had a pet parrot in a  pet carry case. It was pretty random. Anyway, the Tale of Genji is considered the first novel ever written. It was written by a Japanese woman a long time ago. It was a good museum. I’ll have to read the books sometime.
That night, we hopped on a train for our next destination, which is the place I am most looking forward to explore – Kumamoto.