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Kumamoto 熊本市

August 6, 2008

I was in Kyushu, Japan from July 22nd to August 1st.  For the first part of the trip, I was in the town of Kumamoto visiting a Canadian friend of mine, his Japanese wife and their (not quite) two year old boy whom I’d only ever met on a webcam.

Since my friends were at work during the day, I had plenty of time on my hands.  This was my third trip to Kumamoto so I pretty much knew where I wanted to go.  The only problem being, it was hot the entire trip.  I don’t think it ever dipped below 33°C and went up to a high of 39°C on one day.  The only good thing is that it isn’t as humid in Japan as it is in Hong Kong so the heat didn’t feel quite so bad.

For whatever reason, Kumamoto was favoured by literary folk.  The two most famous being Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo to the Japanese) and Natsume Souseki (the guy on the 1000 yen note).  So, I went and checked out both of their former residences.  Sorry to say I wasn’t overcome with the need to spout prose.

Food is a huge part of Japanese culture.  We went for yakiniku (bbq done at your table) and shabu shabu (hotpot style of cooking) but Kyushu is famous for ramen.  The best place to go in Kumamoto is Kokutei (sorry, the website is only in Japanese but they have pretty pictures).  Chashu ramen (pork meat in pork broth) with a cold beer and salted onigiri (rice ball).  That’s heaven.  They’ve been in business since 1925 and are not to be missed but make sure you go early or expect to stand in line.

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