Ate breakfast at the hotel and then welked to Kumamoto Castle, the special historical site of Kumamoto. Restoration of Kumamoto Castle began in 1998 and was completed in 2008. Architects and engineers referenced old documents, photographs, Donjon Confidential documents, Onjonai Onezu illustrations, and documents illustrating similar structures to obtain accurate historical duplication. Ideta Hidenobu constructed the original palace in 1467; Kanokogi Chikakazu expanded the construction to include the castle in 1496. Both the castle and palace were destroyed during the Seiman Civil war of 1877, and not rebuilt until 1998.
Around noon, Kanji drove on the toll roads from Kumamoto to Hakata where we had lunch at a sashimi bowl restaurant. We walked to a nearby Buddhist temple and viewed the gorgeous red, gold, and orange pagoda under full blooming cherry trees. We climbed upstairs to a large wooden Buddha, seated in prayer, and behind the Buddha was a passage way replicating the decent into hell; the pathway being completely black. Blindly we followed the passage to the end, eventually leading to the enlightenment (Nirvana), and bright light again.
We walked to the Hakata craft museum featuring local artists and designers of dolls, tops, boxes, and bowls. We talked with the artist in residence about his design techniques for creating dolls and the paints he uses, especially the red dye cochinilla. We watched a documentary showing the annual summer festival celebration, depicting the race of the floats: Giant dolls (mannequins) sit on a platform set atop long poles and 30 young, extremely athletic runners race around the Buddhist temple and the team with the fastest time wins. The day after the festival, a new team begins practicing for next year’s race and the artists begin working on the giant dolls for next year’s festival. They are always unique in design and function.
For dinner we treated ourselves to Ramen at the local food shacks, called Yatai and Nagahama after the local neighborhoods. Before tasting the ramen, we chowed down skewers of Yakitori pork, chicken skin, cheese and bacon, quail eggs in sausage wrap, sardines, Mackerel, compacted fish, daikon, potatoes, etc. Ramen here is the regional specialty, the soup base is pork bone. They steam it for hours and top the soup and noodles with green onion, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and 1 piece of pork.