Kyushu is the southern-most of Japan’s 4 main islands. Our visit included Kumamoto, Kagoshima, Chiran gardens and Makurazaki. I enjoyed visiting all the sights, including the beautiful pottery and glass works in the factory showroom. The walk through the gardens of the Samurai homes was wonderful. The simplicity of the design of the homes and the gardens was peaceful and calming, even on a hot afternoon. We were fortunate to be able to visit with one of the descendants of the Samurai who explained the past and current life styles.
The Ibusuki Hakusuikan, which had both Japanese and western style sleeping arrangements, was very impressive, including the location, the museum, the food, the hospitality and the accommodations. I particularly enjoyed the sand baths, hot pools and the spa. The tour of the museum, with its beautiful ceramics and other art works, was fascinating and unusual to find in a hotel.
The castle and the park of Kumamoto are very beautiful. The visit to the restored castle with its high walls and the stroll through the gardens with their blue herons, koi and turtles were highlights of the visit.
We also visited the Meiji-Gura, an exhibition for making “shochu,” a distilled spirit made from sweet potatoes. The shochu has a distinctive taste which I quite enjoyed.
Mount Sakurajima can be seen across the strait from Kagoshima. It is an active volcano. We saw it shrouded in clouds but, on a clear day, one can see volcanic smoke spewing from the crater. Even shrouded in clouds, it is a magnificent sight.
Osaka and Kyoto
Our tour group also visited Osaka and Kyoto; they are more familiar to many people. The Osaka castle and a stroll around Dotonbori, a neighborhood with many restaurants and great shopping were the highlights of our visit to Osaka.
In Kyoto, we walked through the Gion area where, at night, it is possible to see geisha. The geisha are the superbly trained and famous women whose singing and dancing performances are so highly praised. We had the privilege of spending an evening with maiko, geisha in-training, watching a performance and then speaking with them through a translator and learning about how they were chosen to become geisha and the dedication and investment necessary to enter this honorable profession. Other wonderful experiences of our visit to Kyoto were the tea ceremony and the zazen meditation experience at the Kodoiji Temple.
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