Tuesday, June 20, 2006

kyushu-oita & kumamoto

We had a nice 3-day weekend. Satoshi got to take a day off for his birthday, so we went to Kyushu.

Day 1: Our trip started on Saturday and we flew to Kumamoto. The weather was unfortunately rainy. We rented a car and headed towards the town of Aso--which is located inside of a big caldera. Surrounding the town of Aso are 5 mountains--Nekodake, Takadake, Nakadake, Kijimadake & Eboshidake. Inside of this caldera is an active volcano called Mt. Aso. The road to the crater and ropeways were closed to the public due to the weather, so we made our way back down the winding mountain road and went to look for lunch.

Lunch was at a cute little restaurant we found by accident called Linlin. They specialize in pizza and coffee. This older couple runs this restaurant out of their home. They have a beautiful garden and a wonderful view of the 5 mountains. The owner cures his own bacon and uses only mineral water for his pizza crust. The pizza was really tasty and everything was fresh.

After lunch we went to a lookout point called Daikanbo. This lookout point was great, you could see the 5 mountains. Actually standing at the top of this area it felt like you were at the top of the world. Really breathtaking view!

We then made our way to the inn--Yusai. This inn is located in an onsen (hot spring) area called Kurokawa. Kurokawa is a very luxurious area in the Kumamoto prefecture that has managed to keep commercialism out as much as possible. Our inn had a facelift done recently. The lighting is very soft but has a really nice style about it. There were about 6 hot springs within the facilities! As we walked around before dinner, we found a cute little pastry shop, Patisserie Roku...we shared a great cream puff.

Dinner was kaiseki style. If you've ever gone to a Japanese inn, you'll know that kaiseki style can be the most elaborate style (I think) of Japanese food. There are LOTS of little courses to try and taste as you can see on my Flickr album. We were so stuffed, it didn't help that after dinner, the hotel brought us a platter of fruits, compliments of the hotel...(thank you!)

Day 2: Breakfast was again kaiseki style--very good and filling! We checked out and made our way to Yufuin. Yufuin is a little town in Oita prefecture. This town was recently featured in a soap opera that Satoshi and I watched. We drove around and found the Yufuin winery. This winery is located on the outskirts of the town area, and they have a great view of Mt. Yufu. We bought a bottle of their Merlot and a bottle of their Gerwurtztraminer (sp?). We then dropped off our bags at the inn-Shoya no Yakata. This hotel was amazing! It is a huge property located at the foot of Mt. Yufu (Yufudake) and has many bungalows. We then headed for town to look for lunch. Luckily, we found parking and found a nice place to have soba (buckwheat noodles).

After lunch, we walked around the town. It was a bit weird, the map we had didn't really match a lot of times and we finally realized that the town was so small that it couldn't really be mapped! Like once when the information center told us to turn right, we realized that it wasn't the type of "turn right" that we had envisioned. I think it is kind of like when you are driving in the countryside in America and they say "turn left" when you see the Smith's mailbox, or something like that. Anyway, we found the cafe that I had looked up on the internet, B-speak cafe. This cafe is located inside of the Yufuin Art museum and they have one of the fluffiest rolled sponge cakes I've ever tasted!

After our dessert, we found another shop that I found on the internet called Kotokotoya. Kotokoto is the onomatopoetic sound of something simmering. This shop specializes in jams. I bought the Yuzu (citron) marmalade because Oita prefecture is known for their citrus fruits.

Dinner was at the inn again kaiseki style. Boy, was it filling. After dinner, our waitress quietly told us that they would be taking some of the guests to see hotaru (fireflies). We were happy to be asked and excited to see them. It was the very first time for me to see fireflies, as we don't have them in Hawaii.

Day 3: After a very large kaiseki style breakfast, we set out to check out the rest of the town of Yufuin. But after walking around a bit, we realized that we had seen the majority of the town the day before, so we set out to Beppu. On the way to Beppu, we heard about the irises being in bloom at a park near a lake called Kagurame. The park was so large and there were many iris, but on such a hot and humid day, everything seemed to wilt, even me!

Beppu is a town that has many onsen (hot springs). It is also known for its "tour of hell" called Jigoku meguri. This is 9 hot springs which are too hot to enter for bathing and located at different places around Beppu. It was interesting to see these hot springs, but with the weather being so hot and humid, the heat from these hot springs were a bit much for me.

Our last stop was to see the carvings of the Buddha and another demi-god on the side of a mountain. This was called Kumanomagaibutsu. We hiked in about 300m then came the "stairs" it is actually rocks which form a staircase that shoots almost straight up! Luckily they have a hand rail to climb up and to climb down....At first when I saw the "stairs" I told Satoshi that I would wait for him at the bottom, but then I got up the courage to climb the stairs and I was glad I did. It was definitely something to see. Too bad this older lady spoiled the tranquility of it all by saying really loudly, "is this it? this is what I climbed up to see?"

All in all, we had a wonderful 3-day weekend filled with lots of good food, new experiences and great sights. I hope you enjoyed your weekend.

Hotaru no Sato Lin Lin
377-1 Koike
Aso city, Kumamoto Prefecture
Phone: 0967-32-3669

Patisserie Roku
6610 Oguni Manganji
Aso-gun, Kumamoto Prefecture
Phone: 0967-48-8101

Yufuin Winery
1140-5 Nakagawa
Yufuin, Oita Prefecture
Phone: 0977-85-5458

B-speak Cafe
2995 Kawakami
Yufuin, Oita Prefecture
Phone: 0977-28-8788

Jam Factory Kotokotoya
3037 Kawakami
Yufuin, Oita Prefecture
Phone: 0977-85-2203


Anonymous said...

I will have to keep all of these addresses should I go to Japan!

K and S said...

Hi Bea,

Yes, just don't come to Japan during the summer :) I'd suggest Spring or Fall as the best seasons here in Japan.

Take care.


Anonymous said...

natsukashii!! next time you're in aso-gun, go south of aso-san and you'll find tiny kugino-mura, where i used to live. they have a wonderful soba dojo where you make, cook, and eat your own soba...and then go to the world's largest outdoor stage (i kid you not)...and i sure do miss the onsens in beppu. sigh...

K and S said...

Hi Grant,

I wondered where you were taught at in Kyushu. I remember you telling me that you once crashed your car into a rice field during the rain and can understand why, those roads are narrow!

We have a restaurant in our shopping arcade that you can make your learn how to make, cook and eat the soba that you make.

We also have several hot springs nearby, so come visit us!!

Take care.