I’m on my last night in Kumamoto (熊本), where I’ve been on a business trip for the past 5 days. I left Tokyo on Monday evening after working as usual in Shinjuku. It was my first time to use Haneda Airport, so I guess that was kind of cool. I was a bit surprised at how smooth the whole process was. Since it was a domestic flight, I didn’t have to worry about showing ID ever, was only going for a short time so didn’t have much luggage, and slept the entire 2 hour flight. It felt more like riding on a local train than getting on an airplane. I guess since nowadays pretty much the only time I fly is to go between Japan and the US, I was mentally preparing for a huge ordeal of ridiculous security checks and other stupid warnings against the terrible threat of bottles of water.
Arrived in Kumamoto and hopped on the last bus from the out-in-the-middle of nowhere airport to my hotel at the Kumamoto Kotsu Center (熊本交通センター). The hotel was actually pretty nice, despite being so cheap. A big part of this was due to the fact that they didn’t have any single rooms available when I checked in, so I got a triple instead. Since it was 3 twin beds instead of 1 bigger one I guess that wasn’t so great, but my room was massive, so I think it was worth it. Got up bright and early Tuesday to start teaching. This week was a similar intensive seminar to a few I’ve done in the past, but my class this time was really young compared to the ones I did before for the same organization. That was pretty sweet.
Let’s see… what else did I do of note while here? I tried Kumamoto ramen, which is supposed to be famous. It was really good, but to be honest, ramen is ramen and I think local specialties are just another one of those things Japanese people like to harp on about. I did try basashi (馬刺し), which I understand being more special because it’s harder to find in other places. Basashi is raw horse meat, which sounds gross for two reasons (raw meat and horse), but it was actually pretty good. I tried 3 different kinds: straight up raw horse meat, raw fat from some part of the horse (near the mane, maybe?), and the liver. (see pic below) All of it was a lot better than expected, but also mega expensive. Tried some different Kumamoto shochus, fried horse cutlet skewers (串カツ), and another local dish called karashi renkon (辛子レンコン), which is lotus root stuffed with mustard. It was an expensive meal, but I talked to the mother and daughter working for like 2 hours while I ate, and then with some old alcoholic dude who showed up a little bit before I left.
On Thursday night I went out with my students to a nabe restaurant then karaoke, which was a lot of fun. With my students all being around my age, I think it was easier for me to hang out with them and not feel like I was just entertaining a bunch of old people. One student drank so much that the next morning during class he had to leave to go puke. I don’t think I’ve ever had a student do that, haha. I’m coming back here in January to teach the second half of this seminar, and I think I’ll have the same class. Either way they all want to go out again, so that’ll be cool.
I’m staying at the Kumamoto Royal Hotel now, which is nice and cheap but not as good as the Kotsu Center Hotel. The bathroom feels like an airplane lavatory and the location is a little further away from the main drag. It’s OK though, since it’s only for 2 nights. Today I went around to do a little sightseeing after sleeping a ridiculously long time. Waking up for 4 days straight at 6AM does that to you. I got to see the Kumamoto Castle (熊本城), which is “one of the great castles of Japan.” It was pretty sweet, but it started raining in the afternoon so I had to cut my sightseeing short at that. I did some shopping in the afternoon and have been spacing out for the past few hours in a Popeye net cafe. I’ll probably crash early tonight before waking up and flying back to Tokyo in the morning. Having a party with Matt and other old co-workers at night, then back to work as usual on Monday.
This was a good trip overall but I was pretty tired almost the entire time. I didn’t get any JLPT studying done, although I naively thought I would. Oh well. I’ll upload better/more pictures when I get home – these are just from my cell phone.