Our day in Kumamoto started out at the hotel where we got to the bus to head for Kumamoto Castle. It was only a short ride until we made it to the bottom of the castle grounds. When we started to walk through the parking lot towards the entrance, we saw a newly weds in complete traditional garb of kimonos and Katsura, to be photographed in front of the majestic castle in the background.
We then entered through the gate. The air was a little cool, but patches of sun peeked through giving a rush of warmth. Wind would pick up and blow cherry blossoms off the trees to their resting place in patches on the ground. The light pink color looked like splotches of water color in a picturesque setting of the castle grounds.
Kumamoto castle is a very impressive structure. It’s strength and dominance can be easily felt simply by looking at the stone curved walls that stretch upward to the crisp white color of the actual wall part of the castle. I don’t know why, but the architecture of the Japanese castles are so awesome, that by looking at them, you can be instantly transported back into time where Shoguns ran the show.
Walking around the castle grounds, we found our way into various buildings, taking off our shoes each time we entered a building. We saw amazing state rooms which were laden in traditional tatami mats that stretched for what looked like a football field, with gold embellished artwork as the background setting. The rooms were spotless, and oozed for formality.
After visiting and reading through the history of Kumamoto castle, we went outside to enjoy a picnic bento box lunch on the castle grounds. Shoko and I both noticed how ‘lax’ the rules were at this site. Usually, where there’s grass, you cannot sit. Where there’s a historical site, you cannot freely roam. Where there’s historical artifacts, you cannot touch. We were very much surprised that what was turning out to be a beautiful sunny day, we could sit on the grounds of the castle with the most incredible surroundings, enjoying a peaceful yet majestic day in a park watching people slowly roam the internal castle grounds like sheep grazing.
We then left the castle and walked around more areas of Kumamoto and researched a restaurant where we could try one of Kumamoto’s delicacies—Basashi—horse meat served raw like sashimi. After a trek back to the hotel to drop our things, we started a small walk to our destination of Mutsu Go Ro. Reading through all the signs of restaurant names is exhausting because they’re everywhere, and I’m decoding each one like morse code. Pachinko, nope, not there. Now selling socks and shoes, nope not there. Motsu SAN ro, darnit, was a close call, but nope.
We found the sign for the restaurant and went down into the basement to see what awaited us. Luckily it was not a long wait and we were seated at the counter within minutes. We were also quite hungry, so selecting a ‘Moriawase’ or chef’s choice was an easy way to go.
Basashi is something that you shouldn’t really think about to enjoy. While hay is for horses, it seems as though Basashi is for Kumamotoans, and it’s available literally at all restaurants. From it’s overall look, you wouldn’t really be sure of what you’re eating. It could pass as a fish, though a little darker red than usual.
Before this experience, I thought I had had horse before, but what I remember was cooked, and a little tough, which is what you would imagine from a muscular being such as a horse. But after dipping this little piece of meat into the sauce, and tasting the delicate softness of the meat, I was shocked that I found it as delicious as I did. While I’m still bad with organ eating (like livers, giblets and the like), I suppose I wouldn’t like the thought of Basashi. But after reaching for the last slice, I noticed I had eaten the majority of the plate J
After our dinner, we made our way back to the hotel and called it a night and got ready for a trip to Hakata the next day.