Kumamoto | Of Castles and Black Bears

Mount Aso had just erupted over the weekend when I was making my way to Kumamoto. However, fears of volcanic ash blanketing Kumamoto were unnecessary as the volcanic crater had calmed down fairly quickly. Kumamoto’s main attraction is its majestic castle, which was built between 1601 and 1607 and housed the powerful Hosokawa clan (細川氏).

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Gyozaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

Beppu is not a culinary gem on Japan’s gastronomic map. But if there’s anything the Beppuites can boast about, in addition to Bungo-gyu (豊後牛) or local beef, it is their gyoza (餃子). Gyoza Kogetsu (餃子湖月), tucked away in a tiny alley of the covered shopping arcade across from Beppu Train Station, this mom and pop seven-seater counter shop has been frying some of the best and most crunchy gyoza you will ever find in Kyushu.

I had a hard time trying to locate Gyoza Kogetsu and it was only after circling the shopping arcade thrice and asking the proprietor of a spectacles store that I finally managed to spot this obscure establishment. It’s really tiny, and fitting six people is already a challenge, not to mention seven.

The gyozas are fried upon order, and a 1-person portion will reward you with 30 gyozas. Don’t freak out yet! Because the gyozas are small, an average person can easily polish off 1-and-a-half plate – that’s 45 gyozas!!! And in case you are worried about the oil, the gyozas are so daintily fried that they are crispy without the oil. Kick back on a couple of Sapporos and you won’t even feel the oiliness.

I gobbled down a double portion (i.e. 60 gyozas!!!) And while you’re there, drop by Toyotsune とよ常 (cross the small road in front of the train station, turn left and walk right to the end of the alley) for the abovementioned Beppu specialty – Bungo-gyu (豊後牛) and some superb lovingly fried tempura.   LS

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Bubbling Beppu

Beppu is synonymous with onsen, and the higher up you go into the highlands, you literally see steam rising from even drains by the roadside. Eight ‘Hells’ await you and while most of the more exclusive onsen are located in the highlands (i.e. the Myouban area 明礬), some are either too outdated or too exorbitant. For those conscious of budget but still desire a rewarding onsen experience in Beppu, check out Ebisuya Onsen (湯屋えびす), nestled midway between Yama no yu (山の湯) and the main bus stop at the foot of the Myouban hills.

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Hello world!

After not blogging for the longest time (and still a little rusty and unsure if I want to get back into this to be honest), I’ve decided I would give it a shot. I was really inspired by this blog called mykoreaneats which I stumbled upon while doing some research on the best places to feast in Seoul. I’m sure all the foodies out there will fall in love with mykoreaneats.

However, for lonesojourns, I would let my images do most, if not all the talking. These have been captured and exhibited only on Facebook, so it seems like a massive waste not to share them somewhere else.

I’ve titled the blog “lonesojourns” because it is exactly what it says. These images have been snapped during my travels, and I hope you would like them.

I have a special fondness for both Korea and Japan, so many of the snaps you’re going to see came from my sojourns there. Instead of the usual Tokyo or Kyoto sights, we’re heading to Kyushu. In my opinion, this is the most underrated island of Japan but also one of the most beautiful. There are so many things to see and do here, check it out!

Fukuoka / Hakata

Fukuoka, or Hakata as it is more commonly known in the olden days, is Kyushu’s largest metropolis. Its cosmopolitan vibe can be traced back to more than 2,000 years ago when this part of Japan was a lively trading centre at a time when much of Japan is ‘closed’ to the world. The city is famed for its devotion to ramen (ラメン), whether all under one roof, or scattered along the banks of the Nakagawa (yatai or mobile hawker stalls along the streets).

Sadly, when I visited, probably due to the cold weather, there are few of these. In any case, you wouldn’t be short-changed if you chose to dine at any of the famous ramen establishments – Ippudo, Ichiran or Ikkousha – yes, this Holy Trinity of Ramen all originated from Hakata.

Hakata has a lively matsuri calendar, which culminates in a mikoshi (gigantic portable shrines) race through the city (also known as the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri 博多祇園山笠) from 1- 15 July. Other matsuri include the Hakozaki-gu Tamatorisai (筥崎宮 玉取彩 – 3 January) and Hakata Dontaku Matsuri ( 博多どんたく港祭 – 3 & 4 May).  LS

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