Japan 2017, Kyushu-in search of the Kumamoto Aso fire festival, Japanese porcelain, warmth and a bit of rest

The trouble is, traveling by train in Japan with our rail passes is so easy that one is tempted to do huge distances without much thinking. So on the 9th of March we took the Shinkansen from Okayama to Fukuoka in northern Kyushu ( Japan’s most southern island), hired a car and drove inland to stay in a Hotel called Miyama Sansou, which we booked on the spur of the moment. Just as well because it is not cheap.  On the way we stopped at Dazaifu shrine to see our first Plum Blossom

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The hotel lies in the Aso  mountain range next to a river with a hot spring (Kurosawa Onsen), which the hotel taps into and so you have your own indoor and out door Onsen attached to your room.

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If you want to feel even closer to nature you can also go to the very large Hotel Onsen which sits in the forest with the river and a small waterfall cascading down next to you- pretty special and another recommendation from Marcelo.

The hotel food was divine as was the service and the staff. We made friends with Sayaka who spoke English as she had worked in New Zealand previously.

Unfortunately the official fire festival  during which the mountains are set ablaze in spring was cancelled or at least not happening until the following Saturday at the Aso Shrine, where the locals celebrate spring, the planting of rice and pray for a rich harvest by brandishing pine torches.

However the mountains around the hotel were burnt off on Sunday right in front of our little garden. Tony described it as a very Zen moment for him: only when he stopped looking for the fire festival on the nearby mountains did it happen-on our own door step.

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I was unsure whether the hotel staff arranged it especially. Anyway it was a warm sunny restful day which we spend reading on our little garden bench in our hotel lounge wear, theses clothes  one also wears to breakfast and dinner.

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Friday before we drove to the Aso Caldera which formed after a massive eruption of the volcano about 300.000 years ago creating a large depression which initially filled with water which subsequently drained and left a caldera of 120km circumference. The caldera is impressive and  can be viewed and appreciated from above. With in the centre several volcanos and one Mt Naka remains active today.

 

We could only partially access the area as there had been a massive earthquake of 7 on the Richter scale in April 2016 which meant that roads were still being fixed or closed, the gondola to the Volcano was closed and the main Shrine (seen here before and after) had collapsed. It had clearly been a big disaster and must have significantly disrupted the tourist trade. People were still all talking about it.

Next we visited Arita where the production of Porcelain begann in Japan We had after the discovery of Kaolin in the 17th century.

Much of the know how came from China and Korea. Dutch merchants  exported the Porcelain for the European market.

Arita has a nice Porcelain museum and not far from there we visited a traditional charming village called the hidden village of Okawachiyama where every house has a kiln and produces their own style of pottery and porcelain. Even the bridges are adorned with Porecain vases and tiles.

We are now in Takyama off to Matsumoto castle and Kanazawa tomorrow. XxF

 

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