Next up in our Kyushu trip was Kumamoto! We set off from Yufuin and arrived in Kumamoto approximately 2 odd hours later by car. Took a break from all that driving by refueling with a drink, coffee for us and apple juice for Bubba. She goes wild when she spy a packet of apple juice from afar.
We stayed at a friend’s place in Kumamoto for about 2 nights and did most of our exploring in the heart of town by foot over the 2 days. The first was a short one spent roaming around the 3 major streets at Arcade town located in central Kumamoto city.
Eating around Kumamoto
Food is strongly featured for a good part of our trip and we sure don’t waste time hitting the restaurants and filling our bellies. So here’s a short round-up of what we ate and thought was pretty good to share.
Ichiran Ramen! Our fave ramen from Japan and nothing was going to stop us from eating it. Quite happy that we managed to do it with Bubba. Even happier that Bubba actually enjoys the noodles.
I did a search and apparently one of the most popular items among Japanese Tourist is Bashashi (Horse Sashimi)! The thinly sliced raw horse meat is the most famous delicacy in Kumamoto. Well, it wasn’t the first time we had horse meat, I ate it once years ago in Slovenia. But horse meat sashimi style was a first and we decided to give it a try Benkay located at Hotel Nikko! The central location of the restaurant was a plus and it being child-friendly was a bonus. We had the Omakase dinner menu while Bubba sat in her high chair and ate her rice with chawamushi. When she got cranky, we had no choice but to whip out Peppa Pig to keep her entertained and not bother the other diners. It did work.
Speaking of pork, we did manage to find Kumamoto’s top restaurant ranked 1 on Trip Advisor – Katsuretsutei Shinshigai Honten. I’ve always loved Katsu and I was thrilled that there was one in Kumamoto that we could go to. We were worried about finding the place and arrived about 12.30pm. Didn’t take us very long to eventually locate the restaurant for that was already a long queue. We did contemplate whether we should just join in the queue and probably end up waiting for about an hour or to head to another place. Thankfully, we didn’t need to worry about Bubba for she was contented drinking her milk and since it was way pass her morning nap, I pushed the stroller around for a bit and that managed to lull her to sleep which meant, hands free eating of our meal rather leisurely without having to chomp our food down.
The long wait was worth it. The breaded pork was juicy and succulent and worth every bite. It didn’t have that lingering oily taste and when dunked with their special homemade tonkatsu sauce, it was simply delish. Man, writing this para and looking at the pic is making me very hungry now!
Looking for a restaurant during dinner in Kumamoto proved to be slightly challenging on the eve of New Year’s Eve. The Man said that we should just try our luck and head to the restaurant. I was against that because I didn’t want to have to deal with being turned away if the place was full. Well, he did take my recommendation to make reservations at Sairo. We called several restaurants but all were full so I was glad we could find Sairo – a Korean BBQ restaurant located outside of the city.
Again, if you want to have meals like Korean BBQ, I highly recommend that you sort out the logistics when eating with a toddler. The restaurant was somewhat child-friendly, it even had a play area for kids but there was no baby chair in sight. We had to seat Bubba next to me on one of the cushions. Again, w had no choice but to whip out Peppa Pig for it kept her distracted while the Man took charge of the tongs and did majority of the cooking. As to what Bubba ate for her dinner, there was a kids menu and we ordered some udon for her which she enjoyed. One thing to note that it can get quite smoky in the restaurant so be prepared to head home and dump all the clothes into the wash plus yourself in the shower.
There seemed to be quite a number of restaurants at Kumamoto. Unlike Yufuin where you can pratically eat along the way, at Kumamoto, some planning on where to eat would be best recommended. A tip on traveling with a young one and no time to make those reservations – simply head to a departmental store and find the level where all their restaurants are located. They are usually your best bet for being child-friendly.
Checking out the main attractions of Kumamoto:
The Man’s friend gave us a quick download of where we should go in Kumamoto – basically visit the Kumamoto Castle and the Suizenji Garden. The city centre is also conveniently located next to Kumamoto Castle so you could make a day-trip out of the sight-seeing.
We were all set to rock and roll after breakfast to fill our day packed with activities. But the Kumamoto Castle was closed for the day, probably in preparation for the New Year’s Day which is a big occasion for the Japanese.
What a shame!
We ended up just roaming the gates/ gardens of the Kumamoto Castle, took a couple of shots and then headed off to our next destination on the check-list – Suizenji Gardens.
Suizenji Garden (水前寺成趣園, Suizenji Jōjuen) is a spacious, Japanese style landscape garden in Kumamoto, best enjoyed by scrolling along a circular path. It was built by the Hosokawa family in the 17th century.
The garden reproduces the 53 post stations of the Tokaido, the important road, which connected Edo with Kyoto during the Edo Period, in miniature form, including a small Mt. Fuji.
Entrance fees if I ain’t wrong is about 400 yen per person. It was a lovely day with clear, blue skies and loads of sunshine. Best part, it was cool so Bubba could run around without having to be dragged down by her winter coat.
There are restricted areas and one would have imagined so because the gardens were all very well-manicured. So do watch out for those areas and don’t let your child run too far out. :)
We bought a packet of popcorn (500 yen) and had a lovely time feeding it to the ducks in the pond. Bubba had a whale of a time ‘THROWING’ the popcorn kennels at the ducks and exclaiming loudly THROW when she successfully launched the popcorn bits into the water. It was such a joy watching her squeal in delight. Oh, the simple joys in life!
And how parenthood has changed us all. Pre-baby days, the Man and I would have preferred to go on holidays without the Bub. “What would they know? They are still so young!” Having gone on a couple of holidays with Bubba now, we really changed our mindset. True, the sheer logistics of bringing a young child on a trip is enough to put us off. But beyond that, the family-bonding time, to be able to witness her little achievements and to simply see that wide smile on her face totally outweighs those challenges. David from Life Tiny Miracles posted this recently and I echoed some of those sentiments. If you have a young toddler and wonder if it’s even worth travelling with him/her. I’d say don’t wait, time flies by so quickly. Oh, plus if they are under 2, the airfare is significantly cheaper so that might be a push factor for you to book the trip. :)
With that, I conclude our #limfambam vacay in Kyushu. We spent another day in Fukuoka but didn’t get round to doing much as it was simply too short to explore the area. Plus Bubba had diarrhea that day so we basically spent the day worrying about her.
I wonder what travel tales 2016 will bring for our family. I’ve been lemming for a Disneyland trip to Tokyo or maybe Universal Studios in Osaka. Or maybe a beach get-away for I think Bubba may enjoy playing with sand on the beach. We have yet to get down to any serious planning but I hope more travel tales with the family to come soon! :)