Day 2 in Kumamoto, Japan

Day 2 – lunch at Kokutei 黑亭 ramen shop > dessert at Sakura no kouji 桜の小路 > Kumamoto Castle 熊本城 > Shimotori shopping arcade 下通商店街 > Dinner in Hakata

We woke up early and took the JR train to Kumamoto 熊本. We bought the 3 days Northern Kyushu JR pass as it worked out to be cheaper than the round trip tickets. The staff will ask for your passport upon purchase of the JR pass, as I believe it is only available for tourists. Our friend who spoke fluent Japanese sorted out our tickets easily and we were given a small booklet about how the JR pass works.

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Bento box for sale at JR train station. It is quite common for Japanese to buy a bento box for a long journey, have to admit that even looking at them makes me extremely hungry.

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There were many Kumamon 熊本熊 (mascot of Kumamoto) souvenirs as soon as we arrived at Kumamoto station.

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This was the first Kumamon 熊本熊 we saw in Kumamoto station. Kumamon is everywhere in the region and it is extremely popular in Asia with girls (I bought my boyfriend a Kumamon towel, and I don’t think I’ve seen him use it outside of home). The more I see this bear, the more I like it.

We went straight to Kokutei 黑亭 – a super popular local ramen (Japanese noodles) shop which is about 15 mins walk from the station. Ramen is the specialty in Kyushu and we couldn’t wait to try it. There were some popular ramen shops in Kumamoto but I chose this shop because it is the only shop they have. I like the small local restaurant a lot more than the restaurant chains.

There was a long queue outside upon our arrival!

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We finally got in the restaurant after waiting for around 1hr. We couldn’t wait to order their signature pork ramen (900yen approx US$7.2). It is quite unusual for me to have raw egg yolk in ramen. Normally it comes with the half boiled egg with the runny yolk. However, this ramen is suprisingly tasty. It is fair to say this is the best ramen I had during my trip in Kyushu.

Kokutei 黑亭

Opening hours: 10:30-20:30; closed on 3rd Thursday every month

Address in Japanese: 熊本県熊本市西区二本木2丁目1-23

Official Japanese Website: http://www.kokutei.co.jp (best to use google translate for non Japanese readers)

English website about the restaurant: http://www.deepjapan.org/a/2816 (It is shown as closed in tripadvisor and that information is wrong. The restaurant is still up and running.)

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This city tram is the nicest we’ve seen. I am not sure if it will cost you more than the regular older looking one.

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After our ramen lunch, we took the city tram to Kumamoto Castle 熊本城. The city tram is the cheapest way to get around Kumamoto. A single ride for adult is only 150Yen (US$1.2). If you travel from Kumamoto JR station, you can take the A line to most of the sight seeing areas in Kumamoto. Click here to see the city tram route map.

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Kumamoto castle map

Once we got off the tram, we walked along the river to go to Kumamoto Castle.

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We walked past an area called Sakura no kouji 桜の小路 next to the castle with many local shops and restaurants.

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We stopped at Shiratamaya Shinzaburo 白玉屋新三郎 for some Japanese dessert before getting to Kumamoto.

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Green tea sweet soup with red bean and white balls (cold)

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Red bean sweet soup with white balls (cold)

Shiratamaya Shinzaburo 白玉屋新三郎

Opening hours: 09:00-19:00

Address in Japanese: 熊本県熊本市中央区二の丸1-1-2

Official Japanese Website: http://www.shiratamaya.co.jp

Tripadvisor website: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g298213-d7471472-Reviews-Shiratamaya_Shinsaburo_Kumamotojo_Sakuranokoji-Kumamoto_Kumamoto_Prefecture_Kyush.html

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I couldn’t help myself and bought a green tea soft serve (300yen approx US$2.4) as soon as we got out of the dessert restaurant.

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The souvenir shop is full of Kumamon items.

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I wonder how the Kumamon sake (Japanese rice wine) & soju (distilled beverage containing ethanol and water) would taste like.

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We continued our walk to the Kumamoto Castle after our dessert.

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Kumamoto Castle is the main landmark in Kumamoto. It was a large and extremely well fortified castle but now it is a historical museum. The admission fee to get inside is 500yen per adult.

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I bought this water with tomato flavour. It tasted a little weird. One of the many things you can only find in Japan.

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We walked to Shimotori shopping arcade 下通商店街 after visiting the castle.

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According to my friend who speaks fluent Japanese and has visited Japan many times, he said you will get the best deal at this local pharmacy.

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Matsumoto Kiyoshi is a well known drug store in Japan but it might charge you more than the smaller drug stores for the same product. Do compare the price before you buy the products.

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We walked past our favourite sushi restaurant chain – Sushi Zanmai! We immediately went in for sushi.

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We just ordered some sushi, and not much else as we were not too hungry.

Sushi Zanmai

Opening hours: 24hours

Address: Sushizanmai shimotooriten 1-9-15 Shimotoori tyuou-kumamoto-city Kumamoto Prefecture 860-0807

Address in Japanese: 熊本県熊本市中央区下通1-9-15 柏田第二ビル1F 

Official Japanese Website: http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/shops/detail/65

We headed to Okada 岡田珈琲 (a famous coffee shop) soon after we finished our sushi. Okada Coffee’s reputation has been built on the unique techniques it applies to the extraction and roasting of the coffee beans, resulting in the distinctive aromas and tastes of their coffee.

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We ordered the Japanese drip coffee and my friend who drinks coffee regularly said the coffee is good. I couldn’t judge as I don’t usually drink coffee, as when I do drink it, I get this random eye twitch for some odd reason.

Okada Coffee

Opening Hours: 10:00-21:00

Adderess in Japanese: 〒860-0845 熊本県熊本市上通り1-20

Official Japanese Website: http://www.okada-coffee.com

English website about the coffee shop: http://en.japantravel.com/view/okada-coffee

We walked to Kumamon square after our coffee. It was a bit disappointing as I expected it to be a Kumamon museum. However, it is just a Kumamon souvenir shop.

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Kumamon is appointed as the Sales Manager of the Kumamoto Prefecture and it travels around the world to promote Kumamoto. This is Kumamon’s office. For super fans of Kumamon, you can check the schedule from it’s official website. It will be showing up at it’s office according to the time table on their website.

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Kumamon Square

Opening Hours: 10:00-19:00

Address: Tetoria Kumamoto Bldg.1F, 8-2 Tetorihoncho, Chuo-ku, Kumamoto City 860-0808

Official website in English: http://www.kumamon-sq.jp/en/access.php

We went shopping around Shimotori shopping arcade. Like other Japanese cities, you can easily find Don quijote (Donki) 驚安の殿堂 and GU (under the same group with Uniqlo but the price is even cheaper) in Kumamoto. One of our friends didn’t bring his hoodie and it was quite cool during night time, so he bought some jackets and tops in GU for a total of around 3000yen (approx US$25). He was shocked to find out the price was really cheap.

Before taking the train back to Hakata, we went to the games arcade. One of our friends has this crazy obsession about those doll machines (he is married with kids) and he just wouldn’t leave the arcade until he got some toys out of the machine. He won some small toys eventually but no luck with the big one.

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We had a great time in Kumamoto and would like to have stayed longer but my travel companions were all a bit ill as they had caught the flu. We decided to get back to Hakata for dinner so my friends could have an early night. We took the city tram back to the Kumamoto JR Station and went back to Hakata.

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One of our friends wanted to have Japanese sashimi and he picked a restaurant from tabelog.com called 湊 MINATO 水産 for dinner.

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This egg with cod roe is a famous dish in Hakata.

The dinner was ok. Not as impressive as the other meals we had.

湊 MINATO 水産

Address in Japanese: 福岡県福岡市博多区博多駅東1-12-1 藤嶋第一ビル 2F

Tripadvisor website: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g298207-d7208055-Reviews-Minato_Suisan_Fukuoka_Hakata_Ekimae-Fukuoka_Fukuoka_Prefecture_Kyushu_Okinawa.html

We went to the Hakata bus terminal to get the bus ticket to Kurokawa hot spring 黒川温泉 after dinner. The bus ride will take about 3hrs to get to Kurokawa. We were thinking to take JR train to Kumamoto and took another train to mount Aso and a bus ride to Kurokawa. It was not very convenient and we decided to take the bus directly to Kurokawa.

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We had an early night and got ready for our trip to Kurokawa hot spring the next day.

What is your favourite part in Kumamoto, Japan? If you enjoy reading my blog, feel free to follow me on twitter @MinionTravel to get the latest update.

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