This morning we were presented with a filling Japanese style breakfast consisting of miso soup, fried fish, pickled greens and rice topped with scrambled eggs. Chi Chi also treated us to coffee brewed via the siphon technique (clearly a hobby of his as he had a small room dedicated to coffee equipment).
Emerging from the hobbit sized door of Chi Chi and Ka Ka’s farmhouse for the last time.
Gi Gi the dog. Very old and blind according to Chi Chi. But so darn soft and cute.
Chi Chi and Ka Ka left each one of us a Japanese folding fan as a parting gift and were ecstatic when we posed for a picture together with our fans. Chi Chi unknowingly had his iPad set to burst photos, so combined with the several times he pressed the shutter button, he must have well over 50+ photos of us! Now he’ll never be able to forget his favorites: Sarah-san and Brad Pitt-san (Andrew).
A final farewell to Chi Chi and Ka Ka. They hosted an unforgettable cultural experience and showered us in kindness. It was sad to say goodbye but they continued to make us laugh right to the end as they ran alongside our car shouting and waving as we pulled away from the property.
Driving through the Kumamoto and Aso countryside we came across an odd dilapidated roadside style amusement park. Go-carts, sledding down AstroTurf hills, free range goat petting. Disneyland better take note as the competition is coming in hot!
Our first planned stop of the day was the incredibly long staircased and equally long named Kamishikimi Kumanoza Shrine: hailed as a power spot to feel the earth’s energy and recharge the spirit.
Our second planned stop was to visit the active crater of Mt. Aso, but continuing on with the theme of this Japan trip it was unfortunately, or thankfully for us, closed, due to high levels of noxious gases. Either the attendant at the gate informing us it was closed was drunk off his rocker, or the volcanic fumes were getting the best of him, but his face was so swollen and red it looked ready to blow!
Our third stop was the Daikanbo lookout point with the Aso valley below and launching point for an RC glider competition taking place.
Our final destination for the day was the onsen (hot spring) town of Kurokawa Onsen. We made a brief stop in town to sample a variety of famous treats. Andrew lost it over the fresh, crisp cream puffs, whereas I loved the mochi pancake sandwiches. Time to check in!
Here we treated ourselves to Japanese styled tatami rooms with private onsen baths at the riverside Yamamizuki inn. The smell of sulfur was only a minor caveat as we soaked and melted away into pure relaxation with the river rushing by below us.
6:30pm sharp, our assigned time, we entered the dinning hall and were shown to our private room with tatami mats and a massive wooden table able to accommodate at least 10 people. The first 2 courses of our traditional Japanese multi course Kaiseki dinner were already on display ready to enjoy. Almost 2 hours long, 11 courses in total, plate after plate arrived in a methodical rhythm. Vegetables, tofu, sashimi, soup, tempura, cooked fish, steak, more soup, and a dessert choice of maccha ice cream or earl grey pudding. Our yukatas (casual kimonos) that we wore to dinner were bursting at the seams!
After dinner Viola retreated to our private onsen bath while Sarah, Andrew and myself went to our respective women only and men only public baths. The baths were large and beyond beautiful in landscaping. Large boulders, lush green areas, a waterfall and river tastefully illuminated as if glowing. And they were HOT! Seriously HOT! Without going into too much detail picture 2 modest western guys, standing barely ankle deep, butt naked (no bathing suits allowed in onsen water), covering ourselves with our hands as we suffer in pain from the heat, unable to move and go any deeper, just laughing uncontrollably at the situation …