Amakusa Islands and jazz train to Kumamoto.
Nov 24, 2017
|Fri 24th Nov. 8 -12°C, cloudy, frequent showers.
We’re off to Kumamoto via the Nishitetsu express from Tenjin and the JR local from Omuta. Slower than the Shinkansen at 2.5 hrs vs 1hr, but much cheaper at ¥2,670 vs ¥5,330, and unlike the shinkansen there are nice views. The two car JR local that starts from Omuta to Yatsushiro(stops at Kumamoto) has forward facing seats, large picture windows, and travels through some very pretty countryside.
At Kumamoto we boarded the two car diesel local, a real rattler, for the one hour ride to Misumi. It was mildly cold out, so naturally it was like a sauna inside the railcar. Back at Kumamoto, Mel asked me if the Suica was ok to Misumi. Sure, sure. Nope. No IC card readers out here.
Not a huge problem, I’ve managed to make this particular blunder before. At Misumi, Mel paid the station attendant for the journey, who then provided a chit to hand to his counterpart back at Kumamoto, and the Suica card was quickly adjusted there. I’ve often said if you want an efficient railway, have the Japanese run it. Get someone else for the heating/cooling.
After sweating off breakfast to Misumi, we picked up our hire car for a ten kilometre drive along the Amakusa Pearl Line, crossing three of the ‘Five Bridges of Amakusa’ to Fukushin Seafood Restaurant, high on Ueshima Island.
Melynda was taken here by a good friend from Kumamoto about ten years ago. While they were waiting at reception, a chef darted out, jumped up on the wide lip of the live seafood tank, plunged his hands in to wrest out a large writhing fish, and ran back into the kitchen. Even the locals were wide-eyed at that one, she says. The chef subtly used a net while we were there.
After a short wait we were taken down a hall to the dining area which has a real wow factor.
The large floor to ceiling windows inside the restaurant give an amazing view of the surrounding islands and fishing villages below.
Mel had a Negitori-don (best part of the tuna belly finely chopped on steamed rice) and we shared a beautiful three course kaiseki. First course was the freshest sashimi for me (the seafood is live in a tank at the entry), we shared the lightest tempura shrimp, fish and vegetables, various small dishes, and desserts after. We had some non-alcoholic cassis orange, and plum wine on the rocks. (I’m driving!)
After lunch we drove to the nearby Matsushima observation point just across the highway for some lovely views.
Then we set off for Takabuto-yama Observation point about three kilometers away. This involved some tongue out the left side of the mouth navigation to make the eventual right turn by executing a left, then a right hand loopback and another left, to get to the climb up to the lookout. No, I didn’t understand it either. Missed the first left, got it after a go-around through the narrowest lanes in the country. Don’t ask, just trust the Navi. It says turn, you turn. It looks more like a footpath but the car will fit. (Luckily enough we were driving a Honda Fit)
Then ensued a one kilometre twisting, narrow climb, with some full lock switchbacks. From the car park is a steep climb up some steps and then a not so steep path to a low concrete tower.
Wow. 200 degrees of the prettiest island, sea and mountain views. This alone was worth the trip out here.
Returning to Misumi Station after a lovely scenic drive, we boarded the ‘A’ Train, for a one hour journey in jazz back to Kumamoto. Lovely interior, wood and stained glass everywhere, free for JR pass holders like me, pricey at ¥1,800 for Mel. You have to reserve a seat for this train.
It has a Bar, serving highballs and other drinks, a couple of lounges to enjoy the sunset view directly through the large picture windows. To Mel’s chagrin, however, they have the jazz tune ‘A’ Train on a constant loop. I rather liked it.
Staying in the Comfort Hotel at Kumamoto Shinshegai, we have nicely appointed separate 10th floor double bed rooms with views of Kumamoto Castle.