Hi from Kumamoto,
It's funny, but when I was living in Beppu, I never made it to Nagasaki, Kumamoto, or our next stop Kagoshima, so all these places are new for me. Everything else on this trip up until Nagasaki I had visited before either when I was living here or during previous trips. I wasn't planning on coming to Kumamoto, but when I couldn't get three nights in our hotel in Nag, I decided to go to Kumamoto before heading south to Kagoshima, where the big volcano is. There really isn't much in Kumamoto. It's biggest claim to fame it its castle, which is very impressive. Its original construction began in 1601, but much of it was destroyed by fire in 1877, so it's mostly been reconstructed. The walls around it are what's most impressive.
We got to our "Super Kumamoto Hotel" at 2 pm, only to find that the check-in counter was closed. The sign said that they don't start check ins until 3. So we hung out in the lobby checking the internet, and then a 3 pm exactly the clerk raised the gate at the counter and started checking guests in. It's a funny place. You pick up your pillow and nemaki or light weight yukata (Japanese pajamas) at the check in counter and you're not allowed to be in the hotel between the hours of 10-3! No problem, we're checking out tomorrow morning anyway. The room is clean, but we got stuck with one bed again. Oh joy! I did, however, take my first onsen (hotspring bath) since being here in Japan; the hotel has a nice one and has certain hours for women and then for men. Z wouldn't go in because he thought the 107 degree water was too hot. When I lived in Beppu, Japan's hotspring heaven, I got spoiled and could take the ritualistic bath whenever I wanted to.
Here are a few shots from the castle, which is actually currently undergoing more renovations, so I didn't get a close up shot of the main castle building because it was partially covered in scaffolding (and didn't make for a good shot). I've included a couple shots from our fine dining experience at a swanky noodle restaurant where you buy your meal ticket from a vending machine and give the ticket to the chef who then prepares your food.