May 222002
 

Tomorrow, I’m sure to find myself turned into a giant banana.

Yesterday I caught the train down to Kumamoto, which has castle number 4 in the list of great castles of Japan. I didn’t actually go to the castle, because (a) if I return to live here, it’ll be a day trip, and (b) I had already seen the three other great castles, and since I only saw two of the three great gardens, and one of the three great views I thought I’d be consistent and not complete the set.

Instead when I got the local handbook, opened it and saw the picture of the 500 stone Buddha statues, I thought, I’m going there. Now Kumamoto is about 2 hours by train from Fukuoka. And I had missed the early one. Actually, I wanted to catch the 8:15am train, but slept in. Once there, I caught a tram to the bus terminal. And I had missed the bus I wanted (was checking email, naughty me), so I took the sight seeing bus around the castle as I had an hour to wait for the next one. Some junior school kids got onto the bus and asked me some questions in Japanese and English, like what my name was. For 7 year olds, they were suprisingly well enunciated in their English and Japanese. They took the obligatory photos, and I jumped off at the first chance I had. The local bus took 1/2 hour to get to the bus stop, which I’m pretty sure it missed when I pressed the buzzer. After about 10 minutes walking (and some directional help from a hairdresser), I got to the base of the mountain. Another 10 minutes along a fairly small, steap road, and I got to the rice paddies most of the way up. I asked a crusty old woman, who may not have seen a Westerner since WWII, by pointing at the picture and doing my best Japanese, “Which way is it?” Eventually I got there. Of course, several other people were there (thankfully no tour groups with flag waving tour guides.) I did however take the correct route from the directions I got from the hair dresser, because the map that she gave me for tourists was really, really bad (but I think she knew that and was trying to tell me.)

The place was great. These statues were about 400 years old, and marked the place where a great Samurai mediatated in a cave for 90 days and wrote a book called “A Book of Five Rings,” about war and all that. It was, as usual for a Buddhist temple, quite peaceful. It is said you can find your own face within one of the 500 statues. Unfortunately quite a few had lost their heads, which considering how I felt the day before seemed quite apt. I did find some grumpy looking ones, and a few lazy ones so perhaps there was the idea of me within some of them.

When the bus dropped me off, I took note of when the last one to return was, so I headed back down the hill to the bus stop. After some more helpful directions I found the place. I was almost worried that I’d have to hitch back, because there was one last bus back to Kumamoto. Thankfully it arrived, but the trip back was quite scary, at some points the road narrows so only one direction of traffic is possible at a time. Considering how narrow the roads were to start with, there wasn’t much room left for it to get any narrower.

Today I finished reading The Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka. He was a German Jew who wrote from about 1904 until his death in about 1924. He was a surrealist writer. One of his stories, a well known one (apparently) is where the main character wakes up to find he has turned into a giant beetle. When I asked my friend (who had influenced me in buying the book) how I was meant to read it, she said that the work was mostly autobiographical.

Franz Kafka turned into a giant beetle.

This morning, I wanted to catch the 8:15am train again. I left the hotel at 9:45am. It was raining, and I was carrying a banana. I used it as an umbrella. The subway was late, which never happens, so it mustn’t have been a train … maybe it was a whale. I got to the JR station late, and so I missed the whale I had planned to catch. Knowing I was so late that trains had decided, as a collective whole to be whales. Eventually I caught the whale to Nagasaki, because I wanted to go to the Peace Museum, and it wasn’t too far away (well, 2 hours away.)

The Peace Park and Museum were pretty good. I ate my lunch in the park, trying to avoid the herds of school children, who seemed to turn into giraffes when I wasn’t looking. Lunch consisted of a sandwich, a sushi triangle and a banana.

The museum was better than the Hiroshima one I think. It had a better, more somber atmosphere. Some of the videos and commentary was really moving, and very telling. But again, as with Hiroshima the attrocities commited by Japanese were pretty much covered up.

As usual, I just missed the whale I wanted to catch getting back to Fukuoka, so I sat around for an hour just wasting time. I really should have been doing Nagaski for all I could, but I really, really couldn’t be bothered. (Actually, the real reason was that I was feeling really disgusting. I had planned to go to this hot sand onsen about 4 hours south of Fukuoka by whale, and so I didn’t have a shower in the morning knowing I’d be going for a swim in the beach (perhaps some train watching), having a shower at least twice and all that. As such, I didn’t make it and so I was hot and stinky all day.)

Oddly though, when I was sitting in the Peace Park after the museum, wondering if I’d go up to the Rope Way (which didn’t seem to be operating, and no, the thing hadn’t turned into a large yellow canary, it was red) a group of four girls and a bloke turn up ask ask if it was okay to take a photo. I thought they wanted me to take a photo of them, but no, the four sit two either side of me and the bloke takes the photo. Before I could work out what was happening, they’d run off for more photos elsewhere. Maybe I stank too much.

Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten the banana.