NILS students in the Short-Term Program enjoyed one day trip to Kumamoto and Miyazaki last week. We believe it was a great experience for them to enjoy our nature and ancient culture.
What a wonderful treat! Beautiful landscapes, fresh air, quiet, contemplative shrines in secluded parts of the countryside, mountains, rivers, and much more… including local wines. One of the best class outings, and one of the best trips out to the countryside I had during my stay in Japan.
Kumamoto prefecture is located at the center of the Kyushu Island, about 150 km south from Fukuoka city. Natural parks and nature preserves cover about 20 percent of the prefecture. The entire area is known for its scenic beauty.
We took a locally operated bus from near the Tenjin station in Fukuoka, which took us all the way to the center area of Kumamoto. A very confortable ride in an air-conditioned bus, with plenty of short stops on the way, to stretch our legs.
The further away from Fukuoka we were getting, the more beautiful and scenic the landscape was becoming. We were passing through small villages surrounded by countless, geometrically shaped rice fields, small vegetable and flower gardens. The bus began to climb higher and higher into the hills, and we found ourselves in a lush, green forest. The road was winding between steep volcanic mountain peaks covered in thick forest. Looking through the bus’s windows into the valleys below us, we could see small village houses, and countless terraces of rice fields hugging the steep mountainsides.
Around noontime, we arrived at one of the local farms, where we were treated to a wonderful buffet of freshly prepared food using local ingredients. What a great feast that was! There were about 20 different dishes to choose from, variety of teas, and delicious desserts. On the way out we could purchase preserves and other local products.
After lunch we were on our way again, this time to visit local shrines. We stopped at Heitate shrine, Amanoiwato shrine, and visited Takachiho Gorge with its picturesque waterfalls, bridges, and famous shrine. We had a chance to admire local architecture, peaceful locations of Shinto shrines secluded in remote areas, away from city noise. We had a chance to walk through the forest, over mountain rivers, into caves carved into the sides of a mountain that housed many small shrines. We also got a chance to witness some of the ceremonies, and had a guided tour of one of the shrines. At the end we were able to purchase some souvenirs, local foods, and locally made wines.
This adventure took almost entire day. In the late afternoon, we claimed back into our confortable bus and filled with great memories rode back to Fukuoka.