On the southern tip of the “Land of the Rising Sun” resides the “Land of Fire”—Kumamoto Prefecture. It’s a land forged by a volcanic cauldron, the Mount Aso caldera and surrounding areas, and tempered by the people and culture. Kumamoto is a land of soaring peaks to deep valleys and of a culture old and refined. So, let’s travel there together and discover the beauty of a land nurtured by a warm flame.
The volcanic fire that rages under the Mount Aso caldera has shaped Kumamoto. The rocks and ash that settled a millennia ago created the majestic peaks and valleys you see today. The caldera and surrounding areas are the rulers of the land and singlehandedly defined its essence. Few have subdued the caldera’s peaks and valleys and today the area stands as a force of nature and beauty to all. But, the volcanos searing power is kept at bay by the calming nature of water.
The water has seeped into every part of the Mount Aso caldera and has slowly been purified over eons. The water has bubbled up from deep crevices within the volcanic rock to form the streams, rives, and waterfalls of the land. Meandering all throughout the Mount Aso caldera and surrounding areas, the water formed splendors like the Nabegataki Falls. Witness its glory from downstream to behind its magnificent undercut.
Water is the driving force of life on the slopes around Mount Aso. It rejuvenates, cleans, and creates life. It is the embodiment of nature itself. And Kumamoto is full of natures glory. From the rolling hills berthed from the volcanic underbelly to the ancient trees that use the water to grow tall, nature surrounds the Mount Aso caldera. One tree, splintered in two by some long forgotten event, stands on these hills. Yet, undeterred it had a resilience like the people. Now, the trees roots lay deep in the ground and the branches have begun to carve their own destiny, just as the people have done for ages.
Nature and man leave their marks on each other in many ways. Some subtle and other in grand displays. The Mount Aso caldera inspired the people to greatness and the people left their mark on nature with Kumamoto Castle. Like the Castle, the people have stood in the face of adversity and conquered it. Today a new trial faces the Castle and people. But, together they will rise up to the challenge and overcome it as they have in the past. The long history of the Castle has etched itself into the people and they, in turn, wear the Castle as a coat of arms in their soul.
Throughout history people have traveled to Kumamoto. Some were visitors, others for business, and people like you, students, came here to master their craft. The lifelong student of the blade and philosophy, Miyamoto Musashi, refined his craft in the Reigando Cave west of Kumamoto Castle. His essence lingers around the Cave and guides visitors just like you to master your own art.
The path to the Reigando Cave is a pilgrimage in and of itself and the will of Musashi slowly descends upon you. Or perhaps it’s the weight of the Gohyaku Rakan, the five hundred disciples of Buddha. They watch over all who come to the Reigando Cave with the calm demure of one who has attained Buddhist enlightenment. Traversing the terrain to enlightenment is no simple feat, but you can start on your path from these hills.
The Gohyaku Rakan are the guides to the Reigando Cave and they watch your every step to its base. As you climb the steps and enter, a sense of awe washes over you. It was here, nay, this rock where Miyamoto Musashi completed his master piece, “The Book of Five Rings.” Sitting on the rock and gazing out to the forest you can feel your mind empty and see with new found clarity. An ancient carving draws your attention as you look around the Cave once again. It reads: “REI-GAN-DO.”
With so many sites to take in around Kumamoto, you will need to let them soak into your soul. The many onsen (hot spring) spa resorts are the perfect place for this. It’s a daunting task trying to choose one from so many and they all look comforting. But, as you travel further into the Prefecture you come to one: Kurokawa Onsen. It draws you into a world of great history where the old mixes with new around every corner. It is the perfect place to bring your soul to ease after a long day of exploring Kumamoto.
What better way to end your travels in Kumamoto than an onsen spa. A sense of tradition prevails in each building. A tradition kept by the women who love their town and children. An inn calls out to you as you feel the warm embrace of a mothers love wrap around you. The rafters look weighed down by three centuries of use. Yet, the affection of the guests and Okami (proprietress) invites visitors to relax and forget their troubles. As you sit back and enjoy a sip of tea in your room, you receive a call—it’s time for dinner. A traditional meal is laid out before you in small portions with many courses. In your exhausted state it seems impossible to finish. But, one bite of the delectable meal instantly refreshes you.
The evenings in Kurokawa Onsen calls the sandman to every room. As he works his magic, he keeps just enough in each person to soothe themselves in the onsen baths. One dip in them and all your troubles melt away. The warm sensation soaks into every pore and penetrates the deepest part of the body—a truly relaxing time this is. The sandman and onsen carries everybody off to dreamland and the sounds of Kumamoto whisper to you, “Goodnight and sweet dreams.”
Visiting Kumamoto Prefecture is a dream in its own right and certainly excites the creative nature in all of us. And yet, this is only a fraction of what the Prefecture has to offer visitors. The SILENT MANGA AUDITION® EXRA-ROUND TWO (EX2) “KUMAMOTO ROUND 2017” is offering winners a chance to explore Kumamoto as well as have our professional manga creators guide you to a career in manga creation. So, channel that energy and enter today.
Together, we will bring the best smile to Kumamoto Prefecture!
Please choose “Silent Manga” or “Illustration (One-Panel, One-Page artwork)”, and start drawing TODAY!