The first day, after meeting Mari, Aunt Yoko, Mami and her children (Ken and Yuri), we went to the most famous location in Kumamoto: Kumamoto Castle.
Kumamoto Castle (熊本城 Kumamoto-jō ) is a hilltop Japanese castle located in Chūō-ku, Kumamoto in Kumamoto Prefecture. It was a large and extremely well fortified castle. The castle keep (天守閣 tenshukaku ) is a concrete reconstruction built in 1960, but several ancillary wooden buildings remain of the original castle. Kumamoto Castle is considered one of the three premier castles in Japan, along with Himeji Castle and Matsumoto Castle. Thirteen structures in the castle complex are designated Important Cultural Property
We had to walk there from the bus-parking since that day the tram was not running due to the holidays. However, there are lots of cool places around the castle to buy things and look at souvenirs, so no one really minded it. The castle, itself, is not all that large, but is extremely tall due to being about 40 feet off the ground. However, if you include all the surrounding buildings and the entire structure, it was a fairly large place to visit. They had a tour of the inside of some of the buildings, and of course, there were lots of places to stop and take photos. If you were lucky, you got to see the historical re-en-actors in the castle courtyard (they were more like armored power-rangers, handing out trading cards and taking photos, but they were pretty cool to see in person). Ken and Yuri managed to get most of their trading cards, but not all of the actors work on the same day, so you have to come another time in the week to see them all.
After touring the castle, most everyone was fairly tired and hungry, so we went back to Aunt Yoko's house for a brief break. That night, we had a great dinner together at Mami's house where I was able to meet Yoko's husband (Yamamoto-san) and Mami's husband. (Because Yamamoto-san is a photographer he took most of the photos, so I don't have a whole lot for Kumamoto.)
The next day was a long day of mostly scenic driving. We went into the mountains nearby, including Mt. Aso which is suppose to be a very famous place with a famous shrine. We never made it to the intended shrine, but we did however, go to the shrine of the White Snake (Shiro-hebi sama). If you go to the shrine and touch the white snake, it's suppose to bring you money later in the future (lord knows I need the scholarships). Sadly you were not allowed to take a photo with the snake, but I did manage to get a few of the mountains and of the snake's shrine.
Sadly, on my last day there was not much to do. Mari, Mami, Aunt Yoko, and Yuri took me in the morning to do some shopping. We had lunch at a nice cafe in a mall, and after that it was already time for me to go! Somehow, I managed to receive just as many souvenirs as I had brought with me to give away, so I was carrying quite a bit of luggage back home with me on the train. It was so sad to leave, but I know I can always come visit them another time.
Maybe in spring I will have another exciting vacation? At this point who knows, but I will look forward to seeing my family, no matter the circumstance.