…….we had to wake up at 5 AM on Sunday morning! I signed up for some UNESCO event in Kumamoto a few weeks prior. (For those of you who don’t know, UNESCO is a branch of the United Nations that deals with cultural heritage.) Honestly, I had no idea what I was signing up for, and had I realized that a) it would require us to wake up so early to get there and b) it was the same weekend as our writing workshop, I probably wouldn’t have signed up for it. Plus, it’s usually easier to say yes than no, which often leads to problems like this. I knew that it was some type of touring event in which we’d all get on a bus and drive around to cultural things in Kumamoto. Anyway, we woke up in the wee dark hours of the morning and made the dark mountain drive. Both of us were in a less than pleasant mood, so the ride was fairly quiet. I was driving, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t almost fall asleep a couple of time.
Whenever we made it to Kumamoto, we ran into quite a problem. We knew that the bus left from the Prefectural Office, but we didn’t know where that was. Usually in situations like this, our handy Iphones get us through it, but Google maps pinned about fifteen different “Prefectural Offices” in the city, and each of those could have been what we wanted. We were by the bus station, so we went inside to ask for help and got varying reports. One person told us to take a bus to it, another said that it was a twenty minute car ride away, and another lady showed us which pin it was on Google maps. It looked to be about a fifteen minute walk from us and was up by Kumamoto Castle. We only had about fifteen minutes until our UNESCO bus left, so we booked it. Once we were where we should have been, we asked for directions again from two bus drivers. Each of them looked confused, and Ian and I got the idea that we were no where close to our final destination. We wandered around the area, and our time until the UNESCO bus left passed by. I was so completely frustrated. We had got up and high tailed it to the city only to have come for no particular reason. I felt stupid, useless, and ashamed. How could we have let that happen? Why didn’t we plan it out better? We resigned to make the most of the day and wander around the city. Halfway back to where our car was parked, my phone rang. It was an unknown number (which always terrifies me to answer….I just know that one of these days it’s going to be a Japanese person who has no idea what I’m saying and visa versa). I answered it, and it was the UNESCO lady asking where we were and if we still planned on coming. I told her that we were near the castle. She was very pleasant and not upset with us despite the fact that we were already twenty minutes late. She told us that they would wait for us and to take a cab. We tried to tell her that we were already so late and we didn’t want everyone to wait on us longer, but you can’t out-polite a Japanese. They’ve got mad bend-over-backwards-for-you skills. We finally got there nearly forty minutes late and apologized again and again. I felt absolutely horrible since the entire day we were off schedule, and you have NO idea how organized the Japanese are. It was one heck of an epic fail!
The actual event took us to Amakusa, which is an island chain off the coast of Kumamoto. We went there once before in November, and it’s absolutely beautiful there. Amakusa boasts to have the best sunsets in all of Japan. Unfortunately, Ian and I were so tired that we really didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy our tour. Our first stop was at the Amakusa visitor center, which was my favorite. Since everyone on the trip was a foreigner, (It really was a hodge-podge of Americans, Jamaicans, Indians, Chinese, Middle Easterners, etc) the tour was given in English. We learned about these male crabs that only live in Amakusa and have one giant claw which is used to attract female crabs. There was also a cool exhibit on the tide, which fluctuates up to four meters on a monthly basis! In the afternoon, we went to the Amakusa Christian Museum to see the influences Christianity had on the area and how it came there. Our last stop of the day was to one of the ports that was important way back when. By this time in the day, I was too tired to fully pay attention if you couldn’t tell from my description. We got back to Kumamoto around 6PM and stopped by our favorite burger place, Reef Burger, for dinner. The owner is really nice, and he always remembers us. That night he gave Ian an extra Coke and both of us free ice cream. He asked us if we were on our way back to Hitoyoshi, and we said yes. By the time we got home that night, we were both DOG TIRED. We had just enough energy to get a shower before crashing.
A few things that I forgot to mention about our trip to Kumamoto but are noteworthy:
1) We saw a driving school car with the driving school’s name on the side of the car. Guess what it was called? Terra-bul Driving School. BWAHAHAHA! I guess that’s why Asians are such bad drivers….because they go to Terra-bul Driving School!!!
2) Our car doors no longer lock. We rarely use them anyway, but we locked our doors since we were in the city. When we got back to the car that night, Ian was at the driver’s side fumbling with the keys, and I easily climbed into the passenger side. He was like, “How did you get in so quickly??” I said that it was unlocked. He said that no it wasn’t and proceeded to show me. We have the old school manual locks, and even if you lock each door and it looks like it’s locked, it’s not. You can open it by simply pulling the handle. Awesome. Reason number 20397429870849807 why our car sucks.