Kumamoto Castle and Shimabara Castle

One of my favorite tourist destinations in Japan is Japanese Castles. We are pretty deprived in America when it comes to deep cultural architectural artifacts as our nation's history is a mere 200 years old. While the Japanese people have been on that island ever since it disconnected itself from main Asia. Also, Japanese Castles wildly interest me as they're usually nestled into modern society.

Anyway, on our trip, exactly one year ago, Dave and I had the fortune of visiting two of Kyushu's standing castles: Kumamoto and Shimbara. After our visit to Kagoshima in southern Kyushu, we traveled north on our way to Nagasaki. As a waypoint, we stopped at Kumamoto for a night. In the morning, we head took a ferry across the Shimabara sea to Shimabara, and ultimately Nagasaki.

Kumamoto Castle

Unfortunately, we left Kagoshima much later than expected, and arrived in Kumamoto around 4pm. We got to our hotel, checked in, and made our way to Kumamoto Castle.

We arrived at Kumamoto Castle a bit after 5pm, and had less than an hour to explore this marvel. So, we ran around the castle, and made our way to the top as fast as we could.

Here's a panoramic photo from the top: Image!

It was a very pretty castle, and it's grounds were rather large, but we only had time to visit the castle itself. We had barely gotten there, and had to leave already. For the rest of the night we got some dinner, and went shopping for games and other things. That story is detailed here: Games I Buy: DDR Edition

Shimabara Castle

In the morning, we made way to Kumamoto Port, and sailed across the Shimabara Sea to Nagasaki Prefecture. It was somewhat foggy out that day. It felt like we were sailing into the unknown. We left the port behind, and eventually it faded away into the gray void.

Dave and I basically relaxed on our voyage. I don't really remember doing anything special. Eventually, land started coming into view from a far.

It was the port of Shimabara, totalled overshadowed by Mt. Fugen. Mt. Fugen and the Unzen resort nearby was our first field trip when studying abroad. We spent the day climbing to the top, which gave a great view of the volcano festering along side it. Here's pictures from back then: Images!

Anyway, our ferry sailed parallel to the harbor for a while and finally docked. Dave and I exited the craft and walked to the nearest train station. 20 minutes later our train arrived, and we got off at the castle grounds. We walked up the hill, and were met with the icon of Shimabara.

We went inside, and climbed the stairs to the top. Each floor has collected relics from Japan's medieval era. Swords, armor, maps, models, tapestries, and so forth. At the top is a simple observation deck. You can hop outside, and see the entire town of Shimabara, and far enough away you can see a few neighboring towns.

This was actual my second time visiting Shimabara castle. One weekend when studying abroad, a fellow JASIN student, Brian, and I took a Saturday and rode the train out here. The castle hadn't changed one bit in the last 4 years. The entire compound was basically trapped in time. It suffered no degredation due to the upkeep of its staff. Likewise, it had not evolved or iterated in its years either. It was a relic frozen in time. Which makes sense... It's a historic monument. They aren't going to build any new wings of the fortress.

Kumamoto v. Shimabara

The difference between Kumamoto and Shimabara are quite clear. First off, Kumamoto is the capitol of Kumamoto Prefecture. It's an actual city, rather than a rural village. It's the center of all of Kyushu, and has thousands of people through its area everyday. It has more cash flowing through it, therefore it's castle is more expansive, complex, and vast.

Shimbara is a simple town with a simple castle. It has a single structural point that continues to the sky, rather than multiple wings. The compound has several buildings, but it's mostly towers and keeps, rather than offices and barracks.

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