The castle is located on a hill and surrounded by a big beautiful park which contains several big old camphor trees. Next to the plum orchard, there is one in particular of which a signboard claims that it is 800 years old. A truly impressive tree! I suppose that being located on the castle grounds, those trees were allowed to grow undisturbed for centuries. In general, the vegetation of Kyushu seems even more lush than the one of Kanto, moreover we were lucky to arrive during cherry blossoms!
While Fukuoka, also called Hakata, has not much to offer to the tourist, our next (only a few hours short) stop, Kumamoto (熊本), boasts a castle.
While quite impressive, it can’t quite compare with Himeji Castle, arguably the most beautiful of Japan. Like many, also the main keep of Kumamoto-jo is a reconstruction, which has been done in concrete in the 1960ies (unlike Himeji-jo, where the interior is redone in wood according to original plans) robbing its interior of any charm. But some adjacent buildings offer traditional interiors with a lot of gold.
On the far side of the park, another attraction that can be visited is the former residence of the Hosokawa clan, Hosokawa Gyobu-tei. In this spacious traditional style building, one can visit all rooms and picture the life of the Japanese aristocracy of old. The open sliding doors afford views of surrounding gardens and small courtyard style gardens, which are all beautifully styled. After climbing up the main keep of the castle and walking in the park, this visit to the old residence, concluded by a matcha in the tea house next door, has inspired us with serene calm.