Sunday, 28 December 2014

Aso by Train Part 3: To Shirakawa Spring, Kumamoto Castle and Back to Hakata

Ok, last post of the year, let's see if I can finish my Aso by Train series. If you didn't see the earlier posts, I talked about getting from Hakata to Aso Farmland, and from Aso Farmland to Mount Aso earlier. Today, I'm going to talk about getting from Aso Farmland to Shirakawa Spring, from the spring to Kumamoto Castle, and then back to Hakata.

When I first asked my friend from Kumamoto about getting to Shirakawa spring, she told me we had to use a taxi. Thankfully, there's a nearby train (I think the train isn't very well known). So after we checked out of Aso Farmland, we grabbed out bags and made our way to Akamizu station.

Train to Shirakawa
From Akamizu station, take to Tateno station. From there, transfer to Minamiasoshirakawasuigen (南阿蘇白川水源). There are signs from the station, so you should be able to walk there. It's about a five minute walk.

If, like us, you're traveling with baggage, you could ask the first shop on the road to Shirakawa spring if you can place your bags there. They took care of our bags for free (of course, do not leave your valuables in there).

There is a small fee to enter the spring, but it's really worth it. Remember to bring a bottle of water along because you can bottle the water and bring it back. If you don't have a bottle, the shops on the way to the spring do sell empty bottles.
Bottling water
 Now, because the stream does flow down, you may be tempted to just take the water in the "free" area. DO NOT TAKE THE WATER THERE. It's not drinkable water, and while it may be safe, you may also come down with food poisoning or something. Don't risk it.

The station is beautiful! 
 I think there's a train between the station and Tateno every hour, so if you don't want to spend loads of time waiting around, take a photo of the train schedule.

Now, for the more complicated part, Shirakawa to Kumamoto Castle. It's also possible to go from Aso Farm Village to Kumamoto castle using these directions, just follow them from Tateno Station.

From Minamiasoshirakawasuigen (南阿蘇白川水源), take the train to Tateno station. Change at Tateno to the JR line towards Kumamoto (熊本行き) and take train to Shinsuizenjieki (新水前寺駅). From Shinsuizenjiekimae (新水前寺駅), go to Shinsuizenjiekimae (新水前寺駅前) and take the train to Kumamotojyou Shiyakusho mae (熊本城・市役所前). You can walk to Kumamoto castle from there.
We're there!
There are huge lockers at the information center if you need to place your baggage somewhere. There are smaller lockers at all the entrances. But go to the information center - there's this market there, so yes, FOOD. FOOOOOOD. FOOOOOOOD.
This is not food. 
The castle is a reconstructed one (it was burnt down),  but it's really big and pretty and worth it! You can spend a whole day there, and be prepared to walk a lot. There are also a lot of really steep steps there, so if you can't climb, you may not to visit the whole castle.

There are also actors in costume there. Most of them were pretty nice, although we ran into the one grumpy guy. Then again, I did tell him I didn't understand Japanese (actually, it was just his Japanese, I thought it was a dialect of sort) in Japanese. Oh well.

From the castle, go back to the same station and take the tram all the way to Kumamoto station. From there, you can take the Shinkansen back to Hakata.

And there you have it, a quick trip in Kumamoto by train :D

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