Photography series: Part 2 – Samurai boy at Kumamoto castle, Kumamoto, Japan

Photography series: Part 2 - Samurai boy at Kumamoto castle, Kumamoto, Japan

In the last photography series post, I talked about the Eisar Matsuri on Okinawa. I was actually travelling through Japan for a month at the time, and after Okinawa I went (through Fukuoka) to Kumamoto. I was going to stay up in the mountains of Aso, but during the day when I arrived I visited Kumamoto itself for a bit.

One of the places I visited, was the castle. Kumamoto castle is one of the major castles in Japan. As such, they also have a bunch of characters walking around. This guy on the picture, was one of them. His job literally consisted of walking around in samurai clothing and letting people take pictures of him.

I arrived there after a dreadful night in Fukuoka, where I had just come from Okinawa. In Fukuoka I was ill, had lost an umbrella I loved, and I had no place to sleep so I ended up spending the night awake at a McDonalds, trying to keep the perverts away. I then ended up at a temple at 7 am, with a conbini breakfast, sore feet, and the worst mood ever. All I wanted was to go back to Kyoto. Instead, I took one of the first trains I could to Kumamoto, just to get out of Fukuoka.

So arriving at Kumamoto, I asked around what there was to do there, and I had the castle recommended to me. Never one to turn down visiting castles (hell, I even work at one), I somehow managed to make my way over there. I think I took a bus, but my memories are a bit fuzzy here.

By the time I arrived, the sun was blazing, and I was feeling very cranky in the heat and humidity, especially combined with my lack of sleep, the terrible night before, hours of travelling, and a 20kg backpack. But then there was this magnificent castle, and I could feel myself cheer up already.
Walking around here and there, just kind of aimlessly, I spotted this samurai boy walking around. He was paying attention to me, too, hovering around a short while away from me. I decided to bite the bullet and be the one to get into contact first.

When he discovered I speak Japanese though, there was no ending it anymore. He turned out to be quite the chatter. In fact, he seemed to enjoy talking to me enough that he ignored his job. Every now and then he would excuse himself for a moment, walk to a family, take a picture of them instead of with them, and then he`d walk straight back to me. We talked about where we were from, and the differences in our languages. We talked about jobs and hobbies and lots of other things. I could feel my mood lift considerably, just by talking to this random samurai.

At one point though, the backpack I was carrying was really getting much too heavy, and my feet were hurting and I was thirsty, and though the conversation was really very enjoyable, I did also want to see the castle of course. I wasn`t looking forward to dragging the backpack around, but hey, I shouldn`t ask too much, right?

But then Samurai boy pointed me towards the little shop. He told me that I could leave my bag there. It would definitely make my stay there much more enjoyable. Eternally grateful, I went over to the shop. Unfortunately, the ladies in there were a bit less pleased with having a huge backpacker`s bag behind their little desk, but for 500 yen they allowed me to put my bag there anyway. I was, obviously, more than happy to oblige in paying those 500 yen. With a last wave at Samurai boy, I set off to explore the castle.

The castle turned out to be absolutely stunning. There were several buildings, you could walk just about everywhere in them as long as you took off your shoes. They had put staff members at all entrances to make sure everyone took their shoes off, and to make sure no shoes were stolen. I actually got to walk around on the tatami. Do you have any idea how good tatami feel if your feet are really sore? It was amazing.

Unfortunately, Samurai boy wasn`t around anymore by the time I left. But suffice to say, I won`t easily forget about him, or Kumamoto castle. He`s one of those people that made me realise, that it`s really not the places or the buildings that make a journey worthwile. It`s the people you meet there, and on your way there. During that one month in Japan, I have garnered enough stories to last a lifetime. And none of these stories would exist if it wasn`t for the people in them.

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