Photography series: Ramen Lady, Aso (Kumamoto), Japan. August 2010

Photography series: Ramen Lady, Aso (Kumamoto), Japan. August 2010

Yes, I am well aware that I seem to mostly focus on my experiences in Japan when it comes to the photography series. There`s a good reason for that: most of my best, most idyllic memories, are from Japan.

Take this picture, for example. I took this picture on a Friday night when I was up in the mountains of Aso, Kumamoto. This lady and her husband drove around in a van, through the mountains, to sell the regional type of ramen to people. They came by that evening, as they did every Friday evening. But this time I was there, together with a couple of other guests.

Those other guests consisted of a 3-man jazz band from Fukuoka who had come to Kumamoto for a performance the next day. They`d brought their girlfriends, insane amounts of alcohol and snacks, and a watermelon. Being a foreigner who speaks Japanese, they decided to get me drunk on their alcohol (which, admittedly, doesn`t take much).
So when this lady arrived, one of the boys from the band decided he was hungry, and bought a bowl of ramen. Upon asking, they found out I`d never had this specific type of ramen before, so they arranged an extra pair of chopsticks and let me taste. To be honest, it tasted like most other ramen do. Which is a good thing, don`t get me wrong. I love ramen, I just didn`t really see what the fuss was about this one.

That same evening, after we`d all had our share of alcohol and then some, we decided to walk out to the road. It was up in the mountains, quite far away from the nearest village, which meant the road was perfectly safe to just wander around on. Or to lie down on, as we did, to watch the stars.

It was a clear night, a good summer evening which meant it wasn`t cold, and we were so far away from cities and the like that we could see the Milky Way. One more item to cross off of my bucket list.

The next day, hungover and all, the band decided to take me with them to their performance. I didn`t have a ticket, but they just put me in their van and drove in as if I belonged with them.

I got introduced to their friends there and got to barbeque with them. Japanese barbeques, I should add, are a tad bit different from what I, at least, am used to. For starters, there`s much more seafood. Shrimps, shells, oysters, whole fish. There`s more vegetables being fried up as well. Didn`t much enjoy most of the shells, but I do definitely love me some shrimp. It was my first time having to actually peel them though, which caused some laughter amongst the group as I stared at the shrimps with their little legs and everything still attached.

I enjoyed every moment of my time in Kumamoto. The band, the barbeque, watching the Milky Way. There was the samurai boy at Kumamoto castle I talked about in an earlier post. The volunteer staff at the hostel, who was an elderly man from Osaka who was building a whole new building in exchange for free stay, food and alcohol. He gave me some of his own alcohol stack, and a four leaved clover to wish me luck on my travels. I still have it.
There was a girl at the hostel, after the band left, with whom I went to a station that turned into a café only on Sundays, where we got free tea and cake after the hostel owner talked to the café owners. We watched the sun set over the mountains, walked back to the hostel to have curry rice for dinner, and then went to the onsen next door.

Every moment was like it came straight from a movie. It was every bit as perfect and idyllic as it sounds, possibly even more so even.

And people wonder why I always miss travelling, and why I want to go back to Japan so badly.

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